Historic Victoria Texas

      That favored bit of Texas known today as Victoria County, is where the history of Texas began. In 1685 the French explorer, René Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, arrived and established an outpost near the southern tip of present day Victoria County, making this the only county in Texas where all six flags have actually flown.

La Salle’s intrusion into Spanish territory forced Spain to reinforce its presence near the Louisiana border with a series of missions and presidios. Spanish Colonial Texas has been characterized as a successful failure. By the 1770’s Spanish missions and presidios had fallen back to Goliad and San Antonio. In 1821, Spain was routed from Mexico.
      It would be 140 years from La Salle’s arrival before the Republic of Mexico approved Don Martin de León’s request to establish a colony on the lower Guadalupe River at a place known to early travelers as Las Sabinals–or, Cypress Grove. De León received permission to establish, with forty-one families, the Villa Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe de Jesus Victoria. The town was known as Guadalupe Victoria until Texas gained her independence from Mexico in 1836; since then we have been known as Victoria.

As empresario, de León laid out the town in accordance with Mexican colonization law, reserving areas for a church, trade, public buildings, and a school. Main Street was then known as “La Calle de los Diez Amigos” or “The Street of the Ten Friends,” so named in honor of those influential individuals who were responsible for the initial success of the colony.
      Victoria was among the original twenty-three counties established by the First Congress of the Republic of Texas on March 17, 1836. The city of Victoria was chartered in 1839.

Three roads converge: 120 miles from Houston, 102 miles from San Antonio, 110 miles from Austin, and 75 miles from Corpus Christi, hence Victoria’s historic nickname, the “crossroads of South Texas.”

Despite the typical problems of Texas settlements during this era– Indians, disease, and war with Mexico–Victoria prospered. Its principle sources of livelihood were agriculture (cotton production) and ranching. Following Texas’ independence from Mexico and subsequent statehood, Victoria became primarily an Anglo settlement. The town grew rapidly during the 1840s and 1850s, acquiring a large immigrant population moving inland from Indianola. Most were of German, English, Polish, French (Alsatian), and Irish origin, and their descendants have been among the leaders of this community throughout its history.
      Victoria became a cosmopolitan community in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Its newspaper, The Victoria Advocate (formerly The Texian Advocate), founded in 1846, is the second oldest newspaper in the state. The 1892 Victoria County Courthouse was designed by J. Riely Gordon, and occupies the block just west of de Leon Plaza. It was spectacularly restored and rededicated on March 24, 2001. During the 1930s the oil and gas industry emerged as a vital force in Victoria’s economy. Sadly, with the wealth generated from the petroleum industry came the wholesale destruction of some of our city’s grandest structures. Founded in 1980, Victoria Preservation has dedicated itself to the protection and preservation of our city’s architectural heritage.
      The Victoria of today is a modern city, but one which has not lost its small town atmosphere. We invite you to visit and to experience the charm of Old Victoria. There is much here to delight the visitor right here….where the history of Texas began.

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