The changeful history of Texas is symbolically represented by the picture of the Six Flags over Texas - the flags of the six nations under whose government Texas has been in the more than 300 years since the first seizure by European explorers. A long time before these had arrived however, a number of Native peoples had declared the area their home, among those were the Apache, Comanche, Cherokee and Hasinai, from whose language the name Texas probably derives.
The first European on Texan soil was a Spaniard, Alonso Alvarez de Pineda in the year 1519, but the Spanish crown initially relinquished claiming the discovered lands. Instead it was the French who founded the first colony in Texas, called Fort St. Louis, in 1682 after a failed Mississippi expedition under the guidance of René-Robert Cavelier. Following a warlike incident with the Karankawa people however, the colony was extinguished after only a few years. In 1690, the Spanish finally established their first colony, in spite of the French still laying claim on the land. Domingo Teran de los Rios was named the first governor of Texas in 1691. But the Spanish also had to relinquish their plans soon thereafter, because the Native Indian peoples at home here turned against the Europeans’ presence again and again. Up until the first decades of the 18th century, Texas’ regions went back and forth between French and Spanish rule many times. In 1718, mission San Antonio de Valero was founded, of which later became the city of San Antonio.
The network of Spanish missions quickly grew denser, although they had little success in converting the Natives and clashes with various tribes occurred repeatedly. The treaty at the end of the Seven Years’ War, by which France ceded all claims on lands west of Louisiana to Spain, gave the Spanish plenty of rope. They formed an alliance with the Comanche and managed to convert almost all Indian tribes in Texas until the end of the 18th century.
When the Americans almost doubled their territory with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, a dispute between Spain and the US arose about the demarcation of borderlines between Spanish and American areas, because the border separating Louisiana and Texas, for example, had never been properly defined. Meanwhile, movements for independence originated both in Texas and in neighboring Mexico. There, the revolutionists were finally successful in 1821 - Mexico separated from the Spanish crown and also laid claim on Texas, which soon became a part of the new Mexican nation without bloodshed.
The Mexicans made Texas a part of the Coahuila y Texas province and granted far-reaching rights: each immigrant, no matter where he came from, received permission to claim land property for himself. So-called empresarios, entrepreneurs in the immigration business, brought a large number of primarily anglo-american settlers from the US into now-Mexican Texas. The first and most important of these entrepreneurs was Stephen F. Austin, who led 297 settler families to Texas in 1822, each of which received at least 177 square kilometers of land, tied to the duty of cultivating it. This group, the so-called Old Three Hundred were the cornerstone of the anglo-american settlement of Texas and Austin is widely considered to be the Father of Texas.
In the following years, the American government issued several purchase offers for Texas to the Mexicans. Mexico’s President Anastasio Bustamante refused all of them but recognized the growing desires as a threat. The unlimited influx of Americans was stopped, leading to growing resentments among the settlers already there. The first violent protests occurred in 1835 and on March 2, 1836 Texas declared its independence from Mexico, which was not recognized by the Mexican government, leading to war. During the battle for the mission The Alamo in San Antonio, 230 Texans successfully defended themselves for almost two weeks against more than 4000 Mexican troops and thus ignited strong Texan confidence, which showed in the decisive battle of that war: in the Battle of San Jacinto, some 800 Texan soldiers under General Sam Houston were successful in defeating the troops of Mexican general Santa Anna almost without any own casualties and in taking Santa Anna into capture. By this, the war was won and the flag of the Independent Republic of Texas became the fourth flag in Texan history. In 1836, a first Congress meeting was held in Columbia and one year later, Houston was declared capital. This was changed to the newly founded town of Austin in 1839, the city deriving its name from Stephen F. Austin, who had died in 1836. Texas as an independent Republic was recognized by Great Britain, France and the USA, amongst others.
In a popular vote held in 1845, the majority of Texans then voted in favor of accession to the USA, a step that was completed in the same year. The main motive for the government in Austin to join the United States was the debt due to the big neighbor, which had accumulated to a then-high total of 10 million Dollars and which turned to nil the moment Texas joined the Union. As a counterdraw, Texas relinquished parts of the territory the Republic laid claim on, which were later added to the states of Wyoming, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma. However, Texas kept the public lands within its borders to itself - a prerequisite of the wealth later accumulated when crude oil was discovered in many places.
Only 15 years later, the sixth flag was raised over Texas, when 76% of the voters in a new plebiscite were in favor of secession from the Union and Texas joined the Confederate States of the South - back then, Texans for the most part depended on plantation agriculture; a task for which many thousands of slaves were held. The actual battles of the Civil War however mostly took place outside of Texan borders, although Texan troops were involved in all major battles of the war. Following the Civil War and a period of civil disturbance, Texas re-joined the United States in 1870.
The 20th century, interrupted by the Great Depression after 1929, brought wealth and great fortunes to Texas, it came in the form of crude oil. In 1901, the first commercially usable deposit was discovered near Beaumont in East-Texas. This caused a boom of hitherto unknown proportions and caused the establishment of oil companies as well as an explosion of population numbers. Until today, some of the most productive oil fields of North America are located in Texas and they are one of the reasons why Texas is among the strongest economies of US states.