On September 5th of 1836, Sam Houston became president of the Republic of Texas, which had recently won independence from Mexico.
Sam Houston was born in Virginia in 1793. His father died when he was young, after which his family moved to a rural area of Tennessee. When Sam was a teenager, he ran away from home and lived for several years with a band of Cherokees.
At the age of 19, Houston served in the War of 1812. Sometime later, he was appointed by the United States government to oversee the removal of the Cherokees from Tennessee to a reservation in the Arkansas territory. Then he practiced law in Nashville for a few years, before serving as a U.S. Congressman. In 1827, Houston was elected governor of Tennessee.
A failed marriage led Houston to resign from his post as governor, and live again with the Cherokees. At that point, they adopted him into the tribe. From there, he visited Washington DC to protest (however unsuccessfully) the treatment of Native American people by the United States government.
In 1832, President Andrew Jackson sent Sam Houston to Texas, which was, in those days, still a Mexican province. Jackson wanted Houston to develop treaties with local Native Americans to protect merchants who traded on the border.
By the time Houston arrived in Texas, relations between white settlers and Mexican authorities were tense, to say the least. Houston soon became a leader among the settlers. In 1836, the people of Texas (that is, the ones who were not Native American) issued a Declaration of Independence from Mexico. At the same time, Houston was appointed military commander of the Texas army.
Today, of course, everyone remembers the Alamo, but few people remember why they remember the Alamo. To make a long story short, the rebellion, led by Sam Houston, was defeated at the Alamo early in 1836.
However, Sam Houston soon found a way to reverse the sorry fortune of his army. On April 21st, he led 800 Texan soldiers on an attack against 1,500 Mexican soldiers under General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, and defeated them. There's a lot to be said for the element of surprise. Santa Anna was captured and brought to what is now called Houston, where he was forced to sign an agreement to grant Texas its freedom from Mexico.
At this time, people thought of Texas as a separate country, located between Mexico and the United States. Houston himself once said, “Texas will again lift its head and stand among the nations….It ought to do so, for no country upon the globe can compare with it in natural advantages.”
After being treated for his war wounds, Houston returned to Texas, where he was elected President of the Republic of Texas on September 15th of 1836. In 1844, after years of service as the president of Texas, Sam Houston made plans to retire, but instead he helped Texas win admission to the United States in 1845. At that time, he was elected one of the state's first two senators.
The city of Houston, Texas, incorporated in 1837, was named after Sam Houston.