Spanish Texas was one of the interior provinces of New Spain from 1690 until 1821. Although Spain nominally claimed ownership of the territory, which comprised part of modern-day Texas, including the land north of the Medina and Nueces Rivers, the Spanish did not attempt to colonize the area until after discovering evidence of the failed French colony of Fort Saint Louis. In 1690, Alonso De León escorted several missionaries to East Texas, where they established the first mission in Texas. When native tribes resisted the Spanish presence, the missionaries returned to Mexico, abandoning Texas for the next two decades.
The Spanish returned to East Texas in 1716, establishing several missions and a presidio to maintain a buffer between Mexico and the French territory of Louisiana. Two years later, the first civilian settlement in Texas, San Antonio, was established as a way station between the missions and the nearest existing Spanish settlement. The new town quickly became a target for raids by the Lipan Apache. The raids continued periodically for almost three decades, until in 1749 the Spanish and the Apache made peace. The peace treaty angered the enemies of the Apache and resulted in raids on Spanish settlements by the Comanche, Tonkawa, and Hasinai tribes. Fear of Indian attacks and remoteness from the rest of the viceroyalty discouraged settlers from moving to Texas, and it remained one of the least populated provinces of New Spain. The threat of Indian attacks did not decrease until 1785, when Spain reached a peace agreement with the Comanche, who later assisted in defeating the Lipan Apache and Karankawa tribes which had continued to cause difficulties for Spanish settlers. An increase in the number of missions in the province allowed for a peaceful conversion of other tribes, and by the end of the eighteenth century, only a small number of the hunting and gathering tribes in the area had not been Christianized.
France formally relinquished its claim to Texas in 1762, when French Louisiana was ceded to Spain. Louisiana's addition meant that Texas was no longer essential as a buffer province, and the easternmost settlements in Texas were disbanded, with the population relocated to San Antonio. In 1799, however, Spain gave Louisiana back to France, and shortly thereafter Napoleon sold the territory to the United States. U.S. President Thomas Jefferson insisted that the purchase included all land to the east of the Rocky Mountains and to the north of the Rio Grande. The dispute was not resolved until 1819, when Spain traded Florida to the United States in return for recognition of the Sabine River as Texas's eastern boundary.
During the Mexican War of Independence from 1810–1821, Texas experienced much turmoil. Governor Manuel María de Salcedo was overthrown by rebels in 1810, but persuaded his jailer to release him and assist him in organizing a countercoup. Three years later, the Republican Army of the North, comprised primarily of Indians and Americans, again overthrew the Texas government and executed Salcedo. The Spanish response was brutal, and by 1820 fewer than 2000 Hispanic citizens remained in Texas. Spain was forced to relinquish its control of New Spain in 1821, and Texas becoming a province of the newly formed nation of Mexico, leading to the period in Texas history known as Mexican Texas.
The Spanish left a deep mark on Texas. Their European livestock caused mesquite to spread inland while farmers tilled and irrigated the land, changing the landscape forever. Spanish language provided the names for many of the rivers, towns, and counties that currently exist, and Spanish architectural concepts still floursish. Although Texas eventually adopted much of the Anglo-American legal system, many Spanish legal practices were retained, including the concept of a homestead exemption and community property.
Although Alonso Alvarez de Pineda claimed Texas for Spain in 1519, the area was largely ignored until the late seventeenth century. In 1685, the Spanish learned that France had established a colony in the area between New Spain and Florida. Believing the French colony was a threat to Spanish mines and shipping routes, Spanish King Carlos II's Council of War recommended that "Spain needed swift action 'to remove this thorn which has been thrust into the heart of America. The greater the delay the greater the difficulty of attainment.'" Having no idea where to find the French colony, the Spanish launched ten expeditions—both land and sea—over the next three years. While unable to fulfill their original goal of locating the French settlement, the expeditions did provide Spain a deeper understanding of the geography of the Gulf Coast region. The last expedition, in 1689, discovered a French deserter living in southern Texas with the Coahuiltecans. The Frenchman helped guide the Spanish, under Alonso De León, to Fort Saint Louis, which had been destroyed by Karankawa Indians. De León's expedition also met representatives of the Caddo people, who lived between the Trinity and the Red Rivers. The Caddo expressed interest in learning about Christianity.
De León sent a report of his findings to Mexico City, where it "created instant optimism and quickened religious fervor." The Spanish government was convinced that the destruction of the French fort was "proof of God's 'divine aid and favor.'" In his report De León recommended that presidios be established along the Rio Grande, the Frio River, and the Guadalupe River and that missions be established among the Hasinai Indians, whom the Spanish called the Tejas, in East Texas. In Castilian Spanish, this was often written as the phonetic equivalent Texas, which became the name of the future province.
The viceroy approved the establishment of a mission but rejected the idea of presidios, primarily because New Spain was chronically short of funds. On March 26, 1690, De León set out with 110 soldiers and several missionaries. The group stopped first to burn Fort Saint Louis to the ground, and then they proceeded to East Texas. Mission San Franciso de los Tejas was completed near the Hasinai village of Nabedaches in late May, and its first mass was conducted on June 1. The missionaries refused to allow the unruly soldiers to remain near the missions, and when De León returned to Mexico later that year, only 3 of his initial 110 soldiers remained to assist the monks. Father Damien Massanet, the priest in charge of the mission, left on June 2 to meet the tribes north of the mission before returning to Mexico to request an additional 14 priests and 7 lay brothers.
On January 23, 1691, Spain appointed the first governor of Texas, General Domingo Terán de los Rios. Terán was ordered to help establish seven new missions, including two more among the Tejas Indians, four amongst the Kadohadochos, and one for the tribes near the Guadalupe River. He was only able to recruit 10 friars and 3 lay brothers. His expedition reached the existing mission in August 1691 and discovered that the priests there had established a second mission, Santisimo Nombre de Maria, east of San Francisco de los Tejas. One of the priests had died, leaving two to operate the missions. The Indians regularly stole their cattle and horses and were becoming insolent. With provisions running low, Terán chose not to establish any more missions. When he left Texas later that year, most of the missionaries chose to return with him, leaving only 3 religious people and 9 soldiers at the missions.
The group also left a smallpox epidemic. The Indians had no natural immunity to the disease and at first blamed the outbreak on the baptismal waters. After thousands of natives had succumbed, the survivors rose up against the missions. In 1693, the Caddo warned the Franciscans missionaries to leave the area or be killed. The missionaries buried the church bells and burned the mission, then returned to Mexico. Although this first Spanish attempt to settle Texas failed, it provided Spain an increased awareness of the terrain, rivers, and coastline of Texas and convinced the government that "even the most tractable of Indians" could only be converted "by a combination of coercion and persuasion. For the next 20 years, Spain again ignored Texas.
In 1711, Franciscan missionary Francisco Hidalgo, who had served in the earlier Texas missions, wanted to reestablish missions with the Caddos. The Spanish government was unwilling to provide the funding and troops for the project, so Hidalgo approached the French governor of Louisiana, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac for help. Cadillac was under orders to turn Louisiana into a profitable colony and believed that Spanish settlers closer to Louisiana could provide new trading opportunities. He sent Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, along with brothers Pierre and Robert Talon, who, as children, had been spared at the massacre of Fort Saint Louis, to find Hidalgo and offer assistance. In July 1714, the French delegation reached the Spanish frontier, at that time around the Rio Grande, where Hidalgo was located. Although St. Denis was arrested and questioned, he was ultimately released. The Spanish recognized that the French could become a threat to other Spanish areas, and ordered the reoccupation of Texas as a buffer between French settlements in Louisiana and New Spain.
On April 12, 1716, an expedition led by Domingo Ramon left San Juan Bautista for Texas, intending to establish four missions and a presidio which would be guarded by twenty-five soldiers. The party of 75 people included 3 children, 7 women, 18 soldiers, and 10 missionaries. These were the first recorded female settlers in Spanish Texas. After marrying a Spanish woman, St. Denis also joined the Spanish expedition.
The party reached the land of the Hasinai people in late June 1716 and was greeted warmly. On July 3, mission San Francisco was reestablished as Nuestro Padre San Francisco de los Tejas for the Neche Indians. Several days later, Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción was established at the main village of the Hainai, the head tribe of the Hasinai Confederacy, along the Angelina River. A third mission, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, was established 15 miles (24 km) east of Purísima Concepción, at the main village of the Nacogdoche tribe, at what is now Nacogdoches. A final mission, San Jose de los Nazonis, was built among the Nazoni Indians just north of present-day Cushing. A presidio, Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, was built opposite San Francisco de los Tejas.
At the same time, the French were building a fort in Natchitoches to establish a more westward presence. The Spanish countered by founding two more missions just west of Natchitoches, San Miguel de los Adaes and Dolores de los Ais. The missions were located in a disputed area; France claimed the Sabine River to be the western boundary of Louisiana, while Spain claimed the Red River was the eastern boundary of Texas, leaving an overlap of .
The new missions were over from the nearest Spanish settlement, San Juan Bautista. It was difficult to reprovision the missions, and by 1718 the missionaries were in dire straits. Martin de Alarcon, who had been appointed governor of Texas in late 1716, wished to establish a way station between the settlements along the Rio Grande and the new missions in East Texas. The Coahuiltecans had built a thriving community near the headwaters of the San Antonio River, in the area the Spanish had admired in 1707. Alarcon led a group of 72 people, including 10 families, into Texas on April 9, 1718. They brought with time 548 horses, 6 droves of mules, and other livestock. On May 1, the group created a temporary mud, brush and straw structure to serve as a mission, San Antonio de Valero, whose chapel was later known as the Alamo. The mission was initially populated with three to five Indians that one of the missionaries had raised since childhood. One mile (two km) north of the mission, Alarcon built a presidio, San Antonio de Bexar. Alarcon also chartered the municipality of Bejar, now San Antonio. Given a status higher than a village (pueblo) but lower than a city (ciudad), San Antonio became the only villa in Texas, and the colonists who settled there relied on farming and ranching to survive. With the new settlement established, Alarcon continued on to the East Texas missions, where he found evidence of much illicit trade with France.
The following year, the War of the Quadruple Alliance broke out, aligning Spain against France, England, Holland, and Austria. The war was fought primarily over Italy, but England and France used the war as an excuse to attempt to take over Spanish interests in North America. In June 1719, 7 Frenchmen from Natchitoches took control of the mission of San Miguel de los Adeas from its sole defender, who did not know that the countries were at war. The French soldiers explained that 100 additional soldiers were coming, and the Spanish colonists, missionaries, and remaining soldiers abandoned the area and fled to San Antonio.
The Marquis de San Miguel de Aguayo volunteered to reconquer Texas and raised an army of 500 soldiers. Aguayo was named the governor of Coahuila and Texas and the responsibilities of his office delayed his trip to Texas by a year, until late 1720. Just before he departed, the fighting in Europe halted, and King Felipe V of Spain ordered them not to invade Louisiana, but instead find a way to retake Eastern Texas without using force. The expedition brought with them over 2800 horses, 6400 sheep and many goats; this constituted the first large "cattle" drive in Texas. This greatly increased the number of domesticated animals in Texas and marked the beginning of Spanish ranching in Texas.
In July 1721, while approaching the Neches River, Aguayo's expedition met St. Denis, who had returned to the French and was leading a raid on San Antonio. Realizing that he was badly outnumbered, St. Denis agreed to abandon East Texas and return to Louisiana. Aguayo then ordered the building of a new Spanish fort Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Los Adaes, located near present-day Robeline, Louisiana, only 12 miles (19 km) from Natchitoches. The new fort became the first capital of Texas, and was guarded by 6 cannon and 100 soldiers. The six East Texas missions were reopened, and Presidio Delores, now known as Presidio de los Tejas, was moved from the Neches River to a site near mission Purisima Concepcion near the Angelina River. The Spaniards then built another fort, Presidio La Bahía del Espíritu Santo, known as La Bahia, on the site of the former French Fort St. Louis. Nearby they established a mission, Espiritu Santo de Zuniga (also known as La Bahia), for the Coco, Karankawa, and Cujane Indians. Ninety men were left at the garrison. Aguayo returned to Mexico City in 1722 and resigned his governorship. At the beginning of his expedition, Texas had consisted only of San Antonio and about 60 soldiers; at his resignation, the province had grown to consist of 4 presidios, over 250 soldiers, 10 missions, and the small civilian town of San Antonio.
Rivera recommended closing Presidio de los Tejas and reducing the number of soldiers at the other presidios. His suggestions were approved in 1729, and 125 troops were removed from Texas, leaving only 144 soldiers divided between Los Adaes, La Bahia, and San Antonio. The three East Texas missions which had depended on Presidio de los Tejas were relocated along the San Antonio River in May 1731, increasing the number of missions in the San Antonio area to five. The San Antonio missions usually contained fewer than 300 Indians. Many of those who lived at the mission had nowhere else to go, and belonged to small tribes that have since become extinct.
Spain discouraged manufacturing in its colonies and limited trade to Spanish goods handled by Spanish merchants and carried on Spanish vessels. Most of the ports, including all of those in Texas, were closed to commercial vessels in the hopes of dissuading smugglers. By law, all goods bound for Texas had to be shipped to Veracruz and then transported over the mountains to Mexico City before being sent to Texas. This caused the goods to be very expensive in the Texas settlements. Settlers were often forced to turn to the French for supplies, as the fort at Natchitoches was well-stocked and goods did not have to travel as far. Without many goods to trade, however, the remaining Spanish missionaries and colonists had little to offer the Indians, who remained loyal to the French traders.
The tribes traded freely, and soon many had acquired French guns, while others had traded for Spanish horses. Tribes without access to either resource were left at a disadvantage. The Lipan Apache, who had been seasonal farmers, were soon pressed by the Comanche, who had horses, and the Wichita, who had guns. The Apaches were bitter enemies of the Tejas of East Texas and had transferred their enmity to the Spanish as friends of the Tejas. After discovering San Antonio in 1720, the Apache began repeatedly raiding the area to steal livestock, especially horses. An average of 3 Spaniards died each year in Texas as a result of Apache attacks, with approximately 100 animals taken each year. In retaliation, the Spanish launched multiple attacks on the Apaches, capturing horses and mules, hides and other plunder, and taking Apache captives, whom the Spanish used as household servants. By 1731, however, the San Antonio garrison was begging the government for help in negotiating a peace with the tribes.
The Spanish government believed that settlers would defend their property, alleviating the need for some of the presidios. Texas was an unappealing prospect for most settlers, however, due to the armed nomadic tribes, high costs, and lack of precious metals. In 1731, the Spanish government restteled 55 people, mostly women and children, from the Canary Islands to San Antonio. At that time, only 300 Hispanic settlers lived in San Antonio, with 200 others dispersed throughout the rest of the colony. The new immigrants began farming and renamed the town San Fernando de Bexar, establishing the first municipal, and only civilian, government in Texas. Juan Leal Goraz, the oldest of the settlers, was appointed the first councilman.
As the first settlers of the municipality, the Islanders and their descendants were designated hidalgos. The established settlers resented the Islanders for their new titles and exclusive privileges within the city government. The newcomers did not know how to handle horses, rendering them useless in mounted warfare against the Apaches. Unlike the established settlers, who relied on ranching, the Islanders were primarily farmers, and their refusal to build fences led to many disagreements when livestock trampled the fields. By the early 1740s, however, intermarriage and the need for closer economic ties had helped to alleviate some of the infighting, and the original settlers were given permission to serve as magistrates and council members.
The threat of Apache raids led to a constant state of unease in San Antonio, and some families left the area, while others refused to leave the safety of the town to tend their livestock. The problems culminated with a late-night raid on San Antonio by 350 Apache on June 30, 1745, retaliation for a Spanish military campaign several months before. The attackers were repelled with the assistance of 100 Indians from Mission Valero. The Apache also preyed on other tribes, including the Deadose and Tonkawa. In the 1740s, these weaker tribes requested missions along the San Gabriel River in the hopes that the Spanish could protect them from attack. Mission San Francisco Xavier was established at the confluence of the San Gabriel River and Bushy Creek in January 1746 to serve the Deadose, Mayeye, and Coco Indians. In 1748 alone, the Apaches raided the mission four times, killing three soldiers and four of the Indian residents. Many of the resident Indians fled the mission due to the threat of attacks. This did not deter the missionaries, who founded two more missions, San Ildefonso and Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria, in the area the following year. Within six months, all of the potential converts at San Ildefonso had left. By 1755, the missions were transferred to a new location on the San Marcos River.
Apaches shunned the mission, and on March 16, 1758, a band of Comanche, Tonkawa, and Hasinai tribes, angry that the Spaniards were assisting their enemies, pillaged and burned the mission, killing eight people. The San Saba mission was the only Spanish mission in Texas to be completely destroyed by Indians, and it was never rebuilt. Although the Indian force had 2000 members, they chose not to attack the fort.
The Spanish government refused to abandon the area completely out of fear that such an action would make them appear weak. While they planned a response, Indians raided the San Saba horse herd, stealing all of the horses and pack mules and killing 20 soldiers. In October 1759, Spain sent the San Saba commander, Colonel Diego Ortiz Parrilla, on an expedition north to the Red River to avenge the attack. The tribes were forewarned and led Parrilla's army to a fortified Wichita village, surrounded by a stockade and a moat, where natives brandished French guns and waved a French flag. After a skirmish in which 52 Spaniards were killed, wounded, or deserted, the Spanish retreated. The San Saba presidio was replaced with a limestone fortress and a moat, but the Comanches and their allies remained close and killed any soldiers who ventured out. By 1769, Spain abandoned the fort.
In 1762, missionaries established two unauthorized missions south of San Saba, in the Nueces River valley. For several years the Apache lived in the missions most of the year, but left in winter to hunt buffalo. One of the missions closed in 1763, when the Apache never returned from their hunt. The surviving mission closed in January 1766, after a force of 400 natives from the northern tribes attacked, killing 6 Apaches and taking 25 captives as well as all the livestock in the valley. Forty-one Spanish troops and their small cannon ambushed the northern tribes as they returned to East Texas. Before the Spanish were forced to retreat, over 200 Indians and 12 Spanish soldiers died. After the battle, the Apache refused to return to the mission and returned to raiding near San Antonio. Raids by the northern tribes decreased, however.
The presidio of La Bahia was moved from the Guadalupe River to Goliad on the San Antonio River in 1749. Within five years, a new mission for the Karankawa tribes, Nuestra Senora del Rosario de los Cuhanes, was built upstream of the presidio. This mission survived for many years. Despite the new missions and presidios, Texas was one of the least populated provinces on the northern frontier of New Spain. By 1760, almost 1200 Hispanic people lived in Texas, with half in San Antonio, 350 at Los Adaes, and 260 at La Bahia. Other Spaniards lived in what is now the El Paso area, but that was considered part of New Mexico and not part of Texas.
On November 3, 1762, as part of the Treaty of Fontainebleu, France ceded the portion of Louisiana west of the Mississippi River to Spain. Spain had assisted France against England in the Seven Years War, and lost both Manila and Havana to the English. Although the Louisiana colony was a financial liability, King Carlos III of Spain reluctantly accepted it, as that meant France was finally ceding its claim to Texas. At the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763, England recognized Spain's right to the lands west of the Mississippi. England received the remainder of France's North American territories, and Spain exchanged some of their holdings in Florida for Havana.
With France no longer a threat to Spain's North American interests, the Spanish monarchy commissioned the Marquis de Rubi to inspect all of the presidios on the northern frontier of New Spain and make recommendations for the future. Rubi's two year journey, beginning in early 1766, covered seven thousand miles from the Gulf of California to East Texas. This was the first comprehensive look at the New Spain frontier since the 1720s, when Pedro de Rivera conducted his expedition. Rubi was unimpressed with the presidio at San Saba, which he declared to be the worst in the kingdom of New Spain. He recommended that only the presidios at San Antonio and La Bahia be maintained, and that East Texas be totally abandoned, with all population moving to San Antonio. With Louisiana in Spanish control, there was no need for Los Adaes to reside so closely to Natchitoches, especially after the missions had relocated to San Antonio. In August 1768, the acting governor, Juan María Vicencio, Baron de Ripperda, moved his headquarters and the garrison to San Antonio, and in 1772 San Antonio became the new Texas capital. Los Adaes was abandoned completely. The new governor also augmented the garrison at San Antonio to protect the town from recurring Indian attacks. A new presidio, Fuerte de Santa Cruz de Cibolo, was also established southeast of San Antonio to protect farmers and ranchers from attacks.
As a result of Rubi's recommendations, Presidio de San Agustin de Ahumade was closed in 1771, leaving the Texas coast unoccupied except for La Bahia. In July 1772, however, the governor of Texas heard rumors that English traders were building a settlement in the area of the Texas coast that had been abandoned. The commander of La Bahia was sent to find the settlement, but saw no sign of other Europeans. His expedition did, however, discover that the San Jacinto River emptied into Galveston Bay and not into the Gulf of Mexico.
The 500 Hispanic settlers who had lived near Los Adaes were forced to resettle in San Antonio in 1773. In the six years between the inspection and the removal of the settlers, the population of East Texas had increased from 200 Europeans to 500, a mixture of Spanish, French, Indians, and a few blacks. The settlers were given only five days to prepare to relocate to San Antonio. Many of them perished during the three-month trek and others died soon after arriving.
After protesting, they were permitted in the following year to return to East Texas, but only as far as the Trinity River, 175 miles (282 km) from Natchitoches. Led by Antonio Gil Ybarbo, the settlers founded the town of Nuestra Senroe de Pilar de Bucareli "where the trail from San Antonio to Los Adaes crossed the Trinity." The settlers helped smuggle contraband goods from Louisiana to San Antonio, and also helped the soldiers with coastal reconnaissance.
In May 1776, Carlos III created a new position, the Comandancia General of the Interior Provinces of New Spain, to control areas including Texas. The first appointee, Teodoro de Croix, served as governor and commander in chief of the area from 1776 until 1783. As de Croix prepared to take office, his predecessor, Baron de Ripperda, wrote a detailed report, dated April 27, 1777, of the settlements in Texas. One-third of the report detailed the village of Bucareli, which he labeled as "'of the greatest importance as a means of acquiring reports of a coast as extensive as it is uninhabited.'" The Bucareli settlers regularly performed coastal explorations and developed a friendship with the Bidai tribe, who reported any signs of foreigners along the coast. In the summer of 1777, Gil Ybarbo discovered that a group of Englishmen had come from the sea and stayed long enough to plant a crop near the Neches River. He led an expedition to find the Englishmen, but, although they discovered the fields, the expedition did not find any of the settlers.
In 1779, the Comanches began raiding the Bucareli area, and the settlers chose to move further east to the old mission of Nacogdoches, where they founded the town of the same name. The new town quickly became a waystation for contraband. The settlers did not have authorization to move, and no troops were assigned to protect the new location until 1795.
In 1776, Indians at the Bahia missions told the soldiers that the Karankawas had massacred a group of Europeans who had been shipwrecked near the mouth of the Guadalupe River. After finding the remains of an English commercial frigate, the soldiers warned the Karankawa to refrain from attacking seamen. The soldiers continued to explore the coast, and reported that foreign powers could easily build a small settlement on the barrier islands, which were difficult to access from the mainland, and then ascend the Trinity or San Jacinto Rivers into the heart of Texas. Captain Luis Cazorla, the commander of the La Bahia presidio, recommended that Spain build a small fort on the barrier islands and provide a shallow-draft vessel to continually reconnoiter the coast. The fort would be both a deterrent to the more bloodthirsty tribes and to the English. The Spanish government, fearful of smuggling, declined to give permission for a port or a boat on the Texas coast.
De Croix was unimpressed with his new province, complaining that "'A villa without order, two presidios, seven missions, and an errant population of scarcely 4,000 persons of both sexes and all ages that occupies an immense desert country, stretching from the abandoned presidio of Los Adaes to San Antonio, ... does not deserve the name of the Province of Texas ... nor the concern entailed in its preservation.'" Despite his distaste for the area, he increased the number of troops in the interior provinces by 50% and created units of "light troops" which did not carry all of the heavy gear and could fight on foot. His administration also attempted to build alliances with native troops, and planned to work with the Comanche and the Wichita to wipe out the Apache raiders. The plan was shelved when Spain entered the American Revolution as an ally of the French and the American revolutionaries and money and troops were diverted to attacking Florida instead of exterminating the Apaches. After soldiers in Coahuila aligned with the Mescaleros against the Lipan Apaches, however, Spain was able to sign a peace treaty with the Lipans. The Comanches were also becoming more brazen, attacking Presidio La Bahia in 1781, where they were repulsed.
After hearing that Englishman George Gauld had surveyed Gulf Coast all the way to Galveston Bay in 1777, Bernardo de Galvez appointed a French engineer, Luis Antonio Andry, to conduct a similar survey for Spain. Andry finished his survey in March 1778, and anchored off Matagorda Bay after running dangerously low on provisions. Over a period of days, the Karankawa lured a few men at a time from the ship with offers of assistance and killed all but one, a Mayan sailor named Tomas de la Cruz. The Karankawa also burned the ship and the newly created map, possibly the first detailed Spanish map of the Texas-Louisiana coast. Several months later, the Indians living at Mission Rosario, near La Bahia, escaped to join the Karankawa, and together they began raiding livestock and harassing settlers. The governor pardoned many of the fugitives, and most of them returned to the mission. The Karankawa continued to cause difficulties for the Spanish, and in 1785 the interim commandant-general, Joseph Antonio Rengel, noted that they were unable to explore in the Matagorda Bay region as long as the Karankawa held it.
The Spanish again arranged for their coastline to be mapped, and in September 1783, Jose de Evia left Havana to chart the coastline between Key West and Matagorda Bay. During his journey, Evia gave Galveston Bay its name, in honor of his sponsor, de Galvez. Evia later mapped the Nuevo Santander coast between Matagorda Bay and Tampcio, part of which later belonged to Texas.
Galvez became the viceroy of New Spain in 1785 and regained control of the interior provinces. Galvez ordered that the Indians be encouraged to use alcohol, which they could only get through trading, and that the firearms they were traded be poorly made so that they would be awkward to use and easy to break. His policies were never implemented, as Spain did not have the money to provide gifts such as those to the tribes. Instead, the Spanish negotiated a treaty with the Comanche in late 1785. The treaty promised annual gifts to the Comanches, and the peace it brought lasted for the next 30 years. By late 1786, northern and western Texas were secure enough that Pedro Vial and a single companion safely "pioneered a trail from San Antonio to Santa Fe," a distance of 700 miles (1126 km).
The Comanches were willing to fight the enemies of their new friends, and soon attacked the Karankawa. Over the next several years, the Comanches killed many of the Karankawa in the area and drove the others into Mexico. By 1804, very few natives lived on the barrier islands, where the Karankawa had made their home. In January 1790, the Comanche also helped the Spanish fight a large battle against the Mescalero and Lipan Apaches at Soledad Creek west of San Antonio. Over 1000 Comanche warriors participated in raids against the Apache in 1791 and 1792, and the Apache were forced to scatter into the mountains in Mexico. In 1796, Spanish officials began an attempt to have the Apache and Comanche coexist in peace, and over the next twn years the intertribal fighting declined.
In 1791 and 1792, Fray Jose Francisco Garza befriended some of the Karankawa and other native peoples. Their friendship allowed Garza to explore much of the coastal areas that had been too dangerous to visit. The Indians requested that Garza build a mission at the junction of the San Antonio and Guadalupe Rivers, and in February 1793 Mission Nuestra Senora del Refugio opened near Mission Lake at the head of San Antonio Bay. Over 230 Indians lived at the mission initially, but within two years they were forced to move to a less flood-prone site, which became known as Refugio. By the end of the eighteenth century, only a small number of the hunting and gathering tribes within Texas had not been Christianized. In 1793, mission San Antonio de Valero was secularized, and the following year the four remaining missions at San Antonio were partially secularized.
The Spanish government believed that security would come with a larger population, but was unable to attract colonists from Spain or from other New World colonies. By the late 18th century, Texas was one of the least populated regions of New Spain, with fewer than two inhabitants per square league. The population was relatively stagnant, having grown only to 3,169 individuals in 1790 from 3,103 in 1777. Over half of the population was classified as Spaniards, with settled Indians making up the next largest category. Blacks, mostly slaves, made up less than 1% of the population in 1777, and only 2.2% of the 1793 census. Over two-thirds of the adults in Texas were married, and single men outnumbered single women, although there was a high percentage of widows. Intermarriage was fairly common, mostly between white men and women of mixed origin. Children from these unions often passed as whites. Illegitimate births increased steadily throughout the century, reaching 20% of all births in 1799. Despite the small population, however, Spain actively discouraged immigration to Texas, and a permanent garrison was placed in Nacogdoches in 1790 to keep foreigners from settling in the area. Immigrants from the United States were allowed to settle in Louisiana and Florida after taking an oath of allegiance, but were not required to convert to Roman Catholicism.
In 1799, Spain gave Louisiana back to France in exchange for the promise of a throne in central Italy. Although the agreement was signed on October 1, 1800, it did not go into effect until 1802. The following year, Napoleon sold Louisiana to the United States. Many of the Spaniards who had moved to the colony left for Texas, Florida, or other Spanish-held lands. The original agreement between Spain and France had not explicitly specified the borders of Louisiana, and the descriptions in the documents were ambiguous and contradictory. Even when both territories had been under Spanish control, there was disagreement on where the border should be. In 1793, the King of Spain decided that there was no need to move the boundary from Natchitoches to the Sabine River, as had been recommended by some Frenchmen.
The United States insisted that its purchase also included most of West Florida and all of Texas. Thomas Jefferson claimed that Louisiana stretched west to the Rocky Mountains and included the entire watershed of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and their tributaries, and that the southern border was the Rio Grande. Spain maintained that Louisiana extended only as far as Natchitoches, and that it did not include the Illinois Territory.
Texas was again considered a buffer province, this time between New Spain and the United States. In 1804, Spain planned to send thousands of colonists to increase the number of residents in Texas (then at 4000 Hispanic inhabitants). The plan was cancelled as the government did not have the money to relocate the settlers. The responsibility for defending Texas now rested with Nemesio Salcedo, who held the newly reopened position of Comandant General of the Internal Provinces. Salcedo promoted immigration to Texas, and a new town, Trinidad de Salcedo, was founded where the Trinity River intersected the road from San Antonio to Nacogdoches. For a brief time, Salcedo also allowed former Spanish subjects from Louisiana to come to Texas. A few Americans who had become naturalized Spaniards, including Daniel Boone, settled in Texas during that time. Salcedo warned, however, that "'the foreigners are not and will not be anything but crows to pick out our eyes.'"
King Charles IV of Spain ordered data compiled to determine the true boundary. Before the border was settled, both sides led armed excursions into the disputed areas, and Spain began increasing the number of troops stationed in Texas. By 1806, the number of soldiers in Texas had doubled, with over 883 as Spain doubled the number of soldiers stationed in Texas, with over 883 stationed in and around Nacogdoches. At the end of 1806, local commanders negotiated a temporary agreement in which neither the Spanish nor the Americans would venture into the area between the Sabine River and Arroyo Hondo. This neutral ground quickly became a haven for lawlessness and it did not stop individuals from crossing the boundary. While on a mission for the United States Army to explore some of the disputed areas of the Louisiana Purchase Zebulon Pike was arrested by the Spanish while camping on the Rio Grande and escorted back to Natchitoches. Although his maps and notes were confiscated, Pike was able to recreate most of it from memory. His glowing comments about Texas lands and animals made many Americans yearn to control the territory.
In May 1808, Napoleon forced the Spanish king and his son to abdicate the throne. Joseph Bonaparte was appointed King of Spain, to violent protests from the Spanish citizens. The uprisings continued for the next six years, until his abdication in 1814. During the time, there was little oversight of the New World colonies. A shadow government operated out Cadiz during Joseph's reign, operating under the Spanish Constitution of 1812. The constitutional government included representatives from the colonies, including Texas and New Mexico. When King Fernando VII resumed his throne, he refused to recognize the new constitution or the representative government. He was forced to change his mind in 1820 as the only way to avert a military coup.
During this time of turmoil, it was unclear who actually governed the colonies: Joseph, the shadow government representing Ferdinand VII, the colonial officials, or revolutonaries in each province. The Mexican War of Independence began in 1810 at the instigation of Miguel Hidalgo. Fearing that the revolution would reach Texas, governor Manuel María de Salcedo ordered the Texas borders closed to all foreigners. He was soon reversed by his uncle, the Commandant General. Revolutionaries soon overthrew and imprisoned Salcedo, and a new government was established in Texas. Salcedo persuaded his jailer to return to the royalist cause and the two organized a countercoup. Hidalgo was captured and executed in 1811.
Although officially neutral during the Spanish civil wars, the United States allowed rebels to trade at American ports and much of the weaponry and ammunition used by the rebels came from the United States. Americans also provided manpower for the conflict, with Natchitoches serving as a launching point for several expeditions into Texas. In 1812, Mexican insurgent Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara led a small force of Americans into Texas. Comanches from the eastern part of Texas quickly joined the insurgency. Calling themselves the Republican Army of the North, the group captured San Antonio in 1813, assassinated the governor, Manuel María de Salcedo, and proclaimed Texas an independent nation. The death of the governor caused many of the Anglo-Americans to desert the cause, but on April 17, 1813, the group composed Texas's first constitution, which provided for a centralized form of government. Spanish forces recaptured the province later that year and executed any Tejanos accused of having Republican tendencies. Within 2 weeks almost 400 rebels were executed and their wives and daughters were imprisoned for 2 months. Royalist soldiers even chased many of the women and children who had fled San Antonio, killing 200–300. Captured Americans were given an opportunity to take an oath of loyalty to Spain, and those who refused were escorted back to the United States. Fearing that the Comanche would still constitute a threat, Spanish general Arredondo ordered all ranchers to move temporarily to San Antonio to help defend the city. When they returned to their ranches several months later, they found that the Comanche had slaughtered all of the livestock, leaving most of the carcasses where they fell. The Spanish army looted the rest of Texas too, and by 1820 fewer than 2000 Hispanic citizens remained in Texas. According to historian Gary Clayton Anderson, ""Spanish Texas, or what remained of it, had become a desolate, unprotected land that could not feed itself."
Another revolutionary, Jose Manuel Herrera, created a government on Galveston Island in September 1816 which he proclaimed part of a Mexican Republic. A group of French exiles in the United States attempted to create their own colony on the Trinity River, known as Le Champ d'Asile. The exiles planned to use the colony as a base to liberate New Spain and then free Napoleon from St. Helena. They abandoned the colony shortly and returned to Galveston.
On February 22, 1819, Spain and the United States reached agreement on the Transcontinental Treaty, which ceded Florida to the United States in return for the United States relinquishing its claim on Texas. The official boundary of Texas was set at the Sabine River (the current boundary between Texas and Louisiana), then following the Red and Arkansas Rivers to the 42nd parallel (California's current northern border). For the next two years, until early February 1821, Spain delayed ratification of the treaty, using it as leverage to prevent the United States from formally recognizing one of the rebellious Spanish colonies as an independent nation. During this period many Americans spoke out against the treaty and the renunciation of the claim to Texas. An essay in the City of Washington Gazette denounced the treaty, claiming that "'a league'" of the land in Texas was worth more to the United States "'than the whole territory west of the Rocky Mountains'".
In 1819, James Long led an expedition to invade Texas. He declared Texas an independent republic, but by the end of the year his rebellion had been quashed by Colonel Ignacio Perez and his Spanish troops. The following year Long established a new base near Galveston Bay "to free Texas from 'the yoke of Spanish authority. . . the most atrocious despotism that ever disgraced the annals of Europe.'" His basis for a rebellion was soon gone, however. On February 24, 1821, Agustin de Iturbide launched a drive for Mexican Independence. Texas became a part of the newly independent nation without a shot being fired.
Spanish control of Texas was followed by Mexican control of Texas, and it can be difficult to separate the Spanish and Mexican influences on the future state. The most obvious legacy is that of the language; the state's name comes from the Spanish translation of an Indian word. Every major river in modern Texas, except the Red River, has a Spanish or Anglicized name, as do 42 of the state's 254 counties and numerous towns also bear Spanish names. Even many of the words that have been incorporated into American English, such as barbecue, canyon, ranch, and plaza, come from Spanish words. An additional obvious legacy is that of Roman Catholicism. At the end of Spain's reign over Texas, virtually all inhabitants practiced the Catholic religion, and it is still practiced in Texas by a large number of people. The Spanish missions built in San Antonio to convert Indians to Catholicism have been restored and are a National Historic Landmark.
The landscape of Texas was changed as a result of some Spanish policies. As early as the 1690s, Spaniards brought European livestock, including cattle, horses, and mules, with them on their expeditions throughout the province. Some of the livestock strayed or stayed behind when the Spanish retreated from the territory in 1693, allowing the Indian tribes to begin loosely managing herds of the animals. These herds grazed heavily on the native grasses, allowing mesquite, which was native to the lower Texas coast, to spread inland. Although the introduced livestock were able to adapt to the changing conditions, the buffalo had a more difficult time grazing among the new vegetation, beginning the decline in their numbers. Spanish farmers also introduced tilling and irrigation to the land, further changing the landscape. Spanish architectural concepts were also adopted by those in Texas, including the addition of patios, tile floors and roofs, arched windows and doorways, carved wooden doors, and wrought iron grillwork.
Although Texas eventually adopted much of the Anglo-American legal system, many Spanish legal practices were retained. Among these was the Spanish model of keeping certain personal property safe from creditors. Texas implemented the first homestead exemption in the United States in 1839, and its property exemption laws are now the most liberal state in the United States. Furthermore, Spanish law maintained that both husband and wife should share equally in the profits of marriage, and, like many other former Spanish provinces, Texas retained the idea of community property rather than use the Anglo laws in which all property belonged to the husband. Furthermore, Spanish law allowed an independent executor to be named in probate cases who is not required to gain court permission for each act not explicitly listed in the testament. Texas retained this idea, and it has eventually spread to other states, included Arizona, Washington, and Idaho. In other legal matters, Texas kept the Spanish principle of adoption, becoming the first U.S. state to allow adoption.