Texas Almanac, 2000-2001 Page: 37
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A Brief Sketch of Texas History
This brief, two-part sketch of Texas'past, from prehistoric times to 1920, is based on "A Concise History of Texas"by former
Texas Almanac editor Mike Kingston. Mr. Kingston's history was published in the 1986-87 sesquicentennial edition of the Texas
Almanac. Robert Plocheck, associate editor of the Texas Almanac, prepared this excerpt.
Texas: Prehistory to Annexation
Early Texans are believed to have been descendants
of Asian groups that migrated across the Bering Strait
during the Ice Ages of the past 50,000 years.
At intermittent periods, enough water accumulated
in massive glaciers worldwide to lower the sea level sev-
eral hundred feet. During these periods, the Bering
Strait became a 1,300-mile-wide land bridge between
North America and Asia.
These early adventurers worked their way south-
ward for thousands of years, eventually getting as far as
Tierra del Fuego in South America 10,000 years ago.
Biologically they were completely modern homo
sapiens. No evidence has been found to indicate that any
evolutionary change occurred in the New World.
Four basic stages reflecting cultural advancement of
early inhabitants are used by archaeologists in classify-
ing evidence. These stages are the Paleo-Indian (20,000
to 7,000 years ago), Archaic (7,000 years ago to about
the time of Christ), Woodland (time of Christ to 800-
1,000 years ago), and Neo-American or Late Prehistoric
(800-1,000 years ago until European contact).
Not all early people advanced through all these
stages in Texas. Much cultural change occurred in adap-
tation to changes in climate. The Caddo tribes of East
Texas, for example, reached the Neo-American stage
before the Spanish and French explorers made contact in
the 1500s and 1600s.
Others, such as the Karankawas of the Gulf Coast,
advanced no further than the Archaic stage of civiliza-
tion at the same time. Still others advanced and then
regressed in the face of a changing climate.
The earliest confirmed evidence indicates that
humans were in Texas between 10,000 and 13,000 years
Paleo-Indians were successful big-game hunters.
Artifacts from this period are found across the state but
not in great number, indicating that they were a small,
As Texas' climate changed at the end of the Ice Age
about 7,000 years ago, inhabitants adapted. Apparently
the state experienced an extended period of warming
and drying, and the population increased.
These Texans began to harvest fruits and nuts and, to
exploit rivers for food, as indicated by the fresh-water
mussel shells in ancient garbage heaps.
The Woodland stage is distinguished by the develop-
ment of settled societies, with crops and local wild
plants providing much of their diet. The bow and arrow
came into use, and the first pottery is associated with
Pre-Caddoan tribes in East Texas had formed vil-
lages and were building distinctive mounds for burials
and for ritual.
The Neo-American period is best exemplified by the
highly-civilized Caddoes, who had a complex culture
with well-defined social stratification. They were fully
agricultural and participated in trade over a wide area of
The Spanish Explorations
Spain's exploration of North America was one of the
first acts of a vigorous nation that was emerging from
centuries of campaigns to oust the Islamic Moors from
the Iberian Peninsula.
In early 1492, the Spanish forces retook the province
of Granada, completing the reconquista or reconquest.
Later in the year, the Catholic royals of the united coun-
try, Ferdinand and Isabella, took a major stride toward
shaping world history by commissioning Christopher
Columbus for the voyage that was to bring Europeans to
As early as 1519, Capt. Alonso Alvarez de Pineda, in
the service of the governor of Jamaica, mapped the coast
The first recorded exploration of today's Texas was
made in the 1530s by Alvar Ndfiez Cabeza de Vaca,
along with two other Spaniards and a Moorish slave
named Estevanico. They were members of an expedition
commanded by Panfilo de Narviez that left Cuba in
1528 to explore what is now the southeastern United
States. Ill-fated from the beginning, many members of
the expedition lost their lives, and others, including
Cabeza de Vaca, were shipwrecked on the Texas coast.
Eventually the band wandered into Mexico in 1536.
In 1540, Francisco Vizquez de Coronado was com-
missioned to lead an exploration of the American South-
west. The quest took him to the land of the Pueblo
Indians in what is now New Mexico. Native Americans,
who had learned it was best to keep Europeans away
from their homes, would suggest vast riches could be
found in other areas. So Coronado pursued a fruitless
search for gold and silver across the High Plains of
Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
While Coronado was investigating Texas from the
west, Luis Moscoso de Alvarado approached from the
east. He assumed leadership of Hernando de Soto's
expedition when the commander died on the banks of
the Mississippi River. In 1542, Moscoso's group ven-
tured as far west as Central Texas before returning to
Forty years passed after the Coronado and Moscoso
expeditions before Fray Agustin Rodriguez, a Fran-
ciscan missionary, and Francisco Sanchez Chamuscado,
a soldier, led an expedition into Texas and New Mexico.
Following the Rio Conchos in Mexico to its conflu-
ence with the Rio Grande near present-day Presidio and
then turning northwestward up the great river's valley,
the explorers passed through the El Paso area in 1581.
Juan de Ofiate was granted the right to develop this
area populated by Pueblo Indians in 1598. He blazed a
trail across the desert from Santa Barbara, Chihuahua, to
intersect the Rio Grande at the Pass of the North. For the
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Ramos, Mary G. Texas Almanac, 2000-2001, book, 1999; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth162509/m1/37/: accessed December 13, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.