History of Texas (1865–99)

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Following the defeat of the Confederate States in the American Civil War, Texas was mandated to rejoin the United States of America. U.S. Army soldiers officially occupied the state starting on June 19, 1865; the date is now commemorated as the holiday Juneteenth, recognizing the official emancipation of slaves in the state. For the next nine years, Texas was governed by a series of provisional governors as the state went through Reconstruction. Texas fully rejoined the United States in 1870, with a new state constitution was approved in 1876.

Much of the politics of the remainder of the century centered on land use. Guided by the federal Morill Act, Texas sold public lands to gain funds to invest in higher education. In 1876, the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas opened, and seven years later the University of Texas at Austin began conducting classes. New land use policies drafted during the administration of Governor John Ireland enabled individuals to accumulate land, leading to the formation of large cattle ranches. Many ranchers ran barbed wire around public lands, to protect their access to water and free grazing. This caused several range wars. Governor Lawrence Sullivan Ross guided the Texan legislature to reform the land use policies.

The state continued to deal with the issues of racism, with hundreds of acts of violence against blacks as whites tried to establish white supremacy. Ross had to personally intervene to resolve the Jaybird-Woodpecker War.


During the American Civil War, Texas had joined the Confederate States. The Confederacy was defeated, and U.S. Army soldiers arrived in Texas on June 19, 1865 to take possession of the state, restore order, and enforce the emancipation of slaves. The date is now commemorated as the holiday Juneteenth. On June 25, troops raised the American flag in Austin, the state capital.[1]

U.S. President Andrew Johnson appointed Union General Andrew J. Hamilton, a prominent politician before the war, as the provisional governor on June 17. He granted amnesty to ex-Confederates if they promised to support the Union in the future, appointing some to office. Angry returning veterans seized state property and Texas went through a period of extensive violence and disorder. Most outrages took place in northern Texas and were committed by outlaws who had their headquarters in the Indian Territory and plundered and murdered without distinction of party.

On March 30, 1870, the United States Congress readmitted Texas into the Union, although Texas did not meet all the formal requirements for readmission. Like other Southern states, by the late 1870s white Democrats regained control, often with a mix of intimidation and terrorism by paramilitary groups operating for the Democratic Party. They passed a new constitution in 1876 that segregated schools and established a poll tax to support them, but it was not originally required for voting.[2] In 1901 the Democratic-dominated legislature imposed a poll tax as a requirement for voting, and succeeded in disfranchising most blacks. The number of voters decreased from 100,000 in the 1890s to 5,000 by 1906.[3]

Establishment of higher education[edit]

The Morrill Act, signed into law July 2, 1862 by the U.S. Congress, was created to enable states to establish colleges where the "leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and mechanical arts...in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life". States were granted public lands to be sold at auctions to establish a permanent fund to support the schools. Both the Republic of Texas and the Texas State Legislature also set aside public lands for a future college.[4]

The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, known as Texas A.M.C. and later as Texas A&M University, was established by the state legislature on April 17, 1871 as the state's first public institution of higher education.[5] The college officially opened five years later.[6] In 1883, the state legislature established the University of Texas in Austin, Texas. Although the Texas Constitution specified that the Agricultural and Mechanical College was to be a branch of a proposed University of Texas,[5] the Austin school was established with a separate Board of Regents. Texas A.M.C. continued to be governed by its own Board of Directors.[4]

Land use issues[edit]

In the 1880s, Governor John Ireland reformulated the policy for selling public lands. While "this policy at first increased the state's revenues...[it] eventually led to large accumulations of land in the form of cattle ranches."[7] The ranchers soon began running barbed wire around their own land and the public lands that they used, without permission, for grazing. This practice often cut farmers and other ranchers off from water. During a large drought in 1882, people began cutting the barbed wire, leading to violence between the ranchers and farmers. Ireland called a special session of the legislature in 1884 to pass a law allowing the Texas Rangers to intervene in these disputes. The Rangers were able to quell some, but not all, of the violence.[7]

Lawrence Sullivan Ross presided over the dedication of the Texas State Capitol building.

Former Confederate general Lawrence Sullivan Ross became the 19th Texas governor in 1886.[8] His campaign had focused on land use reform, as most of the frontier issues now resulted from disagreements over the use of public land, especially between farmers and ranchers concerned with water rights and grazing issues. At Ross's urging the legislature passed laws to restore the power of the Land Office Commissioner, provide punishments for those using state lands illegally, and to catalog existing public lands.[9] In May 1888, Ross presided over the dedication of the new Texas State Capitol building.[10]

In March 1890, the U.S. Attorney General launched a suit in the Supreme Court against Texas to determine ownership of a disputed 1,500,000-acre (6,100 km2) plot of land in Greer County.[11] Determined to meet personally with the Attorney General, Ross and his wife traveled to Washington, D.C., where they visited President Benjamin Harrison at the White House. Following that visit, they traveled to New York, where they met with former president Grover Cleveland. While in New York, Ross was extremely popular with journalists. He was interviewed by several large northeastern newspapers, which recounted in detail many of his exploits along the frontier. According to his biographer Judith Brenner, the trip and the resulting exposure for Ross, "excited much interest in Texas among easterners, an interest that would eventually bear fruit in increased investment, tourism, and immigration".[12]

Racial issues[edit]

The Freedmen's Bureau was set up to help manage the transition for freedmen and oversee their labor contracts under the free labor system. During Reconstruction, incidents of white violence against blacks increased as whites struggled to reassert white supremacy. By the late 1870s, the Democratic-dominated legislature passed laws to impose legal segregation in public facilities and other "Jim Crow" laws. Nonetheless, freedmen organized, joined the Republican Party, and started to participate in politics.

During his second term, Ross was forced to intervene in the Jaybird-Woodpecker War in Fort Bend County. Sheriff Jim Garvey (a Woodpecker) feared that there would be armed battles between the State's Rights Democrats (the Jaybirds) and the black Federalist Republicans who had retained political power (with their white Federalist Democrat supporters, known as Woodpeckers) for 22 years. At Garvey's request, Ross sent two militia companies, which managed to impose a four-month peace. In August 1889, Ross sent four Texas Rangers, including Sergeant Ira Aten, to quell the unrest. Violence erupted, leaving four people dead and injuring six, including a Ranger. Aten wired Ross for help. The following morning, the Houston Light Guard arrived and instituted martial law; that evening, Ross arrived with an Assistant Attorney General and another militia company. Ross fired all the local Woodpecker and Republican civil officials and called together representatives from both factions. On his suggestion, the two groups agreed to choose a mutually acceptable sheriff to replace Garvey, who had been killed in the firefight. When they could not agree on a candidate, Ross suggested Aten; both groups finally agreed, thus halting the conflict.[13][14]

Hogg governorship[edit]

Jim Hogg served two terms as governor, from 1891 through 1895. In 1894, Texas filed a lawsuit against John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company and its Texas subsidiary, the Waters-Pierce Oil Company of Missouri. Hogg and his attorney general argued that the companies were engaged in rebates, price fixing, consolidation, and other tactics prohibited by the state's 1889 antitrust act. The investigation resulted in a number of indictments, including one for Rockefeller. Hogg requested that Rockefeller be extradited from New York, but the New York governor refused, as Rockefeller had not fled from Texas. Rockefeller was never tried, but other employees of the company were found guilty.[15]


  1. ^ Clampit, Brad R. (April 2005). The Breakup: The Collapse of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Army in Texas, 1865. Southwest Historical Quarterly. CVIII (4). 
  2. ^ Constitution of 1876 from the Handbook of Texas Online, accessed April 12, 2008
  3. ^ W. Marvin Dulaney, "AFRICAN AMERICANS," Handbook of Texas Online [1], accessed February 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Modified on June 20, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association. accessed 22 February 2014
  4. ^ a b Dethloff, Henry C.. "Texas A&M University". The Handbook of Texas. Retrieved 2007-03-22. 
  5. ^ a b The Texas Constitution, Article 7 - Education, Section 13 - Agricultural and Mechanical College, State of Texas, archived from the original on 2007-06-10, retrieved 2007-08-06 
  6. ^ Dethloff, Henry C. (1975). A Pictorial History of Texas A&M University, 1876–1976. [[College Station, Texas|]], Texas: Texas A&M University Press. pp. 16–17. 
  7. ^ a b Hendrickson, p. 112.
  8. ^ Benner (1983), pp. 157, 160.
  9. ^ Benner (1983), p. 162.
  10. ^ Benner (1983), p. 166.
  11. ^ Benner (1983), p. 173.
  12. ^ Benner (1983), pp. 174–175.
  13. ^ Benner (1983), pp. 171–172.
  14. ^ Davis (1989), pp.179–182.
  15. ^ Hendrickson (1995), p. 127.