welcome_to_texas_sign_2008Alonso Álvarez de Piñeda, a Spanish explorer, was actually the first European to set foot on Texas soil in 1519, as many myths about the ‘Seven Golden Cities of Cibola’ was bringing a lot of Spanish fortune seekers from Mexico to Texas.

In 1682, Spanish missionaries were setting up the first missions in the El Paso area, and by the 1730’s, they had built many forts and missions throughout the eastern, central, and southwestern portions of what we now know as Texas.

In 1820, Spanish government officials granted land to an American named Moses Austin. A year later, in 1821, his son Stephen brought some 300 families to Texas to work on the farm lands along the Brazos River. After Mexico had gained its independence from Spain (also in 1821),  Austin’s colony was extended, and more Texas land was granted to Americans.

Tension grew between a large number of American settlers and Mexico, and by 1835, the Texas Revolution was under way, and as Texas troops had captured San Antonio, Santa Anna, a Mexican General, brought in more than 4,000 troops to gain control of the mission once again. A small group (not even 200 men) of Texan rebels took possession of a small chapel called ‘the Alamo’, and rebels like Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett fought till the end.

After the ‘Battle of the Alamo’ (March 6, 1836), the Mexicans executed over 300 Texan prisoners that were captured after the battle at Goliad in a massacre. That same year, though, on April 21, the Texan rebels defeated the Mexico army in a surprise attack and captured Santa Anna while shouting: ‘Remember the Alamo’.

In the period 1836 – 1845, Texas was an independent country, and through the years, the flags of six nations have been flying over Texas: Spain (1519-1685), France (1685-1690), Spain (1690-1821), Mexico (1821-1836), Republic of Texas (1836-1845), United States (1845-1861), Confederate States (1861-1865), and United States (1865 to present).

Here are a few (maybe) lesser known facts about Texas. Did You Know That:

– The distance Beaumont to El Paso: 742 miles, the distance Beaumont to Chicago: 770 miles
– El Paso sits closer to California than to Dallas
– The world’s very first rodeo was in Pecos, Texas, on July 4, 1883
– Galveston’s Flagship Hotel is the only North American hotel that’s built over water, but it was destroyed in 2008 by Hurricane Ike
– Houston’s Rice University Heisman Trophy was awarded to honor John William Heisman, the school’s first full-time coach
– Brazoria County is home to many species of birds, more than any region in North America
– Aransas Wildlife Refuge is North America’s winter home of the only remaining whooping cranes flock
– Jalapeno jelly was introduced in 1978 in Lake Jackson
– The worst U.S. natural disaster occurred in 1900 when The Great Hurricane destroyed Galveston Island, taking more than 8,000 lives
– The first spoken word from the moon in 969 was ‘Houston’, though at that time the space center was situated in Clear Lake City
– King Ranch in Kingsville is larger than the state of Rhode Island
– Texas is America’s leading producer of oil, sheep, cattle, cotton, wool, and minerals
– In 1979, tropical storm Claudette caused a U.S. record for rainfall of 43″ in just 24 hours in the Alvin area
– Texas was the only state that joined the U.S. by treaty, instead of annexation. This fact explains why the Texas Flag is flying just a high as the U.S. Flag
– An oak tree in the Fulton area is approximately 1500 years old
– Caddo Lake is Texas’ only natural lake
– Dr Pepper was introduced in 1885 in Waco (note that there no period after Dr)
– Texas had five capital cities prior to Austin: West Columbia, Velasco, Galveston, Harrisburg, and Washington (on-the-Brazos)
Austin’s Capitol Dome is the only U.S. dome that’s taller (7 ft.) than Washington D.C.’s Capitol Building
– The San Jacinto Monument is actually the world’s tallest free standing monument, taller even than the Washington monument
– The name ‘Texas’ is derived from the Indian word ‘tejas’ which means ‘friends’
– Texas’ State Mascot is the Armadillo
– Houston’s legendary Astrodome was the first U.S. domed stadium
– In Texas it is illegal to put graffiti on a cow that belongs to someone else
– Stealing cattle is still a ‘hanging offense’ in Texas
– Rodeo is Texas’ official state sport, and the first rodeo in the world was on July 4, 1883, in Pecos
– The largest parking lot in the world is found at DFW Airport
– The city of Laredo houses the largest inland port found in the world
– The official Texas dish is chili
– Of the ten largest U.S. cities, three are located in Texas: Houston, Dallas, San Antonio
– In Amarillo you can find the world’s biggest helium well
– In Texas, there are more than 1 million illegal immigrants, and most work