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Texas | Texas Centennial

SO, JUST WHAT IS A CENTENNIAL MARKER ANYWAY?


Text & photos by Barclay Gibson
Centennial Marker in Upshur County, TX
Upshur County

Don't feel bad if even the question doesn't make any sense to you. Most people I talk to about Centennial markers think I am talking about those aluminum historical markers that are everywhere; found in front of old buildings and churches, on most town squares, even on highways out in the middle of no where. The markers I'm talking about are usually slabs of gray granite that stand about 5-1/2 feet tall and weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. They could easily be mistaken for a cemetery head stone. There are several distinguishing characteristics they have that uniquely identify them: Their shape, their text and the bronze star within a bronze wreath. What do they signify? When were they placed? Why were they often put in such odd locations?

First, let me back up a little. In 1936 Texans observed their 100th anniversary of their independence from Mexico. Much planning went into this effort. The idea of celebrating Texas' centennial was first presented in a speech given by Governor James Steven Hogg in 1923. Texas had a hugely successful, statewide, multi-year celebration. Every county took part with thousands of speeches, parades, festivals and extravaganzas.

The 1936 Texas Centennial Celebration was so big that President Franklin Roosevelt made a speech in the Cotton Bowl to a crowd of over 52,000. The movie, The Big Show, starring Gene Autry, Champion, and Smiley Burnett was filmed mostly on the Fair Park grounds in Dallas. It included the usual singing, a love story, emotion and suspense. There was even a run-away stagecoach to fill out the drama.

Most of this part of Texas history has largely been neglected and forgotten. But left, as a permanent reminder of it, are the more than 1,100 buildings, museums, forts, statues, plaques, monuments, and historical markers placed in nearly every county in the entire state. Included in these 1,100 plus memorials are approximately 980 granite markers. It is these markers that have suffered most at the hands of vandals and thieves. Many of their stars, wreaths, and plaques have been pried off or otherwise damaged. Their granite has been painted, chiseled, hammered, and shot. For many years there was little interest in preserving the past.

Perhaps as many as 20 markers have simply disappeared. Some may have been lost or covered during road construction, at least one may have been washed away in a flood, and one was actually hoisted off using a winch truck. That one may still be in someone's backyard. One of the most interesting things to happen to a marker was when a Fayette County marker was removed, reworded and reinstalled in Colorado County. For the full story of how that came about you'll have to read about it on TexasEscapes http://texasescapes.com/Centennial/Burnams-Ferry-Texas-Centennial-Marker-Story.htm

After almost 80 years since the celebration, these monuments commemorating the Centenary of Texas Independence needed to be remembered as there was no accurate inventory of locations, conditions or even existence of many of them. A few years ago, one person took it upon herself, along with a few volunteers, to locate, inspect and photograph these placements. Most are on public highways, parks, courthouse lawns, and public cemeteries, but many more of them are in remote locations or on private property far from any paved roads. For these, the inventories were sometimes so inexact that even the county of their placement was mistaken.

That is when I personally became involved in a quest to see and inspect, photograph and note the condition of every single one of the more than 1,100 memorials around the state. An exciting quest it has been. I have made many hundreds of phone calls, sent as many emails, driven tens of thousands of miles and taken tens of thousands of pictures.

But more rewarding than that has been the hundreds of individuals I have met who have helped me, directed me, escorted me and encouraged me in this endeavor so that, to date, I have been able to see over 99% of all the memorials and monuments that are still known to exist.

A few years ago Sarah Reveley presented her findings to the Texas Historical Commission in Austin. The links to her websites are below as well as pictures of Centennial Markers in their beautiful and sometimes isolated locations around the state.

http://www.picturetrail.com/neglected_tx_centennial

http://www.texasescapes.com/Centennial/Texas-Centennial.htm

http://texasescapes.com/Centennial/Neglected-1936-Texas-Centennial.htm

The Texas Historical Commission dedicated one of its Medallion magazines to the Centennial Celebration. The part about our efforts starts on about page 13: http://www.thc.state.tx.us/public/upload/publications/medallion-july-august-2011.pdf

These markers, in themselves, are a part of Texas history that should not be forgotten as every single one has a story of its own. If you are anywhere in the state of Texas, I can safely say that, right now, you aren't very far from a 1936 Centennial monument. So, the next time you drive by one, stop and take a look at it. Let it tell you its story. It will only take a minute, and you won't be sorry you did.

Elizabeth Crockett Home Site Centennial Marker
Hood County -
Elizabeth Crockett Home Site Centennial Marker in Acton
Margaret, Texas with town site centennial marker
Foard County - Margaret, Texas
Presidio County Fort HollandTexas Centennial Marker
Presidio County Fort Holland, Texas Centennial Marker
Lubbock County TX Highway Centennial Marker
Lubbock County
Colorado County Columbus TX Centennial Marker
Columbus, Colorado County
Brewster County TX Highway Marker
Brewster County
Austin County TX - San Felipe Centennial Marker
Austin County - San Felipe
Austin County TX Industry Centennial Marker
Austin County - Industry
Colorado County Tx - Borden Plant 1936 Texas Centennial Marker
Gail Borden Beef Canning Plant Texas Centennial Marker
Colorado County - NE of Borden
© Barclay Gibson
September 1, 2014

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