Texican, Texian, or Texan? The difference is all in the timing.
Did you know Texans haven’t always been known as Texans? The proper term has changed over time—depending upon the political structure. Here’s a quick review of 25 years of history that took citizens from Texicans to Texians to Texans.
From Texican to Texian to Texan. Let’s do a quick review of Texas history to see what was happening during the time each of three terms for Texas citizens was used.
The term for Anglos living in Mexican Texas from 1820 to 1836, was Texican (rhymes with Mexican)
The colonization of Mexican Texas began in earnest when Mexico became independent from Spain in 1821 and it lasted until the successful end of the Texas Revolution in 1836. During this period the existing province of Texas was merged with the Mexican province of Coahuila (co-a-whee-la, forming the province of Coahuila y Texas.
Mexican citizens were reluctant to move to sparsely populated Texas, where the plains Indians—including the fierce Comanche—reigned. Wanting to create a barrier between the marauding Indians and the more settled parts of Mexico, The Mexican Government decided to implement a plan developed by Spain, just prior to Mexico’s independence, and invite Anglo-American settlers to settle in Texas. This influx would, the government hoped, also stimulate economic development. Immigrants were required to take an oath of loyalty to Mexico and be Christian. The assumption was that they would be Catholic; however, Catholicism was not consistently enforced.
Generous land grants at low prices were offered to Anglo-American settlers. Each immigrating head of household could claim a headright of one league (or 4,428 acres) of grazing land plus one labor (or 177 acres) of farm land. The initial offering involved a total payment of $184, to be made in six years.
To facilitate the settlement, Mexican authorities set up a contractural system to grant blocks of land to empresarios who would advertise for immigrants, screen them, and oversee their settlement. The first of these empresarios was Stephen F. Austin who was authorized by the Mexican government to settle 300 families in Texas in 1821. Subsequently, Austin was given permission to settle an additional 1700 families between 1825 and 1831.By 1835, when the land office closed, approximately 1000 land titles had been granted.
Settlers were willing to immigrate for several reasons. Not only were land prices attractive, the lack of agreements between the US and Mexico to return fugitives or allow creditors to pursue debt collection made Mexico an attractive location for debtors and those accused of crimes. Many people running from the law or avoiding creditors simply painted “Gone to Texas” or the initials GTT on their doors or gate posts and made a dash for the Texas border.
While these first Anglo settlers in Mexican Texas were known as Texicans, this reference changed following the Texas Revolution. Although the Revolution began officially in 1835, the pressures leading to it had been smoldering for years before. As early as 1830, Texicans were frustrated by the Mexican government’s actions. The Decree of 1830 forbade colonists, from countries whose borders touched those of Mexico, from settling near their own countries’ borders. Land contracts for colonies not yet approved were suspended. Any settler entering Mexico from the north was required to have a passport issued by a Mexican consular in his own country. It also prohibited bringing slaves into Texas. Laws were also passed approving the settlement of Mexican convicts in Texas. Texicans had also been promised that Texas would become a separate province from Coahuila and the general opinion was that Mexico was dragging its feet in delivering on this promise. To make matters worse, twelve military posts were established in Texas and military troops posted to collect taxes and enforce Mexican law. This set the stage for several rounds of of petitions and appeals. Texicans also held two Conventions to draft a Constitution for Texas as a Mexican province to strengthen their request to break from Coahuila.
Inside Mexico. Santa Ana was elected President and began to maneuver to make himself dictator. Stephen F. Austin was arrested and held in Mexico without trial. By Spring of 1834, Santa Ana made himself the supreme ruler of Mexico and the federal Constitution of 1824 became a thing of the past, removing the freedoms and protections of all Mexican citizens. When the province of Zacatecas refused to accept dictatorship and the abolishment of the 1824 Constitution, Santa Ana attacked them bringing much death and destruction. Provincial governments were abolished, and Texas was placed under military rule. By 1835 feelings of distrust were running high. Colonists began organizing “Committees of Safety” to share information on Mexico’s actions.
Texicans were not inclined to yield to Santa Ana’s absolute rule and Santa Ana sent a large contingent of troops to Texas and pledged to show no mercy to rebelling Texicans. He did however, release Austin.Following an attack on Anahuac led by William Travis and a skirmish over a small brass cannon at Gonzales, war seemed inevitable. The battles from Goliad to the tragic fall of The Alamo, the final victory over Santa Ana at San Jacinto in 1836 and others in between are well documented and probably familiar. It was in these circumstances, which resulted in the creation of The independent Republic of Texas, that a new term was born. Citizens became Texians and remained so for about a decade.
In September of 1836, Texians were called upon to elect a president, vice-president, senators and representatives for the new republic. Sam Houston, the hero of San Jacinto was chosen for a two-year term as President and Mirabeau Lamar was elected Vice President. Houston immediately appointed Stephen F. Austin as Secretary of State. Austin first task was to prepare instructions for William Wharton, the first Minister to Washington. Working for three days and nights in a cold room with no fire, Austin fell sick and “The Father of Texas” died of pneumonia on December 27th.
The new Republic was beset with difficulties—beginning with the facts that the new country was a million and a quarter dollars in debt and faced with a Mexico which declared the treaty with Santa Ana void and talked of reinvading Texas. Nonetheless, the new Republic furloughed the army and focused on important legislation. A general land office was established as were land laws to help untangle the conflicting claims of ownership. Post offices and mail routes were established and Texas formalized its borders by claiming all land between the Sabine River and the Rio Grande. Texas also claimed a column of land extending into what is now New Mexico. Colorado, and Wyoming. The border with the US was to be settled by a commission.
Although many Texians hoped to be admitted to the Union, instead on March 2nd, 1837, the U.S. Congress recognized Texas as an independent country. Although troubles with Mexican invasions continued as did problems with the Cherokee and the Comanche, Texas moved ahead to choose Austin as its new capital. France, Holland, Belgium and England recognized Texas as an independent state. Finally in February of 1845, the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution offering annexation to Texas. In the summer of that year, the republic’s legislature voted to accept annexation, In October, the people voted to join the Union and in February of 1846, the transfer of governance occurred—Texas officially became a state and its citizens became known as Texans. And Texans we remain!
This has been Laurie Moore-Moore with Texas Brave and Strong, Tidbits of Texas History you never learned in school. Broadcasting every other Thursday. It’s the best little podcast in Texas. Subscribe so you can catch every episode. Thanks for listening!