Local legend has it that Nacogdoches found its place on the map in peace. A Caddo Indian chief and father of twin sons sent his sons in opposite directions to establish their own tribes. Natchitoches settled to the east while Nacogdoches went west, and between the two namesakes a trade route was established. Then, as the 16th century arrived, so too did the Spanish missions, largely marking the end of civil rest until after the American Civil War, more than 150 years later.
In between, the missions were abandoned after clashes with the French forced the Spaniards to move on, until Spain gained control in 1762 and cleared Nacogdoches of its residents. Eventually, settlers were allowed to return and, in 1776, the Old Stone Fort—as it’s now known—was erected to serve the local government, and would continue to serve as a stronghold in its citizens’ ongoing efforts to secure their freedoms.
The endeavor began in 1812, when former U.S. Army lieutenant Augustus Magee of Nacogdoches partnered with Mexican revolutionary and eventual governor Bernardo Gutiérrez, who had been campaigning for independence in Natchitoches, to escape European control. Nacogdoches became a stronghold for the newly established Mexican Texas until U.S. interests demanded Texas should also be free of Mexican rule, leading to the Battle of Nacogdoches in 1832, sometimes referred to as the “opening gun of the Texas Revolution,” which freed the garrison of all Mexican troops.
Four years later, with continued support from Nacogdoches, Texian independence was achieved, the Republic of Texas formed, and general peace ensued as Texas became the 28 state in the Union nearly a decade later, in 1845. When the Civil War erupted in 1861, war hero and Texas icon Sam Houston fought to keep his state in the Union, but Texas seceded and Nacogdoches endured the war with both Confederate and Union soldiers within her borders.
Finally, the war ended and the states were once again united and Nacogdoches began the long process of reconstructing. Today, visitors will enjoy the serene beauty of The Garden Capital of Texas as they stroll the red brick roads of the historic downtown and visit the Old University Building, built in 1859 to serve the educational wishes of the Republic of Texas. Also worth exploring is the Stone Fort Museum, housed in a 1936 replica of the original, located on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus.