1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO, a city and the county-seat of Bexar county, Texas, U.S.A., about 80 m. S.S.W. of Austin, on the San Antonio river, at the mouth of the San Pedro. Pop. (1900) 53,321, of whom 18,880 were of foreign parentage, 9348 were foreign-born (including 3288 Mexicans and 3031 Germans) and 7538 were negroes; (1910 census), 96,614. San Antonio is the largest city of Texas. It is served by the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio, the International & Great Northern, the San Antonio & Aransas Pass, and the Missouri, Kansas & Texas railways. The city lies at an elevation of 610-750 ft. above the sea. The San Antonio river (which has a winding course of 13 m. within the city limits) and its affluent, the San Pedro (which is 10 m. long in its course through San Antonio), divide the city into three main portions, and these water-courses and the Acequia (7 m. long) are spanned by 17 large iron bridges and about 2500 smaller bridges and culverts. Among the public buildings are the city hall in Military Plaza, the court-house on Main Plaza, the Federal building on the N. side of Alamo Plaza, the Carnegie library and the convention hall and market house on Milam Square. The most interesting building is the historic Alamo (named from the grove of cottonwood—alamo, the Populus monilifera—in which it stands) on the E. side of the Alamo Plaza, E. of the San Antonio river; it was begun probably in 1744 and was the chapel of the Mission San Antonio de Valero (often called “the Alamo mission”); in 1883 it was bought by the state and has since been maintained as a public monument. The San Fernando Cathedral on Main Plaza was built in 1734, but there is very little of the original structure in the present building, which really dates from 1868-1873; the former governor's palace, built in 1749, is at No. 105 Military Plaza; at 128 Soledad is the Veramendi Palace, the residence of Governor Veramendi, father-in-law of Colonel James Bowie, and in this palace Colonel B. R. Milam was killed on the 5th of December 1835 by a sharpshooter hidden in a cypress tree; there is a monument to Colonel Milam in Milam Square. One mile N. of the city on Government Hill is Fort Sam Houston (established in 1865), headquarters of the Department of Texas, with an army hospital (1885) and a tower 88 ft. high. There are several old missions near the city, notably the Mission La Purisima Concepción de Acuna (the “First Mission”), 2 m. S. of the city, built here in 1731-1752, having formerly been in E. Texas; the Mission San José de Aguayo (the “Second Mission”), 4 m. S. of San Antonio, built in 1720-1731; the Mission San Juan de Capistrano (the “Third Mission”), 6 m. S. of the Main Plaza built in 1731; and San Francisco de la Espada (the “Fourth Mission,” also built in 1731 and also removed here from E. Texas), which is 8 m. S. of the Main Plaza and is now used for service by the local Mexicans. The city has 21 parks and plazas. Within the city limits in its N. central part is Brackenridge Park (200 acres) along the San Antonio; 1 m. N.E. of the city is San Pedro Park (40 acres), the source of the San Pedro river; in Travis Park is a Confederate monument; and 3 m. S. of the city are the International Fair Grounds, where in 1898 Colonel Theodore Roosevelt organized his “Rough Riders,” and Riverside Park. The most notable of the plazas are Military, Main and Alamo. The anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, the 21st of April, is annually celebrated by a “Battle of Flowers.” Annually in October an International Fair is held, to which Mexico sends an exhibit of Mexican products and manufactures. The climate is mild with a mean summer temperature of 82° F. and a winter average of 54°, and this and the dry purity of the air make it a health resort; it is also the winter home of many Northerners. There is good shooting (doves, quail, wild turkey and deer) in the vicinity; there are fine golf links and there is a large ranch for breeding and training polo ponies. In the southern suburbs two artesian wells, 1800-2000 ft. deep, discharge 800,000 gallons a day of strong sulphur water (temperature 103°-106° F.), which is used for treating rheumatism and skin diseases. Near one of these wells is the South-western (State) Hospital for the Insane (1892). The city has a good public school system, including, besides the usual departments, departments of manual training and domestic science. In 1910 there were 30 schools—26 for whites and 4 for negroes. Among the educational institutions in San Antonio are the San Antonio Female College (Methodist Episcopal, South; 1894), the West Texas Military Academy; Peacock Military School; St Mary's Hall (Roman Catholic); St Louis College; and the Academy of Our Lady of the Lake (under the Sisters of Divine Providence, who have a convent here). The city is the see of Protestant Episcopal and Roman Catholic bishops. Among the charitable institutions are the City Hospital (1886), the Santa Rosa Infirmary (1869), maintained by Sisters of Charity, a House of Refuge (1897), a Rescue Home (1895), a home for destitute children and aged persons (1897), the St Francis Home for the Aged (1893), St John's Orphan Asylum (1878), St Joseph's Orphan Asylum (1871) and the Protestant Home for Destitute Children (1887).
The principal manufactures are malt liquors, flour and gristmill products and steam railway cars. San Antonio is the commercial centre of a great live stock and farming region.
Under the charter of 1903, as amended in 1907, the municipal government consists of a city council, composed of the mayor, four aldermen, elected at large, and eight ward aldermen, all elected for a term of two years, as are the other elective officers; a city attorney, an assessor, a collector, a treasurer, an auditor and judge of the Corporation Court. Any elective officer may be removed by the vote of eight members of the council. Other officers are appointed by the mayor with the confirmation of the council. The city water supply, owned by a private corporation, is obtained from artesian wells with a capacity of 40,000,000 gallons a day. The city has a sewer-farm of 530 acres which the charter forbids it to sell.
San Antonio was the capital of Texas during the periods of Spanish and Mexican rule. The presidio of San Antonio de Bexar and the mission of San Antonio de Valero were founded in 1718 under the direction of Martin de Alarcón, governor of Coahuila. San Antonio was accordingly from the beginning a combination of two of the three types of Spanish settlement, the military and the ecclesiastical (see Texas: History). To these was added the third, the civil type, in 1731, when the villa of San Fernando was established. Several missions were established in the neighbourhood, including those already mentioned and San Xavier de Náxera (1722), a new foundation. All of these missions decreased in importance with the disappearance of the Indians and by the close of the period of Spanish rule (1821) had been abandoned. San Antonio was captured by the Magee-Gutierrez party in 1813, but was recovered by the Mexican royalists (see Texas: History). It was besieged by the Texan army under General Stephen F. Austin and Edward Burleson in 1835 and was finally taken early in December as the result of an attack led by Colonel Benjamin R. Milam. Its recapture by Santa Anna, February-March 1836, was distinguished by the heroic defence of the mission (particularly the chapel of the Alamo) by Colonels William Barrett Travis, James Bowie and Davy Crockett, and 178 others against the attack of about 4000 Mexicans. After a bombardment lasting from the 23rd of February to the 6th of March, the Mexicans assaulted on the 6th, were twice beaten back, and then overpowered and slaughtered the garrison, the five survivors being subsequently bayonetted in cold blood. Three women, one a Mexican, two children and a negro servant were spared. “Remember the Alamo” became a war-cry of the Texans. The Mexicans again invaded Texas in 1842, and San Antonio was twice captured and held for short periods, first by General Vasquez and later by General Woll. After 1836 there was a large influx of Anglo-Americans and Germans, and the Mexican element long ago ceased to predominate. Charters of incorporation were granted in 1837, 1842, 1852, 1856, 1870 and 1903. At San Antonio in February 1861 General David E. Twiggs (1790-1862), a veteran of the Mexican War, surrendered the Department of Texas, without resistance, to the Confederate general, Ben McCulloch; for this General Twiggs was dismissed from the United States army, and in May he became a major-general in the Confederate service. The rapid growth of San Antonio dates from 1878, when the first railway entered the city.
See William Corner, San Antonio de Bexar (San Antonio, 1890); The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, ii. 217-226, viii. 277-352; and George P. Garrison, Texas (Boston and New York, 1903), in the “American Commonwealths Series.”
- The cathedral is the centre of the city according to the charter, which describes the city as including “six miles square, of which the sides shall be equi-distant from what is known as the cupola of the cathedral of San Fernando and three miles therefrom.”