Born On the Bayou
On the banks of the Buffalo River, the Allen brothers staked out a settlement in 1836. They named it Houston in honor of General Sam Houston, who defeated Santa Anna's troops at nearby San Jacinto. Though there was little more than marshland and the lazy Buffalo River, this was not "the middle of nowhere" as many may believe.
Nearby communities, such as Harrisburg and Anahuac, thrived despite the ravages of the brief Texas War for Independence. Harrisburg had been established more than ten years before the war by New Yorker John Richardson Harris, who named the town for himself. His family had a history of this, as it was a relative who founded Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The Texas Harrisburg supplied Stephen F. Austin's colony to the west and was burned to the ground by Santa Anna's Mexican army in 1836. Towns east of the San Jacinto River could hear cannon fire as Sam Houston cornered Santa Anna.
Despite the commotion of the war, Harrisburg rebuilt and grew larger. New York latecomers John and Augustus Allen platted Houston only a few miles up river from Harrisburg and advertised a planned community with access to the sea. Texas' first railroad terminal was established in Harrisburg, connecting Galveston with San Antonio, but it was relocated to Houston following a fire. Houston was on a well-traveled path that would one day become a coast-to-coast highway called the Old Spanish Trail.
Following events at the turn of the century, including the Great Storm of 1900 that killed thousands in Galveston and the discovery of oil, the ship channel (which followed Buffalo Bayou as it became known) was widened in 1919, bringing Houston into national prominence. Harrisburg was annexed by Houston in 1926.
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