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Sept. 8, 2003
Texas State Parks Bring History to Life This Fall
AUSTIN, Texas — The lives led by the majority of Texans today seem light years removed from the state's agrarian past when most families lived in homes built by hand and raised their own livestock and crops to put food on the table.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department operates 35 historic sites that endeavor to accurately interpret the state's past — from the Spanish colonial era through World War II. At those sites, living history events and re-enactments play key roles in educating the public about the early days of Texas. The cooler months of autumn provide an opportune time to attend one of the colorful events or tour a living history farm.
Barrington Living History Farm at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site recreates the 1850s-era Brazos River Valley farmstead of the last president of the Republic of Texas, Anson Jones. Barrington is a working farm, where park staff in period attire grow corn and cotton, tend a vegetable garden, raise cattle, hogs and chickens and perform other typical 19th century farm chores. Park visitors can stroll the living history farm that includes the original Anson Jones home, kitchen, smokehouse, barn slave quarter, chicken coop and corncrib. Operating hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday.
"We want to give people a sense of what life was like here in Texas 150 years ago," said Bill Irwin, who manages the farm. "I think almost everybody has an agricultural past in their background with roots in the country. This is a good place to get back to that feeling of where you came from and where we started out as Texans."
Barrington Living History Farm has scheduled two special fall events to provide additional insight into Texas' rich heritage. The Harvest Festival on Sept. 27-28 will afford visitors the chance to pick cotton and see all that goes into the production of textiles from the fiber. Children can make corn husk dolls or play such 19th century games as Jacob's Ladder and hoop-rolling. On Oct. 18-19, the Origins of the Cowboy will provide surprising insights into where cowboys came from and when the first cattle drives were held in Texas. For more information, call (936) 878-2213.
TPWD's other living history farm — Sauer-Beckmann Farm — operates daily at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site near Stonewall. The farm, founded in 1869 by German immigrants, recreates Texas Hill Country farm life from 1900-1918 through costumed interpreters performing such chores as canning, milking, gathering eggs and slopping the hogs. For more information, call (830) 644-2252. No special fall events are planned at Sauer-Beckmann.
If you happen to be heading to Big Bend or other points west on Oct. 18 or just have a hankerin' to see one of Texas' classic frontier forts that helped protect early day pioneers pushing west, take the Sheffield exit off Interstate 10 and cruise the scenic loop to Fort Lancaster State Historic Site. The partially restored 1855 frontier fort in the Pecos River Valley welcomes anywhere from 50 to 75 costumed Buffalo soldiers, U.S. infantry, cavalry and other Wild West characters for its Annual Living History Day.
"You'll see a pre-Civil War post come to life," said Park Manager Richard Grube. "Re-enactors representing different periods from the 1830s through the 1870s will be raising the colors, marching, firing artillery and making lye soap, among other things."
Grube says anywhere from 150-250 people typically show up for the living history demonstration and the barbecue lunch on Saturday each year. A few early-birds show up at the fort Friday night for a star party that goes well, due to the usually clear Trans Pecos skies. Call (432) 836-4391 for more information.
Other living history events taking place in Texas state parks this fall include the following:
Sept. 27: Anniversary of the Battle of Palo Duro
Palo Duro Canyon State Park — Canyon, Armstrong/Randall Counties
In September 1874, one of the last battles during the Red River Wars was fought in Palo Duro Canyon. Living historians will dress in period costumes and talk about this important battle and the people involved. It begins at 3 p.m. and for more information, call (806) 488-2227
Oct. 4: Battle Stations 1944
Battleship Texas State Historic Site — LaPorte, Harris County
This living history event features a military vehicle and equipment display and uniformed re-enactors preparing for the D-Day Invasion of June 6, 1944 while underway aboard the Battleship Texas. The living historians, who wear authentic WWII era uniforms, perform weaponry skills and other demonstrations. The event is from10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fees are as follows: $5 adults, $4 senior citizens, and $3 children 18 and younger. Call (281) 479-2431 for more information.
Oct. 11: Texian Days
Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site — Anderson, Grimes County
Ride a replica stagecoach to the historic Grimes County courthouse and back, tour the Inn and see how different life was for Texans in the 1850s, sway to the soft, soothing melodies of dulcimer music and enjoy the evocative tales of our favorite cowboy poet. Join blacksmiths, spinners, weavers, and other period demonstrators at the Inn! It's from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; fees are $1 for TCP members, $4 for non-members, and $2.50 for children 12 and younger. Call (936) 873-2633 for more information.
Oct. 11 and Nov. 15: Dutch Oven Dinner
Landmark Inn State Historic Site — Castroville, Medina County
Come join us for an old-fashioned picnic that will take you back to yesteryear. Park staff and volunteers dressed in 1850-1900 era period clothing prepare an outstanding multi-course meal cooked outside on open fires near the Grist Mill in Dutch ovens, much as was done on the frontier in the 1800s. Reserve your tickets early and come stay at this beautiful bed and breakfast. The event is from 5-7 p.m., is $25 per person and reservations are required. Call (830) 931-2133 for more information.
Oct.18: Texas Time Machine
Inks Lake State Park — Burnet, Burnet County
See the lifestyle of early Texas plainsmen, watch 19th century cooking, learn about black powder rifles, and hear tall tales from the re-enactors. It's from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Call (512) 793-2223 for more information.
Nov. 7-8: Spanish Tracks and Trails
Goliad State Park — Goliad, Goliad County
Journey back in time to the Spanish Colonial era. Visitors enjoy professional re-enactments, demonstrations, lectures, and authentic exhibits. It's from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 7 (for school children only), and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Nov. 8 for the general public. Call for fee information and reservations are required for Friday school groups. The contact number is (361) 645-3405.
Nov. 8-9: Fort Richardson Days
Fort Richardson State Park and Historic Site — Jacksboro, Jack County
There will be a military and civilian re-enactment of the Frontier Period of the 1870s. This will include living history activities and tours of the fort. Hours are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m.-noon on Sunday. Call (940) 567-3506 for more information.
Nov. 15: Dutch Oven Dinner
Landmark Inn State Historic Site — Castroville, Medina County
(See listing above.)
Nov. 28-29: Island Assault 1944 Living History Program
Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site-National Museum of the Pacific War — Fredericksburg, Gillespie County
Experience the sites, sounds, and drama of a World War II assault on an enemy bunker. Re-enactors use authentic clothing, weapons, and vehicles from the Pacific War era. Programs are outdoors, so dress according to weather conditions. The event takes place rain or shine and no reservations are required. Shows are at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and fees are $2 for adults and $1 for children 12 and younger. Admission to the program can also be free with a paid admission to the museum. Call (830) 997-4379 for more information.
For general state park information, access the TPWD Web site (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/). For general state park information, call (800)792-1112. For more information about State Historic Sites, download Remember Texas, the Official Guide to State Historic Sites, which be found on the Web (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/park/admin/historic.htm). It is also available at state historic sites and Texas Department of Transportation travel information centers (while supplies last.)
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