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How Austin struggled to become the seat of an empire

By Charles Ealy - American-Statesman Staff



In 1842, the frontier town of Austin was on the verge of collapse. Sam Houston, who opposed having the capital of the Texas Republic so far west, had managed to transfer government functions back east, and few people remained in the Colorado River settlement.

Even worse, Comanches continued to threaten those who chose to stay in the fledgling town, which was founded only three years earlier. Traveling even short distances could be deadly for townsfolk. On a sultry day in August, residents John Black and George Dolson decided to seek refreshment in Barton Springs. But two hours after leaving town for the springs, their “horses ran back into town, saddles empty save for an arrow stuck in one.”

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