Friday, October 2, 2009

Oct 2: Texas "battle," Idaho Falls fire

On October 2, 1835, a militia force from the region around the town of Gonzales, Texas (50-60 miles east of San Antonio) attacked a contingent of about 100 Mexican dragoons in what came to be called the “Lexington of Texas.” The immediate cause for the confrontation was a demand that the locals return a cannon that had been loaned to them as protection against attacks by Comanche Indians. (Accounts vary, but they all agree that the gun was little more than a showy noisemaker.)

 The broader issue was the increasingly dictatorial policies of Mexican President Antonio L√≥pez de Santa Anna. This alienated American colonists as well as native Mexicans – colonists and natives alike expressed loyalty to the liberal Mexican Constitution of 1824. The settlers refused to return the cannon. Partly through fear that the Mexicans were expecting reinforcements, the militia attacked. In the ensuring minor skirmish, one Mexican soldier was killed and two settlers were slightly injured.
Although the “Battle of Gonzales” was of no consequence militarily, news of the clash basically triggered the Texas Revolution, which led to creation of the independent Republic of Texas in 1836. Then, annexation of Texas as the 28th U.S. state in December 1845 led to war with Mexico.

(“Come and take it” referred, of course, to the Gonzales cannon, but the flag illustrated here was almost certainly created after the battle.)

I discussed the two-fold connection between Mexican affairs and Idaho in my post of September 16: First, until the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, the area roughly south of the Idaho-Oregon border and west of the Rockies was Mexican territory. Thus, American and British-Canadian fur trappers and later settlers (mostly Mormons) were technically trespassing on Mexican land. Second, when that region became U.S. territory, pioneer traffic through Idaho increased -- and then exploded when gold was discovered in California.

On October 2, 1903, the Idaho Falls Register (later the Time-Register and then today’s Post-Register) reported that the town had suffered a major fire in which most of a row of old frame buildings had been destroyed. This was hardly surprising, since much of the older parts of town consisted mostly of flimsy wood frame buildings and shacks, and old wooden boardwalks.

Of course, it could have been worse. Although Idaho Falls had had a fire department since 1885, it was not particularly well equipped and the town’s water system was generally inadequate. An even worse fire the following year burned more of the business district.

Encyclopedia Britannica from Encyclopedia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite (2008).

William C. Davis, Lone Star Rising: the Revolutionary Birth of the Republic of Texas, Texas A&M University Press (2006).

Mary Jane Fritzen, Idaho Falls, City of Destiny, Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls (1991).

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