The arrival (via shipwreck) of Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1528 was one of Texas’s first contacts with the Old World. His subsequent trek across the land that would become the Lone Star State offered Europeans some of the first clues about this newfound foreign region.
By 1685, the French were in on the action, dispatching explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle to find the mouth of the Mississippi River. He missed it by a long shot, ultimately wrecking his ship La Belle in a bay between present-day Houston  and Corpus Christi . More than 200 years later, the Texas Historical Commission discovered the contents and remains of La Belle, which offered a rare glimpse at a 17th-century New World colony—glass trade beads, dinnerware, gun flints, and even a human skeleton.
By the early 1700s, the Spanish solidified their presence in the region with four new mission buildings (the Alamo  being one of them) used primarily to “civilize” the area’s Native-American tribes by converting them to Christianity. It didn’t work as well as they’d hoped. By the early 19th century, European diseases had decimated most of the state’s Native Americans, and many tribes had mixed in with other cultural groups, rendering the missions’ objective obsolete.
Around this same time, the first wave of Germans arrived in Texas. Word spread quickly about Texas’s bountiful land and ideal climate (perhaps they visited in springtime), prompting thousands of Germans to take root along rivers and streams in the state’s fertile prairies and scenic hills.