Washington on the Brazos State Historic Site

Location: Navasota, Texas

Webpage: Texas State Park

General Description: Not to be confused with the town of Washington, Texas on the Gulf, Washington on the Brazos is an unincorporated town on the Brazos River.  Today it may be a ghost town, but back in 1836 it was the site where the history of Texas was decided.  On March 1, 1836 delegates from each municipality in Texas convened in an unfinished frame building in the small community.  While the Mexican army under the command of General Santa Anna lay siege to the Alamo, the delegates drafted a Declaration of Independence on March 2.  On March 6 the Alamo fell to Santa Anna and he began his march to crush the rebellion.  For 17 days the delegates continued their work on drafting a Constitution establishing the Republic of Texas while Santa Anna continued his path of destruction.  The delegates fled from Washington on the Brazos barely escaping to Galveston Island.  After the defeat of Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21 with the capture of Santa Anna himself, they returned to Washington on the Brazos.  Town leaders lobbied to have Washington on the Brazos declared to be the new capital of the Republic, however, the leaders of the Republic favored Waterloo, which was renamed Austin.  In 1842, President Sam Houston moved the capital to Washington on the Brazos to escape renewed attempts by Mexico to reclaim the Republic, however, in 1845 it was moved back to Austin.  During this period the town continued to thrive and grow with the commerce on the Brazos River.  Believing their future was tied to the river, they did not pursue access to the railroads being built.  This was a big mistake as the railroads quickly drove commerce in Texas and Washington on the Brazos became a ghost town.  Today there is very little left of the town, reduced to just the brick cistern of the hotel.  They have rebuilt the frame building for the state park and a short walking trail takes visitors through the main street of town to the ferry across the Brazos River.  Also located on the site is the expansive “The Star of the Republic Museum” which highlights the history of the region from prehistoric times through the oil boom of today.  Also on the site is the Barrington Living History Farm that demonstrates the farming practices of the mid-1800s.

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Impressions:

1) There is a small museum about Washington on the Brazos that includes small exhibits about the living conditions and history of the Convention of 1836.  Outside the museum there is a short walking trail that leads to the reconstructed Independence Hall and then through the center of town down to the ferry crossing of the Brazos River.  They have some interesting clear panels with etchings of the buildings of the town that are a great way to envision what it would have looked like.

2) The Star of the Republic Museum is well worth seeing.  There are numerous exhibits about the history of Texas from the prehistoric times to the present.  There is also a very good movie about the birth of the Republic of Texas and the role Washington on the Brazos played in this history.

3)  The Barrington Living History Farm is also worth visiting to see some heritage breed chickens, cows, oxen, and pigs.  There are interpreters at the site performing various chores around the farm from cooking to cleaning and mending.

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