On this day in 1991, Big Bend Ranch State Natural Area was opened to the public. Located in southwestern Brewster County and southeastern Presidio County, the area, now known as Big Bend Ranch State Park, is the largest in the state system, comprised some 299,000 acres in 2004. At one time the Big Bend Ranch was among the ten biggest working ranches in Texas. The first known ranchers in the area were Andrés Madrid, who began running sheep north of the site of present Lajitas in the 1870s, and the Carrasco family. In 1988 the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission formally approved the purchase of the ranch by the state for $8.8 million from the Hondo Oil and Gas Company. The park offers numerous campsites and hiking, horseback riding, and biking trails, including thirty-two miles of multiuse trails that opened in 2003. The Fort Leaton State Historic Site and the park offices, located four miles east of Presidio, mark the park's western entrance; the Barton Warnock Environmental Education Center, one mile east of Lajitas, marks the eastern entrance.
On this day in 1858, the German Free School Association of Austin became the first Austin school chartered by the Texas legislature, for the "education of the youth, the promotion of useful knowledge, and the advancement of the sciences." The school was to be "accessible to all alike without regard to religious opinions." The two-story school building was constructed in 1857 with volunteer labor on land donated by the von Rosenberg family overlooking Waller Creek. Living quarters were added in 1872 for the schoolmaster, Julius Schuetze. Classes were taught in English, probably with German as a second language. After the school closed in the 1880s, Schuetze stayed in the family quarters and eventually purchased the rest of the building. The former school building changed hands several times after Schuetze's death. In August 1991 artist Kelly H. Stevens deeded the German Free School property to the German-Texan Heritage Society, with the understanding that it would be preserved for future generations. The building is now the headquarters of the German-Texan Heritage Society and the German Free School Guild. The guild was established in 1993 as a volunteer service arm of the society to support the facility as a historic cultural center with a library, tours, beginning-German classes, and other regularly scheduled programs.
On this day in 1891 the Rio Grande Railroad was robbed of some $75,000 as well as government mail when a train was derailed by bandits. José Mosqueda, the leader of the outlaws, was identified as the culprit and pursued by Brownsville city marshall Santiago Brito, and they both became part of the folklore of the Texas Mexican community. "El Corrido de José Mosqueda" was composed in the 1890s to commemorate the event. A version of almost a half century later presents Brito as a coward fleeing from Mosqueda after a skirmish and Mosqueda as a hero.
On this day in 1839, Waterloo (soon to be renamed Austin) was approved as the new capital of the Republic of Texas. In 1836 Columbia (now West Columbia) had become the first capital of an elected government of the republic. It remained capital for three months. The city of Houston was then selected as a temporary capital until 1839. A capital-site commission selected a site near La Grange in 1838 and Congress passed a bill to build the capital there, but President Sam Houston vetoed it. Mirabeau B. Lamar, Houston's successor as president and a proponent of westward expansion, instructed the commission to inspect a site he had visited on the Colorado River. Impressed by its beauty, abundant natural resources, and central location, the commission purchased 7,735 acres comprising the hamlet of Waterloo and adjacent lands. Because the area's remoteness from population centers and its vulnerability to attacks by Mexican troops and Indians displeased many Texans, including Houston, political opposition made Austin's early years precarious ones. In 1842, during his second term as president, Houston ordered the government to return to the city of Houston, and issued an executive order making Washington-on-the-Brazos capital. The order spawned the Archive War. The Constitution of 1845 provided that Austin be capital until 1850, when a vote was required to choose the permanent capital. The city received majorities in that election and a subsequent election in 1872.