|Capital Since 1773:||San Antonio de Béxar|
|Spanish Colonial Era:||1717 to 1821|
|BEXAR ARCHIVE RESOURCES|
The Bexar Archives currently reside in two separate locales: The Bexar County Archives Building in San Antonio, Bexar County, and at the University of Texas Dolph Briscoe Center for American History in Austin, Travis County. The corpus of records are official Spanish colonial-era and Mexican Republic-era documents of the administrative, political, military and even social life of the colonial frontier Provincia de Tejas in New Spain with its capital first at Los Adaes and after 1773, in San Antonio de Béxar. With the advent of Mexican Independence after 1821, and the emergence of a Federalist Republic after 1824, Texas formed part of the State of Coahuila y Texas until separation from Mexico in the wake of the 1835-1836 Texas Revolution.
The Archives thus contain the single most important primary sources for the earliest history of Hispanic Texas, including the Franco-Spanish dispute over the territory, contestation between New Spain and Indian Nations, and the empresario period of post-Mexican-Independence rule, when Anglo colonists began to settle prior to the onset of the Texas Revolution. Taken together, the Bexar Archives consist of over a quarter million pages of hand-written manuscripts and printed documents of the Spanish colonial era, from 1717 to 1821, and the Mexican State of Coahuila y Texas, including the Bexar District, which then comprised the entire region from the Nueces River in the South to the Sabine Rivers.
The Bexar Archives were broken in two on 30 Sep 1899 when the then County Clerk, Frank Newton, a friend of the early historian of Texas, Lester Bugbee, obtained an “aye” vote from Commissioner’s Court even though, as he stated “they were afraid of it politically” to a proposal to have them shipped at the expense of the University of Texas in Austin to the flagship state University Library. The County Clerk maintains that Frank Newton may not have had the legal authority to carry out this act, and that the records did not cease to be Bexar County Records after their removal to the research libraries at UT-Austin. The official act of the Commissioners Court stands, and so the majority of the collection reposes in the Dolph Briscoe Center for American history. Co-operatively, the University of Texas sends bound copies of translations to the Bexar County Spanish Archives. In addition, the Bexar County Spanish Archives have a complete set of microfilm images of the materials sent to Austin at the turn-of-the-20th-century, which have been imaged digitally as well. Furthermore, some 20 research libraries in the United States have the calendared microfilm collection. The Bexar County Courthouse’s Office of the County Clerk remained the repository of records related to Land Grants and Sales, Probate records such as Wills and Estates, Powers of Attorney, and other matters related to property, land tenure, litigation, and the like.
Researchers of all kinds, including historians, demographers, archaeologists, and family history enthusiasts/genealogists have made use of this corpus of records, which offers insights into the frontier history and heritage of the community from its earliest Spanish-language records. The earlier documents reflect the relations of the five Franciscan Indian Missions, recently inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the community of Presidial soldiers and their families residing at the military post established in 1718, and the civil town San Fernando established in March 1731 with the arrival of settler families from the Canary Islands. Thus, the records afford a glimpse of administrative, civil-military relations, and the missions in a region dominated by powerful Indian nations, cattle raising, maintenance of public order, trade and commerce, communications, and concern about encroaching rival powers. Temporally, as the time-line moves into the 19th century, the population increase is reflected in the volume and breadth of the documents. Fully half of the total number of documents therefore deal with the fifteen year Coahuila y Texas statehood-era, e.g. 1821 to 1836.