Newspapers often are called the first draft of history. That's a wonderful way to consider what we try to do every day for our community. A newspaper documents life in our little corner of the world in a way that no other media source can or does.

That's why we're excited to celebrate with you our upcoming 175th birthday. That big anniversary will be next year, commemorating the inaugural May 8, 1946, edition of the Victoria Texan Advocate. The Victoria area and the Advocate share a rich and deep history almost unrivaled west of the Mississippi River. We will present a decade-by-decade recap of this unique history every month through May 2021.

We start with 1846-1860.

BIG NEWS THEN

  • Victoria County built its first courthouse in 1849. The small wood frame and plastered brick building was constructed by building contractor Richard Owens. It was a two-story, rectangular building with a wood cupola and two-story wood porch, typical of the Vernacular Greek Revival style of the period.
  • The Victoria post office was established in 1846, the same year the town suffered a cholera epidemic. Victims died rapidly enough that proper burials became impossible, though significant efforts were made.
  • The increasing amount of freight arriving at Indianola and Port Lavaca destined for western markets led to the need for improved transportation. Railroad entrepreneurs were granted a charter in 1850, which founded the San Antonio and Mexican Gulf Railroad Company. The line was to connect San Antonio and Victoria to a suitable point on the Gulf between Galveston and Corpus Christi.

NOTABLE PEOPLE THEN

  • Richard Owens: Owens was a pioneer merchant and building contractor. He built Victoria County’s first courthouse, a toll drawbridge across the Guadalupe River and many brick buildings in Victoria. He became mayor of Victoria in 1852.
  • Alexander Phillips: A pioneer lawyer and legislator, Phillips represented Refugio County in the Eighth Congress of the Republic of Texas. He later moved to Victoria and served the district after annexation as a senator in the first three state legislatures from 1846 to 1850.
  • Alexander Lowe: Lowe was born in Tennessee in 1819 and first came to Victoria County in 1844. Lowe was a Mexican War veteran, local businessman and civic leader. His home in Victoria can be seen as part of the Old Victoria Driving Tour in Victoria.
  • Green DeWitt: DeWitt was an empresario who was inspired by Moses Austin’s success in obtaining a grant from the Spanish government to establish a colony in Texas. DeWitt founded DeWitt County in 1846.
  • James Kerr: A soldier, attorney, surveyor and physician, Kerr was one of the well-known pioneers of the Jackson County area. He worked for the independence of Texas, helped build the Republic of Texas and later served in the Texas Congress.

COUNTY POPULATION THEN (1850)

  • Victoria: 2,019
  • Calhoun: 1,110
  • DeWitt: 1,716
  • Goliad: 648
  • Jackson: 996
  • Lavaca: 1,571
  • Refugio: 288

VICTORIA ADVOCATE NEWS

  • 1846-1853: Thomas Sterne and John David Logan, editors and publishers
  • 1846-1847: John Henry Brown, editor; Gail Borden, Jr., associate editor
  • 1851: Homer S. Thrall, editor
  • 1853-1858: George W. Palmer and John Jamieson, editors and publishers
  • 1854-1855: William R. Scurry, editor
  • 1858-1859: John Jamieson, editor
  • 1859-1865: Samuel A. White, editor and publisher
  • Cost: $3 in advance, $4 in six months or $5 at the end of the year. Published weekly.
  • Location: The Victoria Advocate first began business in a small one-story frame building at the corner of Main Street and Goodwin Avenue, the northeast corner of One O’Connor Plaza at 215 N. Main St.

COST OF GOODS IN 1850s IN TEXAS

  • Coffee: $1.20 per pound of beans
  • Eggs: 20 cents per dozen
  • Beef: 9 cents per pound
  • Potatoes: 40 cents a bushel

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, mtheophil@vicad.com or on Twitter

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