Clipped From The Kerrville Times
Capital quest proved arduous for Texans President Mirabeau Lamar presided over the grand opening of the Lone Slar Republic's cuslom-buill capilal on Ocl. 17, 1839. Texas at long lasl had a permanent seat of governmenl and Lamar a sweet victory over archrival Sam Houston. The original capital of free Texas was Ihe tiny hamlet of Washinglon- on-lhe-Brazos, where independence was proclaimed on March 2, 1836. As the colonists fought to make their bold declaration a reality, the official address of the new nalion was anywhere David G. Burnel happened to be. The head of the interim regime was always on the move slaying one step ahead of ihe advancing Mexican army. Harrisburg, ihen Galves- lon and finally Velasco hosted ihe gypsy government during the seven dramatic weeks that decided the Revolution. After the Bailie of San Jacinto, Burnel chose Columbia because of its ceniral location. Though convenient the community could not comfortably accommodate the members of the first Congress, who in the fall of 1836 started the search for a more suitable site. The leading candidates were Washington-on-the-Brazos, Forl Bend, Velasco, Quiniana and Nacogdoches. Bul a promotional campaign by ihe Alien brothers persuaded the Congressmen lo iransfer Iheir proceedings to a town which at the time existed only on paper. Arriving in Houston in May 1837, the politicians were fit to be tied. Construction was running way behind schedule, and the living conditions were positively primitive. Daily downpours turned the dirt sireets into an impassable guagmire and forced Congress lo suspend business since ihe temporary capilol had no roof. Representatives from drier climates hated the oppressive humidity and lived in constant fear of a yellow fever outbreak. Only Sam Houston's masterful maneuvers prevented a mass exodus from the pesthole named in his honor. When Mirabeau Lamar began his three-year term in December 1838, the capital issue remained unresolved. Under his presidential prodding, Congress authorized a committee to pick a spot between the Colorado and Brazos and north of the Old San Antonio Road, where a Texas version of Ihe Dislricl of ihe Columbia would be carved oul of ihe wildnerness. In memory of the recently deceased colonizer, it would be called Austin. Bartee Hail TEXAS HISTORY Lacking the voles lo carry ihe day for Nacogdoches, Congressmen from norlheasl Texas gave their support to Lamar's Austin project. Anything was better than leaving the capilal in Houston. When the Fourth Congress of the Republic convened in Austin on Nov. 11,1839, ihenever-say-dieop- ponenls of the frontier site reopened ihe can of worms. The chief advocate of moving the government back east was none other than Representative Sam Houston, who had laken the rejection of his namesake city as a personal insult. He introduced a bill that mandated a plebiscite on the capitol controversy. The public could choose between Austin, which he warned was subjecl to altack by ihe Com- anches, or a supposedly safer stretch of real estate bordering the Brazos where the "City of Texas" would be built. Regardless of the result, the verdict of the voters would be binding for the nexl quarter century. Bul Houston's fellow legislators wanted no part of his preposterous plan. Having gone lo the trouble and expense lo pull a new capilal oul of the hat, they were not about to start over from scratch. Frustrated by lawmakers with bad recollections of Buffalo Bayou, Old Sam took the devious route. Reasoning lhal possession of the Republic records qualifed a town as ihe capi- lol of Ihe country, he ordered the theft of the documents. Slipping into Austin late one night in December 1842, a company of Texas rangers surreptitiously swiped the archives. Pursued by a posse of private citizens, they eventually surrendered the spoils of the comic war rather than risk bloodshed over the prized papers. The bungled burglary left the embarrassed president wilh egg on his face, Austin ihe uncontested capital and Lamar on lop of ihe world. For once, he had beaten Houston al something. BartM H«ll* I* « T«x«« hl»tori«n from Pearlind.