History of Bexar County

Bexar County was created on December 20, 1836, and encompassed almost the entire western portion of the Republic of Texas. This included the disputed areas of western New Mexico northward to Wyoming. After statehood, 128 counties were carved out of its area.

The county was named for San Antonio de Béxar, one of the 23 Mexican municipalities (administrative divisions) of Texas at the time of its independence. San Antonio de Béxar—originally Villa de San Fernando de Béxar—was the first civil government established by the Spanish in the province of Texas. Specifically, the municipality was created in 1731 when 55 Canary Islanders settled near the system of missions that had been established around the source of the San Antonio River. The new settlement was named after the Presidio San Antonio de Béjar, the Spanish military outpost that protected the missions. The presidio, located at the San Pedro Springs, was founded in 1718 and named for Viceroy Balthasar Manuel de Zúñiga y Guzmán Sotomayor y Sarmiento, second son of the Duke of Béjar (a town in Spain). The modern city of San Antonio in the U.S. state of Texas also derived its name from San Antonio de Béjar.

Founding of San Antonio de BéJar

300th Anniversary

The Yanaguana river valley, populated for millennia by seasonally migrating, non-sedentary Native American Indians, had gained recognition from Spaniards Domingo Ramón and Fray Antonio San Buenaventura Olivares during prior exploration as a superb site for settlement.

Viceroy Baltasar de Zúñiga y Guzmán, Duke of Arión, Marquis of Valero (1658-1727), seeking to push the pale of settlement in New Spain northward and contest Lépai-Nde/Lipan Apache resistance and French imperial claims to nominally Spanish territories, ordered Martín de Alarcón as governor of the Province of Texas to establish a military presidio at the site. He was to assist with the establishment of Franciscan Missions, and provide a way station for supplies to Missions and Presidial troops in east Texas much closer to French Louisiana.

Two Franciscan padres, Fray Francisco Céliz and Fray Pedro Pérez de Mezquía kept diaries of this foundational expedition that established the Villa y Presidio de San Antonio de Béxar, and with it, the Bexar District. Thus, while Spaniards had named the Yanaguana the río San Antonio in a previous expedition, 1718 marks the formal establishment and effective settlement, which we acknowledge and celebrate as the founding.

This was the acorn from which the tall live oak would grow: Today San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the nation, and the 2nd city of Texas while Bexar County is the fourth most populous in Texas and the 17th in the United States. The City of San Antonio with its five Missions and the County of Bexar celebrated the 300th anniversary in 2018 of this founding!

More Bexar County History

Learn more about Bexar County's history by exploring these topics:

Additional Historical Information

Learn more about the history of Bexar County by reviewing maps of San Antonio Missions and Presidio in 1764, learn about the town of Béjar that was the origin of Bexar County's name, and the colonial governors and viceroys of the Spanish province of Texas in the Viceroyalty of New Spain from 1691 through 1835.

  1. Map of Missions & Presidio
  2. Béjar in Spain
  3. Colonial Governors
  4. Colonial Viceroys

Map of San Antonio Missions and Presidio in 1764 

The orientation of the map is east-west, with the San Antonio River at top and Medina River on right. Shown also are the Caminos Reales (Royal Roads) and crossings on the Medina River just southwest of San Antonio. Spanish explorers and missionaries traveled on this important transportation and commerce corridor stretching from San Antonio to points along the Rio Grande River. Source: Texas Beyond History

Map of San Antonio from 1764