Why Is Austin the Capital of Texas and not Houston?

austin is capital of texas

Austin is the fourth largest city in Texas and also the capital of the state. It is a city that is well known for technology, art, business and music. It is even referred to as the “The Live Music Capital of the World.”

The city provides a lot of opportunities so it is not a surprise that the population is a mix of high-tech workers, government employees, blue-collar laborers, musicians as well as students.

The question on your mind right now might be why Austin is the capital of Texas when the state has other larger cities. By the time you are done reading this article, you will have the answer to your question.

We will begin by bringing it to your notice that Austin’s position as the capital of Texas wasn’t always guaranteed. There have been efforts over the years to move the capital of the state to other places, but eventually Austin became the official and recognized capital of Texas. How did that come about? keep reading.

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History of Austin

Up until 1835, Texas remained a part of Mexico. However, the Anglo-American settlers in the region craved for their independence and there ensued a five month struggle after which the Republic of Texas became a sovereign country.

This was in the year 1836 and about five places became the temporary capitals of the republic. These places include; Harrisburg, Columbia, Galveston, Washington-on-the-Brazos, and Velasco.

President Sam Houston moved the capital to Houston in 1837. You should also know that Houston is the fourth largest city in the US. Mirabeau B. Lamar became the 2nd President of Texas and he requested that the Texas Congress should set up a site-selection commission in order to find the best location for a new and permanent capital.

President Lamar visited an area that although was not so developed nor did it have much population, was blessed with a lot of natural resources. The beauty of this area, coupled with the fact that it intersected the roads to San Antonio and Santa Fe, made President Lamar believe that this was a perfect spot for the permanent capital.

And so the site selection commission under the instruction of President Lamar purchased 7,735 acres along the Colorado River. The small village of Waterloo was also part of the purchase and in 1839, Waterloo was selected as the new capital of Texas.

Not long after Waterloo was chosen as the new capital, the named was changed from Waterloo to Austin. It was named after Stephen F. Austin who was the first Secretary of State for the republic and also referred to as the “Father of Texas”.

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Infrastructure projects soon commenced in Austin and the seat of power was gradually moved from Houston to Austin. Austin remained the capital without dispute until 1842 when it was contested amid a political tumult.

Turmoil in Austin

Let’s point out here that not everyone was in support of moving the capital of Texas to Austin. A lot of people believed that the area was too remote and could be easily attacked by Native Americans and Mexican troops.

One of the people who was against the move was Sam Houston who was later reelected as the President of Texas. And so in 1842 after the Mexican troops captured San Antonio, he made the move to transfer all national archives in Austin to Houston.

The citizens of Austin were very much against this move as to them, it would mean that Austin will no longer be the capital of Texas. That notwithstanding, President Houston still went on to move the seat of power. The first place he moved it to was Houston and later on he transferred it to Washington-on-the-Brazos.

Still in that year, he ordered troops to retrieve the General Land Office records in Austin. The citizens of Austin did not agree to this and a fight ensued which led to the records not being taken by the troops. That incident is what is referred to as the Texas Archive War. Although they retained the records, Austin no longer had any political function.

Why Is Austin the Capital of Texas?

The next president of Texas was Anson Jones and he called for a constitutional convention meeting to be held in Austin in 1845. At that meeting, he approved the annexation of Texas to the United States and made Austin the temporary state capital.

It was termed temporary state capital because it was only supposed to remain the capital until Texas voters decided on a capital in a general election.

Texas formerly became a state on February 19, 1846 with Austin as the official capital. Nevertheless, the status of Austin as the state capital was still not generally accepted until 1872 when a statewide election to finally decide on the location of the capital was held.

As you must have guessed, Austin won in that election over Houston as well as Waco and emerged as the undisputed capital of Texas. It has remained so till date.