A Salute to Buffalo Soldiers

On July 28,1866, Congress authorized the creation of units made up of black enlisted soldiers to serve in US Cavalry and US Infantry regiments. The Plains Indians equated the skin color, hair type, courage and tenacity of these black soldiers with that of the buffalo — hence the nickname “buffalo soldier.”

Buffalo soldier units served in the 9th and 10th US Cavalry regiments and the 24th and 25th US Infantry regiments. Soldiers from all four of these regiments served at Fort Concho from 1869 to 1885, comprising half the soldiers stationed at the post. Fort Concho, in modern-day San Angelo, was built after the Civil War to establish law and order and to protect settlers from Indians.
buffalo-soldier-newsThis summer, Fort Concho observed the 150-year anniversary of the Buffalo Soldiers. My wife and I happened to be in the area so we attended the celebration at the fort. While there we had the opportunity to meet Paul Cook, a Buffalo Soldier re-enactor as well as listen to a talk by John Langellier, a historian and the author of “Fighting for Uncle Sam: Buffalo Soldiers in the Frontier Army.”
fort-conchoI had heard about the Buffalo Soldiers but did not know much about them. So, I was excited to attend Langellier’s talk. The contribution of these tough soldiers to the westward expansion of our nation must not be underestimated. Buffalo soldiers did everything from building roads to patrolling the frontier to a variety difficult civil and military tasks. Additionally, they distinguished themselves in campaigns against numerous Indian tribes.
buffalo-soldier-talkThe most amazing thing I learned about Buffalo Soldiers was the history of the all-black 25th Infantry Bicycle Corp. At a time when the military did not want to spend money providing horses for these black soldiers, a white lieutenant names James Moss persuaded the military to provide them with bicycles. The military agreed and provided the Buffalo Soldiers with heavy duty bicycles made by the Spalding Company.
buffalo-soldier-cyclistsTo show the practicality of the bicycle for military use, Moss organized a ride from Fort Missoula to Yellowstone National Park and back again — a trek of 800 miles over rugged terrain. He later organized a 1,900 mile ride from the fort to St. Louis. All of this at a time when there were few roads, bicycles were terribly heavy and had a single gear, and the men had to strap all of their gear to their bicycles.
25th-bicycle-infantryAmazing does not begin to describe the achievements of the bicycle regiment — a testimony to just how tough the Buffalo Soldiers were. As a mountain-biker who owns a pretty decent bike with lots of gears and suspension to make riding the trails easier, I have the deepest respect for the Buffalo Soldier cyclists. Wow! These guys were the definition of what it means to be tough.
fort-concho-buffalo-soldiersBuffalo Soldiers are an important part of our history. Their history is part of the fabric of our rich Texas history and deserves to be told and retold to future generations. They helped to ensure the settlement of frontier regions of Texas and beyond. Happy 150-year anniversary to the Buffalo Soldiers of yesteryear!

The Historic Murals of San Angelo

From earliest days, people have been compelled to record their history — the stories of how they lived, what they experienced, and what they accomplished. Ancient peoples cleverly devised ways to tell their stories.

The Egyptians painted hieroglyphs. The ancient Khmer empire recorded their history in the bas reliefs of Angkor Wat. Ancient cave dwellers left pictographs of animal and human figures, handprints, and curious geometric shapes on cave walls.

Even ancient peoples understood that history provides context to our existence. History helps us understand how our own personal stories fit into the larger narrative. Each of us are, after all, shaped by what happened before us and have the capacity to influence what happens after us. We can add to the narrative of history.
Ranch Heritage MuralOne of the coolest examples of recording history is found in the city of San Angelo. Situated along the Concho River, this Texas town is steeped in western history. San Angelo is unquestionably proud of its western heritage and dedicated to preserving and sharing its history and culture.
Public Transportation MuralIn 1997, a woman named Susan Morris founded The Historic Murals of San Angelo. According to their mission statement, this initiative was designed to provide the residents of San Angelo “with a clear, valid understanding of the history-rich legacy of our West Texas forefathers.”
Indians of Texas MuralTheir specific platform for achieving their mission: larger-than-life murals to “expose as many people as possible to the history of San Angelo.” Today, the magnificent history-intensive works of art are on permanent public display on the brick and mortar canvases of the city’s downtown buildings.
Blacksmith MuralThese history-themed murals certainly pique interest in the city’s past. However, to make the learning experience even more enriching, Morris’ educational organization has added an additional component — a self-guided cell phone tour. Each mural has a designated number that you can dial to hear an audio recording with detailed historical information. Brilliant!
Ranchers MuralIf you have never visited San Angelo you will be pleasantly surprised. It is now on my list of favorite Texas towns. This place has a lot to offer — historic places, a beautiful river walk, lots of interesting restaurants, great shopping, and a whole lot more.
San Angelo Visitors CenterStart your visit at the beautiful Visitors Center that overlooks the Concho River. The friendly folks there can get you started on your tour of the murals. There are currently a dozen murals with more in the works. You can either drive or walk to each mural since they are all clustered within a few city blocks of each other.

Kudos to The Historic Murals of San Angelo and their team of directors and artists. They have given a gift to both residents and visitors alike, one that will continue to educate and inspire others into the coming generations. Thanks for putting your rich history on display.

Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo

The area around Goliad is rich in Texas history. The Goliad Massacre, regarded as the darkest day in Texas history, took place at Presidio La Bahia. On March 27, 1836, Colonel James Fannin and 342 of his men were put to death under orders of Mexican General Santa Anna. Texans were so outraged that they embraced the battle cry “Remember Goliad” and vowed to win the war for Texas independence.
Mission Espiritu SantoLess than one-quarter mile from Presidio La Bahia is Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga. This spiritual outpost was established by Franciscan priests. The first mission was built at Matagorda Bay in 1722 adjacent to Presidio La Bahía. In 1749, both the mission and the fort were relocated to their present sites on opposite banks of the San Antonio River and near Camino La Bahía, a major Spanish trade route.
Mission Espiritu Santo InteriorThe Franciscan priests reached out to the native Aranama peoples and involved them in life at the mission. Under the supervision of the priests, the Indians worked with cattle, tilled the soil, learned to build with stone and mortar, spun wool for clothing, and made clay pots. Ranching, however, eventually became the main occupation at the mission and the indians became accomplished vaqueros (the original cowboys). By 1830, the mission was forced to close because of declining Indian populations and lack of money.
Mission Espiritu Santo CourtyardIn 1886, a hurricane destroyed what was left of Mission Espíritu Santo. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps was tasked with the reconstruction of the historic mission complex and the nearby Presidio La Bahia. Along with the restoration work, archeologists excavated the site and uncovered artifacts from the original mission structure. These are now on display at the site. The mission received a historical park designation in 1931 and is today listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Mission Espiritu Santo AltarMission Espíritu Santo is part of Goliad State Park and Historic Site. You can take a self-guided tour of the mission’s church and grounds, the focal point of the park. Park personnel and volunteers are available to answer your questions and to give you insight into what life was like at the mission. Also, there is an informative museum adjacent to the church. I encourage you to add this beautiful and historic site to your list of places to visit in the Lone Star State.

Iwo Jima Monument in Harlingen

On February 23, 1945, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal captured a unique moment in time at the Battle of Iwo Jima. Rosenthal’s photograph of the Marines of Company E, 2nd Battalion raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi endures as one of the greatest war photographs in U.S. history. His image resonated with the American people and became an iconic representation of the fierce resolve of the greatest generation to fight for the preservation of our democratic way of life.
Joe Rosenthal Iwo Jima PicRosenthal’s photograph stirred the heart of a sculptor named Dr. Felix W. de Weldon. On duty with the U.S. Navy at the time Rosenthal’s photograph was released, Dr. de Weldon immediately constructed a small scale model of the scene. After the war, he worked for nine and a half years to depict the scene on a more massive scale. Once Dr. de Weldon completed the plaster model, he spent an additional three years overseeing the bronze casting process.

After the massive sculpture was completed, the various parts were shipped to our nation’s capital and assembled at Arlington National Cemetery. President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially dedicated Dr. de Weldon’s bronze memorial on November 10, 1954 — the 179th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corp.
Felix W de WeldonThe working model of the memorial was stored at Dr. de Weldon’s summer home and studio in Newport, Rhode island. In October 1981, Dr. de Weldon gave this full-sized working model to Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas. Dr. de Weldon felt that the climate at this South Texas location was ideal for the preservation of the molding-plaster figures.

The fact that Corporal Harlon H. Block, the Marine placing the flagpole into the ground, was a native of the nearby town of Weslaco also influenced Dr. de Weldon’s decision about where his sculpture should permanently reside. Block was killed at Iwo Jima just six days after the flag raising. His gravesite is located behind the monument.
Iwo Jima Monument MMAThe massive sculpture, dedicated April 16, 1982, is situated on the Marine Military Academy Parade Ground. When my wife and I drove to Harlingen to visit the Iwo Jima Monument and turned onto Iwo Jima Boulevard, our first sight of the monument caught us completely off guard. Our jaws dropped at the inspiring sight of this moment in time captured by a war photographer and sculpted by a Navy veteran.
Uncommon ValorDr. de Weldon hoped that his gift would serve as an inspiration to the young cadets at Harlingen’s Marine Military Academy. There is no doubt that it has done just that. But his gift also serves as an inspiration to the many visitors who travel to Harlingen from all over the country to see this magnificent memorial to a time when uncommon valor was a common virtue.
Iwo Jima Monument at MMAIf your travels take you anywhere near South Texas, make it a point to drive whatever extra miles you need to in order to visit the Iwo Jima Memorial and Museum at Marine Military Academy in Harlingen. Those of us who enjoy the blessings of living in the United States of America certainly owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women of the greatest generation for their courage and sacrifices. I am thankful for Joe Rosenthal and Dr. Felix W. de Weldon for their gift to the American people.

San Jacinto State Historic Site

The San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site preserves the history of the most important event in Texas history — our independence from Mexico. On April 21, 1836, an outnumbered Texian Army defeated the forces of Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna on the plains of San Jacinto. With shouts of “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember Goliad,” the Texian Army secured their decisive victory in only 18 minutes!
San Jacinto Site SignThe San Jacinto Monument, built for the battle’s centennial in 1936, honors all those who fought for Texas independence. Rising 570 feet above the surrounding plains, the Monument is the world’s tallest war memorial, standing 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument in Washington DC. A massive 220-ton Lone Star adorns the top of the towering column.
San Jacinto MuseumHoused within the base of the Monument is the impressive San Jacinto Museum of History. This must-see museum houses thousands of objects and manuscripts that span 400 years of history. The Jesse H. Jones Theatre, also housed in the base of the Monument, features a short video on Texas history.
San Jacinto Observation ViewI especially enjoyed the 500-foot elevator ride to the observation deck that sits beneath the Lone Star of Texas at the top of the Monument. The observation deck offers great views of the surrounding area as well as of Battleship Texas. Information panels at each window help to orient and inform you about the surrounding vistas.
San Jacinto SignThis historic site is sacred ground in Texas — and rightly so. The Texas Veterans Association and the Sons and Daughters of the Republic of Texas helped to raise the money to purchase the land and to build the Monument. Prominent Houstonian Jesse H. Jones, who served as President Roosevelt’s Secretary of Commerce, also aided in the development of the historic site.
San Jacinto Monument CloseThe San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site is located in La Porte, just a short drive from Houston. The Monument and Museum are open daily (except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day) from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. The museum is free to all visitors but there is a modest charge to see the movie and to ride the elevator to the observation floor. When you visit, plan also to tour Battleship Texas, located just a minute or two by car from the Monument.

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Please take a moment to read A Tale of Two Monuments by Glen Moyer.

Battleship Texas State Historic Site

There is a great line about history in Timeline, Michael Crichton’s science fiction novel about a group of history students who travel back in time to rescue their professor from 14th century France. One of the time-traveling students says, “Professor Johnston often said that if you didn’t know history, you didn’t know anything. You were a leaf that didn’t know it was part of a tree.”

I absolutely agree! Knowing history is important for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is to understand the context in which we live and how our lives fit into a larger narrative. When you think about it, our way of life is linked to the actions, good and bad, of those who came before us. History helps us to make sense of it all.
Battleship TexasTexas is indeed rich in history and blessed with historic sites throughout the state. These sites help preserve the fascinating history of the Lone Star State for our benefit and that of future generations. The Battleship Texas State Historic Site is one of my favorites. Battleship Texas, last of the world’s dreadnoughts, is permanently moored on Buffalo Bayou near the San Jacinto State Battleground Historic Site in La Porte.
Battleship Texas GunsBattleship Texas was commissioned on March 12, 1914. Once the most powerful weapon in the world, it is the only surviving battleship to have served in both world wars. Before the second world war, USS Texas became flagship of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. In World War 2, this big-gun battleship played a key role in bombing Nazi defenses in Normandy on D-Day. And, in all of her years of service through two world wars, the ship suffered only one combat fatality.
IMG_7473After her service, Battleship Texas was scheduled to be used as a bombing target. However, thanks to efforts on the part of some history-minded Texans, the ship was saved. The Navy towed the USS Texas from Hawkins Point, Baltimore to its present location along Houston’s ship channel to become the nation’s first permanent memorial battleship. She was officially transferred to the state in ceremonies at San Jacinto Battleground on April 21, 1948. That date is important because in 1836, Texans won the battle for Texas independence on April 21 at the Battle of San Jacinto.
Battleship Texas 3-Inch GunsToday, this historic site is maintained by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The site is open seven days a week from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. Park personnel and volunteers are onboard the ship and available to answer questions or to guide you through the upper and lower decks. Believe me when I tell you that this is one fascinating tour.
Battleship Texas CrewAs you consider interesting things to do in the Lone Star State, make it a point to included a visit to Battleship Texas State Historic Site. You will definitely learn some new and interesting things. And you will walk away with a greater appreciation for those who served aboard this mighty ship that played a key role in helping to preserve our democratic way of life.

Founders Memorial Cemetery

Cemeteries, with few exceptions, do not rank high on lists of places to visit. But, perhaps they should. Cemeteries, after all, are the resting places of those who, to whatever degree, have influenced the course of our own lives. If we look back and connect the dots, then the dots in our respective stories will eventually lead us back to a cemetery — perhaps to the grave of a family member or a friend or some historical figure whose life had a far-reaching impact.
Founders Memorial CemeteryThe Founders Memorial Cemetery is the oldest burial ground in Houston and certainly one of the most interesting. Dedicated by the city as a memorial park in 1836, this tranquil two-acre cemetery is the final resting place of several figures important to the history of Houston and the Lone Star State. A marker at the cemetery notes: “This park is dedicated to the men and women — many of whom sleep here — who founded and defended the Republic of Texas.  May they rest in peace”
John Kirby Allen GraveThe land for the cemetery was donated by the Allen Brothers in 1836, the same year these brothers founded the city of Houston. In those years the cemetery was located at the outskirts of town. Today, it is surrounded by skyscrapers and adjacent to Rose of Sharon Missionary Baptist Church in Houston’s Fourth Ward — once known as Freedman’s Town, a community originally settled by freed slaves.
Founders Cemetery Unknown MarkerNo one knows for sure how many people are buried in this old cemetery. The city did not maintain the best of burial records in its very early days. According to a conservative estimate, there may be as many as 850 graves at the site. During the yellow fever and cholera epidemics of the 1850s, many people died and were quickly interred, some in mass graves. What we do know is that there are approximately eighty headstones at the cemetery, many so weather-beaten that their epitaphs are indecipherable.
Founders Cemetery Grave MarkerThere are 28 Texas Centennial Monuments at the cemetery, more than in any other cemetery in Texas except the State Cemetery in Austin. These mark the graves of veterans of the Battle of San Jacinto, dignitaries who served the Republic of Texas, prominent pioneer families and Houston citizens, John Kirby Allen who co-founded Houston, the mother of Republic of Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar, and a signer a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence.
Founders Cemetery Old Grave MarkersFounders Memorial Cemetery is located just west of downtown Houston at 1217 West Dallas. The entrance is located at the intersection of West Dallas and Valentine Street. The memorial park is maintained by the Houston Parks and Recreation Department and is open from dawn to dusk. If you are planning to visit the San Jacinto Monument or other historical sites in the greater Houston area, then add this cemetery to your list. Walk slowly and respectfully among the graves of those who helped shape the history of the Lone Star State.

John Henry Faulk’s Christmas Story

Everybody loves a good story — a real or imaginary account that captures our imagination and transports us to another place or time. That’s what would happen every time my grandfather would tell me a story. The sound of his voice, the subtle inflection of a word, a phrase told in a rising crescendo or trailing off into a whisper. He used these tools of the storyteller to mesmerize me — to unlock the door to my soul where his stories ultimately took up residence.

A few years ago I became acquainted with another storyteller whose masterful delivery also captured my imagination. John Henry Faulk, the fourth of five children, was born in Austin in 1913 and would become one of the Lone Star State’s most beloved storytellers. He was deeply influenced by his freethinking Methodist parents who taught him to detest racism. His post-graduate thesis at the University of Texas was about the civil rights abuses faced by African-Americans.

John Henry FaulkFaulk honed his storytelling abilities while teaching English at the University of Texas and later as a Merchant Marine during the Second World War. His friend Alan Lomax, who worked at the CBS network in New York, hosted several parties during Christmas 1945 to introduce his radio broadcasting friends to Faulk’s yarn-spinning abilities. A few months later, CBS gave Faulk his own weekly radio program, providing him with the thing every storyteller craves — an audience.

Sadly, Faulk’s radio career was derailed in 1957 when he became a victim of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt for Communist sympathizers. The blacklisted storyteller, however, fought back. With support from famed broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow, Faulk won a libel suit against those who had tarnished his reputation. The jury, in fact, awarded him the largest libel judgement in history to that date. In 1963, Faulk chronicled his experience in his book Fear on Trial. CBS television broadcast its movie version of Faulk’s story in 1974.

In his latter years, Faulk made numerous appearances as a homespun character on the popular Hee-Haw television program. He also wrote two one-man plays — Deep in the Heart and Pear Orchard, Texas. Throughout the 1980s he was a popular speaker on college campuses, speaking often on the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. On April 9, 1990, Faulk died of cancer in his hometown of Austin. The city of Austin later named the downtown branch of the public library in his honor.

A few years ago on a dark December night, while traveling to my hometown for Christmas, I tuned in to National Public Radio and heard a story that touched me deeply. The story was one that John Henry Faulk had recorded in 1974 for the program Voices in the Wind. NPR later rebroadcast Faulk’s story in 1994. Every year since then, NPR has rebroadcast Faulk’s heartwarming Christmas Story. This story has earned a place among my favorite Christmas stories and movies. I listen to it every year at Christmas.

Family Listening to RadioI encourage you to take a few minutes to listen to John Henry Faulk’s Christmas Story. Gather your family around and invite them to listen as well. But, be warned. Faulk’s homespun story will mesmerize you. The sound of his voice will transport you back to simpler days before Christmas came under fire. I think you will agree that the Lone Star State produced a great storyteller in John Henry Faulk and that his Christmas story should be heard by a new generation. Best wishes for the most wonderful Christmas ever.

Presidio La Bahia

Presidio La Bahia, the world’s finest example of a Spanish frontier fort, is located outside the town of Goliad. The original fort was built in 1721 on the banks of Garcitas Creek near present day Port Lavaca. When this location proved unsuitable, the fort was moved inland in 1726 to a location near present day Victoria. In 1749, the fort was again relocated to its present location near the banks of the San Antonio River.
Presidio La Bahia BrochurePresidio La Bahia was responsible for the defense of the coastal area and eastern province of Texas. Within time, a settlement called La Bahia (The Bay) grew up around the fort. The name of La Bahia was changed to Goliad in 1829 in honor of Father Miguel Hidalgo, the patriot priest of the Mexican Revolution. Goliad is an anagram formed from the letters of the name Hidalgo (minus the silent letter H).
Presidio La Bahia CannonOn October 9, 1835, Captain George Collinsworth and his band of Texas fighters attacked and defeated the Mexican garrison stationed at the Presidio. On December 20 of that year, the first Declaration of Texas Independence was formally declared at the fort. This Declaration was signed by 92 Texas citizens inside the chapel of Our Lady of Loreto, the oldest building in the compound.
Our Lady of Loreto ChapelThe darkest day in Texas history, the Goliad Massacre, took place at Presidio La Bahia on March 27, 1836 — Palm Sunday. Colonel James Walker Fannin and 341 men under his command had surrendered to General José de Urrea of the Mexican army on March 20 at the Battle of Coleto Creek. The Mexican army held Fannin and his men as prisoners at the Presidio and at the chapel of Our Lady of Loreto.
Goliad MassacreFannin and his men had drafted terms of surrender and expected to be treated with a measure of dignity as prisoners of war. General Urrea, however, told Fannin that he could not ratify his terms. He was bound by Santa Anna’s orders and a congressional decree to accept no terms other than unconditional surrender. And, although General Urrea recommended clemency for Fannin and his men, he later received orders from Santa Anna to execute all of the prisoners. He was left with no choice but to carry out the orders.
Presidio La Bahia DoorsSome of the men were killed on the grounds of the Presidio and others were killed outside the fort. A few managed to escape. Twice as many men died at the Goliad Massacre than died at the Alamo. As news of the Goliad Massacre spread, streams of volunteers came to Texas to take up arms against the brutal dictator Santa Anna. “Remember the Alamo!” and “Remember Goliad!” became the most potent battle cries of the Texas Revolution.
Fannin Memorial MonumentFannin and his men are buried in a mass grave outside of the walls of the Presidio. Their names are etched on the pink granite walls of the Fannin Memorial Monument, erected over the burial site in 1938 by the State of Texas. This site is located next to La Bahia Cemetery where you can find grave markers that date back to the mid-nineteenth century.
Our Lady of Loreto MuralOur Lady of Loreto Chapel, where Fannin and his men spent their final days, is one of the oldest churches in the United States and is still in use today. In 1946, Antonio Garcia of Corpus Christi, known as the “Michelangelo of South Texas,” painted a beautiful fresco behind the altar. Lincoln Borglum, son of Gutzon Borglum of Mount Rushmore fame, sculpted the statue of Our Lady of Loreto that sits in the outside niche above the doors to the chapel.
Presidio La Bahia MuseumYou can learn much more about the history of Presidio La Bahia by visiting this National Historic Landmark. Visitors should watch the brief video that gives a broad overview of the history of the fort before walking through the museum filled with artifacts found on site. The grounds and out buildings are well-maintained and give visitors a sense of what life was like at the Presidio.
Texas Revolution SitesAs you travel the Lone Star State, be sure to visit the sites that preserve the history of the Texas Revolution. Visiting Presidio La Bahia and the Fannin Memorial Monument in Goliad is a great way to remember and honor those who gave their lives for the great state of Texas. Their sacrifice should not be forgotten.

A Texas History Road Trip

Something good happens when you combine book learning with field trips — somehow the things and events that happened in a particular place seem to make more sense. I am a firm believer that being onsite can help folks to gain greater insight. Being in the geographical context of history’s happenings stirs the imagination, stimulates brain activity, promotes conversation, and inspires wonder.

Last week, my friend Brad Flurry and his sons Hunter and Drew joined me for a Texas History road trip. Since we only had a few hours before the boys had to be at football practice, I planned a route to two locations along the Brazos River — San Felipe de Austin and Washington-on-the-Brazos. San Felipe is regarded as the “Cradle of Texas Liberty” and Washington-on-the-Brazos is the place where Texas became Texas.
IMG_5999Before visiting San Felipe, we drove to a spot where the boys could walk down to the Brazos River. This was the perfect setting for talking about the Lone Star State’s longest river, including how it got its name and the role it played in promoting commerce in the early days of Texas. And, of course, it was also a good spot for chucking a few rocks into the river.

San Felipe was the unofficial capital of the colony that Stephen F. Austin founded at this site in 1823. Today, the folks at the San Felipe State Historic Site, a Texas Historical Commission property, guide visitors in understanding the significance of the many historical events that occurred in this community. The site features a hand-dug water well from the period, a museum, and a replica of an old cabin with toys and games from the period.
Flurry Boys at Independence HallFrom San Felipe we drove an hour north to Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site. This is the place where Texas became Texas. In March of 1836, while the Alamo was under siege by Santa Anna’s army, 59 representatives of the Texas settlements met in an unfinished frame building at Washington to make a formal declaration of independence from Mexico. A replica of this building, known as Independence Hall, marks the place where the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed.
Flurry and SonsFrom Independence Hall we hiked to a scenic overlook of the Brazos River and talked about the Runaway Scrape of 1836. As Santa Anna’s armies swept eastward from San Antonio, panic set in among the settlements of Texas. Colonists gathered personal possessions, abandoned their properties and headed eastward under difficult conditions. Settlers often waited days to cross the Brazos at Washington. After the Texas victory at the Battle of San Jacinto, settlers slowly returned to their homes.

To stand at the very spot where the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed or where something like the Runaway Scrape occurred does indeed stir the imagination. And, that’s a good thing! It’s far to easy for us to live disconnected from the past, unaware of how and why we are the beneficiaries of the courage and the sacrifices of those who came before us. The best antidote to that is to personally visit the places that shaped our history.

There are no shortages of affordable day trips from wherever you live in Texas that can help you and your kids gain a greater appreciation for the history of the Lone Star State. I hope you’ll hit the road soon and embark on a Texas history road trip.