TEXAS INDEPENDENCE TRAILS
In the saga of Texas history, no period is so distinctive, so accented by epic events, as the interval of Texas' struggle for independence and its formative years as a sovereign republic. Climactic dates from that era are still celebrated as holidays by Texans. The period's heroes are remembered in the names of cites and town, streets, plazas, and public buildings. The Lone Star flag, inherited from the republic, flies prominently throughout the state.
Compared with the scope of twentieth-century distances and population, the stage upon which those small groups of early patriots cast their lot for Texas freedom was a relatively limited area. Most of that area is surveyed by the Texas Independence Trail.
But the Trail is far more than a history route. Although the sites of strife...landscapes that witnessed triumph and tragedy...appear repeatedly along Trail miles, they are only historical threads that link a modern odyssey of discovery through one of the state's most rewarding regions for travelers. Trail drivers will discover coastal playgrounds along the blue Gulf of Mexico, abundant visitor attractions in Texas' largest city, some genuine ghost towns, the headquarters for America's astronauts, towns where the accents of European settlers are still prominent, a rare botanical park, and much, much more.
Because of space limitations, descriptions are devoted mainly to the driving route. It is advised that Trail drivers obtain a free copy of the Texas State Travel Guide, which provides complementary details about points of interest n many of the cities and towns along the route. An Official Highway Travel Map will also be useful. They can be obtained from any Texas Travel Information Center or by calling 1-800-452-9292.
For even more information about local accommodations, campgrounds, and tourist activities, visit the chambers of commerce in the town, or call them before leaving on this exciting and informative trip.
The Trail's starting point is the city of Houston, the major metropolitan area on the route. The Trail description is then presented in a clockwise direction. However, the Trail may be begun at any point and driven in either direction by carefully consulting the supplement's map and the descriptive text. See the map's legend for information about special Trail signs and arrows on the highway.
Population is 1,705,697 and the Alt. is 55. Harris County
The scope of Houston's attractions for visitors is so broad that no amount of editorializing could ever do it justice. Review Houston's highlights in the state travel guide - the fabulous Astroworld and Astrodome, the superb Museum of Fine Arts, the busy Port of Houston, and the elaborate Hermann Park zoo - but remember that those listings are only highlights. For real details that every visitor should know an abundance of free brochures, maps, and visitor tips, be sure to stop at the city's Visitor Information Center, at 3300 Main Street. It is open from Mon. thru Fri. from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is free parking and even drive-up window service.
To enrich your Trail adventure, plan to spend plenty of time to explore Houston and its abundant visitor amenities!!!
The series of historical events being traced by the Texas Independence Trail climaxed on a flat coastal prairie east of Houston on April 21, 1836. The Trail's first segment aims toward that site, etched in history as the San Jacinto Battleground.
Since the previous year, when open hostilities had flared between Mexican authorities and Anglo-American settlers in Texas, the Texans had suffered a series of military disasters. Picture the situation. Much of Texas was uninhabited, Anglo-American settlers were grouped in small pockets of frontier log cabin settlements. There were no communications except by horseback, only the framework of anew provisional government, and no standing army.
Mexico, on the other hand, had been an established entity for nearly three centuries and had won its own independence from Spain 15 years earlier. Santa Anna, Mexico's dictator who styled himself "the Napoleon of the West, " gathered an army of thousands and marched north to crush the rebellious Texans.
Sam Houston desperately tried to forge a fighting force from among frontiersmen who by nature resisted regimentation and by geography were scattered throughout the wilderness that was Texas. After wiping out the Alamo defenders in San Antonio, Santa Anna marched eastward, aiming or the village of Harrisburg (now Houston), where the Texas provisional government was located. Sam Houston retreated before the Mexican army, slowly gathering his forces.
Santa Anna dispatched various elements of his army here and there, finding mostly abandoned settlements. He took Harrisburg, burned the empty village, and then moved in pursuit of the Texans, who had fled to Galveston Island.
Pausing on the Coastal Plain at San Jacinto, Santa Anna probably believed victory was within his grasp. The Texans were elusive but had offered no serious resistance since the Alamo. Sam Houston chose the siesta hour of 3:30 p.m. to strike. The outnumbered Texans, who had retreated across 200 miles, burst from the plain's bordering woodlands, howling for retribution.
History records that the battle lasted only 18 minutes. It was a complete route of the Mexican forces.
Today a 570 foot monument soars above the San Jacinto Battleground State Park, which is also the home of the Battleship Texas. Refer to the park's summary under Houston in the state travel guide and don't miss these outstanding visitor sites on the Texas Independence Trail.
From the state park, the Trail loops into Baytown via the historic Lynchburg ferry. There has been a ferry here since 1822. The fishy waters where the San Jacinto River enters Galveston Bay attracts hosts of anglers and crabbers intent on their hand lines.
Population is 60,676 and the Alt. is 26. Harris County
This industrial city is prominently oriented toward oil and petrochemicals, with dozens of plants, including Exxon, Gulf, Celanese, Sinclair, United Rubber, and Du Pont.
Visitors find abundant fishing outfitters and guides. Goose and duck hunters converge on the area's bays and rice fields during the fall hunting season. For details about visitor sites and accommodations, visit the Baytown Chamber of Commerce at 2 west Texas Avenue.
Enormous groundwater usage from the industrial growth of the Houston metro region has resulted in the phenomenon of subsidence, especially in the Baytown area, where land levels have sunk as much as nine feet. Geologists and hydrologists are concerned that if the problem continues, some areas may take on aspects similar to subsidence locales like Venice, Italy.
Between Baytown and LaPorte, the Trail route (Texas 146) leads under the busy Houston Ship Channel through the only tunnel in the Texas highway system.
The population is 23,852 and the Alt. is 28
La Porte's most famous attraction Sylvan Beach is described in the state travel guide, and a sign at West J Street points the way to this county park. Personnel at the chamber of commerce, 100 West Main, can give directions to Barbers's Cut, where oceangoing vessels on their way to and from the Port of Houston pass close by, and to Bay Ridge Road, with its turn-of-the-century mansions, including the duplicate of the White House built by Ross Sterling, former Texas governor and founder of Humble Oil Company ( now Exxon).
The San Jacinto museum, in an old interurban depot on Park Road 1836, encapsulates Texas history from Indian times though the nineteenth century.
South of LaPorte are the towns of Seabrook, Kemah, and Bacliff, once quiet bayside villages, now busy recreational hubs. Here's where America's astronauts dock their pleasure craft, along with those of fellow engineers, scientists, and space age technicians, because the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (3) is just four miles west, on NASA Road 1.
No other spot in the world offers such a complete introduction to space travel. See the latest on space shuttle flights, massive rockets that hurled astronauts to the moon, exhibits of incredible, futuristic technology... and it's all free. Review the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center listing under Houston in the state travel guide and don't miss a personal visit to this highlight on the Texas Independence Trail!!'
Between Kemah and Texas City, in front of a huge generating plant of the Houston Lighting and Power Company, is a small man-made hill. At its summit a large terrazzo map shows features of the wide-spreading Coastal Plain.
The population is 43,551 and the Alt is 12
Petroleum, with its myriad plants, tanks, and refineries, again dominates the landscape of Texas City, but there are coastal visitor amenities too. Review the city's entry in the Texas State Travel Guide and for firsthand details stop at the Texas City/LaMarque Chamber of Commerce, 8419 E.F. Lowry Expressway.
Students of historic disasters often make their way to Texas City's Moore memorial Library for details about one of the worst U.S. catastrophes in the twentieth century. In April 1947, the French freighter Grandcamp, loading explosive ammonium nitrate, caught fire and exploded at a Texas City dock. Surrounding wharves, oil refineries, warehouses, and chemical plants were demolished; hundred of other fires were started, including several aboard adjacent ships. Hours later another burning ship exploded. The death toll was 576 with more than 3,000 other seriously injured. The library offers abundant articles and photographs about the disaster.
The population is 62,379 and the Alt. is 20. Located in Galveston County
Galveston, on one of Texas' best-known coastal islands, is a premier visitor city! Eminent historic charm accents modern visitor amenities. To whet your sight seeing appetite, review Galveston's abundant attractions in the state travel guide. Then, for details about accommodations, superb dining, outstanding tours, and seaside recreation, stop at the city's Visitor Information Center in Moody Civic Center, Seawall Boulevard at 21st Street. Your entire Trail experience will be enriched by a thorough exploration of Galveston.
Geologists say that Galveston, a sand-barrier island, came along just in time for the pleasure of modern Texas. Unlike other parts of the state, where dinosaurs roamed a hundred million years ago, Galveston Island's formation can be traced back some 5,000 years. By longshore drift of the Gulf of Mexico, the island was built with sand from the Mississippi River Basin.
You will be roaming the beaches of Galveston. Watch for lighting wheils (the Texas state seashell), sand dollars, fragile sea pens, beautiful angel wings, colorful busicons (often occupied by hermit crabs) and if you're lucky, perhaps a rare, glossy white wentletap with ornamental ribs. you'll find bits of coral, driftwood, and sea beans from Jamaica. Bookstores should be able to provide Texas Shell: A field Guide, by Jean Andrews, to help you sort out the seaside abundance.
The Trail route southwest along Galveston Island offers many beach-access opportunities. All Texas beaches are public and may be enjoyed by all passerby.
Six miles southwest of the city Galveston Island State Park is one of the area's most popular recreational sites. Review the park's list of visitor facilities in the state travel guide and note the special feature of outdoor musicals, presented each evening except Sunday from early June through late August. Broadway type shows alternate nightly.
A toll bridge 24 miles southwest of Galveston crosses San Luis Pass. Just after crossing the bridge, you will see San Luis County Park on your right. In early days a stagecoach came here from Galveston (an all day trip) and crossed by mule-drawn ferry. That vintage ferry washed away more than a century ago, and there was no crossing until 1966, when this bridge was built. The village of San Luis was established here in 1832, but shifting tidal currents filled the harbor with sand, and the village was abandoned by 1844.
Thirteen miles southwest of the bridge, Stahlman Park provides visitors with picnic tables, grills, and a beach for surf fishing. Bird watching can be rewarding here too (or anywhere on West Galveston Island), since 95 percent of the known species of North American shorebirds spend some time on the island.
This is the Surfside area, a seaside fishing and recreational community built on the site of historic Velasco, where the peace treaty between the new Republic of Texas and Mexico was signed in 1836. Velasco was virtually wiped out in an 1875 hurricane: when rebuilt, it was named Surfside. Two historical markets on the north side of the Trail tell the story of Velasco.
A high bridge crosses the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway into Freeport. Built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the waterway girdles the Gulf for 1,300 miles, from Brownsville, Texas to Florida, providing sheltered passage for barge and pleasure boat traffic. Although the waterway is seen by the public at only a few spots, its enormous annual transportation volume exceeds that of either the Panama Canal or the St.Lawrence Seaway.
The population is 17,795 and the Alt. is 55. Matagorda County
Review Bay City's summary in the state travel guide and plan a visit to the Matagorda County Museum. The town hosts RV visitors from northern climes in winter and fishermen throughout the year who ply the waters of the Colorado River down to its confluence with Matagorda Bay on the coast. Details about visitor sites and local festival events are available at the chamber of commerce, 2420 7th Street (Texas 35).
Matagorda,(9) off the Trail south of Bay City via Texas 60, is a quiet bayside village popular with anglers. Fishing boats and guides are available for hire, and the coastline in this area offers 20 miles of surf fishing and primitive camping.
A mile and a half west of the intersection of Texas 60 and FM 521 below Wadsworth, just north of the Trail, is the historic St. Francis Church. (10) A marker give details.
Between Bay City and Palacios the Trail crosses an area that is typical of the Texas Coastal Plain. More than three quarters of this county is made up of similar treeless prairie, and ranching is a major industry here.
The trail crosses the Colorado River and several small streams, including Tres Palacios River, which soon becomes Tres Palacios Bay. The name, supposedly selected by a group of shipwrecked Spaniards, means "three palaces."
The population is 4,603 and the Alt. is 17. Matagorda County
Entering Palcios from the north, continue on Texas BR 35 to First Street and the beach area. For a historic feature, follow the beachfront road west four blocks to the Luther Hotel. Built in 1903, it served as a social and cultural center during the area's development by land companies. Said to have had the longest front porch in Texas (since razed) in its heyday, the hotel employed a resident orchestra to play for guests at mealtimes and give public concerts on Sunday afternoons. The hotel still accepts guests and is booked solid with winter visitors from December to March. Across from the hotel are free fishing piers.
The town is another popular coastal sport for fishermen. Marinas provide bait, tackle, and boat service; bay and surf fishing are almost always productive. Visit the chamber of commerce, 312 Main Street, for details.
As the Trail leaves Palacios to rejoin Texas 35, you will see fleets of shrimp boats and shipyards. Those interested in marine biology will enjoy a tour of the Marine Fisheries Research Station. (Leave the Trail 7.5 miles west, then south 5 miles.) Some 20 miles west of Palacios near a roadside park note the trees. whose leaning forms are shaped by the prevailing sea breezes.
At the eastern end of the Port causeway n Point Comfort, a marker tells of historic Cox's Point. Behind the marker is an 1850's lighthouse, moved here from its original location near Palacios.
The population is 12,349 and the Alt. is 19. Calhoun County
The causeway across Lavaca Bay into Port Lavaca rises in the center to permit passage of ships beneath. This structure replaces a bridge destroyed by Hurricane Carla in 1961. Portions of that old bridge are now fishing piers. On the Port Lavaca side, a 3,200 foot span is operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a state fishing pier, with bait and tackle concession, snack bar, lights, rest rooms, boat ramp, and limited camping area. A nominal fee is charged for fishing.
Just north of the western end of the causeway is the site of Linnville, established about 1831 around a warehouse handling goods for Mexican trace. A Comanche raid in 1840 destroyed the town, and no evidence of it remains. But what is perhaps the "lost" city of Texas, Indianola, is also nearby, accessible by a 14 mile side trip to the south. It's a fascinating story about the awesome destructive power that can be generated by hurricanes. Read the Indianola account in the Texas State Travel Guide and also review the highlights of Port Lavaca.
For complete visitor information and directions to the Indianola site, stop at the Port Lavaca-Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce on the Trail highway, across from the offices of the State Department of Highways and Public Transportation.
West of Port Lavaca the Trail arrows through low coastal prairies; the highest point in Calhoun County is only 50 feet above sea level. To the west along the Texas 185 leg of the Trail is Green Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake totally in Texas, covering 10,000 acres. Named for the water's greenish cast, the lake is unusual because salt water, although close to San Antonio Bay, never reaches the lake, not even at high tide. Bird life abounds, and thousands of egrets are permanent residents.
Between Green Lake and Victoria, the Trail crosses the Heyser Oil Field, evidenced by a refinery to the wet, nodding pump jacks, and a pipeline pump station to the east.
Trail drivers often see slim white birds in roadside pastures, usually close to livestock. They are African cattle egrets, so named for their habit of staying close to livestock and feeding on insects (grasshoppers, locusts, et.) disturbed by the animals' movement and grazing. The African birds appeared spontaneously in South America several decades ago. In Texas they became noticeable to the general public in the 1960s, and they are now prominent in pastures over much of the state' southern regions. Ornithologists believe that the egrets have reached the northern limit of comfortable habitat.
The population is 55,113 and the Alt. is 93. Victoria County
Victoria is an especially historic town, founded by Spanish colonists in 1824. Anglo-American ranchers and German farmers supplemented the population in the later 1800s. The Victoria Memorial Square, just a block off the Trail at De Leon and Commercial streets, is of special historical interest. The square includes graves of pioneers and a wind-driven gristmill with parts that were brought from Germany before the Civil War.
Visitor highlights include historical and art museums, the Texas Zoo, Riverside Park, and some charming residential areas of century-old homes. Review Victoria's summary in the state travel guide and stop for firsthand details at the chamber of commerce, located at 700 Main Center, Suite 101.
At the west edge of Victoria, where the Trail crosses the Guadalupe River, a historical marker notes that a ford here was used by both Indians and early settlers.
Ten miles west of the river, on the bank of Coleto Creek, is a pleasant roadside picnic area with a marker summarizing the history of Victoria County.
Seven miles west of Coleto Creek it is possible to take an excellent side trip to a site of primary significance to the theme of the Independence Trail. FM 2506 south will lead you to Fannin Battleground State Park. There, during the Texas struggle for independence in 1836, Colonel James W. Fannin and some 400 Texans were outflanked and surrounded by a superior Mexican army force led by General Jose Urrea, one of Santa Anna's most able commanders. Historical markers tell of the surrender, on what Fannin believed were honorable, prisoner-of-war terms. The tragic outcome will be summarized at the next city on the Texas Independence Trail. This historic site is a day-use park (no camping) with picnic pavilion, water, and rest rooms.
The population is 2,089 and the Alt. is 187
Goliad was one of the most important cities in early Texas history. Trail travelers should plan to spend ample time here, exploring the locations of dramatic historical events amid superbly restorations from the past. For details, review Goliad's substantial entry in the Texas State Travel Guide.
The restored Mission Espiritu Santo is in Goliad State Park. The Spanish mission dates from 1749 and contains an excellent museum that interprets Spain's far flung efforts to colonize the New World.
Also in Goliad is Presidio La Bahia, a Spanish fort that was founded to protect the nearby mission endeavors. It, too, is a superb restoration, the world's finest example of a frontier Spanish fort. It was here that Fannin and his troops were held briefly after their surrender to Mexican forces at nearby Coleto. A week later (March 27, 1836), on orders of Santa Anna, the entire group of Texan prisoners were marched out an executed.
In Goliad itself, another site of interest is the old courthouse; its clock tower and turrets were destroyed in a 1942 hurricane, but the handsome carved staircases and original wainscoting remain. On the courthouse lawn is the Hanging Tree, where it is said as many as five bodies hung at one time during the bloody outbreak known as the Cart War of 1857.
At the corner of South Market and Franklin streets is Fannin Plaza, with historical markers and a cannon from the Texas Revolution. Across the street in the Market House Museum building, the chamber of commerce can fill you in with visitor and printed material.
Northwest of Goliad, the Independence Trail moves into the Reynolds Escarpment, whose rolling landscapes are far different from the flat coastal prairies.
Between Runge and Helena the Trail follows almost exactly the original Ox Cart Road that ran between the port of Indianola and San Antonio. The route is one of the oldest in Texas and was the focal point of the Cart War in 1857, when Texas freighters joined in attacking Mexican drivers. Some 70 people were killed before the "war" (actually a labor dispute) was quelled by the Texas Rangers.
The Ox Cart Road crossed the Ojo de Agua ("eye of water") stream at Runge, and historical markers on the square give details of this early Polish settlement.
Helena is nearly a ghost town. The reason is a fascinating bit of frontier lore that's recounted in the state travel guide. A historical marker near the Trail intersection with Texas 80 also provides details. The town's former courthouse is now a museum of area history with early trail, ranch, and household artifacts; open Tues. - Sat.
Panna Maria is recognized as the oldest Polish settlement in North America. Several local historical markers tell the story of the community's founding in 1854 and of other Polish settlements that sprang from here. The local church, with its icons and other European accents, is well worth a visit, as is the Historical Society Museum, housed in what was once St. Joseph's School, believed to have been the first Polish private school in America.
Immediately north of Panna Maria is the center of uranium mining in Texas. Low, symmetrical hills on the north horizon are manmade-built of soil displaced during mining operations, shaped and seeded with grass for livestock grazing. Mining began here in 1960, following the accidental discovery of ore deposits during an aerial survey that was actually seeking oil-drilling sites.
From Panna Maria the Trail wanders through rural landscapes and small villages, including Hobso, Falls City, and Poth. Small cultivated fields alternate with improved, grassy pastures and native thickets choked with mesquite and prickly pear cactus. Near Falls City travelers may note the many dairy farms, which provide much of San Antonio's milk supply.
The population is 4,952 and the Alt. is 389
Sandy soils of the area are especially suited to the production of peanuts, and the town's biggest festival salutes the lowly legume during the second week of October. Can you visualize a million pounds of peanuts? Wilson County produces some 30 million pounds each year.
Check the state travel guide for directions to a Canary Islanders cemetery here. Spanish colonist from the Canary Islands were the first civil settlers in Texas. The cemetery dates from the early 1730s, and many prominent Texas families proudly trace their lineage back to these settlers.
West of Floresville the Trail again crosses the San Antonio River and continues through areas with vivid examples of land management. Some fields show the land's "native" appearance - thickets of mesquite, huisache, blackbrush, atclaw, and prickly pear cactus, with only scattered clumps of sparse grass. Other fields show the remarkable transformation when brush has been cleared, the land leveled and planted to superior grass (often called Coastal Berumuda). The soil that looked barren in the thickets produces luxuriant growths of grasses on which sleek cattle graze. Clearing, replanting, and a rigorous regiment of maintenance are expensive, but the result of such careful management has seen productivity increases of more than 600 percent.
Elmendorf, in Bexar County, was established in 1885 to take advantage of local clay deposits suitable for brick-making, an industry still in existence.
East of San Antonio the Trail passes through the town of Saint Hedwig, whose city-limit signs appear to be in the country. It is a sprawling area whose business center is east of the Trail on FM 1346. The village, which is dominated by a large church, seems at a distance to be much like a European village, and with good reason. It was settled by immigrants from Gros Strehiltz in upper Silesia in 1852 and named for the patron saint of Silesia.
North of I-10, the main artery between Houston and San Antonio, the Trail skirts the eastern edge of Randolpoh Air Force Base, one of the nation's oldest.
According the theme of the Independence Trail, San Antonio should be a prominent feature- with its capture and recapture during the period of hostilities and its distinction as the location of the hallowed Alamo. However, San Antonio lies on another route (the Hill Country Trail), and to avoid confusion, modern Texas Travel Trails don't cross. But supplement formats need not deter actual Trail drivers. Review San Antonio's abundant features in the state travel guide and drive in for a visit. For details, stop at the city's Visitor Information Center, 317 Alamo Plaza.
At Scherts the Trail aims eastward toward Seguin, passing through villages including Cibolo (Indian for "buffalo"), said to have been the inspiration for O.Henry's story "The Smiling Valley of the Cibolo."
The population is 18,904 and the Alt. is 520. Guadalupe County.
The city is named for Juan N. Seguin, a prominent Mexican-Texan who served in Sam Houston's army that won Texas independence and who later held several distinguished positions in Texas city, republic, and the state governments. Today the city is experiencing substantial growth generated by the expansion of San Antonio.
Many pre-Texas Revolution homes and buildings are extant, offering excellent opportunities for historical sight-seeing and exploration. Review Seguin's listing in the state travel guide and for in person details about visitor amenities, stop at the chamber of commerce, 427 N. Austin Street.
Between Seguin and Gonzales the Trail highway (FM 466) is a popular springtime sight-seeing drive- pleasing pastoral landscapes accented by graceful live oaks, roadsides and meadows splashed with astonishing colors of massed bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, gaillardia, and coreopsis.
At the community of Cost, a roadside market cites the first shot of the Texas Revolution, on October 2, 1835. Relations between Texas colonists and Mexican authorities had become increasingly strained. A small group of Mexican troops sought to reclaim a cannon that had been loaned to the colonists for protection from raiding Indians. The Texans refused to return the cannon, challenging the Mexicans to "come and take it." Only a minor skirmish ensued, and the Mexican troops withdrew along this route, then known as Capote Road, toward San Antonio. A monument at the exact site of the confrontation (25) is a mile north of the Trail highway, on Spur 95.
The population is 7,977 and the Alt. is 292
At the south end of the bridge over the Guadalupe River, a monument indicates the spot where Mexican authorities first demanded return of the canon mentioned above. The dispute was apparently a mobile one, because it was several miles west (at Cost) that the first shots were fired.
The town is filled with historical markers - Santa Anna Mound, where the Mexican army camped the next year while pursuing Sam Houston's forces after the fall of the Alamo: markers that cite the original Spanish plat of the town, with streets and plazas much as they remain today; and plaques devoted to Civil War sites.
Review Gonzales highlights in the state travel guide and visit the chamber of commerce in the restored old jail on the courthouse square downtown. Brochures available there will guide you through out the city.
Two miles northwest of Gonzales the Trail crosses the San Marcos River, which begins some 40 miles north, issuing form huge springs at the Balcones Fault, which marks the edge of the Texas Hill Country. There, Aquarena Springs is a tourist feature on the Texas Hill Country Trail.
Through Palmetto State Park the Independence Trail uses Park Road 11. This drive is of special interest to botanists because of the large variety of plant life. Descriptive brochures interpret the nature trails, as do the nature center's displays. Trailer sites are included in the camping and picnicking facilities; admission is charged.
Near the center of the park area, just south on FM 1586, is the Texas Rehabilitation Center, better known as the Gozales Warm Springs Foundation.
The city of Luling is famous for its watermelons, and tons of the delectable fruit are shipped every year to pints as far away as Alaska. The Luling Watermelon Thump, with appropriate parades and contests (usually the last weekend in June), recognizes the economic and gastronomic merits of this member of the gourd family.
Oil was discovered under the town itself in 1922, and today visitors will see pump jacks in and around town, some in incongruous spots like church lawns, residential back yards, and city parks, and some decorated as cartoon characters.
Much of the land between Luling and Lockhart is devoted to livestock pastures. Communities along the way include Stairtown, Prairie Lea, and Fentress. Prairie Lea, founded about 1848, was populated largely by slave holding families and was the site of a women's college in 1854. Fentress was once a popular family river-camp recreational area.
Just southwest of Lockhart, the Trail passes Lockhart State Park, which offers swimming, golf, picnicking, nature trails, camping, and RV sites. The park is near the site of a major Indian battle that occurred on August 12, 1840. A huge war part of Comanches had swept down the Guadalupe Valley to the Gulf Coast (see Linnville, mentioned earlier under Port Lavaca), killing settlers, stealing horses, plundering, and burning. A volunteer force of settlers, troops, and Texas Rangers rode out to meet the returning war party and defeated it at nearby Plum Creek.
The population is 9,045 and the Alt. is 518. Caldwell County
Although the Trail route only skirts the south edge of Lockhart, Trail drivers will enjoy a visit downtown to see the flamboyant county courthouse, built about 1893, and turn-of-the-century business houses. Review the town's highlights in the state travel guide and visit the chamber of commerce, at 208 E. San Antonio Street, for details.
Between Lockhart and Bastrop, Trail travelers will be treated to a series of idyllic rural landscapes. Fine blooded horses and cattle graze lush pastures; neat cultivated fields make the most of rich, black soils; silos and barns accent showplace farms and ranches.
There's an unusual off-the Trail opportunity for those who relish classic, vintage autos. The Central Texas Museum of Automotive History showcases nearly eight decades of automotive production. The museum is 12 miles south of the Trail, on Texas 304 (not on Trail map).
The population is 4,802 and the Alt. is 374. Bastrop County
From a historical standpoint, Bastrop is a small, choice treasure. From a modern visitor's standpoint, the town's quaint, old-fashioned ambiance is equally choice. First, read in the state travel guide bout the astonishing man for whom the town is named and review the list of Bastrop's historical highlights. Then visit the local chamber of commerce, at 1010 College Street, where you will find a wealth of local historical interpretation and guidance along the town's Memorial Medallion Trail.
Off the Trail, east of Bastrop, Loop 150 leads to Bastrop State Par, in the heart of the strange "Lost Pines." The forest of native loblolly pines, covering only some 70 square miles, is isolated by more than a hundred miles from the vast pine forests of East Texas. The park's rustic buildings and cabins are built of native stone and walnut, bois d'sarc, and cedar woods.
Park Road 1 connects Bastrop and Buescher state parks on a leisurely 10 mile drive through beautiful wooded hills. The road is accessible as a through route only to visitors who pay the park entrance fee.
The town of Smithville, at the eastern gateway to Buescher State Park, offers several handsome old homes. While not open to the public, they're well worth a drive-by look; the Hill house at 502 Olive, the Burleson home at 207 east Eighth, and the Yerger Hill home at 400 Main Street, with its huge magnolia tree.
Drivers will enjoy a pleasant pause at a scenic overlook in a roadside picnic area four miles east of Smithville. Three miles farther east, another picnic area is significant: Set in a group of live oaks on the south side of the highway, this was the very first roadside park to become an official part of the Texas highway system. In fact, according to current research, this site introduced the concept of roadside parks to the nation. Texas now has some 1,100 such miniature parks along its roadways.
The population is 4,194 and the Alt. is 272
The agricultural lands of this region were originally settled by colonists of Austin's "Old Three Hundred," and the town was named by settlers from Fayette County, Tennessee, for their hometown, La Grange. Historical accents are found throughout the city. Visit the local chamber of commerce, located on the square at 129 North Main, for details and review the town's features, especially Monument Hill State Park in the Texas State Travel Guide.
The scenic site, high above the Colorado River Valley, is the final resting place of casualties from two clashes with Mexican forces during the uneasy days of the Republic, when hostilities were ever ready to erupt on both sides. One such clash was the ill-advised Mier Expedition, which was to be a punitive thrust into Mexico. The tactic failed, and captive Texans were forced to participate in a bizarre death lottery. Blindfolded, each man drew a bean from a jar of white and black beans. A white bean meant internment: a black one, execution.
Bluffs on the Colorado River in this area expose Oak filled sandstone deposited by Miocene rivers several million years ago. It's the same sandstone formation that is mined for uranium near Panna Maria (mentioned earlier, between Goliad and Floresvile).
In the town of Warrenton is the handsome Neese home, immediately by the Trail highway. Built by local merchant in 1869-70, the structure had its entire second floor devoted to a ballroom. Tragically, the home's builder was killed during a robbery of his store just before his house was completed. The house is not open to the public, but the folks at the small store across the road cheerfully give more details.
A mile east of Warrenton is what Robert L. Ripley once said was the smallest Catholic church in the U.S.A. And a mile east of the church is the interesting Florida Chapel Cemetery, where the monument styles and names are reminders of early German and Czech settlers in this area. There's also a marker at the original gravesite of Joel W. Robinson, one of the captors of Santa Anna after the Battle of San Jacinto.
Robinson's remains were later moved to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.
The population is 100 and the Alt. is 390. Fayette County.
The Independence Trail has visited several historic cities and towns, but none is quite like Round Top, an utterly charming eddy from the past. Historic preservation is the essence of the entire village - from log cabins to country stores to large, sturdy family homes built by prosperous German farmers. Architects, musicians, artists, historians, and tourists flock here throughout the year. Visiting symphony orchestras perform here for five weeks each summer. The University of Texas maintains the Winedale Historical Center for the study of ethnic cultural influences in central Texas. And, of course, photo opportunities are outstanding.
Review Round Top's listing in the state travel guide. For first hand information visit the information center at Henkel Square, operated by the Texas Pioneer Arts Foundation.
From Round Top through Burton to Independence are some of the most handsome farms in the state. Painstaking methods of cultivation and conservation, the heritage of European farmers, have long been ways of life here. At the west edge of Gay Hill a historical marker tells of Thomas Affleck, a native of Scotland who came to the United States in 1832. His nearby farm had ornamental gardens, greenhouses, and a lumber mill.
The population is 140 and the Alt. is 321. Washington County.
On the occasion of Texas' successful 1836 revolt, the town's name was changed from Cole's Settlement to reaffirm the foremost principle in Texas history; independence. Visit the Baptist Historical Museum here, at the intersection of FM 390/50.
Across from the museum are the graves of Nancy Moffette Lea and her daughter, Margaret., who was Sam Houston's wife. Margaret Houston died in the yellow fever epidemic of 1867, some four years after her husband's death.
General Houston's widow lived in the second house on the south, east of the highway intersection. Just beyond this spot are the ruins of the Blanton Hotel, a stop on La Bahia Trail. Some delegates met here before going to Washington to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence.
West of Independence are the ruins of Old Baylor College. This was the Female Department, opened in 1846 under a Republic of Texas charter. The institution's third president was G.W. Baines, great-grandfather of Lyndon Baines Johnson. The site of the Male Department, across the river to the south, is marked just east of the highway.
The square at Independence was designed for a county courthouse, but in a heated election Brenham won the county seat location by two votes. The square in Independence remains vacant except for historical markers.
At the Spur of 390 intersection with FM 390, the Sam Houston homesite is designated by a granite marker. The spring to the east served Indians and pioneers and even today is an unfailing source of water.
The Independence Trail doesn't enter Brenham. However, only a three-mile drive from the FM 50/Texas 90 intersection will bring you to this historic city settled by German immigrants in the late 1860s. The German influence is still evident in customs such as Maifest each spring. Read about Brenham's famous ice cream and about its miniature horses in the state travel guide.
East of Brenham, at the FM 1912 intersection, a marker tells the story of Washington-on-the-Brazos. The Independence Trail enters Washington and Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park on FM 1155, which parallels the Brazos River. A significant part of early Texas history was written at the pioneer village, now enclosed within the park. The park features a star-shaped museum and a film presentation. Picnic sites and rest rooms are available. Refer to Washington in the state travel guide.
The population is 310 and the Alt. is 317. Washington County.
At Chappel Hill it's possible, with just a little imagination, to step backward in history. As stroll along Main Street will take you past several antique stores and a former hotel, the Stagecoach Inn, built in 1847. More than 25 homes and other structures in Chappel Hill bear historical markers.
Open Sunday afternoons is the Chappell Hill Historical Museum in the old school on Poplar Street, at the site of the former Chappell Hill Female College. The library, on Cedar Street, was organized in 1893. Patrons have individual keys to the building. East of the FM 1371/1155 intersection is the Lockhart Plantation Home, built in 1850 of cedar and walnut hand-cut from the 1,000 acre property.
In Bellville the Trail passes the new Austin County Courthouse, built to replace a historic courthouse that burned in 1960. Half a mile east of the Trail, on FM 529, is the 15 acre city park, with swimming pool, playground, picnic tables, and stock show barns.
The population is 675 and the Alt. is 155. Austin County.
Known as the birthplace of Anglo-American settlement in Texas, San Felipe de Austin was named for Stephen F. Austin when it was founded in 1823. A marker just north of I-10 on FM 1458 tells the story of this historic city-of its being the first Anglo-American capital of Texas in 1823 and 1833 Conventions and the 1835 Consultation.
Stephen F. Austin State Park, north of the city, is in two sections. The historic area at the old ferry crossing includes a replica of Austin's home, the old hand-dug well that first served the colonists and then Mexican troops after the colonists fled, other monuments, an interpretive center, and - dominating all - the statue of Stephen F. Austin, the Father of Texas. Admission is charged.
The J.J. Josey Store, built in 1847, is now a museum displaying merchandise of that era. Open weekends.
The recreational portions of the park includes a golf course, camping, picnic area, fishing, and swimming. The Stephen F. Austin Park Association operates an information center at the San Felipe Post Office.
South of I-10 is the community of Frydek, named by its Czech settlers for a Silesian city of the same name. The name, meaning "peaceful corner," fits this quiet farming community. Until recent years, worship services were conducted in the Czech language.
On the grounds of Our Lady of Frydek Church is a grotto of concrete and stone, built by the thankful families and friends of 67 men and women of the Frydek Parish who served in World War II, all of whom returned.
Six miles south of Frydek on the west side of the road is the Little Egypt Chapel, named by a settler from the Egypt community in Wharton County. Note the trees that have grown together in the shape of an arch.
The population is 35,453 and the Alt. is 104. Fort Bend County.
The twin cities were settled and populated by a variety of different ethnic and cultural groups - pioneers from Stephen F. Austin's "Old Three Hundred" colony, Southern plantation owners, Czechs, Negroes, Confederate veterans, carpetbaggers, and railroad and oil men. Refer to both cities in the state travel guide for visitor sites such as the Confederate Museum, the Fort Bend County Museum, and historic structures.
Local details are available at the county museum just south of the courthouse in Richmond and at the Rosenberg Chamber of Commerce on the Trail at 4120 Avenue H.
En route to Houston the Trail passes the first sugar mill in Texas at Sugar Lane. Using primarily raw cane from the Rio Grande Valley, the refinery also imports cane from various worldwide sources through the Port of Houston. Tours are available weekdays at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
The Trail's few remaining miles are caught up in the metropolitan vigor of Houston. Those who have driven the entire route have gained vivid insights into an epic period of Texas history - times and events that shaped the destiny of both the state and the nation that Texas became a part of. This Trail has touched only a portion of the state's varied historical chronicles. Other Trails, listed below, explore other pages from the past, as well as dramatic landscapes of sight-seeing grandeur. Such is the purpose of the Texas Trails, planned pleasure driving to make the most of every mile, introducing Texas in regional portions. When travel efficiency is in everyone's best interest, Texas Trails are the way to go!!