American History

The Wild Days of Texas: When Texas Was a Country

Texas spent ten years as an independent nation. Those years were wild ones for the Lone Star State. Here’s what happened in Texas that made it so tumultuous.

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There was a brief period of time when Texas was an independent country. This was a ten-year period between March 2, 1836, and February 19, 1846, after Texas won its independence from Mexico. Many battles were fought for Texas independence, the most famous of which was the Battle of the Alamo. On December 29, 1845, Texas was admitted into the United States and became the Texas we know today. During its period of independence, it was known as the Republic of Texas and even had its own flag. It was a sovereign nation in every way.

During the period of Texan independence, it was the very embodiment of the term “the Wild West.” It was an excellent place for fugitives from the United States and Mexico to go to hide. Feuds between settling families who hoped to build a new life free from the laws of the United States in this new nation were common. Many of these feuds got violent, and some are still remembered as part of Texas lore. Texas was known for its wild, independent spirit, and to this day, when Texans utter the state’s unofficial motto of “Don’t Mess With Texas,” they mean it.

Texas was a settler’s dream during the 10 years of independence. Even respectable families went there to be free of the limitations the laws in the United States placed on what they could do. While they did find a great deal of freedom, that freedom came with a price. Texas was a large territory, much larger then than it is today. It was virtually impossible for the independent nation’s government to govern everything that went on there.

The Comanche Natives were against Texas being a nation since Texas was part of their territory, and raids, rapes, and other types of violence against the settlers were a common occurrence, especially in the more rural areas. Mexico continued to refuse to recognize Texan independence and continually sent small armies into Texas to raid and pillage for years. If any two settlers or settling families had problems with each other, they were often left to work it out on their own with frontier justice. The law only became involved if the violence spilled over into the more settled areas.

Texas eventually accepted the offer from the United States to become a state, mainly to get a handle on law and order in the territory. With the help of the United States government, Texas became a much safer place to live than it was as an independent nation.

Stories from those years of independence and the people who lived there at that time still exist. In fact, Texas was keeping vital records and other archival documents from the time it gained independence. Texas president Sam Houston even had to move the archives once to keep them from being captured by Mexican soldiers who were raiding the area. Since Sam Houston had the archives moved to Austin, which was initially a temporary measure that became permanent, that is where they can be found today.

If you have ancestors who lived in Texas during the time of independence, visit the Austin archives, or email them for information. You may be surprised at some of the stories your ancestors have in those archives that they are just waiting to reveal to you.

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