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The Fight to Make Austin the State Capitol - And Keep It That Way

Filipa Rodriques/KUT News

Hard to imagine a city other than Austin as the capital of Texas, right? According to Austin author and historian (and doctor) Jeff Kerr, Austin's status as the capital city –  and just a city at all – was in peril several times after Texas declared its independence in 1836.

Kerr's new book Seat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas chronicles the chain of events that led to the establishment of Austin – both as a city and the state capital. Kerr didn't call the founding embattled for nothing; there were plenty of turf wars over where to place the capital. (Houston? Austin? Washington on the Brazos?) And once a site was found, those battles didn’t calm down: Anyone who's tried to dig into the dirt around Austin knows that our rocky soil can get in the way of planting and building. Those early settlers had a tough time getting Austin up and running.

Kerr describes what greeted those who first cast their gazes upon the city then known as Waterloo; they were in for a bit of a surprise later when Austin did not live up to its green and lush first-blush appearance. He also gives one example of the precarious road Austin traveled to put down roots as a city and suitable capital – the fight over Texas’ archives almost forced the government out of the city.

Listen to KUT’s interview with Kerr in the audio player above; below, view a trailer for Kerr’s Seat of Empire:

Jennifer Stayton is the local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" on KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @jenstayton.
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