The First Civil Settlement in Texas

The first Spanish-speaking settlers established a mission and presidio (fort) around the San Antonio River in 1718. The first settlement, called the Villa de Bexar, was little more than civilian housing for families of soldiers stationed at the presidio.

In 1722 the Marques de Aguayo wanted the establishment of an officially recognized civil settlement to strengthen Spain's claims to Texas. Within a year the King of Spain made a formal proposal to Spaniards living in the Canary Islands to settle in New Spain. It took six years for the expedition to be fully organized.

About fifty-five Canary Island settlers arrived at the Presidio of San Antonio de Bexar in 1731 to lay claim to their right to settle and own land along the San Antonio River. By August they had plowed and planted, a town site had been laid out on a low, flat hill near the presidio, and civilian officials had been elected.

In 1738 they began building the Church of San Fernando, the first parish church in Texas.

In 1823, San Antonio de Bexar was named the capital of the entire Province. The 1836 Constitution of the Republic of Texas created counties. Present Bexar County was created, with San Antonio de Bexar as the county seat.

On December 14, 1837, the old settlement of San Antonio de Valero, in the county of Bexar, was declared a "body politic and corporate" with the title of "City of San Antonio."

--Mary Ann Noonan Guerra

Source: The First Civil Settlement in Texas
Excerpted from: The San Antonio River, (San Antonio: The Alamo Press, 1987)

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