Texas is the only state that became an independent nation before joining the Union. This republic lasted for about 10 years, led to war, and caused problems. The convention that led to this republic was held in the frontier village of Washington. All that’s left of the original town is a hotel cistern. The closest town to Washington is Navasota. The nearest big population center to it is College Station, home to Texas A&M. Washington has become a state historic site called Washington-on-the-Brazos. This large and impressive complex contains a free visitor center, the Star of the Republic Museum, the Barrington Living History Farm, and much more. To see the museum and farm requires paying a modest amount, but I spent so much time in the visitor center trying to understand the impact of this historical place that Ruth and I didn’t have time for more. Before I left, I talked to a Texan and told him what I had learned. I asked if my retelling of the Texas story was accurate, and he said it was. I had never fully understood it before.
A new nation that became a sovereign republic called Texas was created in Washington in 1836. This new republic had a Constitution based on those of the United States and Mexico, and the delegates wrote a Declaration of Independence. They petitioned the U.S. to accept it as a state but this appeal was rejected, so Texas became an independent nation until it joined the U. S. in 1845, the same year as Florida. The convention was held in an unfinished building called Independence Hall that has been recreated on its original site next to a monument that school children caused to happen in 1899. The 59 delegates were from Texas and other countries like Canada and Ireland. They struggled but failed to solve the problems that this new republic might cause. During the same year as the convention the Alamo was fought in what is now San Antonio and within a few years a war with Mexico happened. Sam Houston was named this new republic’s military commander, and he became its President twice.
At the time of the convention Washington was a town of one street with only 3 framed buildings and a few log cabins. It was a ferry crossing on the Brazos with about 10 families and a shipping port for locally grown cotton. Riverboats brought goods from Galveston and New Orleans and they returned full of cotton. The river level was uneven and the boats were often stranded. When Washington refused to pay for the construction of a railroad in the 1860s, the original town died. By that time this part of Texas was becoming known for cattle, wild Indians, cowboys, ranches, and horses.
Because it had been an independent nation with a single star on its flag before statehood, Texas became known as the Lone Star State.