We were once a remote encampment on a gentle river. An indigenous tribe, the Payaya people, called this welcoming area Yanaguana, which meant “the Clear Water” in their native language.
On June 13th, 1691, Domingo Terán de los Ríos, the first governor of the new Spanish province of Tejas, and Fray Damián Mazanet led an expedition through the area. June 13th being the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, they gave it the Spanish name “San Antonio de Padua.”
Twenty-five years passed before a permanent settlement was built along the San Antonio River as a halfway point between northern Mexico and Spanish settlement areas in eastern Texas. Two years later, on the 1st of May of 1718, Martín de Alarcón, Governor of Coahuila y Tejas, and Fray Antonio de San Buenaventura y Olivares established the Mission San Antonio de Valero (later known as the Alamo). Four days later the Presidio San Antonio de Béjar, a garrison to protect the new mission, was formed. A few civilian settlers and families of soldiers settled in the area called the Villa de Béjar.
The town would soon grow as four new missions were established nearby and 55 Canary Islanders arrived in 1731. By order of the King of Spain, San Antonio was officially and legally declared a municipality known as Villa de San Fernando de Béjar. By 1773, San Antonio was the capital of Spanish Texas. In the years that followed, pioneering settlers from varied cultures and regions streamed into San Antonio, all looking for a better life.
As the Spanish Empire declined, Texas became increasingly discontent with Mexico’s governance. Calls for independence grew, and the Texas Revolution began, leading to the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. After the defeat of Mexican forces at San Jacinto, the new Republic of Texas established Bexar County in December of 1836. In January of 1837, San Antonio was chartered as the county seat. After a period of Texan independence, on December 19, 1845, Texas became the 28th state to enter the Union.
Today, San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the country and is at a crossroads of exciting growth and innovation. Join us as we remember our history and prepare for the next 300 years.
Information reviewed by: UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures
Learn more about the history of San Antonio and Bexar County