The Spanish were the first to explore the southwestern area, and Domingo Teran de los Rios, named the San Antonio River after St. Anthony’s Day in 1691. The town was founded by Father Antonio Olivares in 1718. He established the Mission San Antonio de Valero and four other Spanish missions soon followed along the river, and so begins the spectacular history of San Antonio. In 1773 San Antonio de Bexar became the official capital of Spanish Texas. At this time the population was just over 2,000 and was made up of Europeans, mestizos, and black slaves.
During the Texas Revolution, San Antonio would be the fighting site for many decisive battles, including the siege of Bexar (December 1835), and the infamous battle of the Alamo. The battle of the Alamo was nothing but a bloodbath for the Texans and General Santa Anna’s Mexican army ended the massacre in only 13 days. On the eight day, 32 volunteers arrived at the Alamo, but that was the only reinforcements that would come. The final battle of the Alamo was on March 6, 1836, when the Mexican army scaled the walls and put an end to the Texans heroic struggle. Names like Davy Crockett, William B. Travis, and Jim Bowie will forever be remembered for their ultimate sacrifice for freedom of those in San Antonio and all of Texas.
After the Mexican Army was defeated later that year at the Battle of San Jacinto, the next immigrants to arrive in San Antonio were Germans. Then, after Texas was annexed to the United States, Anglo-American’s began to settle in the area as well.
The Mexican forces were evacuated and Bexar County was made a part of the Republic of Texas in December, 1836. Soon after, San Antonio was chosen as its seat in January 1837. Another battle, the Council House Fight, took place in 1840 when the Comanche Indians refused to release their captives. San Antonio was then seized twice during the Mexican invasions of 1842 and the population was decreased even further.
The town grew rapidly after Texas entered the Union, and by 1860 San Antonio was the largest town in Texas with a population of 8,235. Most of this growth can be attributed to San Antonio being the distribution center for the western movement of the United States. They were a ranching center and were the starting point for nearly all of the cattle drives made to Kansas. When Texas seceded on March 2, 1861, San Antonio served as a Confederate depot. The town never did see any of the action of the Civil War, but a few units, such as John S Ford’s Cavalry of the West, were formed there.
After the Civil War, San Antonio served the entire Southwest as a cattle, distribution, mercantile, and military center. They provided an important wool market from importing merino sheep to the local Hill Country as well as being the main southern supplier for cattle drives. San Antonio was able to enter a new level of economic growth after the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway was built in 1877. The town had no form of transportation before the railroad and after it was constructed their population soared to over twenty thousand by 1880. Another railroad came to town in 1881, the International-Great Northern, and by 1900 there were five railroads built into the city.
Just like the rest of the United States, San Antonio’s modernization and growth was amazingly high at the end of the 1800’s and early 1900’s. Many new, unheard of things were planned and established, including civic government, utilities, street paving and maintenance, water supply, telephones, hospitals, and a power plant and San Antonio regained its spot as the largest city in Texas.
After the 1910 Mexican Revolution took place, the Mexican immigration increased and coupled with the influence German and Southern Anglo-American cultures, San Antonio became one of America’s “four most unique cities” (alongside Boston, New Orleans, and San Francisco).
San Antonio provided a place for the First United States Volunteer Cavalry to organize and was an important military center during both World War I and II for the army and air force. It has kept its place as a military center, being the home for both Fort Sam Houston and Kelly, Randolph, Brooks, and Lackland Air Force bases.
San Antonio has been the site for many major historical events, especially the one that will forever be remembered in the heart and soul of every Texan, the Alamo. With all of its diversity, over the years San Antonio has provided a place for any and all ethnic groups to feel at home. San Antonio boasts a good economy, an excellent metro transportation system, spectacular entertainment, nightlife, and dining, educational opportunities, fun festivals and attractions, and many cultural events.