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San Antonio History

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For history buffs, San Antonio is a mecca. The early Payaya Indians first lived along the San Antonio River, calling the area "Yanaguana," which means "refreshing waters," or "clear waters." A band of Spanish explorers and missionaries came upon the river in 1691, and because it was the feast day of St. Anthony, they named the river "San Antonio." The actual founding of the city came in 1718 by Father Antonio Olivares, when he established Mission San Antonio de Valero, which became permanently etched in the annals of history in 1836 as The Alamo where 189 defenders held the old mission against some 4,000 Mexican troops for 13 days. The cry "Remember the Alamo" became the rallying point of the Texan revolution against Mexico. Located in the heart of downtown, today The Alamo is a shrine and museum. Now, San Antonio is the ninth-largest American city, urbane and cosmopolitan.

San Antonio Texas Timeline

  • 1691
    On June 13, feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, San Antonio River discovered and named by the Spanish; governor of Spanish colonial province of Texas makes contact with Coahuiltecan Indians.
  • 1718
    The San Antonio de Valero mission, of which the building known as the Alamo was the chapel, is founded in San Antonio.
  • 1720
    San José y San Miguel de Aguayo mission is founded near San Antonio de Valero.
  • 1731
    Three East Texas missions are moved to San Antonio because of economic troubles. Their new names are Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acuna, San Francisco de la Espada and San Juan Capistrano.
  • 1731
    March 7, Fifty-five Canary Islanders arrive in San Antonio to establish a civilian settlement, San Fernando de Béxar.
  • 1745
    The missions at San Antonio are producing several thousand pounds of cotton annually.
  • 1793-94
    The missions are secularized by order of the Spanish crown.
  • 1820
    Moses Austin petitions Spanish governor in San Antonio for permission to settle Americans in Texas.
  • 1821
    Mexico wins independence from Spain.
  • 1835
    Siege of Béxar: The first battle for Texas independence from Mexico takes place in San Antonio.
  • 1836
    The Alamo falls after 13-day siege by Mexican general Santa Anna; using "Remember the Alamo" as a rallying cry, Sam Houston defeats Santa Anna at San Jacinto.
  • 1836
    Republic of Texas is established.
  • 1840
    A negotiation with Comanche chiefs in San Antonio results in the battle known as the "Council House Fight."
  • 1845
    Texas annexed to the United States.
  • 1861
    Texas secedes from the Union.
  • 1876
    Fort Sam Houston established as new quartermaster depot.
  • 1877
    The railroad arrives in San Antonio, precipitating new waves of immigration.
  • 1880s
    King William, first residential suburb, begins to be developed by German immigrants.
  • 1881
    First issue of "San Antonio Evening Light" newspaper. San Antonio Exchange (first public telephone company) opened. A. B. Frank Company opened to deal in wood & hides. William Richter opened a bakery. San Antonio Electric Co. incorporated, furnishing electricity in 1882.
  • 1882
    Main Avenue High School built.
  • 1887
    Copper pennies introduced by Joske Bros.
  • 1891
    City organized the Fire Department companies on a paid basis. First Battle of Flowers parade held.
  • 1892
    Construction began on current Courthouse.
  • 1894
    San Antonio Business Men’s Club organized. In 1936 the name was changed to San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.
  • 1896
    San Antonio Drug Co. started. Bexar County’s legal newspaper the "Commercial Recorder" began publication.
  • 1898
    Our Lady of the Lake Academy (University) opens. Rough Riders encamped at Riverside Park. First building of St. Philip’s College built.
  • 1922
    USAA founded in the Gunter Hotel. First radio station (WJAE) broadcast, but lasted only a few months. Second radio station (WCAR) broadcast from 324 N. Navarro St. Later renamed KTSA. WOAI’s first broadcast (third radio station in San Antonio). Jewish Federation of San Antonio formed.
  • 1923
    San Antonio opened the country’s first junior high schools. Travis Building and Robert E. Lee Hotel opened.
  • 1924
    Conservation Society organized. Scottish Rite Temple dedicated. Mattie T. Landry organized the first Camp Fire Girls here.
  • 1925
    Old City Market House torn down. Columns, etc. copied in cast stone and used for San Antonio Little Theatre. Olmos Dam completed. City Water Board formed. San Antonio Junior College organized.
  • 1926
    Municipal Auditorium built as a memorial to the City’s World War I dead. Texas Cavaliers were formed. Aztec and Texas Theaters opened. Witte Memorial Museum opened to the public.
  • 1927
    First talking picture, "Don Juan" with John Barrymore was shown at the Aztec. Plaza Hotel (now the Granada) opened. First neon signs appeared. Dr. C. A. Whittier opened the first Black diagnostic and in-patient medical center.
  • 1939-40
    Works Project Administration builds River Walk, based on plans drawn up in 1929 by architect Robert H. H. Hugman.
  • 1950
    First San Antonio Livestock Exposition held. Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute established.
  • 1951
    Construction began on Trinity University’s skyline campus.
  • 1955
    City reorganizes under a council-manager form of government.
  • 1959
    School of Aviation Medicine constructed at Brooks A.F.B.
  • 1960
    City’s first mall-Wonderland (now Crossroads) Shopping City opened.
  • 1962
    Riverwalk Commission established.
  • 1964
    Tesoro Petroleum Corp. was chartered.
  • 1968
    HemisFair exposition--River Walk extension, Convention Center, Mansión del Rio, and Hilton Palacio del Rio completed for the occasion, along with Tower of the Americas and other fair structures.
  • 1969
    University of Texas at San Antonio was established.
  • 1970
    University of Texas Health Science Center of San Antonio graduated its first class. First Queen of Soul, Libby Barksdale, in Battle of Flowers Parade.
  • 1972
    River Corridor Committee established. Fifth Army Headquarters located at Fort Sam Houston.
  • 1973
    San Antonio Spurs began their first season.
  • 1977
    City charter was amended to allow single-member voting districts.
  • 1978
    McAllister Freeway opened.
  • 1979
    U. S. District Judge John H. Wood, Jr. was assassinated.
  • 1983
    Site of the Palo Alto College campus was selected.
  • 1985
    Record snow of nearly 13 inches. Fairmount Hotel moved.
  • 1986
    San Antonio recorded its hottest day, 108 degrees.
  • 1987
    Pope John Paul II visited San Antonio.
  • 1988
    Sea World of Texas opened. Rivercenter Mall opens.
  • 1989
    Premier of the newly refurbished Majestic Theatre.
  • 1993
    Alamodome, huge new sports complex, completed.
  • 1995
    Southbank and Presidio complexes open on the river.
  • 1998
    Opening of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art, a three-story, $11 million addition to the San Antonio Museum of Art; reopening of the Empire Theatre.
  • 1999
    San Antonio Spurs outgrow the Alamodome; funding approved for the new SBC Center.
  • 2001
    Completion of Convention Center expansion; reopening of the Alameda Theater.