Sam Houston rarely lost a fight. Of all the heroes who struggled for Texas’s independence from Mexico, General Houston had been the one to lead the decisive bloody conflict. His troops had captured the ruthless Mexican dictator, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 26, 1836. As commander-in-chief of the Texas Army, he had altered the destiny of a continent.
As a youth he had gone off on his own to live among the Indians and had been accepted as a son by a chief of the Cherokees. His Indian name, Co-lon-neh, meaning “The Raven,” would add luster to his legend. Houston had served as governor of Tennessee before striking out for the wilds of Texas. He was among the courageous leaders who had signed the Texas Declaration of Independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 2, 1836, and he had already served a term as the first elected president of the fledgling Republic of Texas. He was the ultimate prototype of the new Texan: tall, independent, fearless, self-assured, every bit the maverick, a hero among heroes.
And he was furious. The year was 1839, and the new president of the Republic, Mirabeau Lamar, was suggesting that Texas’s permanent capital be established in the tiny hamlet of Waterloo. The hamlet, on the banks of the Colorado River, sat in the middle of nowhere, perched on the edge of a wild frontier. The US border was 250 arduous miles east at the Sabine River, while the disputed Texas-Mexico boundary stood just half that distance away at the Nueces River. Comanche Indians occupied the hills nearby. Mexican marauders could invade at any time. Besides, Houston had already secured a pledge from the Texas government that the capital would remain, at least until 1840, in the town that bore his own name—or so he thought.
Lamar had other ideas. He envisioned a Texas empire that spread far into the west. Moving the capital to the center of the Republic, he believed, would give Texas a launching point from which to carve out its future. Lamar dreamed of the newly adopted Lone Star flag sailing one day over lands still controlled by Mexico and the Indians.
While camping near Waterloo on an excursion with Texas Rangers the year before, Lamar had awakened to shouts that a buffalo herd had been spotted nearby. He rode out and shot the biggest buffalo some had ever seen. As fate would have it, his prey had been standing right on the corner of what would become the heart of downtown Austin at Congress Avenue near Eighth Street. Lamar recalled the beautiful spot when it came time to assign a commission to select Texas’s permanent capital.