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South Texas Living


Celebrate Texas Independence


Celebrate Texas Independence
HARRY & LINDA KAYE PEREZ/Reprints at wilsoncountynews.com The Star of the Republic Museum offers a glimpse into the history of the Lone Star State for visitors to the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historical Site.


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February 20, 2013
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When we think of Texas’ struggle for independence from Mexico in the 1830s, most will automatically think of the Alamo or the Battle of San Jacinto. But Washington-on-the-Brazos is considered by historians to be the most significant place in Texas at that time. On March 2, 1836, Washington-on-the-Brazos made history as the birthplace of the Republic of Texas.

Making history

On this day, delegates elected from each municipality in Texas met in a small, unfinished building, now referred to as Independence Hall, to establish an interim government and to write a constitution for the new Republic of Texas. At the same time, Gen. Santa Anna was laying siege to the Alamo and many delegates desperately wanted to rush to the aid of those trapped inside -- men like Jim Bowie, William Barret Travis, and Davy Crockett. But those delegates were convinced by others that it was much more important to finish the job they were there for -- to make a formal declaration of independence from Mexico. Working day and night for more than two weeks, they forged a constitution and a government that lasted 10 years, until the Republic of Texas became part of the United States, as its 28th state.

The town of Washington had sprung up around a ferry landing on the Brazos River, and by 1835, it had become a supply crossroad for tradesmen and merchants because of the river and the nearby major roads. It continued to flourish and gain prominence until the mid-1850s; the decline of the town began when it was bypassed by the railroad. Today, the population of Washington-on-the Brazos is only nine. One of those nine proud residents was our guide, who led us on the journey to experience exactly what happened during March of 1836.

Bringing the past to life

As we sat inside Independence Hall at a long table similar to the one used by the delegates in 1836, listening to his vivid descriptions of the events, he sometimes spoke as if he was there at that time. He drew us into the history and made us feel a part of this wonderful place. Tours are available daily.

The Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historical Site covers 293 acres and includes Independence Hall, the Star of the Republic Museum, and the Barrington Living History Farm.

The Star of the Republic Museum -- a two-level, 22,000-square-foot facility built in the shape of the Texas star -- opened in 1970 and contains many artifacts from that period of time. One of the most interesting aspects of the museum is the timeline along the wall of the stairs that takes visitors to the second floor. It displays events that occurred in the region from the founding of the Alamo in 1718 to Texas becoming part of the United States. The 80-seat Jesse H. Jones Theatre features a 20-minute video, “Once a Nation,” providing an overview of life between 1836 and 1846. It is well worth your time to see this excellent presentation.

The Barrington Living History Farm represents the lifestyle of Dr. Anson Jones, the last president of the Republic of Texas, and his family. It includes a structure built in 1844 and moved to this historical site in 1936; other structures were recreated based on historical information. Visitors are encouraged to participate in the work of the farm, guided by interpreters dressed in period clothing, to better understand and experience the daily lives of those early Texas settlers. Admission to all three venues -- Independence Hall, the Star of the Republic Museum, and the Barrington Living History Farm Museum -- is $9 per adult, $6 per child ages 7 and up, 
or $27 per family (two adults and up to five children). All facilities in the park and the museum are accessible for the physically challenged. This is a wonderful experience for anyone who loves history.

Nearby Brenham

A great bonus of visiting Washington-on-the-Brazos is the nearby city of Brenham, with the Blue Bell Creameries, museums, wineries, restaurants, and great boutique hotels and B&Bs. Visit www.visitbrenhamtexas.com for more information about this area.

Harry and Linda Kaye Perez are freelance writers from just down the road from Floresville. Together they share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world, through their “Everyday Journeys” columns in the La Vernia News. Email them at Harry-Linda411@att.net.

William Barret Travis wrote on Feb. 24, 1836, during the Siege of the Alamo: “I am besieged ... I have sustained a continual bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours ... the enemy has demanded a surrender. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender nor retreat.”

Texas-sized birthday party

Join the 177th celebration of Texas Independence Saturday and Sunday, March 2-3, at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historical Site. Guest entertainer Craig Toungate will present “In the Shadows of Giants,” his one-man show that brings the Texas Revolution to life; he spins tales of his great-grandfather, Meredith Toungate, with original music. Performances are at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Entrance to the park and events are free. Festivities will include historical re-enactments, food, and fun.

Enjoy demonstrations of cooking, weaving, period crafts, live music, and much more!

The Star of the Republic Museum’s new exhibit, “The Substance of Life: Texas through the Eyes of Theodore Gentilz,” opens March 2. Gentilz, a Frenchman, came to Texas in 1844 as a surveyor; he later moved to San Antonio, where his art focused on the everyday life of the people.

It’s a Texas-sized birthday party!
 

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