started with taped-together scraps of topographical map quadrants found in the
Winedale archives: a Native American archeological site marked in red on a terrace
of Ross’ Creek where it formerly joined the Colorado River. |
is the next small drainage east of Cedar Creek, which forms Lake Fayette. The
creek now runs down the southern loop of a cut off oxbow, and joins the river
near the top of pioneer ferryman Jesse Burnam’s original league; the Indian site
on the Ellinger side has
probably been destroyed by gravel mining).
what’s this? On another terrace, on the western side of the river, a small “x”
in a circle and the words “Historical Marker.” What historical place or event
could it commemorate to appear on a 50 year old USGS toporaphical map? |
A physical search revealed the marker was no longer in the indicated location
on the old Burnam homeplace near Holman.
What could have happened to it?
A combination of research at the Fayette
County Archives and consultation with Nesbitt Memorial Library (in Columbus)
director Bill Stein revealed
a partial answer to the mystery.
missing monolith was a grey granite 1936 Centennial marker signifying Burnam’s
Ferry, where Sam Houston,
leading the rag-tag Texas Army and a bunch of terrified settlers fleeing Santa
Anna’s armies, had crossed the flooding Colorado River on their way east in early
Burnam’s Ferry was a “gravel-bottomed ford.” The ferryboat was for
high water. Jesse Burnam, an early Austin colonist, had erected quite a station,
according to early observers, with a fine two-story brick house and store. He
was a veteran of numerous fights with local Indians and, generally-speaking, not
a man to mess with.
The crossing was on a cutoff of the La
Bahia Road, the main branch of which crossed the river at La
Grange. After crossing his army, Houston
ordered Burnam’s station burned, boat and all. Burnam never forgot.
the State of Texas placed markers at significant historical sites prior to the
1936 Texas Centennial, local historian Houston
Wade pointed out the site of Houston’s crossing of the Colorado at Burnam’s. Duly
installed, the marker stayed put until 197?, when something happened to prove
the adage: “historians love to disagree.”
couple of avocational local historians, one from Weimar
and another from La Grange, decided
that Houston Wade (and Julia Lee Sinks) were just wrong when they identified the
original site of Burnam’s crossing. They thought it should have been several miles
south at the other end of Burnam’s original league. (Possible source of the confusion:
Burnam did move to the other end of his property after the Texas Revolution and
probably had a ferry there).
Getting a verbal OK from the Fayette County
judge at the time and enlisting the financial assistance of Colorado County commissioners,
the two revisionists engineered the removal of the monument to Colorado County
where the original inscription was ground off and replaced with language locating
the crossing site near Weimar (suspiciously near the birthplace of the Colorado
There it remained until three years ago, a landmark shown
to generations of Colorado County youth as Houston’s
crossing place. This despite Bill
Stein’s statement that, “I don’t know anyone who thinks it’s in the right
Let Fayette County Historical Commission chair Linda Dennis take
up the story:
to the Fayette County Record, a story was written about the missing monument almost
three years ago. The Fayette County Historical Commission immediately began the
task of bringing it home where it belongs. Not only had the monument been moved,
but the verbiage had been changed to reflect another county’s information. It
took over a year to get special permission from the Texas Historical Commission
in Austin to allow for a unique twist
in handling the Burnam Ferry Monument.”
Dennis explained that the THC
decided that the Colorado County information, even if incorrect, had became part
of the history of the monument. (It had, after all, been on the monument longer
than the actual Fayette County text).
After much deliberation and persistence
by Dennis and County Judge Ed Janecka,, the THC agreed to allow the monument to
become the only two-sided 1836 Centennial marker in the State of Texas.
“Notably, the Fayette County side will become the new front side and will include
a ‘Returned to’ date,” Dennis said. The bootleg revision on back side will retain
the (incorrect) Colorado County information which was incised after the original
inscription had been ground off. (“Bootleg,” because the marker properly belongs
to the state, which did not give permission for its removal or alteration).
what Dennis calls “a long and winding road,” the monument was brought back to
the county late last week.
stages on that road were:
In 2009, the county reacquired the monument and moved it to Austin,
from whence it made another move to Marble
Falls to have the “back” (new “front”) refinished and polished.
It was then taken to Stasswender Memorials, where the freshly polished stone was
etched with the original information about the significance of the ferry crossing.Dennis
again: “All that was left to do at this point was to place a wreath and star
on the monument. That sounds like a simple task but the new wreaths and stars
are different and made with shiny brass. It took a long time to find a company
that could create an old one and match the patina of the one on the other side.”Then,
about six weeks ago, Rodriquez Brothers Memorials in San
Antonio was commissioned to make the wreath and star. Last week, Dennis delivered
the completed wreath and star to the foundry where they were attached to the
“Not only will this be the only two-sided Centennial monument
in the State, but it will probably be the most traveled,” Dennis said.
are for members of the Holman and Burnam families to attend rededication ceremonies
in early October, along with area 7th-graders who are studying Texas history and
members of the public.
Sidebar: Donations are needed to help pay
for the Burnam Ferry Re-Dedication Ceremonies and a Reception. Please contact:
Linda Dennis, Chairman, Fayette County Historical Commission at: Linda_J_Dennis@yahoo.com
or call (979) 378-2019 if you can help.
The original verbiage on the
monument is below:
FIRST FERRY IN PRESENT-DAY FAYETTE
COUNTY. ESTABLISHED ABOUT 1824 AT THE CROSSING OF THE LA BAHIA ROAD BY JESSE BURNAM.
AFTER THE ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS CROSSED ON MARCH 19, 1836, THE FERRY WAS
DESTROYED BY ORDER OF GENERAL SAM HOUSTON TO PREVENT ITS USE BY THE ADVANCING
Fayette County Record, La Grange
Burnham's Ferry Texas Centennial Marker|
TE Photo, July 2011
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