July 23, 2012

Texas – “The Lone Star State”

 

Texas Map

Just the Facts…

 

bird – Mockingbird
flower – Bluebonnet
tree – Pecan Tree
capital – Austin
union – 28th state on December 29, 1845
population – about 20 million

 

 

 

The Basics 

The name “Texas” comes from the Native American word “Tejas,” which means “friends.”  Texas is big!  Even though it isn’t the biggest state in America (its second only to Alaska), it is bigger than many countries around the world – including France!

Texas is where America’s deep south meets the southwest.  As a result, it has a diverse landscape, with swamp and coastal lowlands to the east and desert and mountains in the west.  Grassy plains and rolling hills are in between.   This diversity in landscape also causes big variations in weather throughout the state.   For example, the northwest corner may get snow in the winter while the coastal area is subject to hurricanes.  And to top it off, the northeastern part of Texas is in “tornado alley” and experiences more tornados each year than most places in America.

The Texas state government is unique because the public elects most of the leadership positions within the executive branch.  More than 10 positions within the executive branch of the Teas state government are elected by the public.  Usually, just the Governor and Lieutenant Governor are elected by the public, and the Governor appoints people to fill the other leadership roles in the executive branch like the Secretary of State or the Attorney General.

 

Its Claim to Fame

Texas was an independent republic for a brief period of time!  Texas was initially settled by the Spanish, primarily in response to the French settlements in Louisiana.  France and Spain were in competition with each other for control over the New World – the Spanish claimed Texas to prevent the French from moving into its territory.  America tried to include Texas as part of the Louisiana Purchase but was not successful.   After Mexico won its independence, Texas was considered part of Mexico until it won its own independence in 1836.  It governed itself for nine years until it became a state in 1845.

Before the railroads made their way across Texas, cowboys would drive their cattle all the way up to Kansas City, where they would be put on trains to Chicago and other cities to be butchered and sold.  Some cowboys even drove their cattle herds all the way to California, especially during the Gold Rush.  These cattle drives usually started in spring, covered many miles and took months.  There is an art to cattle driving – cowboys had to know when to drive the cattle and when to let them graze and rest, so the cattle did not lose too much weight during the journey.  Many cowboys would participate in a cattle drive, including a cook and the “chuck wagon.”  The cowboys would work in shifts, since the cattle had to be watched 24 hours per day to prevent them from wandering off or being stolen.  The famous cross country cattle drives decreased once the railroads were built across Texas.  Instead, cattle were driven shorter distances to the towns that sprang up along the railroad.

 

What Makes it Tick

Texas has more farms than any other state – and those farms lead the nation in the production of cattle, sheep, and cotton.  Spanish missionaries brought cotton to the prairies of Texas and it has been grown there ever since.   As the cotton farms spread through the plains of Texas, so did the cotton gin towns.  What is a cotton gin, you might ask?  Cotton gins are machines that separate the cotton fibers from the cotton seeds.  As technology advanced, the machines became bigger and more automated and also more expensive.  Communities would gather together to purchase a cotton gin for many farmers to use (before this each farm had its own cotton gin machine).  A town usually sprang up around the location of a community cotton gin, giving rise to the cotton gin towns.

Oil!  The first big oil well was found in Texas in 1901.  When the Spindletop Well hit oil, it gushed over 100 feet in the air for nine days!  That was a dramatic start to the oil industry in Texas, which has been going strong ever since.  Now, some of the largest oil companies are based in Texas and a big portion of America’s oil is produced in eastern Texas.

 

If You Lived There

You might visit The Alamo in San Antonio.  It was originally built by the Spanish in the 18th Century as a Roman Catholic mission named the “Mission San Antonio de Valero.”  Eventually, the Spanish abandoned the Alamo and Mexico took control of it until the Texas Revolution, when it changed hands a few times.  It became famous for the battle fought there during the Texas Revolution – Texan soldiers within The Alamo were under siege by the Mexican Army for 13 days.  The Mexicans eventually took the Alamo, but it became a symbol of the bravery and determination of the Texans to gain their independence.

You might go to a rodeo!   A rodeo is a event where cowboys compete to see who has the best cattle herding and horse management skills.  When you think about a rodeo, a cowboy riding a bucking bronco may come to mind.  But, there is more to it – there are many different events to test the cowboys’ skills.

After the rodeo, you may sample some food at a barbecue cook off.   You can find a barbecue cook-off almost every weekend somewhere in Texas – cooks usually fire things up on Friday and stay there all night monitoring their barbecue.  Slow cooking, special wood, and secret spices are the keys to winning a cook-off in Texas!

 

Want to Know More? 

Check our Texas state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in Texas? Or, maybe you have visited Texas?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Texas?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Texas to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Texas.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://www.senate.state.tx.us/kids/

http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/kids/index.html

http://www.traveltex.com/

http://www.texasrodeocowboy.com/