Corn farmers settle near the Presidio in the area where the Rio Grande and Rio Conchos join. It is now believed to be the oldest continuously cultivated farmland in Texas.
800– 1500 BCE
Farmers and hunters build and occupy stone dwellings located southeast of Perryton on the northern edge of the Panhandle. Today this area is called the Buried City.
Composed of numerous small tribes, the Caddo Confederacy establishes a agriculture-based civilization in east Texas. Today the Caddo Nation is a federally recognized tribe with its capital in Binger, Oklahoma.
Spanish explorer Alonso Alvarez de Pineda maps the Texas coastline.
(November 6) Spanish conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca shipwrecks near Galveston. The survivors spend the winter there; by spring, there are 15 castaways left, and foreign disease has killed half the native population. Estevanico, a North African Moor traveling with de Vaca, becomes the first non-native slave in North America. After he escapes in 1534, Estevanico leads a Spanish expedition, spurring even more Spanish exploration of the territory.
Francisco Vazquez de Coronado crosses the Texas Panhandle in search of the seven cities of Cibola, mythical places full of gold and precious stones. After leading 20 Spanish expeditions in the region (but never finding Cibola), Coronado dies in 1554.
The first Spanish mission, Corpus Christi de la Isleta, is established a few miles from present-day El Paso.
While searching for the mouth of the Mississippi River, French explorer René-Robert Cavelier lands in Texas by mistake. He establishes a colony, Fort St. Louis, on Garcitas Creek in present-day Victoria County. In 1688 the colony dies out due to Native American attacks, malnutrition, and disease.
Spanish explorers find the remains of Fort St. Louis. Fearing French intentions to lay claim to Spanish territory, the Spanish begin establishing missions and settlements in east Texas.
1700–1799 EARLY EUROPEAN SETTLEMENT
Spain builds a presidio, Nuestra Senora de los Dolores de los Tejas, to protect its east Texas missions.
Spain establishes Catholic missions in the towns of San Antonio, Goliad, and Nacogdoches.
(April) A group of 72 people settles along the San Antonio River, building Mission San Antonio de Valero and a presidio. The settlers charter the municipality of San Antonio de Béxar, which becomes San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio is currently the second largest city in the state.
Franciscan friars establish Mission San Jose on the San Antonio River.
By this time, missions at San Antonio are producing thousands of pounds of cotton each year.
(March 16) Comanches and their allies destroy the Santa Cruz mission near present-day Menard, killing eight residents.
A group of settlers establish a civilian community near the abandoned mission site at Nacogdoches. Throughout its history, Nacogdoches has been ruled under more flags than the state of Texas, nine in total.
1800–1849 TEXAS INDEPENDENCE
After the U.S. purchase of Louisiana Territory, Spain declares that any slave who crosses the Sabine River into Texas will be automatically freed; many U.S. slaves escape to Spanish Texas in the following years. While Spain discourages slavery in the region, it does wholly stop the practice. In fact, some French and Spanish slaveholders who move to Texas are allowed to retain their slaves.
(September 16) Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costillo and several hundred of his parishioners seize the prison at Dolores, Mexico, signaling the beginning of Mexico’s struggle for independence from Spain.
Juan Bautista de las Casas leads a revolt against Spain at San Antonio. He captures the Spanish governor and takes over the position for 39 days before the Spanish crush the revolt and execute him. Led by Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara, the surviving rebels travel to Washington, DC, to gain U.S. support for their cause. The U.S. government informs them that it will not intervene.
(August 8) The Gutierrez-Magee expedition, a force of roughly 300 rebels, crosses the Sabine River from Louisiana in another movement against Spanish rule in Texas. On March 29, 1813, rebels defeat about 1,200 Spanish troops at Rosilla, and Governor Salcido surrenders on April 1. Due to internal divisions the rebel effort unravels, and the rebels are defeated at the Battle of Medina in August. The Spanish recapture San Antonio and execute 300 of the enemy combatants.
(December 26) The Spanish government grants Moses Austin permission to establish a colony of Anglo-Americans in the Texas area. When he dies, his son, Stephen Austin, receives authority to continue the colonizing effort.
Louis-Michel Aury and Jean Lafitte operate a slave-smuggling ring, transporting African slaves through Galveston Island. During this period, the men sell slaves to future war hero James Bowie, who resells them at auction in New Orleans and other locales along the Mississippi River.
(August 24) Mexico gains independence from Spain, and Spanish Texas becomes part of Mexico.
(January 3) Stephen Austin receives a grant from the Mexican government and begins colonization in the region of the Brazos River. Mexican officials approve Austin’s plan to bring 300 families into his colony. Austin recruits settlers mostly from Southern slave states. Under his stipulations, each settler is allowed to purchase an additional 50 acres (20 ha) of land for each slave brought to the territory. Conversely, Mexico now offers full citizenship and land rights to free blacks, who flock to the Texas region.
President Andrew Jackson makes an offer to buy Texas, but the Mexican government refuses.
Mexico abolishes slavery, but grants an exception to Texas until 1830. At that time, many Texas slaveholders convert their slaves to "indentured servants" in order to circumvent the ban. By 1836, there are approximately 5,000 slaves in Texas.
(October) The first of several large groups of Irish immigrants arrive to settle in south Texas.
(April 6) The Mexican government stops legal U.S. immigration into Texas. As a result, relations between Anglo-American settlers, called Texians, and the Mexican government deteriorate.
Mexican troops attempt to retrieve a cannon that had been given to Gonzalez colonists for protection from Native American attack. The resulting skirmish is considered the opening salvo of the Texas Revolution.
The Texas Provisional Government authorizes a new mounted police force, the Texas Rangers. The rangers will participate in some of the most notorious and storied events in Texas history. Today the law enforcement group is considered the oldest state police force in the U.S.
(March 6) The Battle of the Alamo. Led by Mexican president General Antonio López de Santa Anna, 2,400 Mexican troops siege the Alamo mission in San Antonio for 12 days. The occupation ends with a battle in which all but two of its roughly 200 Texian rebel defenders, including folk hero James Bowie, are killed. However, the time bought by the Alamo defenders permits Sam Houston to forge an army that wins the Battle of San Jacinto the following month.
(April 21) Texan troops led by Sam Houston defeat the Mexican Army near present-day Houston in the Battle of San Jacinto. In 18 minutes, more than 600 Mexican troops are killed and 730 taken prisoner. The battle wins Texas its independence.
(October 3) The 1st Texas Congress convenes in Columbia. The Texas Declaration of Independence is signed, officially forming the Republic of Texas. Sam Houston is inaugurated president.
The United States officially recognizes the Republic of Texas.
(March 19) Led by a dozen chiefs, Comanches meet with Texas government officials to negotiate a peace treaty after two years of war. The Texans take the chiefs prisoner, believing the Comanches have reneged on a promise to release all white prisoners. During the ensuing Council House Fight, 35 Comanches and seven Texans are killed.
(August 5) In retaliation for the Council House Fight, Comanches begin killing and looting their way across central Texas until Texas Rangers and a volunteer army defeat the Comanches on August 11 at Plum Creek.
(March) The first of many large groups of German immigrants arrive in central Texas. Today almost 11 percent of the state’s population is of German origin.
(December 29) After 10 years of independence, Texas becomes the 28th state admitted to the Union. By 1850, the slave population in Texas had increased to 58,161, and by 1860 slaves represent 30 percent of the population.
(May 8) The Battle of Palo Alto, the first major battle of the Mexican-American War, is waged five miles from what is now Brownsville, Texas. General Zachary Taylor leads 2,400 U.S. forces in holding off 3,400 Mexican troops attempting to seize a U.S. army installation at Fort Texas. The Mexicans withdraw after Taylor’s "flying artillery" attacks prove too formidable.
(February 2) The Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo is signed, ending the Mexican-American War and specifying the location of the international boundary between the U.S. and Mexico.
1850–1899 THE STATE OF TEXAS
In the Compromise of 1850, Texas gives up claim to land that includes more than half of present-day New Mexico, one-third of Colorado, a corner of Oklahoma, and a small portion of Wyoming in exchange for the U.S. assumption of $10 million in debt.
The federal government moves Native Americans on west-central Texas reservations to reservations in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).
Texas secedes from the Union by a 171 to 6 vote, becoming the seventh state to secede.
(March 16) Sam Houston resigns as governor in protest of secession.
(May 13) After the official end of the Civil War, the Battle of Palmito Ranch is fought near Brownsville, due to word of the war’s end not yet reaching Texas troops.
(June 19) Emancipation Day, also known as Juneteenth, is the day that Union General Gordon Granger informs Texas slaves they are free. The day is still celebrated annually, and is recognized as a holiday in 32 U.S. states.
(August 20) President Andrew Johnson issues a proclamation of peace between the U.S. and Texas.
Cattle drives occur more frequently, mostly to markets and railheads in the Midwest. They reach their peak over the next 20 years, before railroads make them obsolete.
Texas becomes the last Confederate state readmitted to the Union.
The Texas & Pacific Railway opens for service. The Houston and Texas Central Railway reaches the Red River, where it connects with the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad. This creates the first all-rail route from Texas to St. Louis, Missouri and the East.
Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie leads the 4th U.S. Cavalry against Native Americans in the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon. The encounter ends with the confinement of the southern Plains Native Americans to reservations in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), making possible the U.S. settlement of the western part of the state.
Texas’ post–Civil War constitution bars "idiots, lunatics, paupers, and women" from voting.
(July 4) The world’s first rodeo is held in Pecos.
Oil is discovered at Corsicana. A commercial field opens in 1896, setting the stage for Texas’ rise as a major oil producer. Texas oil deposits make up one quarter of known U.S. oil reserves. Today the state can process 4.6 million barrels (730,000 m3) of oil a day and is home to the largest oil refinery in America, Houston’s Baytown Refinery.
1900–1929 EARLY 20TH CENTURY
(September 8) A hurricane hits Galveston, causing the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. More than 8,000 deaths are recorded and $30 million in damages occur. Many of the dead have to be hastily dumped in the ocean for fear of spreading disease.
(January 10) Spindletop Oil Field, near Beaumont, becomes the first oil "gusher" in North America when it sprays more than 800,000 barrels of oil in the air before it can be controlled. By 1902, 285 wells operate on Spindletop Hill, but the following year the gusher comes to an end due to overproduction.
The Texas Fuel Company is founded. It soon changes its name to the Texas Company, and eventually becomes Texaco.
The Texas Rangers kill 5,000 Hispanics under the pretense of identifying and rounding up spies, draft dodgers, and saboteurs during World War I. In response to the ensuing scandal, the Texas legislature establishes higher salaries for the Rangers to attract men of "higher character" and establishes procedures for citizen complaints.
Texas women win the right to vote in primary elections.
(June 28) Texas becomes the ninth state to ratify the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote.
Miriam "Ma" Ferguson is elected Texas’ first female governor. She is the nation’s second female governor, elected 15 days after Nellie Ross’ gubernatorial win in Wyoming.
The Texas School Board prohibits the teaching of evolution.
1930–PRESENT MODERN TEXAS
A major sandstorm ravages Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas during the nearly decade-long Dust Bowl of the Great Depression.
More than 300 people, mostly children, are killed in a gas explosion at a school in New London, Texas. The explosion leads the Texas legislature to require a malodorant be added to natural gas so that leaks can be more easily detected.
Worsening socioeconomic conditions during World War II amplify racial tensions in Beaumont, resulting in race riots during the summer months. Martial law is declared to quell the violence.
Hearne, Texas houses 4,800 soldiers from Germany’s Afrika Corps at a World War II prisoner Of war camp.
Texas women win the right to serve on juries.
Spurred by ranchers concerned about rattlesnakes attacking their cattle, a rattlesnake roundup begins in Sweetwater. It grows to become the world’s largest such event, held annually the second weekend in March.
NASA opens the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. It is moved to a new campus-like complex in 1964, and renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973. The center is responsible for training astronauts from the U.S. and abroad.
(November 22) President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas at 12:30 p.m. as his presidential motorcade travels through Dealey Plaza. Within an hour, Kennedy is pronounced dead; by 2 p.m., Dallas police have arrested Lee Harvey Oswald as the suspected assassin. Jack Ruby shoots and kills Oswald before he can stand trial. Many conspiracy theories exist to the day about who actually killed Kennedy.
In El Paso, U.S. president Lyndon Johnson and Mexican president Gustavo Diaz set off an explosion that diverts the Rio Grande, reshaping the U.S.-Mexican border.
Barbara Jordan of Houston becomes the first African-American woman elected to the Texas state senate.
(November 1) The tanker Burmah Agate spills 10.7 million gallons of oil off Galveston Bay, Texas, in the U.S.’s worst oil spill disaster.
(April 19) Federal agents storm the compound called Mount Carmel near Waco, where cult leader David Koresh and his Branch Davidian followers have been stockpiling assault weapons. Four agents and 86 Branch Davidians die in the siege and ensuing fire.
A group of Texas cattle ranchers sue TV personality Oprah Winfrey for disparaging the cattle industry and the safety of American beef. A jury ultimately acquits Winfrey in the case.
(April) A state of emergency is declared as a result of tornadoes in the Dallas area.
Click to enlarge an image
1519: Alonso Alvarez de Pineda's map of the Gulf Coast
1528: Map depicting the route of de Vaca's Narváez expedition
1541: Map of the Coronado Expedition
1689: Map of Fort Saint Louis drawn by a member of the Spanish expedition that discovered the French colony
1716: Map of Spanish missions in Texas
1720: Mission San José (photo 1910)
1810: Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costillo
1813: Stephen F. Austin and father
1816: Artist's conception of Jean Laffite
1816: James Bowie
1829: Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States
1835: Battle of Gonzales: digital reproduction of the "Come and Take It" flag
1836: Plan of the Alamo
1836: Commemorative coin including the phrase "Remember the Alamo"
1836: Stamp issued by the United States Post Office to commemorate Sam Houston
1846: Painting of the Battle of Palo Alto
1848: A section of the original Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
1874: Ranald S. Mackenzie
1883: Early rodeo photo
1900 Galveston hurricane surface map
1924: Miriam Amanda Wallace Ferguson, 29th Governor of Texas
1963: President Kennedy with his wife, Jacqueline, minutes before his assassination
1966: Barbara Jordan
1993: Branch Davidian ranch in flames during the assault