These days in Texas, we all celebrate July 4th with as much vigor as those in Philadelphia or Washington, D.C. We love a good picnic with loads of fireworks, and our grilling can beat out any other state’s. But if we’re going to be historically accurate, Texas wasn’t even in the picture in July of 1776. In fact, we didn’t get in on the American Independence Day celebrations until after we first declared our own independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836, and had existed as the Republic of Texas for about ten years.
It was a bit tumultuous, but under the presidency of Anson Jones, Texas became economically and, as a result, politically stable, which made the Republic an enticing territory for the U.S. On December 29, 1845, we joined the United States of America as the 28th state, bringing all of our tenacity, frontier culture and public debt into the mix. President Jones delivered a speech at the formal ceremony of annexation, declaring with much emotion that, “the Republic of Texas is no more.” James Bevill writes that “many a man’s head was bowed, sighs were heaved, and many cheeks were wet with tears.” The Texas flag, flying high over Austin, was then replaced with the stars and stripes of the Unites States flag.
Our integration into the U.S. wasn’t without difficulties. As the Civil War broke out, we were inevitably dragged into fight, and seceded to join the Confederacy in 1861. Though the war ended four years later, Texas wasn’t fully readmitted as a state in the Union until 1870. Almost a full century after the United States was founded, Texas finally began its path towards existing as a true part of the United States of America.
Of course, Texas retained bits of its own culture. In Lester Galbreath’s Campfire Tales, he tells the story of Lieutenant Fred Grant, son of Ulysses S. Grant, who came with his men to the western frontier of Texas to help protect the border. One night, a local family graciously took them in for dinner, but when Grant tried to make his men eat and sit according to rank—as was the military custom—his hosts were appalled. Out on the Texas frontier, everyone dines together. Even though Grant was a high-ranking official, he couldn’t overrule the traditions in place.
Today, we can identify as simultaneously American and Texan, and we’re equally proud of both. Our celebrations, however, will remind everyone that we haven’t forgotten the long road that brought us here.
For a glimpse into the drama and excitement of the frontier, look through Lester Galbreath’s Campfire Tales.
For an in-depth look into the numismatic history of Texas, check out James P. Bevill’s The Paper Republic.