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Charles Christopher Jackson

FORT TENOXTITLÁN. Fort Tenoxtitlán, constructed in 1830 in what is now northeastern Burleson County, was part of a chain of military garrisons designed to Mexicanize Texas and stanch immigration from the United States pursuant to the Law of April 6, 1830. On June 25, 1830, Lt. Col. José Francisco Ruiz was dispatched from Bexar in command of 100 cavalrymen of the presidial company of Álamo de Parras (see SECOND FLYING COMPANY OF SAN CARLOS DE PARRAS), with orders from Gen. Manuel de Mier y Terán to establish a fort at the strategic point halfway down the Old San Antonio Road, where the thoroughfare crossed the Brazos River en route to Nacogdoches. Ruiz reached the Brazos on July 13 and established temporary headquarters on the east bank about a half mile below the Old San Antonio Road. On October 17, 1830, the garrison moved to a permanent site on a high bluff on the west bank of the Brazos twelve miles above the San Antonio crossing, opposite the spot where the present Brazos-Robertson county line strikes the river. The small spring-fed creek nearby was subsequently known as Dam Creek, probably because its water was diverted into the settlement. Although Mier y Terán, who envisioned Tenoxtitlán as a future capital of Texas, issued elaborate instructions from Matamoros for the design of the fort, most were eventually disregarded; the fortifications themselves were likely of conventional log construction.

One of the garrison's most important duties was to assist in the transportation of military funds from Bexar to Nacogdoches. Despite the ban on American settlement, the nearby farming community included an undetermined number of American immigrants; as early as July 1831, for example, Francis Smith operated a thriving general merchandise store at the fort, trading manufactured goods to the Indians for beaver pelts and buffalo robes. On December 31, 1830, the ayuntamiento of San Felipe de Austin, acknowledging the importance of the garrison, established a commission to construct a road from San Felipe to Tenoxtitlán.

In late October 1830 Maj. Sterling C. Robertson of the Texas (or Nashville) Association, appeared at Tenoxtitlán requesting permission to select a settlement site for fifty American families accompanying him, provided by the colonization contract that his group had made with the province of Coahuila and Texas. Three months later official announcement of the provincial government's invalidation of this contract reached the fort. However, Colonel Ruiz, Texas-born himself and sympathetic to the American settlers, evaded orders to apprehend the colonists and turn them over to the authorities in Nacogdoches, thus permitting them to scatter into various parts of Texas.

On July 13, 1832, despondent over the failure of his grand scheme to settle Mexicans in the Texas wilderness, Mier y Terán committed suicide. Thereupon the demoralized Colonel Ruiz decided to abandon Tenoxtitlán. He began evacuation of the garrison and entire Mexican settlement to Bexar on August 22, 1832. By December only a handful of Americans remained in occupation of the site. A trading post and settlement continued in the vicinity for many years but disappeared after 1860.

In 1936 a granite commemorative marker was erected by the Texas Centennial Commission near the site of the fort, fourteen miles northeast of Caldwell off Farm Road 1362. Another was erected in 1970 five miles east of Caldwell on State Highway 21. Tenoxtitlán, or "Prickly Pear Place" was the Aztec name for what became known as Mexico City.

Burleson County Historical Society, Astride the Old San Antonio Road: A History of Burleson County, Texas (Dallas: Taylor, 1980). Malcolm D. McLean, "Tenoxtitlán, Dream Capitol of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 70 (April 1967).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Charles Christopher Jackson, "FORT TENOXTITLAN," accessed August 12, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qbf49.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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