I Wanna Be a Cowboy... in Bandera
and then San Felipe de Austin, the original Texas Capital before Texas was..well, Texas.
We explored more of the Lone Star state in January and found our way to the Cowboy Capital of the World.
Bandera, TX - MuralPhoto by Dave Alexander.
Bandera got its start in 1852 when several families camped along the Medina River and made roofing shingles out of the abundant Cypress trees in the area. A year later, John James and Charles de Montel acquired land laid out a townsite. They also built a horse-powered sawmill for cypress lumber.
Bandera, Tx - HornsEverything's bigger in Texas, including this sculpture as you come into Bandera, Texas from the south. Photo by Dave Alexander.
Bandera’s title, “Cowboy Capital of the World” is from its days as the staging area for the last great cattle drives of the late 1800s. In addition, many National Rodeo Champions call Bandera home.
Bandera, Texas Horse and Wagon rides available for visitors to Bandera, Texas.
According to author Stephanie Day, "Hendrick Arnold, a free black man, was given a vast tract of land for his faithful service in the young Republic of Texas. He was commended for his bravery and fighting ability in the siege and capture of San Antonio in 1835, then fought in the battle of San Jacinto which won the independence of Texas. Bandera's black cemetery is named the Hendrick Arnold-Bertha Tryon Cemetery in his honor."
Bandera, Tx - HatsCowboy hats on display at an antique mall in Bandera, Texas, 2022. Photo by Dave Alexander.
Though Bandera is a small town of less than a thousand, many come here to experience the eclectic mix of Indian, Mexican, Polish, and Western cultures.
Bandera, TX - OST DinerThe Old Spanish Trail Diner in Bandera, Texas. Photo by Dave Alexander.
This One Hundred-year-old dining establishment in Bandera was originally the old Davenport Grocery Store and there was once a horse corral here. During the 30s and 40s, the O.S.T. was also a dance hall where many famous singers and bands played. Today there is still a line out the door for lunch... at least while we were there.
Frontier TimesStarted in the 1920s, Frontier Times was a popular magazine for the Western lover.
The Frontier Times Museum, founded by J. Marvin Hunter and named for Hunter's Frontier Times magazine, is located in Bandera across from the First Baptist Church.
Bandera, TX - Cigar Store IndianA cigar-store Indian and a plethora of beads meet for Mardi Gras -- a Cowboy Mardi Gras -- in little Bandera, the Cowboy Capital of the World.
Many bloody battles between Apache and Comanche Indians and the Spanish Conquistadors took place in Bandera Pass (12 miles north of Bandera on Hwy 173). Legend has it that, for years afterward, a red "bandera” (Spanish for banner or flag) was flown at the site to define the boundary between Spanish and Indian hunting grounds.
For more information on Bandera, Check out these official websites:
Bandera, Texas Cowboy Capital of the World
Bandera County Chamber of Commerce
Also see our articles:
The Great Western Cattle Trail
San Felipe de Austin - Capital of Mexican Texas
San Felipe de Austin, TX - MuseumPhoto by Kathy Alexander.
San Felipe de Austin, Texas, was chosen by Stephen F. Austin as the unofficial capital of his colony in Mexican Texas in October 1823.
San Felipe de Austin, TX - Brazos RiverPhoto by Kathy Alexander.
Austin decided to establish his capital at the Brazos River crossing of the Atascosito Road, a military road built by the Spanish in 1757 that connected San Antonio to Louisiana. The town was named after Stephen Austin and Felipe de la Garza, commanding general of the Eastern Interior Provinces.
San Felipe de Austin, TX - Austin StatuePhoto by Dave Alexander.
San Felipe soon became the first urban center in the Austin colony, stretching northward from the Gulf of Mexico to the Old San Antonio Road and extending from the Lavaca River in the west to the San Jacinto River in the east.
San Felipe de Austin, TX - Austin HousePhoto by Dave Alexander.
By 1828, San Felipe had been surveyed, with Calle Commercio laid out as the main commercial street. Austin and his secretary, Samuel May Williams, both resided in log cabins on the square. Jonathan Peyton also ran a tavern on the square. By that time, the community boasted three general stores, two saloons, a hotel, a blacksmith shop, 40-50 log cabins, and a population of about 200.
San Felipe de Austin, TX - Town Hall MonumentPhoto by Dave Alexander.
Between 1832 and 1835, the “People of Texas” met in convention three times at San Felipe to protest Mexican policies and eventually consider breaking free from Mexico. The evolving Texas government ruled from San Felipe for five months during the seven-month-long Texas Revolution. Working to unite the colonies, the provisional government organized the army, established what would become the Texas Rangers, and initiated a postal system for Texas. Gail Borden’s Telegraph & Texas Register, which became the unofficial journal of the revolution, was first published in San Felipe de Austin on October 10, 1835. The print shop also published some of Texas’ most famous documents that rallied support for the Texas Revolution in 1835-1836. By 1836 the town's population was 600 with many more settlers nearby.
San Felipe de Austin, TX - MonumentPhoto by Dave Alexander.
After Texas' independence from Mexico, a "new" community was established near the original townsite, but the republic’s government was unable to resume operation in San Felipe due to the lack of necessary buildings. San Felipe was incorporated in 1837, became the county seat of the newly established Austin County, and a courthouse was built.
San Felipe de Austin, TX - Old StorePhoto by Dave Alexander.
By 1850 San Felipe had a school and two stores, one of which was a general store run by John Crutcher. It was purchased in 1867 by J.J. Josey; it was in continuous operation as a store until 1942.
San Felipe de Austin, TX - WellPhoto by Dave Alexander.
In 1928, residents dedicated the original townsite as a commemorative site and have annually held a celebration honoring Stephen F. Austin and early San Felipe ever since. In 1940, the town of San Felipe donated most of the original townsite property to the state, which is now the San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site.
San Felipe de Austin, TX - Museum CabinsPhoto by Kathy Alexander.
Today, the San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, contains a 10,000 square-foot state-of-the-art museum that shares the stories of early settlers where visitors can walk in their footsteps and features interactive displays and historical artifacts.
Read More about San Felipe de Austin - Texas First Colony
Texas Rangers - Order out of Chaos
Keywords: Bandera, Cowboy Capital, destination, first capital, history, San Felipe de Austin, Texas, travel
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