Known as The Cradle of Texas, history walks the street here. Located on historic El Camino Real (the Royal Highway, now Texas 21 in this area). Sam Houston walked here; Davy Crockett was feted on his way to the Alamo; and J. Pinckney Henderson, Texas' first governor, lived here when San Augustine was the eastern gateway to Texas.
San Augustine, the oldest Anglo-Saxon town in Texas, had its beginning in 1716 when Father Antonio Margil de Jesus established a mission among the Ais Indians who inhabited the area.
Sam Houston, who served two terms as president of The Republic of Texas, one term as the State's second governor, and two terms in the U.S. Congress, was a certified resident of San Augustine upon two occasions while seeking public office.
He was elected a delegate from the district of San Augustine to the Consultation in 1835.
After serving one term as the republic’s first president, he "came home" once again to be elected to the Congress of The Republic from San Augustine.
General Houston was at one time a law partner with a longtime friend Col. Phillip A. Sublett in the Cradle of Texas. The law office was located across the street from the custom house (now a motor company) in a small building. He was also active in land development at East Hamilton and Pendleton Crossing areas of Sabine County.
As Anglo migration to Texas increased in the early 1800s, San Augustine was the site of the customhouse and a stopover for everyone entering Texas. It soon became the most civilized place around, and its early history shows it to be the birthplace of several colleges and the first churches (in Texas) of several denominations were opened here.
The town of San Augustine was laid off on the eastern bank of the Ayish Bayou and on either side of the road. It contained 48 blocks divided into 356 lots, each 80 feet wide and 160 feet deep, separated by streets 40 feet wide running with the cardinal points of the compass, though through a failure to allow for the deviation of the needle they are actually about four degrees out of line. Two lots near the center were reserved for a public square, on which the courthouse was afterwards erected. The lots were shared among the members of the stock company which established the town, and were drawn by numbers as in a lottery, hence the ltos falling to each share were scattered in different parts of town....
The old town which that ardent band of adventurers builded in the wilderness as the end and consummation of their labors and strivings has passed away forever. Its houses and its hovels alike, with the exception of a few private homes, have long ago been laid in dust and ashes. The pretentious halls and stores, the lovely old colonial fronts, the quaint gables and galleries, the less ambitious houses full of curious nooks and recesses, all these have disappeared before the mouldering waste of time or the ravages of fire and have been replaced by more modern buildings. The form now survives only in the memory of a fast diminishing remnant of the older citizens, and must soon become a mere tradition of the outward shape and location of those buildings, within and around whose walls so much history was wrought by that elder generation whose sayings and doings we are endeavoring to record. We may be forgiven, therefore, if even at the risk of becoming tedious, we attempt to give a description of the town as it appeared during the first fifty years of its existence.
When the town was planned it was supposed that the principal business houses would be built along the old road running through it from east to west, and accordingly the street through which the road passed was called Main Street. The bridge across the Ayish Bayou was near the foot of this street, and the road extended thence in a northwesterly direction to the junction with the present road about the crest of the hill between the old B. R. Wallace place and William Garrett's. The change in the road locating the bridge in its present position at the foot of Columbia Street was not made until 1848. On the east the road extended to the ford of the Carizzo as at present. The earliest houses were accordingly located at the intersection of Main and Harrison Streets south of the public square. Where the Commercial Hotel now stands was a two-story frame building containing a store and saloon, and next to it was the Post Office, kept by John H. Lewis. Opposite to it and on the north side of Main Street was the American Hotel, which passed through several hands. On the southwest corner of the intersection of Main and Harrison Streets was a store and hotel built by Clinton Cartwright, beyond which on Main Street were a number of small shops. All these houses passed away at an early date leaving no successors until in very recent years. The only house of this group that survived was the store of Mr. De Young on the southeast corner of what is now the public square, and is remember as the William Phillips store and Odd Fellows' hall. There is a record of a grand supper and ball given there in early times in honor of President Sam Houston, at which General Henderson, Judge Ochiltree, Judge Anderson and other notables were present. During the war between the States it was used as a store house for the Tax in Kind of the Confederate government, and when an invasion by General Banks from Louisiana seemed imminent, preparations were made to burn it to prevent the stores falling into his hands. The upper story was used as an Odd Fellows hall until the demise of that order in San Augustine.