Washington-on-the-Brazos, not to be confused with Washington, Texas, is a Ghost Town and State Historic Site along the Brazos River in Washington County, Texas, United States. Founded when Texas was still a part of Mexico, the settlement was the site of the Convention of 1836 and the signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence. The name "Washington-on-the-Brazos" was used to distinguish the settlement from "Washington-on-the-Potomac"—i.e., Washington, D.C.
Founded largely by immigrants from the southern United States, Washington-on-the-Brazos is known as "the birthplace of Texas" because here, on March 1, 1836, Texas delegates met to formally announce Texas' intention to separate from Mexico and to draft the constitution of the new Republic of Texas. They organized an interim government to serve until a government could be elected and inaugurated.
The delegates declared independence on March 2, 1836. They adopted their constitution on March 16. The delegates worked until March 17, when they had to flee with the residents of Washington, to escape the advancing Mexican Army. The townspeople returned after the Mexican Army was defeated at San Jacinto on April 21. Town leaders lobbied for Washington’s designation as the permanent capital of the Republic of Texas, but leaders of the Republic favored Waterloo, which later was renamed Austin.
Washington County was established by the legislature of the Republic of Texas in 1836 and organized in 1837, when Washington-on-the-Brazos was designated as the county seat. Although the county seat moved to Brenham in 1844, the town continued to thrive as a center for the cotton trade until the mid-1850s, as it was located on the Brazos River to use for shipping out the crop. The construction of railroads bypassed the town and pulled off its business. The strife of the Civil War took another toll on the town, and by the turn of the 20th century, it was virtually abandoned.
The Barrington Living History Farm is a living museum homestead that represents the mid-19th-century farm founded by Dr. Anson Jones, the last President of the Republic of Texas.
Costumed interpreters raise cotton, corn, cattle and hogs using period techniques. The 1844 Anson Jones Home was moved to the site in 1936 as part of the Texas Centennial Celebration. The reconstructed outbuildings include two slave cabins, a kitchen building, a smokehouse, a cotton house and a barn. The farmstead opened in 2000, and is operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Cover image by Bill Staney licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.