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1897 Independence Tree, Declaration of Independence was first read

Traces of Texas

November 10 at 1:30 PM ·

Y'all aren't going to believe this. This is an 1897 photograph of the Independence Tree, a tree in West Columbia, Texas under which Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston spoke and from which the Texas Declaration of Independence was first read. I'm not 100% certain, but I'm almost positive that the tree does not exist anymore because it does not show up in my Historic Trees of Texas book. On the back of the photo the following is written:

"The Independence Tree of Texas is now standing in front of the Old Capitol in West Columbia, Brazoria Co., Texas; about two miles from the present town of Columbia. The Tree for about two feet is one tree, then three great branches start out, one of which is about three feet in diameter and is covered near the base with ancient names and hieroglyphics; thus forming a natural platform between the trees, from which the first speakers of Texas once stood. And from the platform was read the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Texas, over sixty-five years ago. And that Congress adjourned from the Capitol near by and assembled under these branches. The three grand old trees are still green and gray fleeces of moss hang from the branches, and is a fit monument of the fallen brave Texans who sleep in the graveyard near by.

To the right in the background of the picture can be seen the old Capitol, but is shown better in another picture.

This is to certify that this is a correct photograph of the triple live oak tree now standing at West Columbia, under which Stephen F. Austin and Genl. Sam Houston spoke and the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Texas was read. It is also said that Santa Anna was chained to one of its branches while a prisoner.

Given this 31st day of December, 1897.

J.P. Taylor, Justice of the Peace

Precint No. 2, Brazoria Co., Texas"

This photo comes courtesy of the Lawrence T. Jones III Collection, Southern Methodist University Library

Why Columbia was selected as first capital

Ever wonder, “ Why was West Columbia (Columbia in 1836) selected as the first capital of the new Republic of Texas?” 


This memorial document housed in the Texas State Library and Archives, Memorials and Petitions, explains it. The undersigned residents surveyed Columbia and listed accommodations available for Congress’ use. The offer was accepted, and Columbia proudly became the First Capital of the Republic of Texas.