Notes and Documents
Hispanic-Mexican San Antonio: 1836-1861
When a traveler approached San Antonio from the east, he saw
laid out before him a compact little town dominated by a church
dome, lying in a fertile valley watered by ever-flowing springs [Plate 1].
Every traveler noted, and probably expected to find, the oasis-like
characteristics of early San Antonio as it lay beside the San Antonio
River and San Pedro Creek. There were no outlying houses or small
farms. The distant view lent romance to the small clustered houses of
San Antonio nestled in the well-watered valley.'
Observers writing of the period of San Antonio history from 1836-
1861 reflected the culture and characteristics of their places of origin.
Through their eyes, and in their words, life in San Antonio contained
much that was romantic, although it was sometimes tempered with real-
ism. This was the first Mexican town encountered in Texas, for there
were few Mexicans, and no Mexican towns, east of San Antonio."
While Irish, English, Germans, French, and occasionally other Euro-
peans came to San Antonio, the traveler was most likely to be a south-
erner, both fascinated and repelled by what he found.
Disaster after disaster struck at San Antonio during the first part
of the century. In 1816 the town was almost depopulated following
political upheavals in Mexico. A flood in 1819 destroyed much of the
town. In the Mexican era rich farm land lay abandoned because of
Indian raids. Merging of the provinces of Coahuila and Texas caused
suffering again in 1824, when the capital was moved to Saltillo. In
1834, before the cholera epidemic, the population was about 2,ooo;
during the period of the Republic it hovered around 1,ooo. Life was
*Mrs. Remy is assistant professor of sociology, Trinity University, San Antonio.
1Mary Austin Holley, Texas (Lexington, Ky., 1836), 112-113. Mrs. Holley, and many
emigrant guides written in the period, conditioned emigrants and travelers in their
attitudes toward Texas and San Antonio. See also Eugene Hollon and Ruth Lapham
Butler (eds.), William Bollaert's Texas (Norman, Okla., 1956), 216.
'A Seth Eastman Sketchbook, 1848-1849, Introduction by Lois Burkhalter (Austin,
"Lois Wood Burkhalter, Gideon Lincecum, 1793-i874 (Austin, 1965), 36.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117145/. Accessed December 13, 2013.