Historical Texas

Every State has it's history, and are very proud of it.  Texas is no different.  It has a very unique history full of shifting allegiances.  At one point or another France, Spain, Mexico, the confederacy , and the United States have all claimed sovereignty.  Additionally, they have declared themselves an independent Republic.  A notion that some say still prevails.

In our two months in the State, roughly following the Rio Grande River, we saw evidence of that history, while at the same time only scratching the surface.  Here are the few examples that recount that history, and the state's western culture.

San Antonio and the Alamo

The Alamo is perhaps the most sacred place in Texas.  The site has armed guards at the entrance of the church to ensure that men remove their hats, and show proper decorum and respect.  It was first established in 1718 as the Mission San Antonio de Valero.  The missions were how the Spanish claimed and developed land in the new world.  The mission is the location of the Battle of the Alamo, a pivotal point in the Texas fight for independence.  The history here is fascinating particularly in light of today's immigration issues and conflict.  It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Langtry and Judge Roy Bean

Langtry lies near where the Pecos River joins the Rio Grande.  It is where the legendary Judge Roy Bean set up shop, after being driven out of at least two states and one country.  The Texas Department of Highways has a Visitor Center and Rest Stop here that is a Museum to the infamous judge.  You can visit the Jersey Lilly Saloon, and his home, called the Opera House.  The rest stop also has a very nice cactus garden.  Roy Bean was an unscrupulous business man, womanizer, and having no regard for the law was wholly unqualified for his official position.  Thankfully we have no-one like that in government today.

Seminole Canyon

This is a Texas State Park where you can see some of the oldest pictographs in the Americas.  The canyon is a tributary to the Rio Grande River.  You can hike or bike the rim trail, and look across the river into Mexico.  Ranger led tours access the caves with pictographs.  The visitors center also has one of the best small museums that we have seen, and covers all of the history of the canyon, from the ancient first people to the mining ranching and railroad eras.

Castolon, Big Bend

First established as an Army outpost along the Rio Grande, the history here is similar to that of other army forts that we saw along the boarder.  These army posts served to address issues associated with the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900's.  By the time the the post was fully built, the area became quiet and the Army abandoned the post.  It them became a trading and supply center for the ranching community before becoming part of the Big Bend National Park.  

Fort Leaton Historical Site

Located in the Big Bend Ranch State Park and found along the River Road between Lajitas and the boarder town of Presidio.  Fort Leaton was never an army post, but a center for ranching and an important trading center for the area.

The State Park is huge and offers plenty of things to do along the River Road.  I took a short hike into the Closed Canyon.

Fort Davis Historical Site

Fort Davis was one of the military forts established to secure and protect the San Antonio to El Paso trade route.  It was established in 1854 and maintained until 1891.  It was also home to the Buffalo Soldiers, the all black infranty and cavalry regiments that were formed after the Civil War.  These soldiers were sent to the frontier to re-establish the fort and fought during the Indian Wars.  It is known as one of the best preserved examples of Army forts in the southwest United States.

While traveling through Texas we also visited several other remarkable places found no where else.  Alpine Texas has the Museum of the Big Bend, located on the campus of the Sul Ross State University.  

In San Antonio it was the Briscoe Western Art Museum

Roy Rogers Saddle

And finally, in the high dry air of the mountains above Fort Davis you will find the McDonald Observatory home to several of the largest telescopes in the world.  Here we learned about the work of the observatory and how the telescopes worked.  We also learned about just how small and insignificant we really are, compared to the universe we find ourselves in.  And that is the beauty of it all.

Harlan J. Smith Telescope

Hobby-Eberly Telescope


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