A report on the Spanish archives in San Antonio, Texas




Castañeda, Carlos E., 1896-1958

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San Antonio, having been the capital of the province of Texas during the entire period of the Spanish rule, and the seat of departmental government under the Mexican regime, naturally became the storehouse for all the official correspondence and other documentary records which are of an inestimable value to the historian in unraveling the twisted threads of a past not always as clear and understandable as one would wish. The collection of San Antonio is specially rich and full in its contents for there is a complete record, almost unbroken, of everything relating to the government of the city, the complex activities of its rulers, and the history in general of the entire province of Texas. In 1836 after the defeat of Santa Anna at San Jacinto and the subsequent evacuation of Texas by the Mexican forces, the entire Archive of San Antonio de Bexar, as the city was known then, fell into the hands of the Texans. At that time the collection was practically complete, but for some reason, in 1841 certain papers from the Bexar Archives were sent to the office of the Secretary of State at Austin, and there in the course of time became sadly mixed with the Nacogdoches Archives which were also in the office of the Secretary of State. In 1898 the County of Bexar turned over to the University of Texas what was thought to be the entire collection of the Bexar Archives, retaining, as it was claimed, only such documents as related to land grants, deeds of sale, transfers, wills, and estates, etc., which had a legal value. The present investigation has disclosed that there were retained in the County Clerk's Office over two thousand manuscripts, varying in length from one to fifty and even eighty pages each, half of which are not in any way legal papers such as grants, deeds, wills, etc., but official correspondence between the officers in San Antonio and the home government, laws, decrees, royal order, etc., besides many interesting records with regard to the missions of San Antonio. That such a mass of material should be left to lie idle and without access to investigators and persons interested in the early history of the state is unfortunate. The archives in possession of the University of Texas are incomplete without an index or guide to this material. A complete investigation of any subject would be impossible without exact knowledge as to the materials to be found here. The writer has, therefore, made a careful index to the materials in the County Clerk's Office, listing each document in chronological order and giving under each one sufficient data to convey an idea of the general contents