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Nickname: The Lone Star State
Statehood: 1845; 28th state
Population (as of July 2015): 27,469,114
Biggest City: Houston
State bird: mockingbird
State flower: bluebonnet
People first came to the area that is now Texas at least 16,700 years ago. Thousands of years later Native American tribes, including the Akokisa, Karankawa, Mogollon, and Caddo, lived on the land.
Spanish settlers promoting Christianity, called missionaries, were some of the first Europeans to live in what is now Texas. In 1821 Mexico took control of the land, eventually calling the area Coahuila y Tejas. But in 1835 settlers living in this province—often just called Texas—rebelled, beginning the Texas Revolution. The rebels suffered a terrible defeat by the Mexican army at the 1836 battle at the Alamo, a mission in San Antonio. But the loss only inspired the settlers to fight on. With a cry of “Remember the Alamo!” many joined the rebel army, and soon Mexico gave up. Texas became an independent nation called the Republic of Texas in 1836. But fending off hostile tribes and Mexican troops was difficult for a small country, and Texas joined the United States in 1845. In 1861 Texas left the Union and rejoined after the Civil War ended in 1870.
WHY’S IT CALLED THAT?
It’s said that the Caddo tribe greeted Spanish settlers by saying Tay-yas, which means “friends”—and sounds like “Texas.”
Texas is nicknamed the Lone Star State because in 1836, when the Republic of Texas declared itself an independent nation, it flew a flag with a single star on it.
GEOGRAPHY AND LANDFORMS
The hilly southern and eastern part of the state is called the Gulf Coastal Plains. It includes the Pine Belt, where most of Texas’ commercial timber grows. The Interior Lowlands cover the northeast and have some of the state’s biggest ranches. The Great Plains stretch across the north and west parts of the state, and extend all the way to Canada. Far west is the Basin and Range Province, Texas’ only mountainous region. It’s bordered on the south by the Rio Grande, the river that marks the boundary between the United States and Mexico.
In Texas you might spot black bears, armadillos, coyotes, cougars, endangered cats called jaguarundis, tiger salamanders, and leopard frogs. And don’t miss the birds! Texas has more species of birds than any other state, including screech owls and hummingbirds. Plant life includes trees such as pinyon pines, Texas mesquite, and cottonwood, plus a wide range of cacti.
Though you might have heard of Texas’ oil rigs—hundreds of them pump beneath the earth—the state is also famous for another natural resource: cattle. Texas has about 12 million cattle, more than any other state in the country. Texas also produces wool and cotton, and has one of the largest wind-power-producing farms in the world with more than 100,000 acres of wind turbines. At one point the turbines provided 45 percent of the state’s electricity needs.
- Six flags have flown over Texas: British, French, Mexican, Texan, United States, and Confederate. That’s how Six Flags amusement park got its name!
- Frontiersman and politician Davy Crockett moved to Texas around 1835 and died while fighting at the Alamo. Two U.S. presidents were born in Texas: Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson. Houston’s Johnson Space Center, also known as Mission Control, carries President Johnson’s name.
- Because it’s so close to Mexico, Texans have developed a cuisine that’s a mix of Mexican food and American cooking called Tex-Mex.
- Want to feel like a cowboy? Visit one of Texas’s thousands of ranches and rodeos.
Text by Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh
Photo credits: Xneo, Dreamstime (flag); Onyonet, Dreamstime (Texas longhorn); Brian Kushner, Dreamstime (mockingbird); David Watts Jr., Dreamstime (bluebonnet); maogg, iStockphoto (quarter)
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