Unit 7, Section Three Notes
Texas joined the United States in 1845. By
1847, the population of Texas was a little more
than 142,000 people! But what was the state
really like at the time of annexation?
According to the 1850 census, 95 percent of
Texans lived in rural areas. Most worked on
farms or ranches. Many farmers grew cotton,
while others grew sugarcane, corn, sweet
potatoes, and wheat. They also raised cows
for milk, hogs, and sheep. In the 1850’s,
Texas became an important part of the cotton
belt. Though cotton was worth a lot of
money, it also required a lot of work to grow
and pick. Slave labor was an important aspect
of the cotton industry.
Planters, or large scale farmers who held at
least 20 slaves, were the rich men who owned
plantations. They led comfortable lives and
could afford expensive clothes and fancy
items. Some plantation homes were simple,
while others were mansions. Planters were
also usually very powerful in government,
helping to influence the state’s economy.
Liendo Plantation Home in Hempstead, Texas
After cotton, cattle were the state’s secondmost-valuable exports. Many ranchers drove
their cattle to other states like Illinois and
California, where they could get more money
for each animal. Two successful ranchers,
Richard King and Gideon Lewis, dominated
south Texas ranching. Though it was rare,
some women also ran their own ranches.
In 1850, Galveston was the largest town in
Texas, but by 1860, San Antonio replaced
Galveston with a population of 8,235. Other
large towns included Houston, Jefferson,
Marshall, Nacogdoches, and New Braunfels.
Though Austin was the state capital, as it is
today, it only had 1,000 residents when
Texas joined the U.S. in 1845.
Industry was a small part of the Texas
economy, with agriculture being the widest
profession. Most local industries were familyowned and related to agriculture in some
way, like flour milling, the largest industry in
Texas. Also, most people in Texas did not
have cash. They grew or made most of what
they needed at home. Only richer people
bought manufactured items from out of state.
After Texas became a state, many Texans
called for improvement to the state’s
transportation network. They wanted roads
fixed and better ways to travel. Stagecoach
was still the most common way to travel,
even though it was difficult and dangerous.
Large items that needed to be shipped were
often done so by way of water on steamboats.
With steamboats being one of the easiest and
safest ways to travel and ship important
items, the city of Houston soon became a
transportation center in the state. For trade
with the rest of the United States, cotton and
other items were sent by steamboat from
Houston to New Orleans, which was the
South’s busiest port.
Unlike other forms of transportation, railroads
could carry heavy loads and people, even in
bad weather. But they were expensive and
difficult to build. In 1851, the Buffalo Bayou,
Brazos, and Colorado Railway began
construction on the first railroad line in
Texas. Later called the Harrisburg Railroad,
they charged five cents per mile per
passenger. Still, by 1860, there were only 500
miles of railroad line in Texas.
Though the state began setting aside money to
build schools in 1854, much of it was used
for other things. Still, many towns began
building one-room school houses, where
desks and benches were cut from logs. Even
in the early grades, many children learned
world history and foreign languages, such as
Latin and Greek. When children weren’t at
school, there were often at home helping with
the family farm, so school was a welcome
vacation. 
Though Texas was a frontier region, the state
had a large number of newspapers. They had
over 80 being printed weekly in 1860. Most
were printed only once or twice a week and
contained public notices, editorials, and
information about local events. Newspapers
began carrying more national and world news
after the creation of the telegraph in the
1850’s. In 1854, a telegraph line connected
Houston, Marshall, and Galveston. They could
now receive news faster than ever before!
The number of libraries also rose in the
1850’s, which was exciting since most people
did not have their own books. Many families
did have a Bible, and parents would use this
to help teach their children how to read.
Some families also read the works of local
authors, such as Jane McManus Cazneau, who
wrote about life in Texas.
By 1860, slaves made up almost 30% of the
Texas population. On small farms, slaves
were given a large variety of tasks, while on
plantations, they usually had specific jobs
along with working in the fields. Women and
children were also expected to work daily.
Slaves also helped build the state’s
transportation system, including roads and
docks, and railroads. Some were paid a little
and could eventually try to buy their freedom
or buy food and clothing for their family.
Work began at daybreak. They would eat
breakfast in the field as they plowed, planted,
or harvested. Men usually plowed while
women and children picked. Slaves were
expected to pick many pounds of cotton
every day, and an adult male could pick
around 150 to 200 pounds per day. Men also
built fences other such chores, while women
worked as cooks, laundresses, or
seamstresses. They worked six days a week,
while most had Sunday’s off.
Slaves spent evenings and time off just like
other Texans. They visited with family and
friends, and they often told stories or played
games and music. They would also hold
dances or picnics. Some slaveholders would
allow their slaves to attend church. They also
tried to maintain their culture and tradition.
Music and religion were important in slave
communities, often singing songs while they
worked in the fields. Their music was also a
way to worship and it gave them strength to
face the hardships of life.
Some slaves were willing to risk their lives to
escape slavery. They could try to flee to
Mexico, but most did not try to run away for
fear of getting caught and never seeing their
families again. If a slave did run away and
was caught, they were severely punished as a
warning to others. Many Texans, especially in
areas with many slaves, feared a slave
rebellion. One planned uprising happened in
1856 in Colorado County. Before they could
go through with it, the slaves’ plan was found
out. Many slaves were hanged or whipped to
death.
Since the state legislature was dominated by
powerful Texas planters, they passed many
laws that protected slavery and limited the
rights of slaves. Slaves could not own
property or marry. Also, if you encouraged or
helped a slave to freedom, you were charged
with a serious crime. Many people throughout
Texas defended slavery, saying that the
Texas economy could not function without
slave labor.
There were some people in Texas who
supported abolition, or an end to slavery.
Some opposed it for moral or religious
reasons, believing that it was wrong to own a
person and break up families. Others
opposed it for political reasons, saying that it
went against the ideas of democracy and
freedom. But because they were the minority,
most abolitionists kept their views to
themselves.
As Texas’ economy began to grow, so did the
population. People from all over the United
States and other countries soon traveled to
settle in Texas. Many different cultural groups
came to Texas, and their customs and
traditions have helped to shape the state that
we live in today.
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Unit 7, Section 3 Notes