On this day in 1876, citizens of Texas adopted the Constitution of 1876. They ratified it by a vote of 136,606 to 56,652. The document is the sixth constitution by which Texas has been governed since declaring independence from Mexico. Among the longest of U.S. state constitutions, the Constitution of 1876 reflects the earlier influences of Spanish and Mexican rule, the state's predominantly agrarian nature in the late nineteenth century, and a resurgent Democratic party determined to undo many of the measures implemented by Republican administrations during Reconstruction. Despite having been amended more than 230 times, it remains the basic law of Texas today.
On this day in 1880, O. T. Bassett, visiting El Paso on business, wrote in his diary, "Plenty of room here for a big city, which it will be in time after the railroads come." Bassett, born in Vermont in 1850, had moved to Fort Worth in 1879 and established a lumber business. The following year, he traveled to El Paso by stagecoach with Charles R. Morehead to buy land for the Texas and Pacific Railway and to investigate some Arizona mines. His prediction was right on target, as most authorities agree that the arrival of the railroads in 1881 and 1882 was the single most significant event in El Paso history, transforming a sleepy, dusty little adobe village of several hundred inhabitants into a flourishing frontier community that became the county seat in 1883 and reached a population of more than 10,000 by 1890. Bassett died in 1898, shortly before El Paso began to shed its frontier image and develop as a modern municipality and significant industrial, commercial, and transportation center. The city grew from 15,906 in 1900 to 39,279 in 1910 and 77,560 in 1925. Factors making this rapid development possible included El Paso's geographic location as a gateway to Mexico; its proximity to the mining areas of Mexico, New Mexico, and Arizona; its plentiful natural resources; and an abundant supply of cheap Mexican labor. By the late 1990s the El Paso metropolitan statistical area was the sixth largest in Texas.
On this day in 1914, the body of South Texas rancher Clemente Vergara was found hanging from a tree. Vergara owned a ranch near Palafox. He allowed his horses to graze on an island in the Rio Grande, land that was disputed by the United States and Mexico. Vergara suspected that Mexican soldiers had stolen eleven of his horses from the island. He and a nephew crossed the Rio Grande to meet with several soldiers who called the two men over. Vergara was struck on the head and carried to the Hidalgo garrison, while his nephew escaped and returned to the United States. Vergara's wife and daughter crossed into Mexico on February 14 and found him severely beaten and jailed in the Hidalgo garrison. The following morning soldiers told the women that he had been taken to Piedras Negras. Texas governor Oscar B. Colquitt and President Woodrow Wilson's administration disagreed on how to deal with the situation, with the former advocating the use of Texas Rangers to extradite Vergara's kidnappers if necessary. On February 16 the commander at Piedras Negras reported that he had ordered Vergara's release and the return of his horses; however, on February 25 witnesses told American officials that they had seen Vergara's body hanging from a tree near Hidalgo, and that it had been there since February 15. Vergara's body was finally "delivered" to his relatives in Texas on March 7. Vergara's murder outraged Texans and increased tension between Mexico and the United States.