The New International Encyclopædia/San Antonio
SAN ANTO′NIO. The largest city of Texas, situated 80 miles south by west of the State capital, Austin (Map: Texas, E 5). The Southern Pacific, the International and Great Northern, the Missouri, Kansas and Texas, and the San Antonio and Aransas Pass railroads centre here.
The altitude is 651 feet; average annual temperature 68°, with a relative humidity of 65, and an annual rainfall of 26.76 inches. There are 425 miles of streets, 71 of which are macadamized, and 14 paved with asphalt, mesquite blocks, and vitrified brick. Some twenty parks and plazas add much to the charm of the city.
The various objects of interest include Fort Sam Houston (q.v.), second in size among the military posts of the United States; Breckenridge Park, comprising 200 acres of semi-tropical woodland along the upper course of the San Antonio River; and San Pedro Park, of 40 acres. The river and San Pedro Creek flow through the central portion of the city and unite within its limits. The city hall, the court-house, the Federal building, the Carnegie Library, and the combined market-house and convention hall are noteworthy. Of buildings of historic interest, mention may be made of the famous Alamo (q.v.), San Fernando Cathedral, the Veramendi Palace (one of the Spanish survivals, the scene of the death of Milam in 1835), and, within easy reach on the San Antonio River, the ruins of four of the early Franciscan missions, dating from the period 1720-50.
As a resort for those afflicted with pulmonary diseases, the city has long been noted. Within the past few years it has become favorably known for the curative properties of its hot wells.
San Antonio in 1903 had 143 manufacturing establishments, employing from 10 to 575 persons each. There are large breweries, flouring mills, machine shops, foundries, iron works, and cement works. The wholesale houses control to a great extent the trade of southwest Texas and portions of Northern Mexico. The industries are largely dependent upon the stock interests of this section, but with the greater development of the agricultural possibilities through irrigation, they are becoming each year more diversified and more important. San Antonio is a leading live-stock market.
The government is vested in a mayor and board of aldermen, elected biennially, who control the various administrative departments, except that of public schools, which is under a non-partisan board, chosen at a separate popular election. The assessed valuation of the city in 1902 was $31,600,000. The total disbursements for the year ending May 31, 1902, were $894,483, of which some $170,000 were for special street improvements, $56,322 for the police department, $48,800 for the fire department, and $80,300 for schools. The schools receive also a large appropriation from the State fund. A private corporation is paid annually about $28,500 for street lighting, and $24,000 is expended in like manner for water. The water supply is exceptionally good and is obtained from 12 artesian wells, which furnish the 110 miles of mains with 35,000,000 gallons a day. There are also 19 other wells, in the city, with a combined daily capacity of 41,000,000 gallons. In 1897 the city installed a system of 75 miles of sewers at a cost of $500,000.
The first permanent settlement within the limits of the modern city occurred in 1718, although there may have been temporary parties of Spanish rancheros in the vicinity a few years previous. In that year occurred the double founding of the mission of San Antonio de Valero and of its accompanying presidio of San Antonio de Bexar. These three colonizing elements—ranchmen, missionaries, and soldiers—were joined in 1831 by a colony of 56 persons from the Canary Islands, who formed the first regular municipal organization in Texas, known as the villa of San Fernando de Bexar. In 1809 the villa was raised to the rank of a city. Three battles were fought here during the Gutierrez-Magee filibustering expedition of 1813, because of which and of the succeeding proscription San Antonio lost nearly two-thirds of its population. Under Mexican rule its affairs were materially improved, but American migration thither was insignificant. In 1835 the Texan patriot army under Austin invested the place, and on December 9th, after a brilliant assault led by Milam, it capitulated. Here on March 6, 1836, occurred the storming of the Alamo, when the entire garrison of that mission fortress, after a desperate resistance, was massacred by the Mexican dictator, Santa Anna. After the decisive battle of San Jacinto, American pioneers pressed into the region, closely followed by the Germans in the next decade. In 1861 the city was the scene of the surrender of General Twiggs, of the Department of Texas, to the Committee of Safety appointed by the Secession Convention. In 1878 the first railroad reached the city, and since then its growth has been rapid. The population in 1870 was 12,226; in 1880, 20,550; in 1890, 37,673; in 1900, 53,321. Consult: Corner, San Antonio de Bexar (San Antonio, 1890); and the files of the Texas Historical Quarterly (Austin, Texas, 1897—).