From western forts to Victorian mansions and pivotal battlegrounds, the Texas Historical Commission's 20 state historic sites exemplify a breadth of Texas history. Come explore the real stories at the real places.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Young Texans Learn Local History at Old Stories, New Voices Summer Camp

By Cody Mobley, Fort McKavett State Historic Site

Fort McKavett’s parade ground was once again host to the Old Stories, New Voices summer camp. This was the 7th installment of the camp, held at Fort McKavett in conjunction with the Texas State Historical Association.

This year, we had campers ranging from 4th to 6th grade from Houston and Menard. The campers were divided into three “companies” and spent the week on-site learning about local history. The campers helped with flag raising and lowering each day.

They learned about Native American tribes, Buffalo Soldiers, Tejanos, and Fort McKavett history.

They even learned some period drill!

Everyone had a good time during the camp and we hope to see some of them again next year.

Fort McKavett is located west of Menard on FM 864 in the Texas Forts Trail Region.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Newly Restored Fannin Battleground Reopens

By Bryan McAuley, Site Manager

On Sunday, June 24, area residents and supporters of historic preservation celebrated the reopening of the Fannin Battleground State Historic Site. The site had been closed almost a year for the construction of a new restroom facility, restoration of the 1928 bandstand, design and installation of new interpretive panels inside the bandstand structure, a new site entry way, installation of new picnic tables and grill, and conservation of ceremonial elements at the site. In addition, interpretive panels were added to the grounds to inform visitors about the history of the site and its subsequent memorialization.

New entry-way to site
Historic flags display greeted attendees on June 24
The Fannin Battleground site marks the location near Coleto Creek where Fannin and his men were forced to surrender when surrounded by Mexican soldiers on an open plain. The troops were attempting to retreat from Presidio La Bahia (called Fort Defiance) to Victoria on March 19, 1836 when they were overtaken by the advancing Mexican forces. Believing they had negotiated a conditional surrender, the men were marched back to the presidio and held prisoner. Ultimately, Mexican Gen. Santa Anna ordered their mass execution, carried out on Palm Sunday, March 27. The Fannin site is one of three major Texas Revolution-era battlegrounds, along with the Alamo and San Jacinto, preserved and memorialized.

Brazoria Militia, Company 3 Austin’s Battalion
presented cannon crew demonstrations
At the reopening event, attendees browsed the new exhibits and enjoyed the restored bandstand. Speakers on the program included State Rep. Geanie Morrison, Goliad County Judge David Bowman, former Victoria Advocate columnist and area folklorist/historian Henry Wolff, Jr., Goliad County Historical Commission (CHC) member Georgia Lee Swickheimer, and Texas Historical Commission (THC) Executive Director Mark Wolfe.

Colors were presented by American Legion Post 193 of Goliad, and Pastor Anthony Franklin of Union Baptist Church in Fannin led the invocation. The Goliad CHC provided refreshments for attendees, coordinated by Chairman Bil Montague and Commissioner Myra Heard, whose grandfather was a former site superintendent for approximately 40 years. Louis McMillan, owner of McMillan’s BBQ of Fannin, also donated food for attendees. Adding to the festivities were Tom Green, who displayed a collection of historic Texas flags, and the Brazoria Militia, Company 3 – Austin’s Battalion, who provided a living history interpretive station and a cannon crew to fire ceremonial rounds in honor of Fannin and his men.

Reopening ceremony at Fannin Battleground
THC Executive Director Mark Wolfe addresses the crowd
State Rep. Geanie Morrison, local author Henry Wolff, Jr., Goliad CHC member Georgia Lee Swickheimer, and Tim Von Dohlen, former state representative,
address the crowd at the Fannin Battleground reopening
Preparing to present colors, America Legion Post 193
Pastor Anthony Franklin offers invocation
Goliad County Judge David Bowman welcomes attendees
The extensive projects completed prior to the reopening event involved several partners. Contract architects on the project were Fisher Heck, Inc. represented by Lewis Fisher and Robert Lee. Structural engineers supporting the project were Calvetti & Associates, Professional Engineers, Inc., represented by Lawrence Calvetti. Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering was provided by CNG Engineering, represented by Sharad V. Paranjape, Steven Glenn, and Jerry Caballero. Civil engineering on the project was provided by Urban Engineering, represented by Ryan E. Wessels. The project contractor was D. Wilson Construction Company represented by project managers Bill Wilson, Tim Bentley, and David Musch and site superintendent Bryan Knowles.

Restored 1928 bandstand and exterior panel
Goliad CHC offered refreshments at the covered picnic area
The new exhibit installation involved the work of designers Content Design Collaborative represented by Edward Malouf and Carol Leib. Exhibit fabrication and installation was conducted by Custom Creations Exhibits and Environments represented by Greg Dykes.

Visitors enjoy the new exhibits inside the restored bandstand
Restored gate
THC staffers involved with the project were Chief Architect Glenn Reed, Project Design Assistant David Henners, Interpretive Planner Hal Simon, and Sites Supervisor Brett Cruse. THC field staff included Chris Elliott and Bryan McAuley, site managers, and John Justice, maintenance supervisor. Of special note were the maintenance staffers who contributed to preparing the site for reopening in the last weeks of the project, including Glen Korth from Fort Lancaster State Historic Site, Efrem Hill from Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site, and Dusty Fritts from Levi Jordan Plantation State Historic Site.

Fannin Battleground is located in southeast Texas, approximately 90 miles north of Corpus Christi and 100 miles southeast of San Antonio. The site is part of the Texas Independence Trail Region.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Varner-Hogg Plantation Remembers Juneteenth

By Amanda McVay, site educator, and Angela Pfeiffer, site curator

On June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Union General Gordon Granger issued General Order no. 3, which freed the remaining slaves in the United States. Texas is considered the first state to begin the observance of this special moment in history, known as Juneteenth. For many Americans, it is a day that symbolizes freedom and honors the legacy of once-enslaved African Americans.

In commemoration of this day, Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site held its annual Juneteenth Memorial Service on Saturday, June 16. About 40 people attended the service, which included readings by Varner-Hogg Plantation staff, songs, and a blessing by West Columbia community members.

Led in spirit and song, guests then tossed carnations and a commemorative wreath into Varner Creek, symbolizing a return to African shores.

Following the service, visitors were treated to red velvet cupcakes, molasses cookies, and lemonade sponsored by the Friends and Volunteers of Varner-Hogg Plantation. Special thanks to historical reenactor Flem Rogers and the members of the Trinity Worship and Outreach Ministry for taking part in this memorable event. We are looking forward to an even bigger celebration next year!

Varner-Hogg Plantation is located approximately 60 miles south of Houston and is part of the Texas Independence Trail Region.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Moyeboy-51 Book Signing at Landmark Inn

By Jose Zapata, Landmark Inn Site Manager

The Friends of the Landmark Inn hosted a book signing at the Landmark Inn on Saturday, June 16. Captain Luis A. Jimenez, USAF (Ret.) was at the site to discuss his autobiography Moyeboy-51. The book’s title alludes to the author’s formative years as a cadet at the Moye Military Academy (1946-51). His experience at the academy emphasized discipline, hard work, and self-confidence—attributes he used in achieving his goals and dreams.

Capt. Jimenez discussed growing up in Presidio in Far West Texas, and coming to Castroville at the age of nine.  He reminisced about his school years, including the activities and his teachers—the Sisters of Divine Providence. The Sisters operated the Moye Military Academy, a boarding school for boys from 1938 through 1959. It is now operated as the Moye Center, a place for renewal and retreat.

The Friends of the Landmark Inn will host another book signing on July 14 for the book Medina Lake by R.H. Norton and K.D. Ripley. This is a very timely publication, since Medina Lake will celebrate its 100th anniversary this August.

Landmark Inn State Historic Site is located in Castroville, approximately 20 miles west of San Antonio, in the Texas Hill Country Trail Region.