THE TEXAS Historical Commission publishes a slick-paper magazine, The Medallion, four times a year. The summer issue,which arrived the other day, featured a retrospective on its 50th anniversary.
The opening page sent me back in memory to the 1960s, when Upshur County was embarked on its most significant program of acquiring official state historical markers.
Not that this was a new thing, Texans being as prideful as we are about our unique history. (The only state to exist under six flags, and so on.)
THE FIRST official state historical monument, Heroes of the Alamo, was dedicated on the south side of the newly built Texas state capitol in 1891.
The Legislature created the Texas State Library and Historical Commission in 1909 and charged it with collecting historical materials, marking historic sites and getting structures preserved.
The 1910s were an active time ,and began a century that led to today’s total of more than 15,000 historical markers and monuments statewide.
In 1911, the Legislature appropriated funds to memorialize both the Father of Texas, Stephen F. Austin, and the first woman to receive an official state marker.
She was Elizabeth Crockett, wife of Alamo defender David Crockett; she is buried at Acton in Hood County.
AT THE DEDICATION of the Crockett monument in 1913, State Senator Pierce Ward remarked: “History discloses the fact that man never plays the hero alone. In all great accomplishments the hand of woman may be discerned…well may the State of Texas erect this monument [to] the sainted wife of David Crockett and the mother of his children, who shared his trials and stimulated his devotion to his country; to the helpmate who willingly yielded her claims that her husband might respond to the call of duty and who, when deprived of his aid and support, bravely undertook the task under great and trying conditions, surrounded by difficulties and burdened by hardships, in the wilds of an undeveloped country.”
From 1915 through 1918, the State of Texas and the Daughters of the American Revolution together placed 123 pink granite markers about every five miles along the King’s Highway, also known as Camino Real or Old San Antonio Road, the trail blazed in 1690 by Alonso de Leon. Most of these markers are still intact.
THE MOST ambitious program to mark historic sites across the state came more than 75 years ago.
In 1936, the Texas Centennial Commission placed more than 1,100 markers and monuments around the state to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Texas Revolution and the establishment of the Republic of Texas.
The Texas State Historical Survey Committee (later the Texas Historical Commission) was created in 1953, and in the 1950s and 1960s placed pink granite monuments and grave markers across Texas. Many of these commemorated the centennial of the Civil War.
THE CURRENT Official Texas Historical Marker program dates to 1962. It has been a popular way to interpret history and encourage “heritage tourism.”
The Texas Historical Commission’s website includes a history of this program.
Of special interest to me on this site was a photo of my daughter, Sally Greene, then a small child, with U. S. Sen. Ralph Yarborough next to the “Sam Houston spoke here” marker on the courthouse lawn in Gilmer.
The year was 1964, and Yarborough’s visit was part of his successful campaign for reelection as U. S. senator from Texas.