Stephen F. Austin
Cultural and Natural History
Brochure about the Cultural and Natural History of Stephen F. Austin State Park (SP) in Texas. Published by Texas Parks & Wildlife.
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TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE An Interpretation of the Cultural and Natural History of STEPHEN F. AUSTIN STATE PARK and SAN FELIPE DE AUSTIN STATE HISTORIC SITE Stephen Fuller Austin An Interpretation of the Cultural and Natural History of Stephen F. Austin State Park and San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site With its own special blend of cultural history, plant and animal life, Stephen F. Austin State Park offers many opportunities to connect with the past, experience nature and enjoy outdoor recreation. Stephen F. Austin State Park takes its name from Stephen Fuller Austin, considered by many to be the father of Texas. In 1823, Austin established San Felipe de Austin as the Colonial Capital of Texas at the Atascosito Road Ferry crossing of the Brazos River. San Felipe served as the social, economic and political hub for the Anglo-American colonists who followed Austin to settle Texas. Later, San Felipe became the political center for the events leading to the Texas Revolution. The park consists of two non-contiguous tracts of land located near each other.The 14-acre state historic site, centered on Commerce Square of old San Felipe de Austin, is one of the most significant archeological and historic sites in Texas.The San Felipe Park Association dedicated the site in 1928 and donated it the State of Texas in 1940.The 473-acre state park includes mixed bottomland forest and forested swamp nestled in a scenic bend of the Brazos River. ACTIVITIES AND FACILITIES Day-use facilities at the state park include a picnic area with 65 sites, each with a table and grill, a group picnic pavilion and a group dining hall.The group dining hall is equipped with a kitchen, tables and chairs, rest rooms and air conditioning. It seats 60 people and the picnic pavilion accommodates 30 people. Overnight facilities include 40 full hook-up, pull-through RV sites with water, 30-amp electricity and sewer, 40 tent sites with water only, 20 screened shelters with water and electricity, a screened group recreation hall and rest rooms with showers.The screened group recreation hall has a fire ring, rest rooms, picnic tables and a kitchen. RV sites, tent sites and screened shelters are each limited to eight people per site and the group recreation hall is limited to 60 people. Stephen F. Austin STATE PARK and San Felipe de Austin STATE HISTORIC SITE 1 The park has nearly five miles of multi-use trails for hiking and biking and a 1/8-mile self-guided, interpretive nature trail.The trail system also provides access to the Brazos River for fishing and to the undeveloped wooded areas of the park for birding and wildlife viewing. A 30-seat amphitheater, used for park interpretive programs, lies near one of the trailheads.The park has a 1 3/4-mile orienteering course. Stargazing opportunities abound in the park’s rural setting, away from the glare of urban centers.The park also includes two swing sets, a basketball court, a volleyball court and a horseshoe pit. A well-stocked Texas State Park Store offers a variety of souvenirs. An 18-hole public golf course, operated by the Stephen F. Austin Golf Association, is adjacent to the park. Please contact the pro shop for tee times and green fees at (979) 885-2811. Located at the San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site and operated by Stephen F. Austin Park Association, the restored J.J. Josey General Store Museum, built in 1847, displays artifacts from the period of early Texas colonization.Tours of the museum and site are offered every Saturday and Sunday afternoon.The Association charges a nominal museum entrance fee. The historic site also includes a replica of the dog-run log cabin where Austin lived and conducted the business of the early colony.The public town well, completed in 1832, is the only surviving structure from the pre-Revolutionary period of the town. A bronze statue of Austin dominates the site. New York sculptor John Angel cast the statue in 1938. It depicts Austin seated on a pink Marble Falls granite pyramid. A 1928 obelisk and numerous commemorative markers on site also celebrate the achievements of Austin and his colonists. 2 Stephen F. Austin STATE PARK and San Felipe de Austin STATE HISTORIC SITE Cultural History NATIVE AMERICAN OCCUPATION Kiowa Comanche Huaco Caddo Tonkawa Mescalero Apache Atakapan Lipan Apache Karankawa Coahuiltecan Archeological evidence suggests that human habitation in the area began as early as 7400 B.C. during the late Paleo-Indian Period.The park lies in what appears to have been a zone of cultural transition between inland and coastal aboriginal peoples. During the early historic era the principal inland inhabitants were the Tonkawas, a nomadic, hunting and gathering people, who traveled hundreds of miles in pursuit of buffalo. They were regarded as friendly by Anglo settlers who moved in during the early 19th century. To the south and west, on the coastal lowlands, dwelt the more aggressive Karankawas, much feared by the settlers. San Felipe was somewhat shielded from the fierce Comanches and Apaches by settlements on the Colorado River to the west and the buffering presence of the Tonkawas to the north. Stephen F. Austin STATE PARK and San Felipe de Austin STATE HISTORIC SITE 3 TONKAWAS The Tonkawa Indians were actually a group of independent bands. The remnants of these tribes migrated from the high plans as late as the 17th century and united in the early 18th century in the Central Texas region.The name Tonkawa is a Huaco Indian term meaning “they all stay together.” The Tonkawas had a Plains Indian culture, subsisting on buffalo and small game.When pushed from their hunting grounds, they became an impoverished culture, living off what little food they could scavenge. Unlike other plains tribes, the Tonkawas ate fish and oysters.They also gathered and ate a number of herbs, roots, fruits, seeds, acorns and pecans.When Anglo settlers moved into their region, pecans became an item of barter. Adult males wore a long breechclout, supplemented with buckskin or bison moccasins and leggings.Women wore short skin skirts. Both men and women tattooed their bodies. In aboriginal days the Tonkawas lived in short, squat tepees covered with buffalo hides. As the buffalo became scarce, brush arbors replaced the tepee. Cabeza de Vaca may have been the first European to encounter the Tonkawas during his trek through Texas, but it was La Salle at Fort St. Louis that gave the first definite information concerning the tribe in 1687. A period of regular Spanish contact with the Tonkawa groups began in 1690. Between 1746 and 1749 the Spanish established three missions for the Tonkawas on the San Gabriel River.The Tonkawas suffered several devastating epidemics and Apache raids during the life of the missions. By 1756 the Spanish abandoned the San Gabriel missions. Following Tonkawa participation in the 1758 destruction of the San Saba Mission, built for the Apaches, Spain regarded the Tonkawas as enemies. Not until 1770 did the Spanish attempt to reestablish cordial relations.Tonkawas and Spanish settled into a period of uneasy peace and relations with the Mexicans followed a similar period of friendly relations.The Tonkawas often 4 Stephen F. Austin STATE PARK and San Felipe de Austin STATE HISTORIC SITE aided their new Anglo allies against the Comanches.The Tonkawas remained staunch allies of the English-speaking settlers in Texas.They continued to help Texas, and later the United States, during their wars with other Indian tribes until 1859, when they were removed to a reservation in Indian Territory.Tonkawas soon intermarried with other Indians to the extent that they were no longer distinguishable as a separate tribe. KARANKAWAS The Karankawa Indians inhabited the Gulf Coast of Texas from Galveston Bay southwestward to Corpus Christi Bay.The name Karankawa is generally believed to mean “doglovers” or “dog-raisers.” The Karankawa were nomadic people who migrated seasonally between the barrier islands and the mainland.They obtained food by a combination of hunting, fishing and gathering. Fish, shellfish and turtles were staples of the Karankawa diet, but a wide variety of animals and plants contributed to their sustenance. Always on the move, their principal means of transportation was the dugout canoe.These primitive watercraft, unsuited for deep open water, were used primarily in the shallow waters between the islands and the mainland.The Karankawas traveled overland by foot, and were often described as powerful runners. A portable wigwam provided shelter for the coastal people. Karankawas were known for their distinctive physical appearance.The men, described as tall and muscular, wore deerskin breechclouts.They painted and tattooed their bodies.Women wore skirts of Spanish moss that reached to the knees. The Karankawa’s entrance into the historical record in 1528 by Cabeza de Vaca represents the first recorded contact between Europeans and Texas Indians. After this encounter, the Karankawas were not visited again by Europeans until La Salle established Fort St. Louis in 1685 near Matagorda Bay, in the heart of Karankawa country. After La Salle set out for Canada to find help for the struggling colony, Karankawas attacked, killing nearly all of the colonists. Stephen F. Austin STATE PARK and San Felipe de Austin STATE HISTORIC SITE 5 In the early 18th century, Karankawa country again became the center of Spanish-French rivalry.The Spanish established a presidio and mission near the site of La Salle’s failed Fort St. Louis.The Spanish continued their efforts to missionize the Karankawas for more than a century with little success. By the end of Spanish rule in Texas, the Karankawa population had been greatly reduced by epidemic diseases. Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821 and the new government encouraged Anglo-American immigration to the sparsely populated province of Texas. As settlers entered Karankawa territory, confrontations became frequent. Mexican authorities attempted to protect the colonists by making peace with the Karankawas, but their efforts were unsuccessful. The colonists, spurred by empresario Stephen F. Austin, banded together to rid themselves of the Indian threat. In 1824, Austin personally led an expedition of some 90 men that drove the Karankawas to seek sanctuary in La Bahia mission. An armistice was arranged but the Karankawas continued to range east of the Lavaca River and conflicts were frequent. The tribe’s population steadily diminished as they fought the growing AngloTexan population, as well as hostile Tonkawas and Comanches. When Texas became an independent republic in 1836, the Karankawas had been so reduced that they were no longer considered a formidable enemy. In 1858, a Texan force attacked and annihilated the small remaining band of Karankawas, and after this last defeat, the coastal Texas tribe was considered extinct. EARLY SPANISH AND FRENCH EXPLORATION During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries,Texas was part of a vast arena of imperial competition between Spain and France. Although no definitive archeological evidence exists, it is highly likely that the area of Texas the park lies in was surveyed by two well known explorers, one Spanish and one French. In addition, the Spanish constructed the Atascosito Road, some time before 1767, linking Refugio and Goliad with Atascosito, a fortified settlement on the lower Trinity River near the present site of Liberty. Stretching through what is now southern Austin County, the Atascosito Road crossed the Brazos River at an ancient site used by Native Americans for centuries to ford the river.The area to the west of this crossing would soon become Stephen F. Austin’s Colonial Capital, San Felipe de Austin. 6 Stephen F. Austin STATE PARK and San Felipe de Austin STATE HISTORIC SITE CABEZA DE VACA Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, an early Spanish explorer, was a member of the 1527 expedition to found a Spanish colony in Florida.The expedition landed in the Gulf coast of Florida in April 1528 and began to march up the interior. Faced with hostile conditions, the expedition left Florida by sea. Hugging the coast, the small flotilla passed the mouth of the Mississippi River and a storm soon beached the battered craft on an island off the Texas coast, probably San Luis (now known as Follet’s Island), in November 1528. Cabeza de Vaca was among some 80 survivors who were perhaps the first non-Indians to set foot on Texas soil. For over three years Cabeza de Vaca ranged inland, as well as along the coast, becoming the first European merchant in Texas, carrying sea shells and mesquite beans to the interior and returning with skins and red ochre. In 1532, Cabeza de Vaca reluctantly left the Galveston area and traveled along the inner Texas coast toward Mexico. He eventually rendezvoused with three other expedition survivors at what they called the river of nuts, probably the Guadalupe River. Crossing the lower Rio Grande near the present site of Presidio, they continued to the Pacific Coast of Mexico, arriving in early 1536. Cabeza de Vaca’s Relacion reported his experiences in Texas. Biotic, ethnographic and physiographic information contained in his narratives provides clues as to where he spent nearly seven years in Texas and what he saw. Cabeza de Vaca’s experiences provide valuable data on Texas Indians, landforms, flora and fauna. Cabeza de Vaca deserves recognition as the first geographer, historian and ethnologist in Texas. He was the only Spaniard to live among the coastal Indians of Texas and survive to write about them. LA SALLE Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, an early French explorer, obtained royal support in 1683 for a voyage to the Mississippi through the Gulf of Mexico to establish a colony. He envisioned a port, fortified against Spanish and English incursion, on the Gulf to serve his commercial empire stretching throughout the Mississippi Valley, or Louisiana, as La Salle named the territory drained by the great river. Stephen F. Austin STATE PARK and San Felipe de Austin STATE HISTORIC SITE 7 La Salle missed the mouth of the Mississippi and landed at Matagorda Bay on the Texas coast on Feb. 20, 1685. From his Fort St. Louis, on Garcitas Creek in what is now Victoria County, he explored westward possibly as far as the Pecos River and eastward beyond the Trinity River, in an effort to establish his location. On his second eastward journey, La Salle was slain by a disenchanted follower on March 19, 1687, “six leagues” from the westernmost village of the Tejas Indians. Of the 200 colonists he landed, barely 15 remained alive five years later. Although La Salle’s projects ended in failure, his explorations were landmarks. His entry into the Gulf of Mexico sparked a renewal of Spanish exploration in the entire Gulf region. His fruitless colony gave the French a claim to Texas causing the Spaniards to jump start the Anglo-American colonization of eastern Texas. Because of La Salle, the United States was able to register a claim to Texas as part of the Louisiana Purchase. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN AND ANGLO COLONIZATION During the early 1800s, Spain set the stage for Texas freedom by enacting policies to help fend off its takeover by French and British rivals. As a lastditch defense of its unpopulated territories, the Spanish Crown opened up lands between the lower Trinity and Guadalupe rivers to American immigrants. Lured by lands as cheap as four cents an acre, as opposed to $1.25 per acre for public land in the United States, the influx of homesteaders grew from a trickle to a flood. In January 1821, Moses Austin, founder of the American lead mining and smelting industry, was granted permission by the Spanish governor in San Antonio to settle 300 Roman Catholic families in Texas, but he died in Missouri in June before he could realize his plans. Stephen F. Austin accepted his father’s deathbed request to administer the Texas Venture and traveled to San Antonio in August 1821, where he met with the Mexican governor, who acknowledged Stephen as the successor of his father’s legacy. Stephen Fuller Austin, the Father of Texas, son of Moses and Maria (Brown) Austin, was born in southwestern Virginia on Nov. 3, 1793. At the age of ten, his father sent him to school in Connecticut, from which he spent two years at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. After his return from Transylvania in the spring of 1810, Stephen was employed in his father’s 8 Stephen F. Austin STATE PARK and San Felipe de Austin STATE HISTORIC SITE general store and subsequently took over the management of his father’s lead mining business in Missouri. He served the public as adjutant of a militia battalion and for nearly five years was a member of the Missouri Territorial Legislature. In December 1820, Stephen was in New Orleans, where he had made arrangements to study law. Stephen was expecting to accompany his father to San Antonio when he learned of Moses Austin’s death. He proceeded to San Antonio, where he arrived in August 1821, just as news came of Mexico’s independence from Spain. After almost a year of unremitting attention to the Mexican governor, Austin gained permission from the Republic of Mexico to continue the colonization enterprise under his father’s original Spanish grant. Stephen F. Austin was named an empresario.These land agents were to promote immigration to and colonization of Texas, and for their services, were to receive personal land grants and financial compensation. Austin was permitted by the governor to explore the coastal plain for the purpose of selecting a site for the proposed colony. Austin returned to New Orleans, published his terms, and invited colonists, saying that settlements would be located on the Brazos and Colorado rivers. Land grants were issued by the empresario in measurements of labors (177 acres of cropland), leagues or sitios (4,428 acres of grazing land) and haciendas (five leagues).The well-timbered, rich, alluvial bottomlands of the Brazos were major attractions for settlers, especially the prized tracts that combined woodland with prairie. By November 1821, the first colonists began to arrive in Texas by land and sea. As early as May 1823, John McFarlan settled at the Atascosito Road crossing of the Brazos River and began to operate a ferry. In December 1823, Austin, with the assistance of the land commissioner, Baron de Bastrop, decided to establish his colonial capital on the west bank of the Brazos near where McFarlan operated his ferry. McFarlan later received a lifetime license from Austin and Bastrop to officially operate the ferry for the colony. The site chosen was a high prairie on an easily defensible bluff overlooking broad, fertile bottomlands. The location offered a number of advantages. It was centrally located within Austin’s colony. Several sources of fresh water, independent of the Brazos, were nearby, including Arroyo Dulce or Sweet Creek (now known as Bullinger’s Creek). The site was protected from periodic flooding by its elevation, yet it was in close proximity to the river. Stephen F. Austin STATE PARK and San Felipe de Austin STATE HISTORIC SITE 9 Several gullies cut the bluff allowing for easy access to the river from high ground. And finally, the river at this location was wide and straight, slow moving, and had a level bed which made crossing fairly easy.The town’s name, San Felipe de Austin, was proposed by the Mexican governor to honor the empresario and the governor’s own patron saint. From late 1823 through early 1824, surveyor Seth Ingram was consumed with the task of defining the boundaries of the five league expanse of prairie and woodland encompassed by the municipality and platting the town proper. Planned on the basis of the prevailing Mexican town model, lots were arranged on a rectangular grid of avenues and streets dominated by five large public plazas (Commerce Square, Military Square, the cemetery and the hospicio). Despite this elaborate plan, San Felipe soon developed into a village with no coherent plan and houses scattered at random, sprawling westward from the Brazos for more than a half mile along both sides of the Atascosito Road. Eight roads would soon link the colonial capital with the rest of the colony, with San Antonio and with the coastal ports of Louisiana and Texas. Among these roads, the Atascosito Road ran from Goliad through San Felipe and on to Liberty, the Gotier Trace ran from San Felipe to Bastrop and the San Felipe Road ran from San Felipe to Harrisburg. By the end of 1824, Austin had completed issuing the majority of his original 300 titles. At this time most of the Old Three Hundred (the first group of Anglo-American families) were in Texas.The majority of the Old Three Hundred were from the trans-Appalachian South. Most were farmers, and many already had substantial means before they arrived.Their plantation, arrayed along the rich, coastal river bottoms, constituted the heart of the burgeoning cotton empire in antebellum Texas. San Felipe quickly became the political, economic and social hub of the colony, which stretched northward from the Gulf of Mexico as far as the Old San Antonio Road and extended from the Lavaca River in the west to the San Jacinto River in the east. By 1836, San Felipe, the first true urban community to develop within Austin colony, ranked second in Texas only to San Antonio as a commercial center. At its peak, San Felipe contained more than 45 buildings and 600 residents. By the late 1820s, industry and agriculture were flourishing in the colony. The Cumings family constructed a water-powered grist and lumber mill 10 Stephen F. Austin STATE PARK and San Felipe de Austin STATE HISTORIC SITE near the mouth of Palmetto Creek (now known as Mill Creek), probably the first mill of its kind in Texas. Not long thereafter, the first cotton gins were established.The more prosperous settlers established large cotton plantations emulating the example of Jared Groce, who settled on the east bank of the Brazos above San Felipe, and in 1822, raised what was probably the first cotton crop in Texas. By 1830, small herds of cattle were being driven from San Felipe to market at Nacogdoches. Regular mail service in the colony was inaugurated in May 1826, when Samuel May Williams, the Colonial Secretary, was appointed postmaster in San Felipe.Within seven separate postal routes converging here, the town remained the hub of the Texas postal service until the Texas Revolution. One of the earliest newspapers in Texas, the Texas Gazette, began publication in San Felipe on Sept. 25, 1829, under the editorship of Godwin B. Cotten. It is considered the first enduring newspaper in Texas. Cotten also printed the first book published in Texas, Translation of the Laws by Austin. Gail Borden, Jr. first published the Telegraph and Texas Register, which became the unofficial journal of the Revolution, in San Felipe on Oct. 10, 1835. As early as 1823, Stephen F. Austin began organizing a militia with which to defend the frontiers of his colony. He hired experienced frontiersmen to ride the range in punitive expeditions against Indians. Austin’s Ranging Company of Riflemen would later evolve into the modern Texas Rangers. The first school in the town, and the first English school in Texas, was established by Baptist layman Thomas J. Pilgrim in 1827, with an initial enrollment of 40 boys. By 1830, four schools were reported in the community, with a combined enrollment of 77. Although the settlement, like the rest of Austin’s colony, was Catholic by law, no priest resided in San Felipe until the April 1831 arrival of Father Michael Muldoon, a liberal Irish Catholic priest. Not until after the Revolution were the town’s first churches built. Austin first settled on town lots 13, 14 and 15 (now within the state historic site). By 1824, he built a two-room log cabin with a dog run connecting the rooms. In 1829, Austin moved a mile west of town near Sweet Creek to garden lot 29 or 30 (near the entrance to the state park). Here he built another cabin resembling his Stephen F. Austin STATE PARK and San Felipe de Austin STATE HISTORIC SITE 11 town home. At both locations, Austin operated the land office from one room while maintaining his living quarters in the other. Aside from the primary business of inducing immigrants to come to his colony, Austin labored most on the establishment and maintenance of the land system.This involved surveying and allocating land to applicants with care to avoid overlapping, thereby keeping conflicts to a minimum. Austin held complete civil and military authority over his colonists for the first four years, subject to rather nominal supervision by the officials at San Antonio. He wisely allowed the colonists to elect militia officers; and, to assure uniformity of court procedure, he drew up forms and a simple civil and criminal code. In November 1827, Austin seized the opportunity to relieve himself of responsibility for the details of local government by hastening the organization of the ayuntamiento.This Spanish form of municipal government consisted of regidores (aldermen), was presided over by an alcalde (judge and mayor) and supported by a sindico procurador (city attorney).This governing council was the first machinery of democratic government in Austin’s colony. By virtue of experience, Austin continued to exercise strong influence over the ayuntamiento in relations with the Mexican state and federal governments. TEXAS REVOLUTION Harmony with Mexican state and federal authorities was indispensable to the success of the Texas colonies. Austin clearly realized this fact and never allowed the settlers to forget the solid benefits they received through the liberal colonization policy or their obligation to became loyal Mexican citizens. But the seeds of discontent between the Mexican rulers and the Anglo-American colonists of Texas, known as Texians, were planted long before in their differing social and political habits and experiences. By 1832 Austin’s various colonies comprised 8,000 persons, and other empresarios, though less successful, had brought in a great many more. Anglo-American immigrants vastly outnumbered Mexican Texans, known as Tejanos. Naturally, it became more and more difficult for Austin to reconcile the colonists to his cautious leadership. On the other hand, the rapid 12 Stephen F. Austin STATE PARK and San Felipe de Austin STATE HISTORIC SITE growth of the colonies, in addition to persistent efforts of the United States to buy Texas, increased the anxiety of Mexican leaders and resulted in their consequent attempts to safeguard the territory. Due to the significance of San Felipe in the life of the colony, it was inevitable that the colonial capital would play an important role in the events leading to the Texas Revolution. Citizen delegates from throughout Texas met at San Felipe Town Hall in October 1832 and again in April 1833 to hold the Conventions of 1832 and 1833 and asked for a number of privileges and reforms, of which three were the most important. First, in 1823, Mexico had given the colonists certain tariff exemptions.This liberal law expired in 1830. Both conventions adopted petitions asking for extension of the tariff exemptions. Second, when the Mexican federal system was instituted in 1824, Coahuila and Texas were united as a single state, with the somewhat indefinite assurance that the union might be dissolved when Texas was qualified for statehood. Both conventions declared that Texas was able to maintain a state government and asked for separation.The Convention of 1833 went further and framed a state constitution in anticipation of sovereignty apart from Coahuila. And thirdly, apprehension over heavy Anglo-American colonization led Mexican authorities to pass a law in April 1830 forbidding immigrants to settle in territory adjacent to their native country. Though this law was subsequently interpreted to permit Stephen F. Austin STATE PARK and San Felipe de Austin STATE HISTORIC SITE 13 continued settlement in Austin’s colony, it remained a menace to the development of Texas and the convention petitioned for its repeal. Resolutions of the Convention of 1832 were never delivered. But Austin, though he thought the movement ill-timed, was elected to present the petitions of 1833 and argue for their approval. Austin arrived in Mexico City in July 1833. Responding to the Convention’s petitions, the Mexican Congress repealed the immigration restriction law, held the tariff plea in postponement and took no action on the petition for statehood. On his way home, Austin was arrested under suspicion of trying to incite insurrection in Texas and taken back to Mexico City. During Austin’s imprisonment, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna overthrew the Mexican Constitution of 1824 and seized control of Mexico, establishing a dictatorship. He extended iron-handed rule to Texas. By 1835 Santa Anna’s attempts to stop immigration, prohibit weapons and impose high tariffs turned most Texans against hopes of staying Mexican ruled. Austin was freed in July 1835 and at the end of August returned to Texas. Upon his return, he learned a group of colonists had published a call for a consultation in October to meet again in San Felipe. Convening in November, the delegates of the Consultation of 1835 voted to remain loyal Mexican citizens, but also voted to establish provisional Mexican state government. San Felipe was named as the state capital. General Sam Houston was named commander-in-chief and ordered to raise an army to defend the Mexican Constitution of 1824 and to offer armed resistance against the dictator Santa Anna. From this time forward, only a spark was necessary to set off an explosion. On Oct. 9, 1835, at the battle of Gonzales, the first shot in the Texas Revolution was fired. In late November 1835, the provisional government elected Austin to serve as one of three commissioners to the United States. He arrived in New Orleans in January 1836.The business of the commissioners was to solicit loans and volunteers, arrange for munitions and equipment, outfit warships and do whatever they could to commit the United States to recognition, and eventual annexation, if Texas should declare independence from Mexico. Austin and the other commissioners were fairly successful in accomplishing this program, except in the effort to obtain assurances regarding annexation. 14 Stephen F. Austin STATE PARK and San Felipe de Austin STATE HISTORIC SITE Santa Anna crossed the Rio Grande shortly after the 1836 New Year and headed toward San Antonio. His plan was simple and direct; he would crush the insurgency in Texas.While the few Texans held their position behind the inadequate defenses of the Alamo, the Convention of 1836, meeting at Washington-on-the-Brazos from March 1 to March 17, formally voted for independence on March 2, signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, drafted the first constitution for the Texas nation and set up its first government.The convention also appointed General Sam Houston as commander of the Texas army.While the convention at Washington was still in session, the Alamo fell to Santa Anna. About three weeks before the fall of the Alamo, the militia at San Felipe was presented a flag.The red English jack on a field of blue showed the origin of the Anglo-Americans; 13 red and white stripes represented that most Texas colonists were from the United States; and a white star on a field of green was for Texas, the only state in Mexico showing the last spark of liberty. Houston, arriving in Gonzales on March 11, heard of the fall of the Alamo and decided to withdraw northeast toward the Colorado River.Then as news of the massacre at Goliad spread, the withdrawal became a retreat and he turned