Spanish missionaries were the first European settlers in Texas, founding San Antonio in 1718. Hostile natives and isolation from other Spanish colonies kept Texas sparsely populated until following the Revolutionary War and the War of Mexican Independence, when the newly established Mexican government began to allow settlers from the U.S. to claim land there. This led to a population explosion, but dramatically reduced the percentage of the population with Mexican heritage, causing friction with the government in Mexico City. After several smaller insurrections, the Texas Revolution broke out, and the state became an independent nation in 1835. However, the newly formed Texas Republic was unable to defend itself from further incursions by Mexican troops, and eventually negotiated with the U.S. to join the union in 1845.
Date of Statehood: December 29, 1845
Population: 25,145,561 (2010)
Size: 268,597 square miles
Nickname(s): Lone Star State
- The Johnson Space Center in Houston, originally established as the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) in 1961, is the site of Mission Control for all flights into space. On July 20, 1969, its flight controllers oversaw the Apollo 11 flight that landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon and returned the astronauts safely home. Referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the Astrodome in Houston was the world’s first domed stadium when it was opened in 1965. Drawing crowds for sporting events, concerts, rodeos and entertainment, the Astrodome was last used in 2005 as a shelter for Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Texas is the leading crude oil- and natural gas-producing state in the U.S. In 2011, it also produced more cattle, sheep, hay, cotton and wool than any other state. The name Texas derives from a Caddo Indian word that means “friends” or “allies,” which was incorporated into the state motto: Friendship.
- During Texas’ war for independence from Mexico, a group of 200 volunteers who were defending the fort and former Franciscan mission known as the Alamo near San Antonio was attacked by a much larger force of Mexican troops. The siege, which had begun on February 23, 1836, lasted for 13 days before the Mexican forces broke through the courtyard and annihilated most of the Texans, including famed frontiersman and former congressman from Tennessee, Davy Crockett.
- On September 8, 1900, a Category 4 hurricane with winds up to 130 miles per hour pummeled Galveston, Texas, killing more than 8,000 people and destroying the once-thriving city. It remains the deadliest natural disaster in United States history.
- While traveling through Dallas in an open convertible on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald. Two hours later, Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as the 36th president of the United States aboard Air Force One while stationed at Dallas Love Field airport.