Texas Landmarks & History
by Dan Heaton
No listing of the key locations in the early days of flight – particularly
the development of military air power – would be complete without
a reference to the southern Texas city of Brownsville. It was from
there that America’s first combat mission was flown, way back in
History in a Pecan Shell
Build a fort, start a war.
Brownsville was named for a Lt. Brown who was killed when the Fort
bearing his name was under construction and attack in 1846. Zachary
Taylor's building of this fort in disputed territory started the Mexican
War. It's possible, but unlikely that they announced the fort would
be named after the first soldier killed. How's that for an incentive
Many of the original buildings still exist, since the Fort was only
deactivated in 1945. These buildings can be seen on what is now the
campus of University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost Jr.
The Campus includes a nice view of a resaca - which is the local name
for ox-bow lakes caused by the meandering Rio Grande.
Located off Highway
77 before you get to the border, this is an essential stop. Exit F.M.
Follow the signs for parking and you'll also see the Brownsville
Chamber of Commerce. This is a good place to start your tour.
Pick up a map and information. Maps of The Brownsville Heritage
Trail are available here, as well as Matamoros Information and
other local points of interest.
Two of the pamphlets to be sure to get are
The Cameron County Historical Marker Trail Guide and the Hidalgo
County Historical Marker Travel Guide. Ours were picked up this
month but both bear the date 1998. That's the good thing about history,
unless something is unearthed (or exhumed) not much changes.
Photo courtesy Ken
Rudine, February 2007
Elizabeth St. runs the length of downtown, ending at the Old
City Cemetery. For birders, both ends (Ft. Brown and the Cemetery)
abound with flocks of green parrots,
early morning and dusk. Don't Email us if you don't see thousands
of parrots, we mean you are likely to see groups of 4 - 12. It's
still more than you have at home.
Do not miss the Historic Brownsville Museum at 641 E.
Madison. One of four Southern Pacific Stations built
in the Valley in the late 1920's, the Spanish Colonial Revival Buildings
all feature a stained-glass image of the Southern Pacific Logo.
Another must see is the Stillman House Museum at 1305 E. Washington.
Hotels > Book Hotel Here
A note not in your
During the Mexican War, a group of recently arrived immigrants
from Ireland who enlisted in the Army as their own Company, deserted
their posts and crossed the river at Brownsville, joining the Mexican
Forces. Those who were captured were hanged en masse at the exact
moment the American Flag was raised at Chapultepec Castle in Mexico
Brownsville and the Mexican Port of Bagdad played a very important
role in the Civil War. Cotton
was shipped from these ports to English ships offshore, waiting
to exchange much needed supplies for the cotton. As you will learn,
the final battle of the Civil War was fought (won by the Confederacy)
12 miles east at Palmito Hill a month after the final whistle
Lots of fortunes
were made, and Brownsville attracted European immigrants when
things settled down. This fact is attested to by the names in the
Brownsville Cemetery. The river currents are not strong enough
to conquer love, and marriages between the two countries produced
populations that were (by some estimates) 80% mixed. The Peso was
coin of the realm until the railroad arrived in 1910.
Brownsville-Metamoros Ferry by Maggie Van Ostrand
The ferry was an efficient means of transportation between the U.S.
and Mexico for 110 years, but in 1929, it took its last trip across
the Rio Grande...
Kristofferson by Dorothy Hamm
"We would come to learn that his life was far more interesting
than any song he could ever write. Perhaps that's why he had to
write them. His story is well known, born in Brownsville, Texas..."
Mendoza' and the Battle of the Bulge by Murray Montgomery
December 1944 found Lopez in a bloody conflict known as the Battle
of the Bulge. For his actions on Dec. 17, 1944, near Krinkelt, Belgium,
Lopez received the highest military decoration for valor in combat
– the Medal of Honor.
At Brownsville Sgt. Jose Mendoza Lopez's statue stands in Veterans
|Flock of parrots
Photo courtesy Ken
Rudine, February 2007
Visitor Information Center :
Convention & Visitors Bureau
Chamber of Commerce
Hotels > Book Hotel Here
second most historical city in Texas
Said by some to be the second most historical city in Texas, we called
the company in whose brochure we read this "factoid". We asked which
city they considered to be first, and were told we'd have to ask the
owner, but he was out of town. We asked the person we had if they
would like to guess. Hesitantly, they replied: "The Alamo?" Well,
we sometimes forget the question too, and since the answer wasn't
in the form of a question, we had to disqualify our contestant. Second
is not a bad place to be, especially if it takes a war, natural disaster,
or horrible architecture to make you first.
visit the Site of The Battle of Palo Alto. Where U. S. troops
won the battle by using the soil and vegetation of this area as
an aid. The marsh like condition of the soil and the sharp pointed
grass was a natural enemy of advancing troops. Superior technology
of the artillery firepower played a big part of the outcome of the
Battle of Palo Alto. Being able to make artillery shells explode
in mid air was a a big advancement for the time. Check with the
National Park Service they have a detailed description in both the
English and the Spanish point of view. - Gary Gregory, May 26,
There are many
stories in The RGV from King Ranch to San Juan Mission battle of
Palmento Hill many battles of civil war era, last battle of civil
war fought here 3 mos after the war was over. Many historic resources
like an abandoned railroad built by Zachery Taylot and his troops.
Now lies in ruin marking a bygone era in our history. This land
now belongs to the Laguna Atcosta wildlife area US Fish and wildlife
Service. Rio Hondo even had a semi-pro Baseball team in the early
1920's. Or the Baila Family descendants of the Padre that Padre
Island's namesake. How the fast talking gringos stole the land from
their uneducated family members who could not speak English. Or
even more recent Senator Benson and his Family History. The National
Parks Service In Brownsville has many stories and historic articles
about the war of 1812. To name just a few that comes to mind. -
Gary Gregory, May 13, 2000
in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas,
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photos, please contact