Austin has been the capital of Texas since Texas became a state in 1845. With a population of nearly one million people, Austin is the fourth-largest city in Texas, and one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. It is the second-largest state capital in the country, after Phoenix, Arizona. Honolulu, Hawaii is the only state capital located further south than Austin.
Unlike most states, Texas was its own country before it joined the U.S. The Republic of Texas became independent from Mexico in 1836. Several cities served as the capital during the next two years.
In 1838, a commission set up to find a site for a new capital city decided on 7,000 acres around a village named Waterloo, in the Texas Hill Country. The Texas Congress approved this as the new capital in January 1839. They named the city after “the Father of Texas,” Stephen F. Austin (1793-1836), who led a group of settlers from the U.S. to Texas in 1825.
Texas President Sam Houston (1793-1863) moved the capital to Washington-on-the-Brazos in 1842 after Mexico tried to invade Texas again. He worried that Austin was too close to the invading forces. People in Austin thought that the president was trying to move the capital to Houston, the city that was named after him. They fought back when the Texas Rangers tried to move state papers out of Austin. No one was killed in the “Archives War,” but the citizens of Austin succeeded in keeping the papers there.
In 1844, Austin became the capital again. Texas joined the United States the following year. Texans voted on whether to keep Austin as the state capital in 1850 and 1872. Austin received a majority of the votes both times.
Austin is the only capital that the State of Texas has ever had. The Republic of Texas, which existed from 1836 to 1845, had several capitals:
Harrisburg, Galveston, and San Jacinto served as temporary capitals from April to September 1836. Columbia, now known as West Columbia, hosted the Texas Congress from October to December 1836. Houston was the capital from 1837 until Austin was approved as the new capital in 1839. Washington-on-the-Brazos served as the capital — minus the state archives — from 1842 to 1844.