Early Native Americans -- In prehistoric times, central parts of the state were once submerged underwater, and about 100 million years ago, massive dinosaurs, some unique to Texas, roamed the plains. The first human occupation dates from about 10,000 B.C. Traces of a prehistoric people today referred to as Paleo-Indians have been found, though very little is known of these early hunters. Tribal groups emerged around 8000 B.C., leaving behind murals of daily life and religious ceremonies in caves in what is now West Texas. As many as 30,000 different Native American tribes -- including the Caddos, Coahuiltecans, Tonkawans, Apaches, and Comanches -- occupied the land before the arrival of European settlers in the 16th century. Indians grew crops that would become modern mainstays, such as cotton, corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, and potatoes. Even the name "Texas" can be traced to Native American tribes: Tejas is the Spanish pronunciation of the Caddo word for "friend."
Arrival of the Spaniards -- Unfortunately, the arrival of the Spaniards was hardly friendly. Many of the Native American tribes were quickly wiped out, killed by either disease or land-grabbing conquistadors. Along with opportunists in search of gold, glory, and land were missionaries in search of souls. Their objective was the Christianization of Native tribes.
The first European to reach Texas is believed to have been Alonso Alvarez de Piñeda. In 1519, the Spanish explorer made a map of the Texas coast, establishing the basis for the first claim to the land and Spanish rule. Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca landed in Galveston in 1528 in search of cities of gold, eventually finding his way to Mexico City, where he told stories of seven such cities that lay just north of where his expeditions took him. His tall tales -- the first of many that would emanate from Texas -- prompted fellow explorer Coronado to venture north through Texas all the way to Kansas. Of course, he never found those elusive cities of gold, the so-called Seven Cities of Cíbola, but his explorations did fortify Spain's land claims.
In 1598, Juan de Oñate formally claimed Texas for Spain, though the first permanent settlement and official mission, Corpus Christi de la Isleta (near El Paso), didn't come for another 84 years. Spain held Texas for 300 years, and its influence, perhaps filtered through its Latin American colonies, is strongly felt; in reality, though, Spain did little more than raise a few missions and settlements along the coast.
Under the French Flag -- The French claimed Texas based on a visit from Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, who sailed the Mississippi River down to the Gulf of Mexico in 1682. Back in France, La Salle received a royal commission to establish a French empire in the southwestern territories of North America. When he returned in 1685, the Frenchman miscalculated and landed 400 miles west of the mouth of the Mississippi, on the Texas coast near Matagorda Bay. Undaunted, he established Fort San Louis and raised the French flag. The French settlement lasted only a few years, victim of both disease and Indian attack (which felled the fort), and La Salle himself was killed by his own men.
Spaniards quickly responded to the French settlements in Texas and Louisiana, establishing their own mission, San Francisco de los Tejas, in East Texas in 1690. Three decades later, the Mission of San Antonio de Valero -- the Alamo -- led to the founding of the city of San Antonio (which became the seat of Spanish government in Texas in 1772). Spain established missions across Texas, but its colonization of the territory proceeded slowly.
Mexico's Turn -- Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821 and turned its sights to the immense territory north. The Mexican government granted authorization to Stephen F. Austin, who would become known as the "Father of Texas," to settle in southeast Texas with a colony of 300 families (the "Texas Original 300"). The Austin settlers weren't the first Anglo-Americans in Texas, but the new colony, made up mostly of Tennesseans, marked the official beginning of Anglo-American colonization. Just 15 years later, nearly 50,000 people had settled in Texas.
American settlers had to accept Mexican citizenship and Roman Catholicism to remain in Texas. Mexico had a republican form of government; but states' rights, including those of Texas, were not defined, and the Mexican government did little to protect its colony. As more Americans settled there, Texas took on the shape of a U.S. outpost, despite the Mexican flag flying over it. Stephen Austin organized a militia, which would become the famous Texas Rangers, to protect the colony. Tensions grew, and Mexico denied the entry of additional American settlers in 1830. Other religious, political, and cultural clashes between Texans and the Mexican government ensued, and the self-proclaimed president of Mexico, Gen. António López de Santa Anna, bolstered his troops in Texas. Texans then requested the status of independent Mexican state. When their diplomatic initiative failed, Texans declared independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836.
War was imminent. Texas forces attacked San Antonio. In response, Santa Anna and his troops vastly outnumbered and then ruthlessly crushed the valiant Texans, led by Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, at the Alamo in a 2-week battle in March 1836. Mexican troops slaughtered more than 300 Texas prisoners at Goliad only days later, unwittingly giving rise to the battle cry of independence: "Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!" (though only the first defeat is now generally remembered). Six weeks later the Texans, led by Gen. Sam Houston's army, rebounded with a stunning and decisive victory over Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto, winning their independence from Mexico on April 21, 1836.
The Republic of Texas & the Confederacy -- The Lone Star flag flew triumphantly for nearly a decade, from 1836 to 1845, over the Republic of Texas, a nation that was officially recognized by the United States and Europe but not Mexico. Six different sites served as the Texas capital until the town of Austin finally won out in 1839. The government, based on the U.S. model, had a president, a senate, a house of representatives, and an army, navy, and militia. Yet the new republic faced some daunting problems, such as boundary disputes, debt, and concerns about Mexican attack. Unable to solve those by itself, the republic accepted U.S. annexation, and Texas became the 28th state in 1845, ceding some western lands (parts of modern-day Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Colorado) to the Union. Mexico terminated diplomatic relations with the United States; the Mexican War ended with Mexico's surrender to the United States in 1848 and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which rejected Mexican claims on Texas and the Southwest.
But there was more tumult to come. Texas joined the Confederate States of America, seceding from the United States in January 1861. Texas sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War, though support was not unanimous among leaders. Gov. Sam Houston chose to resign rather than back the Confederate states. About 90,000 Texans saw military service, and the Texas economy was left in shambles. After the end of the Civil War, Texas -- after ratifying the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments -- officially rejoined the Union in March 1870.
The Wild West to Today -- Texas was still the Wild West and most of its settlers lived the frontier life. The dismal economy after the war and abundant longhorn cattle in southern Texas led to the great Texas trail drives to northern markets in the 1860s. The drives north from Texas to Kansas City, such as the famous Chisholm Trail, brought prosperity to ranchers and particularly the city of Fort Worth, the site of cattle auctions and shipping companies, which grew as the railroads reached Texas at the end of the 19th century. The free-for-all, boomtown aspect of life in Texas became a natural haven to all sorts of opportunists and outlaws, among them Wild Bill Hickok, John Wesley Hardin, and Billy the Kid (and later, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow).
In 1901, the Texas oil and gas boom exploded with the discovery of the Spindletop oil field near Beaumont, transforming the agricultural economy and bringing riches to many other Texans. The discovery of "black gold" produced a spate of new Texas boomtowns, with an influx of workers -- known as wildcatters and mavericks -- hoping that a little hard work in the oil fields would translate into rapid wealth.
Texas celebrated its centennial in 1936 with the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas at Fair Park. But the next real watershed event in Texas was a tragic one. On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as his motorcade passed through downtown Dallas. Kennedy's vice president, Texas's own Lyndon B. Johnson, was sworn in as the 36th president aboard the presidential plane at Dallas's Love Field airport.
The urban areas of Texas have continued to grow, with Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas among the 10 largest cities in the United States. These cities and fast-growing, formerly suburban communities have successfully attracted firms that have relocated their headquarters from around the country. Texas has recently become a leader in the technology industry, and the capital, Austin, has been transformed from a government and university town to one of the nation's most important clusters of high-tech corporations and computer-chip makers.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.