|The town of Nacogdoches is the oldest in Texas. It was long a residence of the Nacodoche branch of the Caddo Indian Nation. Now only a few mounds of earth (for which a street is named Mound Street) remain as evidence of its earliest history.|
The first European settlement was founded as a Spanish mission, Mission San Francisco de las Tejas, in 1690, partly to Christianize the Caddo and partly to establish themselves against the French. The mission was replaced by another in 1716, Mission Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. By the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Spain and England divided French territory at the Mississippi River, thus removing the French threat from Nacogdoches.
In 1779, Antonio Gil Y'Barbo led Spanish settlers to Nacogdoches, obtained Spanish authorization for the town, and was named chief political and military official. He laid out the town plan with a traditional town square and built the Stone House (later called The Old Stone Fort) where he conducted trading as well as political functions, which gave it a public nature it never lost.
Nacogdoches was an important trading place because of its location on the Camino Real del Norte, a road blazed by Teran de los Rios in 1691, which ran from today's Mexico City through Texas to Nacogdoches on a path now called North Street, and ended in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Natchitoches was named for a sister tribe and designated the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase.
Napoleon Bonaparte forced Spain to return their former French lands west of the Mississippi and immediately sold the territory to the United States in 1803. The Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 established the boundary between the Louisiana Purchase and Spain at the Sabine River.
The earliest "American" settler into Texas was Philip Nolan in the 1790's. The Spanish did not trust him and killed him and imprisoned his followers in the Stone House. These settlers were called "filibusters," people who settled in a country for private gain but whose activities were also beneficial to another government. In 1819, Dr. James Long from Natchez, led a group to Nacogdoches; but he was jailed and died in jail.
In the 1820's Mexico won its independence from Spain and opened Texas to American settlement under an empressarial system. Haden Edwards, from Kentucky, got a settlement grant in East Texas and settled in Nacogdoches; but he quickly got in trouble over conflicting land claims and led the short-lived Fredonia Rebellion, an alliance of Americans and Indians against the Mexicans. Settlers continued to come, including Stephen F. Austin (called the Father of Texas). The Disturbances of 1832, culminating with the battle of Nacogdoches in the summer of 1832, are considered the beginning of the Texas Revolution. An early Nacogdoches citizen, Adolphus Sterne (whose house is the oldest surviving home in Nacogdoches), recruited troops for the Revolution and served in congresses of the Republic and in legislatures of the State of Texas after its annexation in 1845.
During the colonial and revolutionaly periods, Nacogdoches was one of the three most important towns in Texas; but it grew slowly. It was an "Old South" town in character because most of its early citizens were from that region and tradition. The railroad arrived relatively late, in 1883, and the town's main focus was agricutlture and lumbewr fromthe "Piney Woods." in 1923, economic stimulus was given to the town by the establishment of Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College, now a well-respected, full university in the State System with some 15,000 students. Other businesses are fertilizer, cotton oil, banking, medicine and county government. With the growth of the University, North Street, once an avenue of the most stately homes in town, has become a commerical street, with notable exceptions of beautiful churches, the town library, and a few of the old homes including the Rudisill house.