San Antonio

San Antonio  (săn ăn-to ´nĭ-ō), Texas . [Named for the Roman Catholic mission, San Antonio de Valero, otherwise the Alamo.]

After Dallas it is the largest city in the state, and is located on the San Antonio River, two hundred and ten miles by railroad west of Houston, one hundred and eighty-eight miles west of Galveston, on both banks of the San Antonio Creek, at the mouth of San Pedro River. Built on a level plateau, with an elevation of six hundred and sixty feet above the sea, it includes the old Mexican town of San Fernando, west of San Pedro Creek, inhabited chiefly by Americans and largely rebuilt since 1860. The San Antonio River winds for thirteen miles through the city, and San Pedro Creek for ten miles. These are spanned by numerous little bridges. It is one of the most interesting in the United States.

The first object of interest in San Antonio is the Church of the Mission del Alamo, situated in the Alamo Plaza, in the quarter to the east of the San Antonio River. The church, which seems to have derived its name from being built in a grove of alamo or cottonwood trees, is a low and strong structure of adobe, with very thick walls. It was built in 1744, but has lost many of its original features. It is now preserved as a national monument for its historical interests.

At the north end of the Alamo Plaza, in Houston Street, is the handsome Federal Building. On the west side of the plaza is the building containing the San Antonio Club and the Grand Opera House.

Houston Street towards the west crosses the San Antonio and reaches Soledad Street, which leads to the left to the Main Plaza (Plaza de Las Yslas), pleasantly laid out with gardens. On its south side rises the imposing Court House and on its west side stands the Cathedral of San Fernando, dating in its present form mainly from 1868 to 1873, but incorporating parts of the earlier building, where Santa Ana had his headquarters in 1836. To the west of the Cathedral is the Military Plaza (Plaza de Armas), with the City Hall.

The Military Post (Fort Sam Houston), on Government Hill, one mile to the north of the city, costing over two million dollars, is one of the largest in the United States and deserves a visit. The tower (eighty-eight feet high), in the center of the quadrangle, commands a splendid view of the city and its environs.

The old Spanish Missions near the city most often visited are the First and Second Missions, but, the Third and Fourth Missions have much interest also.

The Mission of the Conception, or First Mission, lies about two and a quarter miles to the south of the city (reached via Garden Street), dates from 1731 to 1752, and is well preserved. The church has two towers and a central dome. The Mission San Jose de Aguayo, or Second Mission, four miles to the south of the city, dates from 1720 to 1731 and is the most beautiful of all.


During the war of Texan independence, the Alamo, then converted into a fort, was the scene of an extraordinary conflict, the fort being held by Colonel David Crockett and Colonel James Bowie. Though almost continually assailed from February 23 to March 6, 1836, it only yielded when the defenders were all slain but five; these were captured by the Mexicans and cruelly slain. “Remember the Alamo,” thereafter became a war cry, and the place itself has been called the “Thermopylæ of America.”

Among the educational institutions are St. Louis College (Roman Catholic), St. Mary's Hall, St. Mary's College, Wolfe Memorial School, and the Ursuline Convent and School.

San Antonio is the natural trading center for an immense area, its jobbing houses have an extensive trade in Mexico as well as in Texas. The industrial establishments are machine shops, foundries, breweries, flour mills, binderies, cotton presses, ice plants, tanneries, marble works, cement works, and manufactories of brooms, carriages and wagons, candy, soda and mineral waters, mattresses, bricks and tiles. It is a leading cattle, horse, and mule market, ships large quantities of cotton, wool, and hides; and is the financial center of the largest stock raising interests of the Southwest. The surrounding district, irrigated by water, obtained from deep artesian wells, is extensively engaged in truck farming for Northern markets.

Although the Spaniards built a fort at San Antonio in 1689, its real settlement began in 1714. In 1718 the Franciscan mission of San Antonio de Valero was founded, and, about 1722, on another site was built the Alamo, the “cradle of Texans' liberty,” in which in 1836 a garrison of about one hundred and eighty men, among them Davy Crockett and James Bowie, for eleven days resisted General Santa Ana's Mexican army, numbering thousands of men. Eight battles for independence were fought in or near San Antonio between 1776 and 1836, successively under Spanish, French, Mexican, and Texan flags. It received a city charter in 1873.