Independence Hall

Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site is home to Independence Hall, a recreation of the building where delegates signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. Photo by Will van Overbeek.

We’ll never forget the Alamo, of course, but the same may not be said for Washington-on -the-Brazos, where Texans adopted a Declaration of Independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836. The makers of a new documentary, Independence! A Lone Star Rises, aim to make sure we never forget Washington-on-the Brazos, either.

“When we talk about the Texas Revolution, Washington-on-the-Brazos and its role is oftentimes overlooked,” says Jonathan Failor, superintendent of Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site. “The Alamo and dramatic events like battles naturally draw more attention. But what we’re talking about here is the political end of the story. It’s the story of 59 individuals from different backgrounds who came together in the name of liberty and independence to create a nation that really changed the world.”

The 25-minute documentary will be released online for free viewing on March 31. It presents a dramatic retelling of the Convention of 1836, where the declaration was penned, as seen through the eyes of two present-day youths. The project was the brainchild of Failor and his assistant superintendent, Rachel Flinn.

Every October, Failor and Flinn start planning for the annual Texas Independence Day celebration in March, which draws up to 10,000 people to Washington-on-the-Brazos. This past year, they realized that COVID-19 would require a change of plans, and they came up with the idea of producing a film instead. Within two months, they had partnered with producer and director Gary Foreman of Native Sun Productions and had a script and the promise of funding from the Washington on the Brazos Historical Foundation.

Originally, they had planned to release the film on March 2 in honor of Texas Independence Day, but a COVID outbreak among the crew and winter storm Uri forced a delay. They filmed all of the scenes over the course of just two days in late February at the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site, using locals and historical reenactors for the cast—including Failor, who portrays David G. Burnet, first president of the Republic of Texas.

Independence! A Lone Star Rises premieres free online on March 31 starting at 10 a.m., with encore presentations at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., on the Washington-on-the-Brazos Historical Foundation, Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site, and Texas Historical Commission Facebook pages as well as the Texas Historical Commission YouTube channel. It will also be screened on demand at the Star of the Republic Museum at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site. 

5 Little-Known Facts about the Texas Declaration of Independence

Washington-on-the-Brazos, which is located about 20 miles northeast of Brenham, was the site where delegates adopted the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836. Jonathan Failor, superintendent of Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site, shares some little-known facts about the historic events that unfolded there.

  1. The Convention of 1836 was supposed to last three months so that the delegates would have plenty of time to declare independence and write a constitution. Yet, because of the fall of the Alamo on March 6, they rushed to finish their work in just 17 days.
  2. Only about 40 of the 59 elected delegates were present on March 2 to sign the Declaration of Independence. The rest arrived over the course of the subsequent 11 days. The last to sign were James B. Woods from Liberty and Andrew Briscoe from Harrisburg on March 11. Most of them were young: 40 of the delegates were under the age of 40.
  3. The Declaration of Independence had to be written three different times before it was signed. Many suspect the primary author, George Childress, arrived with most of it already written. The delegates then decided to rewrite to correct grammar and spelling mistakes, and then again for poor penmanship.
  4. Two of the delegates were native Texans: José Antonio Navarro and his uncle José Francisco Ruiz, both of San Antonio. The rest were delegates who had immigrated to Texas, some only a few weeks or months before the start of the convention.
  5. Washington (as it was then known) was an unlikely spot to hold the convention. The town was selected because its citizens offered the delegates the use of an unfinished store building as a free meeting space. The building was torn down sometime in the 1850s; Independence Hall is a faithful replica of that structure and situated on its original location within what is now the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site.
The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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