Washington on the Brazos

This past weekend, my daughter and I had a girls’ getaway weekend in Brenham, TX. Bethany is working on her PhD at Texas A&M, and since I don’t get to see her very often these days, I decided it would be fun for the two of us to have a getaway weekend once a semester. We did a lot of relaxing, reading, movie watching, and cross-stitching during our time together, but we also spend the afternoon on Saturday at Washington on the Brazos.

The town of Washington is considered the birthplace of Texas. It got its name from a group of settlers who traveled from Washington, GA into Texas and named it for their hometown. It was established along the Brazos River and became a significant trade center with its river access.

Under Mexican rule at the time, citizens had to swear their allegiance to Mexico to live there, but since Mexico was a Republic at that time, under the constitution of 1824, the immigrants complied. However, at the next election, Santa Ana was elected president and quickly turned this republic into a dictatorship. This is not go over well with those who had immigrated from the United States. War broke out.

On March 1, 1836, Texas delegates met in an unfinished building in Washington on the Brazos to formally announce Texas’ intention to separate from Mexico and to draft a constitution for a new Republic of Texas. While congregated, they received word from William Travis about the Alamo being attacked. Many wanted to rush to their aid, but Sam Houston insisted they stay and charter their new government. Without that, they would have nothing. In the course of 17 days, they drafted a declaration of independence, adopted a new constitution, and organized an interim government to serve until a government could be elected and inaugurated. This ended up being the right choice, for by the time they received word of the Alamo’s attack, had they left to join the fight, they would have been slaughtered. The Alamo fell on March 6.

The delegates declared independence on March 2, 1836. They adopted their constitution on March 16. The delegates worked until March 17, when they had to flee with the residents of Washington, to escape the advancing Mexican Army. The townspeople returned after the Mexican Army was defeated at San Jacinto on April 21. Town leaders lobbied for Washington’s designation as the permanent capital of the Republic of Texas, but leaders of the Republic favored Waterloo, which later was renamed Austin.

The town of Washington no longer exists today. Like other river towns of this era, they made the mistake of shirking the railroad in favor of steamboats. The brick buildings that once stood tall in one of the largest towns of the area, were carted off brick-by-brick to build new buildings in places where the railroad flourished.

In 1899, a group of school children realized the threat of losing the history of what happened at this location and did a penny drive fundraiser in order to erect a monument to stand at the location where they believed Independence Hall stood. Later, archeologists found the foundation in that very location and Independence Hall was rebuilt and restored to its original specifications.

During our tour, Bethany and I got to sit around the table and listen to the story of all that had transpired in this place. Here is where the nation of Texas was born.

Do you enjoy visiting historical sites?
What was the last place you visited?

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For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She is an avid cross-stitcher, and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at: www.karenwitemeyer.com.

36 thoughts on “Washington on the Brazos”

  1. I think the last historical site or place i have been was in 2009, and that is to the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, where I saw the liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Constitution.

    • I would love to visit those places, Veda! Of course, I will forever think of the movie National Treasure and wonder if there are some Benjamin Franklin code-reading classes hidden behind a brick somewhere. 🙂

  2. Being a Texan this brought so much joy to my heart. This summer my husband & I went to WY and Yellowstone. We visited so many great sites, but in Cody, WY we went to Buffalo Bill Cody’s Dam, what an amazing site and we also ate at The Irma, a hotel named after Bill Cody’s Daughter. The bar in the restaurant/hotel was given to Bill by Queen Victoria. It was such an amazing and beautiful work of Art.
    Thanks for sharing your blog about the greatest country EVER. TEXAS

    • What a fabulous trip, Tonya! I would love to visit those places! I went to Yellowstone once as a very young girl with my family, and I remember so little of it. In fact, all I really remember was wanting to buy an Indian doll from the store. I guess I really wanted that doll. LOL!

  3. I have been to a lot of historical places over the years. In the Spring of 2019, we went to the Babe Ruth Museum and we drove to Havre de Grace to the Concord Point Lighthouse. Both important, historically, for different reasons.

    • What a great trip, Denise! It sounds like you got to experience a little bit of everything. Since I love history and my hubby loves baseball, I bet we would have enjoyed a similar trip.

    • I know what you mean, Janine. Since I was raised in California, I missed out on the required Texas History class in middle school that my kids have taken. I’ve learned a lot through research here and there, but there’s something about listening to a guide describe things and seeing a place firsthand that really brings history to life.

    • Wow, Debra. Did it give you chills? I visited a Jewish concentration camp once, and the air felt so heavy from all the death and suffering that occurred there. I wondered if it might be the same at Andersonville.

  4. Welcome. This is a cool bit of history. I enjoy visiting historical sites. Not been to any recently. When our kids where in high school, as a family we went to where the Trail of Tears started and followed it for a few days. This was very historical and intense. I am 32nd Cherokee. For me it was very poignant. I knew some of my ancestors that were Cherokee.

    • How fun that you’ve been there, Caryl. I really enjoyed it. We went to the Barrington Farm, too, and had the chance to see some living history reenactments that were really fun, too.

  5. This is so interesting. I’d love to be able to go visit the memorial sometime. The last historical place I visited was Mount Rushmore in the summer of 2019. It was amazing to see in person. While we were there, we also went to the Crazy Horse memorial that is still being completed nearby. It is really interesting as well.

  6. You know me, Karen, I love all things history!!!! My daughter is a history & geography teacher! I taught her well! We do as much history things as we can!!! I’ve been blessed enough to visit SO many historical sites in my life, both in the USA and abroad. I still hunger for more though. I can never get enough. 🙂

  7. We have been to many historical sites over the years but my most recent trip into history has been in my own house. I have spent a lot of time this year going through the old papers and photos in the trunks that belonged to my husband’s grandmother. One of the most fascinating items is a letter written in March 1877, to my husband’s greatgrandfather from a young neighbor (they lived in Ohio) who was stationed at Fort Sanders,Wyoming Territory, near current day Laramie. That sent me researching on the internet where I discovered there is a historical site there. A place to look for if I ever drive I-80 through Wyoming again. The letter writer talks about how important the Fort library was to him. I had no idea early forts had libraries.

    Thank you for the Texas Republic history. It seems like all we learn about is San Antonio and Austin and not the smaller communities where some of the most important history took place.

  8. I love visiting old Forts and National Parks. Thank you for sharing this very interesting part of Texas history with us,I enjoyed reading it. Have a Great rest of the week and stay safe.

  9. I would absolutely love to go visit historical places but unfortunately I don’t get to go. Hopefully one day I can. But there is a place here at the Mars Hill University of NC that has a small museum about how people came to Mars Hill. Right now I believe it’s set up to look like winter time for the settlers. It’s small but has a lot of information.

  10. This is exactly the way we spend our travels. We visit both historical and natural sites. I checked it out and there are several other places to visit in the area. This is an area of Texas we have not yet visited. We will have to include this area when we do get a chance to go back.
    As for the last place we visited, let me think. I haven’t left our house except for doctor visits since March 11. We traveled a lot last year. We spent 2 1/2 months on the road traveling from TN to Alaska and back. The last time we traveled was to Northern New York for an Air Force Reunion in August 2019. We would love to hit the road again, but it will have to wait until COVID isn’t an issue.

    • This was my first real trip since March, too, Patricia. We stayed in a little rental home that was an old parsonage, I believe. The owner talked about the original wooden floors being 200 years old! We didn’t get out much and wore our masks the entire time, but it was nice to get a change of scenery. The area is rich in history. We actually stayed in Chappell Hill a few miles down the road from Brenham, and all the homes around us looked like they had been built in the 1800s. So fun! I would recommend visiting in the spring when the bluebonnets are in bloom. 🙂

      • We haven’t managed to be in Texas in the Spring. We are supposed to have an Air Force reunion in San Antonio next year but I don’t think the date is definite yet. Whenever it is, we plan on spending a lot of time trying to see much of what we have missed on our other trips. We have an RV and it will be the first time we have traveled to Texas with it. As convenient as it is, I miss staying in the interesting hotels and B & B’s. It will be much safer traveling with the RV as far as exposure is concerned. I just don’t like having to drive a large vehicle around. We do not yet have a small tow along vehicle and really do not want to have to buy another car.

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