The smoke from the Battle of San Jacinto, where Texas won its independence, had hardly cleared when the Allen brothers, two land speculators from New York, purchased half a league of prairie swamp just west of the battle site from a widow. Shrewdly naming their planned development after the victorious general and first president of the Republic of Texas, they hawked its proximity to coastal and interior waterways, abundant fresh water supply, fertile soil, and inexhaustible sources of lumber and stone, predicting it would soon become an international hub. Through well-placed gifts of land and promises of credit, they convinced the legislature to make their town the capital of the fledgling Republic of Texas. The puffery and graft worked, and the rush was on. In the late 1830s, Houston was one of the hottest real estate markets in North America.
It did not last.
Fatigued by the tropical climate and plagued by yellow fever, it took the waterlogged legislators less than two years to move the capital to Austin. For the next sixty years, Houston was just another East Texas town dependent on the cotton trade. It almost certainly would have remained that but for the deadliest natural disaster in North American history and the largest gusher the world had ever seen.