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?