Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The Great Plains was in politics before politics was in the Great Plains. The Llano Estacado and the tierras lejas (distant lands) of early maps caused controversy during the Texas Republic, the period of Texas's independent government that lasted from its revolution against Mexico in 1836 to its annexation by the United States in 1845. Even later, some areas in the Texas Plains prided themselves on only having been crossed by Coronado, Comanches, or Lipan Apaches before 1870. The power to ward "hostiles" of the frontier still survives in Texas's constitution.

Comanche raids, including the kidnapping of Cynthia Ann Parker in 1836 and Matilda Lockhart in 1838, necessitated the protection of the western frontier during the Texas Republic and the establishment of "ranging companies" under Capt. John C. Hays. This organization began the development of the law enforcement officers known as the Texas Rangers. One of the most significant episodes of frontier violence was the Council House Fight at San Antonio of March 19, 1840. Representatives of the Comanche delegation were arrested for failing to return all of their captives.

President of the Texas Republic Mirabeau Lamar viewed the Great Plains as part of Texas's "manifest destiny." Imperial Texas extended at least to Santa Fe. Lamar's Santa Fe expedition in 1841 was arrested by Mexican governor Manuel Armijo near Tucumcari on October 5. A retaliatory expedition, led by Jacob Snively in 1843, was halted by Capt. Philip St. George Cooke of the U.S. Army. Part of the Texas annexation settlement required reparations of $10 million for the seizure of the Snively expedition. The expedition's arrest was made on the Arkansas River in an area Texas claimed as its territory.

During the Texas Republic only a few small forts were established west of San Antonio and the Balcones Escarpment. Defense of the trade routes against marauders and protection of settlements west of Lamar's new capital at Austin became major priorities after annexation.

See also LAW: Texas Rangers.

Gilbert M. Cuthbertson Rice University

Fehrenbach, T. R. Lone Star. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1968.

Webb, Walter Prescott. The Texas Rangers. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1970.

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