By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky
That's what my grandfather said when I asked him, “How big is Texas?” Now, some might say he was bragging – something Texans have been known to do when talking about everything from the size of the fish they caught to the size of their state. But, just to set the record straight, let me tell you that he was telling the truth.
Very often people ask me the same question, confused why it takes so long to drive somewhere. Impressive as the State of Texas may appear on a map, one doesn’t always get the true perspective, comparatively speaking. Superimposing the size of Texas over a map of Europe (pictured), helps to better understand how much land we are talking about.
Geographically-speaking, Texas is the largest among the lower 48 states in the United States of America. It is second in size among all 50 states to Alaska (which became the 49th state in 1959).
Covering 268,820 square miles, the State of Texas has 11 ecological regions, 14 different soil regions, and 10 different climate regions. Consequently, dramatic changes in weather are commonplace. Understandably, the Texas Panhandle (located far north bordering New Mexico and Oklahoma and considered part of the High Plains of the Western United States) and the Texas Gulf experience weather as different as night and day. In terms of the spectrum of elevation, the Texas Gulf is sea level and 90 miles east of El Paso in western Texas is Guadalupe Peak at an elevation of 8,751 feet. Texas even has two time zones, Central and Mountain. From Coastal Plains to the High Plains, lush Hill Country and Grasslands, Piney Woods and Forests, Mountains and the ocean waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the landscape of Texas has something for everyone.
An interesting point to consider, however, is that the Republic of Texas was even bigger than the present-day State of Texas. So, for anyone reading (or writing) a historical novel in the time period 1836-1846, these facts might come in handy.
Boundary lines between Mexico and the Republic of Texas were defined in the Treaties of Velasco. The eastern border between the Texas Republic with the United States remained the same as had been established by the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 between Spain and the United States. Also known as the Florida Purchase Treaty, the treaty had ceded Florida to the United States and defined precise boundary lines between the United States and Spain, then Mexico, and ultimately the Republic of Texas.
On 12 Apr 1836, (5 weeks after the Battle of the Alamo, and 2 weeks after the Goliad Massacre), spurred by war cries of ‘Remember the Alamo!' and ‘Remember Goliad!’ General Sam Houston led his Texian army to defeat Santa Anna in the Battle of San Jacinto that lasted only 18 minutes. [Pictured: The Battle of San Jacinto (1895) by Henry Arthur McArdle]
Now a country unto itself, the Republic of Texas elected a Congress of 14 senators and 29 representatives. Although David G. Burnet served as Interim President from March 1836 until October 1836, the first elected President was, understandably, Sam Houston. Houston also served as the third President for the Republic of Texas.
Texas claimed the Rio Grande, one of two principal rivers in the southwest United States and Mexico. With a total length of 1,896 miles, the Rio Grande extended from south-central Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico. Mexico claimed the Nueces River, the “southernmost major river in Texas, northeast of the Rio Grande”. Tensions continued from the time the Republic of Texas was established until after Texas joined the United States.
Sam Houston supported the statehood of Texas, perhaps foreseeing the situation with Mexico had to be ended once and for all, and that war was a distinct possibility. Not surprisingly, when Texas became the 28th state of the United States on 29 December 1845, the Mexican-American War ignited four months later on 25 Apr 1846.
With Texas now the Lone Star State, Sam Houston became its senator, serving as such from 1846-1849. Ten years later, on 31 Dec 1859, Houston became the 7th governor of the State of Texas. However, when Texas joined the Confederacy and seceded from the Union in 1861, Houston refused to swear loyalty to the Confederate States of America. Houston then retired to his home in Huntsville and died there before the end of the Civil War, on 26 Jul 1863 at the age of 70. Yet his impact on Texas history and his legacy continues to live.
As for Texas, as someone whose ancestors date back to the days of the Republic, I am very proud of Texas, its heritage, and its people. Whether I am in my yard, walking my dog around the lake near my house, or driving down that long stretch of I-35 to Austin and San Antonio, all I have to do is look up at the cornflower blue Texas sky and remember that long ago talk with my grandfather.
How big is Texas? "As big at the eye can see."
Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you found the post informative. ~ AKB