Texas Free Colony, Reconstruction, and Segregation

Distance Traveled from San Antonio: 2,736,049 steps
Location: Cypress Mill, Blanco, Wimberley, San Marcos, Canyon Lake, New Braunfels, Seguin, and Universal City
Churches: St. Luke’s, St. Michael’s and All Angels, St. Stephen’s, St. Mark’s, St. Francis by the Lake, and St. John’s

 

Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, in your Word you have given us a vision of

that holy City to which the nations of the world bring their

glory: Behold and visit, we pray, the cities of the earth.

Renew the ties of mutual regard which form our civic life.

Send us honest and able leaders. Enable us to eliminate

poverty, prejudice, and oppression, that peace may prevail

with righteousness, and justice with order, and that men and

women from different cultures and with differing talents may

find with one another the fulfillment of their humanity;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. -BCP p. 825

 

Welcome to Cypress Mill, Blanco, Wimberley, San Marcos, Canyon Lake, New Braunfels, Seguin, and Universal City!

 

Cypress Mill

Cypress Mill is located 13 miles northeast of Johnson City. In 2000 they had a reported population of 56. A mill was constructed on the site of Cypress Creek in the mid-1860s, and by the mid-1880s the community had grist and sawmills, a cotton gin, and 130 residents. The town reached a peak population of 200 in 1910 and has steadily declined since. The post office which opened in 1874 closed in the late 1980s.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church serves Cypress Mill and the surrounding area. The church was dedicated in the 1950s. They have Holy Communion every Sunday at 10:45 am and Wednesday at 11 am, with Morning Prayer on Mondays and Wednesdays. They are currently served by The Rev. Tommy Bye.

Blanco

Blanco has a population of 1,700 and is located 12 miles south of Johnson City. It was named for the nearby Blanco River and established in 1858. In spite of hardships suffered during the Civil War, the town continued to grow and by 1870 had four stores, a hotel, and a gin. The old union church, built in 1871 at a cost of $1,300, remained for many years the center of town life. It was used as a church by different denominations, as a schoolhouse, and as a community meeting place. Blanco has primarily been a ranch and farm trade center. Blanco provides a great Hill Country get-a-way. The town offers fine dining, shopping, distilleries and breweries, and a variety of live music and other events throughout the year.

The community that would become St. Michael’s and All Angels began meeting in parishioner’s homes in 1953. They held a groundbreaking ceremony for the church building in 1956. St. Boniface in Comfort donated a pump organ. The pews were donated by St. Marks in San Antonio. The two bishop and priest chairs were given by Mrs. Jones, the bishop’s wife. The altar was given by Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Brooks. They hold a service every Sunday at 10:00 am. They are currently served by The Rev. Bryn Caddell.


The American Civil War was a conflict that spanned the nation, with battles taking place from California to as far away as the English channel. While most history books and high school classes focus on the war in the Eastern theater with battles such as Gettysburg and Antietam taking center stage, volumes could be written on the less known theaters of the war such as the role Texas played during the conflict. For much of the war, Texas was considered a backwater of the Confederacy and relatively safe aside from several coastal cities being taken over by US forces early in the war. With the State’s interior remaining relatively safe, many slave owners throughout the South sent their slaves to Texas as a way of ensuring they would not be set free by US forces. By 1863 with the fall of Vicksburg and US forces gaining control of the Mississippi, Texas was truly cut off from the rest of the conflict, with those enslaved individuals sent to the State being kept in the dark on the state of the conflict and not knowing of their freedom until after the last shots were fired in what has become celebrated as Juneteenth. With the end of the conflict came the chance at a new life for these now freedmen, a chance to establish lives for themselves free of the terror of the horrendous institution. However, many of these newly freed individuals would find themselves quickly disenfranchised with the rise of hate groups who utilized terror on the formerly enslaved. Even in the face of these terrors, these freedmen would establish communities for themselves throughout the Texas landscape, including the Peyton Colony.

Upon earning his freedom in 1865, Peyton Roberts moved his family from Lockhart to land he had been able to purchase near modern-day Blanco along with several other families of recently freed individuals. As the colony continued to grow with new arrivals from throughout the nation, so too did the influence of the town on the surrounding communities with the establishment of their first Church in 1874. Despite some incidents of intimidation from nearby majority-white towns and threats of violence, the community would expand to include a school and a recognized post office which would remain open until the 1960s. Following the end of WWII, as in many other Texas towns, much of the population of Peyton would relocate from the colony to other more metropolitan areas of the state, bringing the population of the town to as low as 30 by 2000. Though the town is now listed as being a ghost town by many, there are still residents who remain in the former colony, many who are the decedents of those who established a new life for free from the shackles of slavery.

As we continue our journey through the Texas countryside on our pilgrimage through the diocese, it is easy to get lost in only focusing on those major towns along the way. But it is important to take the time to visit these off-the-main road towns and find out the history of these locations and find that even in hidden-away places we can find inspiring stories of the past.


Wimberley

Wimberley has a population of 2,600 and is located 40 miles southwest of Austin. In 1880, the San Marcos postmaster, Alfred vom Stein, made an application for a post office to serve the community area of Wimberley. He submitted the name Wimberleyville and recommended Robert Moore as the first postmaster, but the name granted was simply Wimberley. The Wimberley mill served as a lumber mill, shingle mill, gristmill, flour mill, molasses mill, and cotton gin. It ceased operation in 1925 and was demolished in 1934. Today Wimberley is a destination town located in the Hill Country. Wimberley offers great dining, shopping, art galleries, and wonderful ways to explore nature.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church serves the Wimberley area. They began in 1973 as an outreach of St. Mark’s in San Marcos. They were granted full parish status in 1981. Near the entrance to the property is the chapel, which is modeled after Mission Espada in San Antonio. St. Stephen’s has many unique ministries. These include Story Writers, where writers get together to share their work without critique, Big Scoop, St. Stephen’s annual ice cream festival and fundraiser, and Ted Talkers, where individuals get together to watch a Ted Talk and hold facilitated discussion. They worship every Sunday at 8 am and 10 am. They are currently served by The Rev. Kevin Schubert.

 

San Marcos

San Marcos has a population of 65,000 and is located on I-35 between San Antonio and Austin. It was the site of several Spanish attempts at colonization before it became the center of Anglo-American settlement in the area. The Texas Legislature organized Hays County on March 1, 1848, and designated the young community as the county seat. San Marcos already had 387 residents. Southwest Texas State Normal School opened in 1903. In the 1960s, with the emergence of Aquarena Springs and Wonder Cave as important attractions, the tourist industry became a reliable and growing source of income. Visitors will have a wide range of attractions to choose from. Many travel to San Marcos for the myriad of outdoor activities around and in the San Marcos River. Being a college town there is always something exciting going on in the city, from concerts to festivals and more.

The first Episcopal services were held in San Marcos in 1853. In 1874 the plan was made to organize the parish of St. Mark’s. The cornerstone was laid in 1875. The church had new buildings built in 1966 and 2010. They worship at 8 am and 11 am every Sunday, with offerings for all ages throughout the week. They are served by The Rev. Dr. Donald Owens, Interim, and The Rev. Mike Woods, Associate.

During our pilgrimage, together through the diocese of West Texas, we have had the chance to see much of the Texas landscape. We have explored the history and stories of the cities and towns that dot the State, and in many ways follow in the footsteps of experiencing Texas like the author and folklorist J. Frank Dobie. Dobie is an individual who has loomed large in creating much of the image we associate with the State and was well known in his time for working to be inclusive of many minority groups at a time when the official rule in Texas was still Jim Crow. While it is easy to see the good that Dobie has done for preserving parts of the Texas tale, it is equally important to see where Dobie faltered in recording Texas history. In many of his early writings, Dobie took at face value accounts of the past that did not reflect the reality of a State that marginalized and actively pursued racist policies towards many of its residents. It is in his writings regarding the history of San Marcos and Wimberley that we find where Dobie could have gone further in his research and how we must look at all aspects of those who had a role in writing the history of the State.

San Marcos and Wimberley, like many cities and towns established before 1861 were built in some part by enslaved individuals. Whether these enslaved individuals were directly constructing the buildings or provided the work for the money that paid for the supplies for these buildings slavery had a hand deeply entrenched in the Texas economy. With the end of the war in 1865 and large numbers of now freed African Americans entering the Texas landscape, a plethora of hate groups arose in many communities who would use terror tactics to keep African Americans marginalized despite their new freedom. Both San Marcos and Wimberley were communities that had known white supremacist groups during the era of Reconstruction, and from the accounts of many African Americans and visitors to the towns, we find that violence and murder were tools used by these groups to enforce the social order that would become Jim Crow. However, when we read many of Dobie’s writings on this area, we find that Dobie states that these groups were simply “militias” and that there was no violence aside from the occasional use of the “wet rope”. From the historical record, we know that what Dobie wrote down on these towns regarding these hate groups was not the actual historical record, but the record as prescribed by those who held authority and wished to downplay the racist past as Jim Crow continued to rule the land. It also appears that Dobie himself recognized that these early writings of his were not the entire historical narrative (these writings being written in the 1930s). Later in his career beginning in the 1960s, Dobie began to delve deeper into incidents of racism and social injustice that had occurred in the State and would revise many of his early works to reflect the new facts he had found. However, the damage of these earlier works had been done as many of Dobie’s early works were what would come to be inscribed in many official histories of these towns, with little mention of the violence visited upon the marginalized residents.

Looking back on Dobie’s works it would be easy to focus either only on the good of his works or the negative. However, as students of history, it is the entire picture that we are interested in and seek to understand. In the case of J. Frank Dobie, we find an individual who represents both sides of the coin of social justice as both an individual who fought for inclusion of minorities in the States higher education while perpetuating many of the stories of the past that failed to mention or outright hid acts of the past. While this is a discussion that could be spoken of in as many volumes as Dobie himself wrote, for us exploring history it is important to understand the entire picture and realize that just as individuals cover a spectrum so too does history.

 

Canyon Lake

Canyon Lake has a population of 21, 000 and is located on the Guadalupe River, about 12 miles southwest of New Braunfels. Canyon Lake is a Census Designated Area (CDA) and is a part of the San Antonio Metropolitan Area. The lake was formed by a rolled earth-fill dam 6,830 feet long, is used for flood control, water conservation, and recreation. Construction of the dam began in 1958, and impoundment of water began in 1964. There are seven lakeside public parks and two public marinas around the lake to serve residents and visitors alike.

St. Francis Episcopal Church serves the Canyon Lake area. They have two services on a Sunday, at 8 am and 10 am. They have many ministries to plug into throughout the week, including a prayer shawl ministry, Community of Hope, Episcopal Church Women, and more. They are served by The Rev. David Chalk.

New Braunfels

New Braunfels has a population of 90,00 and from 2010-2020 it was the 3rd fastest growing city in the country. It was established in 1845 by German immigrants. From the 1840s to the 1880s a number of Hispanics and Lipan Indians moved into New Braunfels each spring during the sheep-shearing season. In the 20th century tourism became an important part of the New Braunfels economy, which is still true today.

Visitors can enjoy water activities along the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers. The famous Gruene Hall is right outside of town where live music and dancing can be enjoyed by all. Natural Bridge Caverns, a vast underground cave system discovered in 1960, provides an adventurous day trip. The Schlitterbahn waterpark is also within New Braunfels city limits, and is a summer classic for families near and far.

St. John’s Episcopal Church of New Braunfels was organized in 1946, by 1947 they were meeting for service regularly in community buildings and other churches in town. Their church building was constructed in 1950, with Sunday School classrooms and offices added in 1953. With steady growth by the mid 1960s it was time for a larger facility, and St. John’s began construction on their current structure in 1967. During a difficult split in the early 2000s St. John’s restarted as a mission. They are currently thriving, both spiritually and physically. They hold services at 8:45am and 11am every Sunday, with many offerings held during the week. They are currently planning a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2022. They are served by The Rev. Ripp Hardaway, Rector, and The Rev. Lucy Strandlund, Curate.

Throughout our journey discovering the history of the Diocese and social justice in Texas we have heard dozens of stories of the past and the evils of segregation. For many of us today (even those of us who lived through segregation) it can be difficult to fully grasp what the impact of segregation had on both African American and Hispanic residents of the State. To better understand the crushing pressures and inequalities many individuals felt during the height of Jim Crow, we will now go through the day in the life of one of these marginalized individuals in 1940’s New Braunfels.

Morning: For many of us the morning is a time for us to get our bearings before heading out for our day. Whether it’s a long shower or a cup of coffee, morning can often set the mood for our day. For a young African American man waking up in 1941 New Braunfels we can clearly see the inequalities from the start. The house you reside in is in one of the sections of town designated for African Americans or the “black” part of town. Your home is a small one room building with no running water and occasionally you will have electricity, despite living near the power station for the town. As you prepare to head to the Booker T. Washington school (the African American school), public transportation is limited and you will need to walk at least a mile to reach a stop that will pick you up.

The Walk to School: As you begin your walk to school, you are constantly reminded that if a white citizen of the town is sharing a sidewalk with you, you are expected to defer to the individual and walk in the street. Punishment for bumping into a white male resident is codified into the law and could result in your imprisonment. If it is a white female resident, extra care must be taken as even the accusation by a white female resident of improper behaviour could result in your imprisonment or a nightime lynching. By the start of the 20th century a lynching was occuring every week in some part of the nation, with many victims not even being accused of a crime. Even if you were to develop a relationship with a white female resident, your relationship would be illegal under Texas law as miscegenation laws would not be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court until the 1960’s. This sort of constant reminder of needing to defer and being seen as less than in the eyes of the law is designed to crush the spirit.

School in “Separate but Equal”: As you enter your school you easily notice that your textbooks are clearly old hand me downs from at least two decades back. The school building itself is run down with benches instead of desks and little to no supplies for students. In Texas at this time, the Board of Education routinely spends only 50 cents for every two dollars invested in whites only schools. When New Braunfels fully integrated its schools in 1960, the considerable repairs and cost estimates to bring Booker T. Washington to the same standards as the district’s white schools would result in the cost being judged too much and the school closed down.

A Trip to the Movies: As you finish your day at school and begin the walk home, you decide to see a movie with money you have saved from your weekend job. As you head to the Brauntex Theater, you are reminded that despite paying the same price for admission as white residents of the town, you will only be allowed to sit in the balcony seats. If the number of white individuals going to see a movie grows too large for the lower levels, you will be ejected from the theater to make room with no refund for your ticket. If you want something to drink or a snack during your film, you would have to walk back down the stairs and would be served last even if a white resident came in line after you. While larger towns such as San Antonio and Austin would establish African American owned theaters where you would not be forced to face these inequalities, these are too far to travel to and this is the only theater for your town.

While this walkthrough in the life of a school aged African American in 1941 New Braunfels can help provide a framework of the inequalities minorities faced, it hardly does justice to the macerating of the soul that racism causes. This walkthrough does not mention the names you would hear and racial slurs that abounded, and does little to show how it feels to fear for one’s life simply because they broke a social norm. To better understand the impact racism had on individuals, it is necessary for us to hear these stories and seek out those who lived through these times and hear in their own words their lived experiences.

Seguin

Seguin has a population of 30,000 and is 35 miles northeast of San Antonio. By the mid 1830s the area was inhabited by Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo settlers. The first school was built in 1849, and the schoolhouse, formerly known as Guadalupe High School, was recognized in 1962 as the oldest continuously used school building in Texas. The economy of Seguin has been based on agricultural for most of its history, with an addition of an oil-based economy that began with the discovery of oil in the 1920s.

Visitors are encouraged to check out Seguin’s historic downtown and buildings, nature trails, and a variety of annual festivals.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Seguin was founded in 1853, with the completion of their building, still in use today, in 1876. They have three services a Sunday at 8am, 9am, and 10:30am. Their outreach ministries include Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity, and Seguin Youth Services, which provides after-school care for children from underprivileged neighborhoods. They help children complete their homework, learn life skills for success, build friendships, and have fun. They are currently served by The Rev. Stephen Shortess.

seguin st andrews.jpg
For many Texans our fourth and seventh grade State history classes will cover in detail many aspects of the Texas Revolution. We will hear the stories of the battles for Gonzales and the siege of the Alamo, with the big names of the siege being memorized by countless students. These names have traditionally included the big three of Bowie, Crockett, and Travis with more recent years seeing the name of Juan Seguin added as a representative of the Tejanos who sided with the Texas revolutionaries. If we have a really interested teacher we may learn about the role Seguin and his Tejano fighters played at the battle of San Jacinto, and how the town of Seguin is named for this Texas freedom fighter. However, for many of us this is where the story of Juan Seguin ends as we move on with our history lessons. But as we endeavor to discover more of the past and of the social injustices that have occurred, the story of Juan Seguin after the revolution reflects how many Tejanos were treated and forgotten from the early days of the Republic until only recently.

Juan Seguin’s story begins on October 27th, 1806 with his birth in San Antonio de Bexar in then Spanish Texas as part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Juan’s father, Juan Erasmo Seguin was prominent throughout the territory, serving as a postmaster and official who helped draft the Mexican constitution of 1824. Juan Seguin would follow in his fathers footsteps as an elected official, serving as alderman in 1828 and would be elected to the role of alcalde (mayor) of Bexar by 1833. During the revolution Seguin would play a prominent role in the recruiting and training of many Tejano soldiers and would see combat in the early battles of Concepcion and the siege of Bexar. While present for the early days of the Alamo siege, Seguin would be dispatched as a courier and would ride through enemy lines to deliver one of the final messages calling for reinforcements though the mission would fall before help could arrive. Seguin would go on to fight in the battle of San Jacinto and would accept the formal surrender of Mexican forces occupying the Alamo after this final battle.

Following the end of the revolution and despite his many contributions to the victory, Seguin would quickly begin to see his role in the new Texas government increasingly diminished. As more Anglo settlers began to flood the Republic, Seguin’s reputation would be called into question by individuals who did not wish to see a Tejano in a role of importance. In 1841 Seguin refused an order by the commander of the Texas army to burn San Antonio to the ground in response to an invasion from Mexico. Threats would be made against Seguin’s life and false accusations made that he had secretly helped the Mexican army despite there being no evidence backing up these claims. These same individuals would later lay claim to Seguin’s land once he was forced to flee Texas due to these threats, with his only option for safety being in Mexico. Once in Mexico, Seguin would be arrested and forced to serve in the Mexican army during the Mexican American War against some of the very individuals he had fought with during the revolution. At the War’s end Seguin would petition the US to be allowed back into Texas, and despite being allowed back into the State that was his home he would find his family’s land now occupied by Anglo settlers. Seguin would eventually move back to Mexico where he would pass away in 1890 in Nuevo Laredo. It would not be until 1974 that his remains would be repatriated back to Texas to be buried in his namesake town of Seguin. And it has only been in recent years that his and the story of many of the Tejano fighters of the revolution have been included in the wider narrative of the Texas revolution.

It has been often said that history is written by the victors, but in the case of Juan Seguin for much of the history of the 20th century it was written by those who were not victors but stole his legacy. Seguin, like many Tejanos following independence, found themselves marginalized in their own homeland, and as we have explored in this pilgrimage the ramifications of this marginalization can be felt even till today.

Universal City

Universal City has a population of 18,500 and sits across from Randolph Air Force Base in Bexar County. About a year after Randolph opened in 1931 businesses began to open across the railroad tracks. The growth of the area was slow until Randolph became a major training base in 1957. The influx of enlisted men and their families stirred the first housing developments to take place. In 2008 Lakeview Community College opened, and since the mid 1980s Universal City has seen new fire stations, libraries, and parks built. Universal City has two large annual events: Snowfest in February and a well attended Veteran’s Day Parade.

Episcopalians began meeting for worship in Universal City in 1964. By 1971 St. Matthew’s Episcopal church has a building and a growing community of members. They were granted parish status in 1989 and in 1998 completed construction on a parish hall. Today St. Matthew’s offers a service of Holy Eucharist every Sunday at 9am, as well as a weekly Eucharist at the Army Residence Community on Thursdays. Their outreach ministries include Global Teams mission, the Randolph Area Christian Assistance Program (RACAP), and more. They are currently served by The Rev. Timothy Vellom.

Universal City Texas has for much of its history been directly tied to its close proximity to Randolph Air Force Base. Many residents of the town have served in the armed services, with many veterans choosing to also reside in the area upon leaving the service. The United States has a long history of honoring those who chose to serve in the armed forces, and many of us in the Diocese do our part to honor those who serve and have served. While we currently honor those who serve, we must also recognize the long history of racial segregation that was part of the armed services until only recently. It was not until 1948 that official segregation in the armed forces came to an end, though some forms of segregation would continue well into the 1970’s and 80’s. To better understand the stories of those who served, it is important to know how segregation in the armed forces shaped many individuals’ time in service and how it eventually came to an end.

While African Americans and minorities had served in the US military dating back to the American Revolution, these individuals were only allowed to serve during times of conflict in volunteer units, with their exclusion from the regular peacetime army being the rule. It would not be until the end of the Civil War that the first African American soldiers would be allowed to serve in the peacetime army in the units that would come to be known as the Buffalo Soldiers. While these men were given the chance to serve their nation in peacetime, they were segregated into African American only units, with only white service members being allowed to be officers even in these units. This segregation of units would take on an extreme form during the First World War when African American units would be transferred to French command as no white officers wanted to be in command of these African American units. The men of the Harlem Hellfighters would become heroes for their service on the Western Front, but it would be under the command of French officers, with French helmets and rifles that they would become heroes. During the Second World War, African American units would continue to be segregated, along with Asian American only units being established and segregated as well. While on the front lines units would mingle together and there was some loosening of units serving together, there still existed racist policies in the official chain of command such as blood supplies being segregated between “black” and “white” blood. After suffering severe injuries fighting in Italy, future US Senator from Hawaii and Medal of Honor winner Daniel Inouye would recall that the blood he received that would help save his life was from an African American unit. Inouye would suffer his own form of racism as his initial award for his actions during his fighting in Italy would be the Distinguished Service Cross, which would not be upgraded to the Medal of Honor until the presidency of Bill Clinton. In 1948 President Harry Truman would issue Executive Order 9981 which would see the official end of segregation in all branches of the military. Resistance to desegregation would continue in some branches including the Air Force and the Marines, with segregation in the Marine Corps lasting throughout much of the Korean War before gradual desegregation in the mid 1950’s. While segregation had ended for those stationed in the US, the US would actively choose not to send African American soldiers to bases in Iceland until the 1980’s on request from the Icelandic government.

While the history of segregation in the US armed forces is a difficult topic to discuss and reveals a history of racial injustice against many who put on the uniform, it is important for us to know these stories to better honor those who have served.

Closing Prayer

O Lord our God, in your mercy and kindness, no thought of ours is left unnoticed, no desire or concern ignored. You have proven that blessings abound when we fall on our knees in prayer, and so we turn to you in our hour of need. Surrounded by violence and cries for justice, we hear your voice telling us what is required, “Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mi 6:8). Fill us with your mercy so that we, in turn, may be merciful to others. Strip away pride, suspicion, and racism so that we may seek peace and justice in our communities. Strengthen our hearts so that they beat only to the rhythm of your holy will. Flood our path with your light as we walk humbly toward a future filled with encounter and unity. Be with us, O Lord, in our efforts, for only by the prompting of your grace can we progress toward virtue. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

-United States Council of Catholic Bishops
 

 

Next Stop (our last stop!): Tuesday, August 17th

Location: Pleasanton, Devine, Bandera, and San Antonio, TX

 


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1938 Arson, Remembering Victims of Lynching, and Antioch City

Distance Traveled from San Antonio: 2, 520, 797 steps

Location: Luling, Lockhart, Buda, and Dripping Springs, TX

Churches: Church of the Annunciation, Emmanuel, St. Elizabeth’s, and Church of the Holy Spirit

 

Opening Prayer

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious

favor, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our

works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify

thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting

life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. BCP p. 832

 

Welcome to Luling, Lockhart, Buda, and Dripping Springs, TX!

Luling

Luling has a population of 6,000 and rests along the San Marcos river, in both Caldwell and Guadalupe counties. Sources vary on how Luling came by its name: one said that it was named for a Chinese worker; a second, that it was named for a Judge Luling; and a third, that Luling was the maiden name of the wife of the man who built the railroad. The discovery of the Luling oilfield in 1922 created rapid growth in the community, and the town has remained prosperous since. In the 1950s local farmers began to expand their crops, including watermelon. To this day the Watermelon Thump Festival is an annual community celebration that attracts visitors from around Texas and beyond. Visitors can enjoy various farmer’s markets for some of the freshest produce around. There are multiple boat ramps and put-ins for paddling down the San Marcos river, and their downtown contains shops and dining for all to enjoy. History fans can take in the oil museum, Foundation Farm, built-in 1927 to educate local county farmers on best practices and innovative agricultural techniques.

The first service of what would become Church of the Annunciation began in a passenger train car when Bp. Elliot, Bishop of the Missionary District of Western Texas traveled through the eight-month-old town of Luling. The year was 1874, and by 1876 Luling had its own Vicar who worked hard to see a chapel building completed. The chapel was completed in 1877 and remodeled in 1938 and 1965 to include a parish hall, kitchen, bathrooms, and air conditioning. Church of the Annunciation continues to meet in its original building, with vibrant ministries that feed both church members and the community alike.

Every Sunday they serve breakfast before worship, with bible study to follow. On Wednesday evenings they host a community dinner for any and all to attend, no strings attached! They use the curriculum Godly Play for their children’s program on Sunday mornings, and children return to the larger worship service to join their parents afterward. They are currently served by The Rev. Mark C. Bigley, Rector.

The town of Luling has a rich history dating back to its founding in the early 1870s as a workstation for the Southern Pacific railroad. Over time dozens of historic and meaningful buildings would be constructed which in a way helped preserve the history of the town. We as Episcopalians know how important our historic buildings are, with many of the Churches in our Diocese representing not only architectural achievements of the past, but also contain the stories of countless parishioners who have gone before us. In June of 2000, the residents of Luling lost a great deal of their history to the work of an arsonist who in a night set much of the historic downtown ablaze. The ensuing blaze would destroy five businesses and damage five others before the firefighters of Luling and eleven surrounding towns were able to tame the blaze. However, this is not the first incident of arson in Lulings history, and it is to a blaze in 1938 that we find that fire was harnessed as a tool to continue the marginalization of one group by another. But in the story of the blaze at the First Baptist Church of Luling that we also find that the actions that caused individuals to start a fire can be applauded and serve as examples of how to bring all who wish to worship together.

Texas of the 1930s was a State that while practicing the notion of “separate but equal” was anything but equal. Jim Crow was the law of the land with many towns deeply segregated with many minority groups having a lack of access to basic necessities and when access was available it was inferior to what their Anglo neighbors had access to. The town of Luling was similar to many Texas towns in this regard, with different high schools based on one’s ethnicity and a notion that African Americans and Hispanics should not “step out of line” lest violence is used for further marginalization. However, there were exceptions in the town and a drive among some residents to begin integrating, even if it was at just a low level at first. In a first for the town, the leaders of the First Baptist Church, an Anglo congregation agreed to allow one of the African American parishes to use its baptistry for a service on a Sunday night. While this seems to us a simple deed of sharing one’s worship space it was truly challenging for much of the social order of the time. But as we have seen we know this opening of a worship space did not take place as the Church would burn to the ground that Sunday afternoon. As the firefighters began to go through the rubble of the historic parish, it was found that the space heater jet was turned fully on, filling the Church full of gas. In the official reports filed by investigators, it was stated that a pilot light was the source of the blaze, but many residents of the town believed that the fire was a deliberate message from segments of the town who wished to keep the social order. As we have seen before in other instances of violence being used as a tool of intimidation, while the names of those who committed the act were generally known by many of the town’s citizens, no individuals would face prosecution for the blaze and it would be several decades before an Anglo parish would share its worship space with an African American congregation.

While it is truly disheartening to hear the tale of a fire being used as a tool to perpetuate racial segregation and for the purpose of terror, we can also learn from those parishioners who had wished to share their worship space. As followers of Christ, we are taught to open our doors and go out into the world as we are reminded at every dismissal. The beautiful red doors of the Episcopal Church are truly open for all and as followers, it is for us to ensure that all who enter feel welcomed and are free to worship free of marginalization.

Lockhart

Lockhart has a population of 12,700 and is located 30 miles southeast of Austin. European settlers made their home in the area in the 1840s, and by the early 1850s, Lockhart had a newspaper, Masonic Lodge, a school, and five churches. By the 1890s Lockhart had electricity, waterworks, streetcars, and a national bank. The beginning of the 20th century saw the opening of the Eugene Clark Library, said to be the state’s longest continually operating library. Lockhart is known as the capital of Barbeque and many pilgrims make their way to Black’s, Smitty’s, and Kreuz BBQ joints throughout the year. Visitors can also enjoy taking in the sites at the historic courthouse, Caldwell County Jail Museum, and the Eugene Clark Library. Lockhart State Park offers walking, biking, and hiking trails, golf, water activities, and more. The historic Ellison House acts as a Hotel for those staying overnight, and you may just encounter one of the house’s ghosts while you’re there. Lockhart also boasts several local coffee houses and cocktail bars.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church held its first service in a local schoolhouse in Lockhart in 1853 under The Rev. Joseph Dunn. Four parishioners helped donate to the building of a church building that was completed in 1856. The structure is the oldest known unaltered church building in use by Protestants in Texas. In 1899 the exterior walls were stuccoed to resemble stone. The same year a memorial stained-glass window was donated by the people of Lockhart in honor of “Grandma” Elizabeth Head. Since that time all the windows have been replaced with stained-glass memorials. Dunn’s Bible and Prayer Book are displayed in a glass cubicle.

Emmanuel holds two services of Holy Eucharist on Sunday mornings, and one on Wednesday evening. They hold fellowship and Christian Formation for all ages between services on Sunday and are involved in a variety of outreach programs throughout the week. They are served by The Rev. Karen Morris.

With the weeks of summer quickly coming to a close, so too does our journey of social justice through the diocese of West Texas come ever closer to the end. Together we have traveled far and logged many steps, and we have heard many stories of the past that have caused us to pause and see some of the injustices that have taken place across our State. One of the most common forms of social injustice and one we have certainly covered in our pilgrimage has been the violence of lynchings. We have read about a multitude of attacks in the night, of terror being brought upon those disenfranchised and marginalized due to the color of their skin. In many of the instances that we have previously read about we did not always have the victims of these extrajudicial crimes names. But as we find ourselves in Lockhart we have an opportunity to know the names of three victims of the crime of lynching and to know the stories of who these individuals are. Below are three lynchings that occurred in or near Lockhart, and let us learn the names of those whose lives were cut short and know their stories.

Sam Brown: January 22nd, 1884
We know very little about Sam Brown, aside from the way in which he was murdered. Newspapers of the time state that Brown who was African American was being held in the local jail for the murder of an “old man Morton” from the previous summer. During the night of the 22nd, a group of masked men described as a mob broke into the jail and forcibly removed Brown. The following day Brown’s body would be found shot and as several newspapers describe his body was “mangled” beyond recognition. We also learn from the newspapers that the telegraph wire was cut a mile outside town and that many in the community knew the identities of those in the mob, though in the end no one would be charged for Brown’s murder.
Carlos Munoz: February 16th, 1905
As in the case of Brown, we know little of Carlos Munoz aside from his name and that he was a local Hispanic farmer who was accused of attacking the wife of a prominent Anglo farmer in the town. Munoz while being transported by the local sheriff and his deputies would be forcibly removed from their protection by a mob ranging from 40 to over 100 individuals. The sheriff and his “posse” had attempted to drive back the mob but shots were fired at the sheriff and Munoz would be both hanged and shot. Again in the case of this lynching many of the local residents knew who the members of the mob were, but no individuals would be charged in the crime of murdering Munoz.
Jonathan Larremore: July 27th, 1904
The murder of Jonathan Larremore is different from the other lynchings mentioned in that Larremore was not the first target of the group who lynched him, but was the second individual attacked that night. Newspapers from the time describe a mob of “whitecappers” setting out on a ride of racial terror first attacking and severely beating another African American Tom Coperton nearly to death. Whitecappers is a term that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to describe groups of farmers who formed extrajudicial organizations. However, these groups quickly became a group similar to the KKK in use of terror and violence to intimidate and oppress African Americans. Once the whitecappers had finished beating Coperton, they moved to the home of Larremore who was a well known local politician and teacher in the African American community. As the group attempted to enter Larremore’s home, Jonathan’s wife fired a pistol at the group who returned fire, riddling the house with bullets and killing Jonathan. As in the previous cases, no individuals would be charged in his death despite many knowing who had made up the group of whitecappers.
The use of terror as a form of intimidation has long been utilized to further keep groups disenfranchised throughout the history of the State. It is important for us as students of history to know the names of these victims so that the purpose of these terrorist attacks are not fully realized and these individuals can be remembered. Everyone who walks this fragile island home of ours has meant something to someone, and it is as much for those who cared about these individuals that we remember their names and their stories.

Buda

Buda has a population of 16,500 and has quickly become one of Austin’s biggest suburbs. The area of Buda was originally part of the Mexican land grant and settled in the 1840s. It wasn’t until 1881, with the building of a Great Northern Railroad depot that the town was formally established. The population ebbed and flowed over the years until the 1980s when Austin’s population growth saw an increase in growth for Buda. The community has a cement plant and some craft industries. As late as 2000 the town itself was still fairly rural and residential. For perspective on growth, Buda’s population in 2000 was around 2,500.

Visitors can enjoy farmer’s markets, live theater, and rotating art exhibits through Buda’s Creative Arts Society. Their historic downtown offers shopping, dining, and beautiful hotels. During the year they hold seasonal events, such as the Weiner Dog Races every April, Sip, and Stroll down Mainstreet every Summer, and a Fajita Festival in the Fall.

St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church located in Buda is a mission of the Diocese of West Texas. They worship together every Sunday at 10 am. They use Godly Play curriculum for their children’s program, and pre covid had Lifegroups, small groups for parishioners to support one another in their daily lives. They have a vibrant music ministry and host a number of Girl and Boy Scout troops on their property throughout the week. They hope to reach parish status soon and are served by The Rev. Daniel Strandlund, Vicar.

Dripping Springs

Dripping Springs has a population of 4,700 and is located twenty-five miles west of Austin. Farmers began to settle the area in the 1850s, with the first US Post Office being opened in 1857. By 1884 the town supported several businesses, including a steam gristmill and cotton gin. The settlement’s location on the Austin to Fredericksburg road made it a durable community center, and despite a population decline during the Great Depression, Dripping Springs developed into the principal town in northern Hays County during the twentieth century.

Visitors can enjoy a full day trip, or even a weekend or longer stay in Dripping Springs. There are a variety of wineries, distilleries, and brewpubs in town, as well as shopping and dining. The historic Dr. Pound Farmstead provides a look into the agricultural work of the past, with food and fun for all ages. Dripping Springs also holds yearly events which always draw good crowds, including Pioneer Days, the Dripping Springs Rodeo, and the Dripping Springs Songwriters Festival.

Holy Spirit Episcopal Church serves Dripping Springs and the surrounding area. They have two services a Sunday, with a variety of formation opportunities throughout the week. They have a day school that serves 2-year-olds through Pre-k ages, and many outreach ministries, including Military Ministry and ecumenical efforts to support those who need assistance in Dripping Springs. They are currently served by The Rev. Chris Caddell, Rector, and The Rev. Evan Hierholzer, Curate.

For many of us, a trip through the Texas countryside is a time for us to relax and enjoy the sights and beauty of the wildflowers and landscape. And as we cruise through the countryside individuals will see countless historical markers erected by the Texas Historical Commission (THC) dotting the landscape, often appearing in our vision with not enough time to stop and read. Every year new markers are added to the list and placed at historical locations and buildings that detail the history of the location and help us to bring history to life, with many of the new markers documenting events that in the past were overlooked. In the case of the historical Antioch colony near Buda, it would take until 2011 for the story of this community founded by the formerly enslaved to get the marker they deserved.

With the end of the Civil War and the beginnings of Reconstruction many formerly enslaved individuals would attempt to establish new lives free of the oppression of that original sin of slavery. Many of these individuals would face extreme roadblocks and be disenfranchised as they were forced by unfair practices into working as sharecroppers on land they were not allowed to own. The case of the Antioch story is different in that a group of formerly enslaved individuals was able to carve out a farming community that lasted well into the 20th century, with many descendants of these initial founders remaining on the land of the colony to today. The initial purchase of 490 acres for the colony was made in 1870-71 with a local businessman Joseph F. Rowley who sold the land for $5 an acre. By 1874 a Church and school were established to serve the community, with the school continuing in operation until the desegregation of Texas schools in Buda in 1961. Over the years the colony would grow and establish strong connections with the surrounding communities, allowing the residents to avoid falling to the practices of sharecropping. With the decline in agriculture in the region in the 1940s and ’50s, the population of the colony would decrease with only a few families remaining by the 1970s. However many former residents began to return to the region in the 1980s, and with this revitalization of residents so too did the story of the colony become more well known. The residents of the former Antioch colony have become ambassadors for the history of their ancestors and the stories of freed African Americans who were able to build a life for themselves despite the harsh realities of the Jim Crow South.

Closing Prayer

Ever present God, you called us to be in relationship with one another and promised to dwell wherever two or three are gathered. In our community, we are many different people; we come from many different places, have many different cultures. Open our hearts that we may be bold in finding the riches of inclusion and the treasures of diversity among us. We pray in faith. Amen.


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Hernandez v. Texas, Sutton-Taylor Feud, and Sharecropping

Location: Edna, Cuero, Hallettsville, and Gonzales, TX
Churches: Trinity, Grace, St. James, and Church of the Messiah

Opening Prayer
God, be with us in every valley, Jesus, be with us on every hill, Holy Spirit, be with us on every stream, every cliff’s edge, every green pasture; every moor and meadow, and in the crest of the waves on the sea. Every time we rest, and every time we wake up; O Father, be with us, and keep us by your Spirit Holy, every step we take, in the good company of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.

Welcome to Edna, Cuero, Hallettsville, and Gonzales, TX!

Edna
Edna has a population of 5,500 and is the gateway to Lake Texana in Jackson County. Edna is located about 25 minutes outside of Victoria, TX, and about two hours from Houston. The area was first settled in the 1820s, and the town of Edna came about in the 1880s when the New York-Texas-Mexico railway came through the area. The town was named for the daughter of Count Joseph Telferner, an Italian nobleman and financier, the contractor and builder of the New York, Texas, and Mexican Railroad. He was co-founder together with Mrs. Lucy M. Flournoy. The count had three daughters, Edna, Louise, and Inez, and named the three stations along the railroad in their honor. Visitors can enjoy Edna’s historic downtown with shops and restaurants and can take in a day at Lake Texana State Park.
Trinity Episcopal Church serves the good people of Edna. They are a part of the Eastern Convocation PIM (Partners in Ministry).

The United States constitution is a document that has been discussed, read, and argued over by countless individuals throughout the history of the nation. One could easily fall down any number of rabbit holes getting into the finer points and minutia of what certain parts of the constitution deal with and address. For many of us during our primary education, we learn about the first 10 amendments of the constitution, the bill of rights and leave the additional amendments for further research at a later date. Located in the eighth amendment is one of the lines of the constitution that stands out, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right of a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed,” which has often been interpreted as a trial by one’s peers. This is a fundamental right that we have come to expect, but for many throughout the nation’s history, this has not always been the case. Throughout the late 19th and much of the 20th century, both African Americans and Hispanics would be put on trial with representatives from either community being purposely excluded from serving on a jury. This lack of representation on a jury would come to a head in the trial of Peter Hernandez which would lead to one of the most pivotal decisions by the US Supreme Court in the fight for equal rights for all.
In the town of Edna Texas in 1951, Peter Hernandez, a local agricultural worker, would murder Joe Espinoza in cold blood following an altercation in a bar. While many did not argue that Hernandez was not guilty of the murder, his legal team did argue that Hernandez had not received a fair trial due to Mexican Americans being excluded from serving on juries throughout much of Texas. When Hernandez’s case was appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, his legal team claimed that the rights of Hernandez had been violated in direct contradiction to protections under the 14th amendment. As the trial came to a close the court found that Hernandez’s rights had not been violated as the 14th amendment only protected African American rights and as a Mexican American Hernandez was considered white and therefore the 14th amendment did not apply. Despite this initial setback, Hernadez’s legal team would appeal again to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that while Mexican Americans were classified as white, they were in practice treated as second-class citizens and actively discriminated against throughout much of the state. Over the course of the trial, the defense team would demonstrate that while Mexican Americans were not officially barred from jury duty, in the preceding 25 years in Jackson county no individual of Hispanic origin had served on a jury. At the close of the trial, the Justices in a unanimous decision found in favor of the defendant and ruled that the protections of the 14th amendment extend beyond classifications of black and white to extend protection to nationality groups as well.
One of the cornerstones of our democracy is equal protection before the law, and to have a trial by a jury composed of one’s peers is something many of us take for granted. Since the ruling of Hernandez v. Texas, we have come closer to achieving a greater degree of social justice for all, but our work will never be done. Just as we are called to serve Christ and continue the work of the disciples, so too are we called to continue the work of striving for equality for all we share our world with. It will not always be an easy road, and there will be times that we will falter and even fail, but as we find that Jesus forgives us for sins and are made well so too are we made well to continue the work of Christ.

Cuero
Cuero has a population of 7,000 and is located 30 minutes northwest of Victoria, along Hwys 87 and 183. Cuero is named after Cuero Creek, which the Spanish had called Arroyo del Cuero, or Creek of the Rawhide, in reference to the Indians’ practice of killing wild cattle that got stuck in the mud of the creekbed. By the mid-1890s Cuero also had one of the state’s largest cottonseed oil mills, capable of producing eighty tons a day; there were also three large cotton gins, an ice factory, two bottling plants, a cigar factory, a tannery, a private electric company, and the first of three hospitals. Until the 1930s Cuero had a large industry of turkey farming, remnants of which can still be seen today. The Cuero Turkey Trot began in 1912 and is still a local tradition and festival. Ruby Begonia, Cuero’s yearly prized turkey, races a turkey from Worthington, Minnesota each year (Worthington and Cuero both claim to be the turkey capitals of the world). The festival also includes carnival rides, concerts, and delicious food and craft booths. To highlight this tradition the Cuero Highschool mascot is the Gobbler. The Cuero Gobblers won state in football in 2018. Visitors can enjoy historic downtown, a monthly farmer’s market, Turkeyfest, and a yearly Christmas in Downtown festival.
Grace Church has served Cuero since 1873. Their current carpenter gothic building was constructed in 1889. They hold a service every Sunday at 10:30 am, with events and programs throughout the year. Many of Grace’s parishioners are descendants of founding families. They recently finished construction on an outdoor kitchen for fellowship and outreach opportunities, and have just recently called their newest Rector, The Rev. Peter Thaddeus.
As we continue the mark each step we make on our journey as pilgrims we also grow as students of history. The stories of those who went before us can hold a special place in many of our hearts, especially when those stories serve as cornerstones of how we remember events and individuals of the past. These stories may be ones passed down by family lines or ones we hear repeated on town markers and tours. However, as students of history, we must also strive to ensure that we are hearing the entire story and that the voices of those whose history was not always given the same reverence are listened to. Sometimes we will come across primary source information from the past that directly contradicts what we have been told about a certain event, and it is up to us as both students and pilgrims to digest this new information. The stories from the era we call the wild west, in particular, resonate with many across the nation, and it is in the story of the Sutton Taylor feud of DeWitt county and Cuero a particular long-held narrative from these days does not quite align with the historical evidence.
Much of what has been written about the Sutton Taylor feud and its representation in media has been linked to its most famous participant the gunman John Wesley Hardin, with little information written regarding why the event started. Reasons that have been given for the feud starting include everything from cattle rustling to slights by one side to another and claims of offended honor. In some of the newspaper accounts of the time, it was written that the two families involved the Sutton’s and the Taylor’s had long-standing animosities going back generations in a story similar to the Hatfields and McCoy’s. However, when we look at the historical evidence we find that there was no long-standing animosity and that it was less about two families fighting one another as there was only one Sutton involved.
 
Instead, the Sutton Taylor feud can be better understood as part of the larger picture that was reconstruction in Texas and that a great deal of the violence of the conflict was directed at individuals who have not always been included in the stories, recently freed African Americans. With the end of the Civil War came not only an end to a failed rebellion but the end to America’s original sin of slavery. Millions of formerly enslaved individuals who prior to the war were considered nothing but the property now found themselves free, but that original sin would not be overcome so easily. Many formerly enslaved would begin the arduous task of finding family members who had been sold and trying to reunite families, but with the majority of money still being controlled by the former planter class, many found themselves trapped into the new system of sharecropping. In an attempt to help this new group of Americans the government began a program known as the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, more commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau which looked at providing both material aid and education. Another of the primary roles of the Freedmen’s Bureau was to report and investigate incidents of violence perpetrated against both African Americans and individuals who had been Unionists during the war. For the Freedmen’s Bureau members located in DeWitt county, one of the most prominent issues they faced was dealing with armed groups using terror tactics against recently-freed African Americans with one of the most prominent known as the Taylor gang.
Among the many former soldiers of the confederacy returning home from the war were several members of the Taylor family, a family with a long history in Texas with members on both sides of the law. Immediately following the end of the war reports began to emerge in dispatches sent by the Bureau of some of these attacks, including a report submitted September 18th, 1866 by Albert Hetzner the sub-assistant commissioner for the Bureau in Texas. In this report to the adjutant general’s office Hetzner lists several of the atrocities including the murder of several soldiers and the beatings of African American women in broad daylight with the head of the Taylor family, Buck Taylor being directly mentioned as the leader of the gang. As the Bureau had limitations in its ability to enforce the law, the individuals who would have to arrest those who perpetrated these crimes would be the State police which included the deputy sheriff for DeWitt, William Sutton. In many of the writings regarding the initial shootout that started the event in an attempt to arrest members of the Taylor gang, the reason stated for Sutton attempting to make the arrests was due to cattle theft, despite historical records existing showing the murder of federal troops was one of the main factors in seeking the arrests. The feud would continue in a tit-for-tat cycle of violence until 1876 when units of the Texas Rangers were sent in to restore peace. In addition to the Texas Rangers being sent in, this time also marks the end of Reconstruction in Texas and a re-establishment of control by many ex-Confederates over local offices.
Stories and oral histories are incredibly important when it comes to understanding how events in the past occurred. But it is paramount that to truly gain the full picture we must be willing to listen to all stories, including many of those that may not align with the stories that we hold close. While there has been some examination of the Sutton Taylor feud in the larger context of Reconstruction in Texas, the popular image portrayed is still one rooted in the tales of the wild west past with certain voices still unheard. As we continue on our pilgrimage we will hear stories that will challenge us, and that at times will make us uncomfortable. But just as the disciples had to face being called to be uncomfortable so should we be ready as followers of Christ.
 
Hallettsville

Hallettsville has a population of 2,500 and is the county seat of Lavaca County. One of the first settlers in the area was John Hallett, who received a land grant from Stephen F. Austin in 1831. After Hallett’s death in 1836 his wife, Margaret L. Hallett, donated land for the townsite. The Alma Male and Female Institute, one of the county’s first private schools, opened in Hallettsville in 1852 but was forced to close at the outbreak of the Civil War. Sacred Heart Academy was founded in 1881, and a public school system was in place by the late 1880s. In 1887 the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway was built through the town, and Hallettsville became the principal trading center and shipping point for area farmers and ranchers. By 1892 the town-owned an electricity plant and had established waterworks supplied by artesian wells. Visitors can take a historical tour of the courthouse and old jail, shop in boutiques downtown, and enjoy monthly Market Days.
St. James’ Episcopal Church serves the Hallettsville area. They hold services every Sunday at 9 am and are a part of the Eastern Convocation PIM (Partners in Ministry).
Gonzales
Gonzales has a population of 7,200 and is the seat of Gonzales County. It was established in 1825 and named for Rafael Gonzales, governor of Coahuila and Texas. Gonzales was the center of much of the Texas revolutionary activity. As the story goes, in 1835, Texans resisted the Mexican Army sent to retrieve the town cannon. Challenging the Mexicans to “come and take it,” the Texans rallied around the gun and fought the battle of Gonzales, the first skirmish of the Texas Revolution. Today, visitors can view this cannon, along with other artifacts of the Texas Revolution at the Old Jail Museum. Palmetto State Park is located right outside of city limits and provides walking and biking trails, camping, and fishing. Gonzales has a myriad of antique shops and other boutiques to enjoy.

Church of the Messiah serves Gonzales and holds services every Sunday at 10:30 am. They are currently served by The Rev. Shanna Neff.The American Civil War is truly one of the most pivotal events in the country’s history. In many ways, we are still living with many of the ramifications from the conflict to this day, and at the time the war touched nearly every family who lived within the borders of the US and even beyond. While countless volumes have been written about the war, and many school children can name at least one battle from the conflict, the immediate aftermath of the war that has been termed Reconstruction has not always been given the attention it deserves. To truly understand both Civil War history and the history of the nation as students of history must view these two time periods not separately but directly connected and part of one continuous event. As the author Ron Chernow has stated “The Civil War and Reconstruction are two halves of the same play, and to only read about the Civil War is like walking out of the play at intermission”. With the close of the war in 1865 many residents of Texas were forced to deal with the economic hardships of the conflict. But as we will find out today, the newest group of citizens to the nation would suffer unduly under a system that in essence perpetuated America’s original sin of slavery in everything but name.
Juneteenth is now celebrated nationally as marking the official end to the practice of slavery in the United States, and it was in Texas where the proclamation was made in 1865. As millions of African Americans now found themselves free from the bondage of slavery, many in the naiton realized that major changes to the social structure of the south would be required to prevent these newly freed citizens from becoming disenfranchised. As the era of Reconstruction began in full swing the idea of providing freed African Americans with their own land which would come from the former estates of those who had rebelled against the nation. However, then President Andrew Johnson who did not wish to prevent the disenfranchisement of African Americans ordered all land held by federal authorities returned to their original owners. This action had the immediate effect of destroying any type of economic independence for African Americans, who with no source of income were forced into the system now known as sharecropping. Sharecropping is the practice by which a landowner will allow a tenant farmer to cultivate their land for a share of all crops produced. In the initial years following the war the Freedmen’s Bureau oversaw and arranged many of the yearly contracts ensuring that the recently freed were not saddled with exorbitant debt or taken advantage of. However, with the disbandment of the Bureau in 1872, many of the large landowners drastically increased the rates at which interest was charged for the land and any equipment used. These actions resulted in many being trapped in a cycle of debt with nearly all crops produced going towards paying off existing debt while new debt continued to build. Many of the landowners forced sharecroppers to plant only one of the major cash crops which when subject to market fluctuations could prove ruinous and further push the farmer into a debt that was inescapable aside from leaving agriculture altogether. In Gonzales County, cotton production soon overtook all other forms of agriculture, with cotton accounting for over half of all cropland harvested in 1900 and five cotton gin mills being established. As the rates of cotton production increased so too did sharecropping among all members of the population including African Americans and Anglos with the number of sharecroppers rising from 51% of all farmers in 1900 to 64% by 1920. While sharecropping adversely impacted large sections of the population, in the era of Jim Crow a greater percentage of African American farmers found themselves indebted to large landowners who through the use of foreclosures on small farmers were able to lock more and more individuals into sharecropping. With the general decline of agriculture during the height of the Depression many in the African American community would face starvation, eviction, and further economic ruin forcing thousands to seek out new work in what has become known as the Great Migration, with over 1.75 million African Americans leaving their homes and communities in the South for possible opportunities in the North. With the advent of further mechanization in agriculture, the practice of sharecropping began to die out by the 1940s. However, the scars from this practice remain in many communities both in the North and the South.
As we have seen throughout the pandemic the curse of debt has a tremendous impact on our most disenfranchised communities. With many individuals throughout our communities continuing to deal with the fallout of unemployment from the pandemic we must remember that there exist many practices akin to what sharecropping did throughout the 19th and 20th centuries that will further exacerbate the problems faced by those already caught in the whirlwind. For us who follow in the footsteps of the disciples, we must reach out to those who are struggling in all forms and open our doors to break bread with all members of our community.

Closing Prayer
God of justice, in your wisdom you create all people in your image, without exception. Through your goodness, open our eyes to see the dignity, beauty, and worth of every human being. Open our minds to understand that all your children are brothers and sisters in the same human family. Open our hearts to repent of racist attitudes, behaviors, and speech which demean others. Open our ears to hear the cries of those wounded by racial discrimination, and their passionate appeals for change. Strengthen our resolve to make amends for past injustices and to right the wrongs of history. And fill us with courage that we might seek to heal wounds, build bridges, forgive and be forgiven, and establish peace and equality for all in our communities. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Next Stop coming Tuesday, August 5th

Location: Luling, Lockhart, Buda, and Dripping Springs, TX
Distance to travel: 216,000 steps
Churches: Church of the Annunciation, Emmanuel, St. Elizabeth’s, and Church of the Holy Spirit


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Dixie, US Prisons, and J. Frank Dobie

Distance Traveled from San Antonio: 2,159,124 steps

 

Location: Refugio, Beeville, and George West, TX

Churches: Church of the Ascension, St. Philip’s, and Church of the Good Shepherd

 

Opening Prayer

Lord, may our visit to the (name of the pilgrimage site. holy place) help us to unburden all the pain and burden besetting us. Refresh our souls and quench our thirst for Your grace at the site. Moreover, may the holy place convey upon us Your healing power and Divine grace that would allow us to face the world, once again after this pilgrimage, with courage, determination, hope, faith, and love.

 

Welcome to Refugio, Beeville, and George West, TX!

Refugio

Refugio has a population of 2,800 and rests north of Corpus Christi along Hwy 77. Refugio boasts having three major league baseball players from the area: Nolan Ryan, Rocky Bridges, and Dan Firova.

The Episcopal Church of the Ascension serves the Refugio area. They are a part of Partners in Ministry (PIM), and are currently served by The Rev. Virginia Frnka.

We as Episcopalians know just how powerful traditions can be for an institution or organization. For many of us, our lives are full of traditions, whether it be going to a favorite restaurant after a Sunday service or a family game night. The use of traditions is also extremely prevalent when it comes to both those of us who are currently in school or those of us who have long since graduated but fondly remember school fight songs or attending a pep rally. But what does it mean when we are forced to reevaluate our traditions in the name of seeking further social justice? As Episcopalians, this is something we have faced numerous times over the years, and it is something many of us have had to contend with as we attempt to share traditions with other individuals in our lives who may not find the same spark of joy we find. For the town of Refugio and their High School, this needs to reckon with tradition came to a head when in 2020 the Board of Directors for the School District voted to drop the school fight song “Dixie”. To understand why the call to change something as simple as a school’s fight song proved to be a task filled with multiple votes and countless petitions on both sides, we need to understand the history of the song, and how having to hear that song played during ones formative years could have such a tremendous impact on an individual.

The song “Dixie” or as it is also known “Dixie’s Land” is a song from the 1850s written for the predominant form of entertainment at the time, the black minstrel show. The minstrel show consisted of comic skits, musical performances, and dancing acts all while the majority of white performers wore blackface, and used deeply racist caricatures of African Americans as a source of humor. While the song “Dixie” is most often associated with the Southern US, the most commonly held narrative is that the song was written by an Ohio born minstrel performer, with the song being widely adopted in the Confederate States during the Civil War and was used as the de facto anthem for the Confederacy. At the end of the Civil War, the song would continue in popularity and came to be adopted by many Southern groups and societies such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy while advocating that the song was not racist in nature, despite the song in many of its forms directly calling for the bondage of African Americans as the necessary natural order. For African American students in Refugio, this song would feature at sporting events and school assemblies from 1960 until 2020, with students who were descended from those formerly enslaved having to sing along to a song calling for the enslavement of their ancestors.

The year 2020 was a year that will not soon be forgotten for a myriad of reasons, with the topic of social justice and the need for racial reconciliation is one of the prominent focal points of that year. Tradition certainly has its place in our day-to-day lives, and for many of us, the act of having traditions can offer comfort and a connection to happy memories from our past. But as Christians, we must not only ask how our traditions impact ourselves and those we share the pew with but also how it impacts those around us in our day-to-day lives. One cannot disassociate the racist nature of “Dixie” and claim it is only a song, for there are those whose traditions are ones of marginalization and being othered by the nature of their being. To truly come together in the spirit and body of Christ, we must be willing to hold onto some traditions, while also being willing to change for the sake of those we worship and have yet to worship, with.

Beeville

Beeville has a population of 12,800 and is the home of Coastal Bend College. The area was settled by Europeans in the 1830s, and the town’s original name was Maryville after the pioneer Mary Heffernan. It was later changed to Beeville after Barnard E. Bee, Sr., the Secretary of State and Secretary of War for the Republic of Texas. Beeville’s population grew with the oil boom through the 1960s, with a resurgence in population growth during the boom of the Eagle Ford Shale extraction project that began in 2010. Visitors can enjoy museums and Beeville’s historic Main Street. The historic Rialto theater was built in 1922 and still has live performances today.

Episcopalians began worshipping in Beeville in 1888, and St. Philip’s Episcopal Church became a mission in 1893. Their building was completed in 1911 and they reached parish status in 1951. They went through a full renovation project in 2013 and rededicated their church and parish hall in 2014. They will soon (August 15th 2021), be served by The Rev. Andrew Green.

As one drives through the Texas countryside, there are many sites we’ll see that are hallmarks of the image of Texas such as fields of bluebonnets and longhorn grazing in fields. However, in many Texas towns throughout the state, motorists may notice buildings surrounded by barbed wire and tall fences which speak to the larger picture of the high level of incarceration and the prison system in the United States. The town of Beeville Texas is one such town where a motorist will notice not one, but three prisons, providing both employment for these communities but also serving as reminders of the massive rates of incarceration for many citizens. As we have seen in many instances during this pilgrimage there is a long history of extrajudicial violence and acts that have been perpetrated, but we must also acknowledge the long history of how the prison system was both shaped by the US and continues to shape the lives of many who call the nation home.

Recent research from 2016 shows that 2.2 million Americans have been incarcerated, which equates to 655 current inmates per 100,000 individuals. Prison parole, probation, and general operations generate $81 billion annual cost to taxpayers, with a further $100 billion in further costs paid by individuals. And while debtors’ prisons have been outlawed within the US, residents of some states can still be incarcerated for unpaid debts, including those in Texas. Going back further into US history, we find that some of the earliest buildings built during the colonial era were jails, with what is now regarded as one of the models for the modern prison system being built in 1790 by Pennsylvania Quakers, the penitentiary. These early prisons were established with the goal of having those incarcerated repent for their crimes through structured routine and in many instances reading of scripture in absolute silence. Many of those who found their way into these early prisons were then judged to be criminally insane, what we now know as those suffering from mental health problems and disorders. This resulted in an ever growing prison population, especially in the years following the end of the Civil War, with many prison systems shifting to a more retribution style of punishment as overcrowding became an ever increasing problem. The end of the Civil War also saw the growth in the use of convict labor especially in the Jim Crow South as a substitute for formerly enslaved labor, with a higher proportion of individuals of color being incarcerated and forced to work as unpaid labor. Beginning in the 1970’s the US saw an ever growing increase in for profit prisons and detention centers, and with it an expansion of the prison population that in many ways can become a vicious cycle of release and reincarceration of inmates and formerly incarcerated.

The questions that arise from incarceration and how we structure our treatment of those who are incarcerated are numerous and can be truly difficult to discuss. But the discussions of social justice in prisons is an important conversation, especially as with our ever-growing population so too is the population of those who are or have been incarcerated growing. For towns like Beeville who find themselves in close proximity to multiple institutions, these are conversations that require us to not only understand what prejudices and preconceived notions we bring to our discussions, but also what historical biases exist in the narrative of incarceration in the United States.

George West

George West has a population of 2,400 and is named after the cattle rancher George Washington West. It was named the “storytelling capital of Texas” in 2005 and hosts Storyfest each year to highlight cowboy stories, poetry, and music.

The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd serves George West and the surrounding areas. They are a mission under the Diocese of West Texas and hold services every Sunday at 9:30 am with a Bible Study that follows. They are currently served by The Rev. Jim Kee Reeves.


For many first-time visitors flying into Texas, the thoughts in their heads before they land may be filled with classic images of wide-open plains full of cattle and cowboys. Many of these same visitors are surprised when they exit the airport in one of the larger cities to not be surrounded by desert, but instead one of the many bustling metropolitan centers of the state. This dichotomy between the folklore of Texas past and the modern state which we call home is one that many individuals sit astride, including the father of modern Texas folklore the author J. Frank Dobie. Dobie represents the individual with a foot both in the past and the present, a man who wrote extensively on the cowboys of the open range and their longhorn cattle, but who also taught at UT in the heart of Austin and was a champion for social justice. We as Episcopalians can greatly appreciate how Dobie balanced these two worlds, as we too balance the traditions of our faith with the ever-changing world around us.

The future author J. Frank Dobie was born on his family’s cattle ranch near George West Texas in 1888. Growing up Dobie was a frequent reader of classic literature while also an avid listener to the many cowboys and ranch hands who worked on or near his family’s ranch. After completing school and earning his master’s degree at Columbia, Dobie would return to Texas and take up a faculty position at the University of Texas, where he would also become a prominent member of the Texas Folklorist Society. Though the era of the cattle drives and the open range system in Texas had long since passed when Dobie began writing in the 1920s, he was consumed with a desire to preserve these tales of the past for future generations. One of his greatest passions was the work to preserve the Texas longhorn which had fallen out of favor among cattle growers and by the middle of the 20th century was close to extinction. Through his writings and lobbying efforts, Dobie was able to help spread awareness of these cattle and the role they had played in the state’s history, resulting in a renewed popularity for the breed.

While Dobie certainly had a love for the past, he was also concerned with the plight of individuals in modern Texas and was an ardent supporter of social justice efforts. Early in his career with UT, Dobie would call for the university to admit African American students and was a major supporter of President Franklin Roosevelt and his policies during the Depression. These calls for change from both the University and the State would cause Dobie to be forced out of UT in 1947 with the author finding an advisory in then-Governor Coke Stevenson. Despite the end of his career with UT, Dobie would continue to write on the folklore of Texas and publish over 20 books during his lifetime. In 1964 Dobie would be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Lyndon Johnson and would pass away only four days later on September 18th.

Humans by our nature are creatures who live betwixt and between the present and the past. Our memories and life histories form the basis of who we are and guide many of our actions, allowing us to navigate our present situations with ever-growing connections and life events adding to our own folklore. The Church also exists in this liminal zone, and it is up to us in the present to live into our faith lives as servants of Christ while also drawing strength from the stories that went before us. Like Dobie we must strive both to remember the stories of our past while also looking to care for those with who we share our world.

Closing Prayer

Lord, you suffered at human hands the pain of false arrest, torture, and unjust punishment, and you commanded us to comfort those in prison. Build a fire in your people, Lord, that we may never learn patience with prejudice or make peace with oppression, but that we may burn with zeal for justice, proportion, and equal protection under the law for all people. In the Name of him who died condemned. Amen.

Next Stop coming Thursday, July 29th

 

Location: Kenedy, Goliad, and Victoria, TX

Distance to Travel: 180,000 steps

Churches: St. Matthew’s, St. Steven’s, Trinity, and St. Francis


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Alice, Corpus Christi, and Portland, TX

Distance traveled from San Antonio: 1,977,231 steps

Churches: Church of the Advent, All Saints, Good Shepherd, St. Mark’s, St. Bartholomew’s, and St. Christopher’s by the Sea

 

Opening Prayer
Holy God, you always show mercy toward those who you love and you are

never far away for those who seek you. Be with your servants on this pilgrimage

and guide their way in accord with your will. Be a companion for them along their

journey, a guide at crossroads, strength in their weariness, defence before dangers,

shelter on the way, shade against the heat, light in the darkness, a comforter in their

discouragements, and firmness in their intentions, in order that, through your

guidance, they might arrive unscathed at the end of their journey and, enriched

with graces and virtues, they might return safely home; through Jesus Christ Your

Son, Who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for

ever and ever. Amen.

 

Welcome to Alice, Corpus Christi, and Portland, TX!

 

Alice
Alice lies 45 miles west of Corpus Christi and has a population of 19,000. The city was established in 1888, first under the name Bandana, then Kleberg, and eventually to Alice, after the daughter of Richard King of the King Ranch. Its original economy was built on the cattle industry, with a shift to oil production in the 1940s that still continues today. It is often called the crossroads, as Alice sits almost square in the middle of San Antonio, Laredo, McAllen, and Corpus Christi. 

The Episcopal Church has been present in Alice since 1893 through the Church of the Advent. They worshipped in the same building from 1896 until 1954 when construction on their current building began. A parish hall and classrooms were added in 1969. They have one service a Sunday at 9 am, with fellowship and classes for all ages following. Church of the Advent is welcoming to all in the community and is “committed to each other and our community.​..we celebrate God’s love through fellowship,  worship, and praise.” They are currently served by The Rev. Tom Turner. 

The various cultures that call Texas home have given us truly amazing and unique traditions that resonate far beyond the State’s borders.  Whether it’s enjoying some Tex-Mex at your favorite San Antonio restaurant or listening to Tejano music as you walk this pilgrimage, there are countless ways to experience the melting pot of Texas.  For the music fans out there, the genre known as Tejano music has produced countless stars both big and small and has had a tremendous impact on other artists ranging from Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs to Los Lobos.  If one really wants to learn all the history Tejano music has to offer, a visit to the Tejano ROOTS Hall of Fame Museum is in order.  But before we can dig into the museum, we first must understand Tejano music.

Though there had been Germans in Texas prior to the revolutions that swept the German States in 1848, it was the mass migration of individuals from the German lands in the second half of the 19th century that helped spread the influence of the music from these regions with the accordion quickly finding a home in Texas.  The popularity of the accordion and waltzes quickly grew, especially among the Tejano and Mexican American communities that had long called Texas home.  Musicians would combine the accordion with traditional Spanish lyrics and begin traveling to different communities providing entertainment and helping to spread the bases of Tejano music.  By the early 1920’s several Tejano music artists would find their way to small-time recording companies, though these records would have a limited release and would often have racial undertones pinned to the presentation of the albums.  In 1946 Armondo Marroquin of Alice Texas would found Ideal Records, a record label for Tejano music for both a local and national music market in response to what Armondo felt was the abandonment of regional musical styles by other record labels.  Through tireless work promoting these Tejano artists, Armondo and Ideal records helped popularize Tejano music, and through the master recordings many early artists’ works have been preserved for future generations’ enjoyment.  On May 3, 2001, Governor Rick Perry signed House Bill 1019 which officially designated Alice as the birthplace of Tejano music, with the ROOTS museum bringing the history of the music to life.

For the pilgrim whose trail takes them to the ROOTS museum, they will find artifacts, musical instruments, photographs, stage costumes, and other materials highlighting many of the stars of the genre.  In addition to their preservation efforts, the museum has sponsored an annual Noche De Fiesta Tejana weekend in Alice where both new and past artists are inducted into the Hall of Fame and allowing for rising amateur musicians to show off the ever-evolving genre.

While we continue to travel the Diocese for this pilgrimage, it is important to remember to take time to recharge ourselves.  Though many of the stories of the past that have and will be told during this journey may be difficult to hear, they are important in coming to understand the long road ahead for seeing true social justice for Texas.  

Corpus Christi
Corpus has a population of 327,000, making it the 8th largest city in Texas. The name comes from the Ecclesiastical Latin for body of Christ, referencing Holy Communion. The name was given to the city by the Spanish explorer, Alonso Alvarez de Pineda, in 1519. Corpus is known for its beaches, museums, and visitor attractions. The Texas State Aquarium is as fun as it is educational about Texas’ marine life. History buffs can enjoy a tour of the USS Lexington, an Essex-class aircraft carrier that was launched in 1942. Today the Lexington is docked and is a museum that provides an inside look at Navy life in WWII and beyond.  

There are four Episcopal Churches in Corpus proper, Church of the Good Shepherd, All Saints, St. Bartholomew’s, and St. Mark’s, each with their own personalities and traditions. 

The Church of the Good Shepherd was established on the second floor of the Corpus Christi Courthouse in 1863. At the time Corpus Christi was considered a missionary district of the Diocese of Texas. Church of the Good Shepherd became part of the missionary district of the Diocese of West Texas in 1874, and became a self-supported parish in 1910. They have four services a Sunday, and a variety of programs throughout the week for all ages. They are currently served by The Rev. Milton Black, Rector, The Rev. Phillip May, Associate Rector, The Rev. William Campbell, Assistant Rector, and The Rev. Frank Fuller, Assisting Priest. 

All Saints Episcopal Church was constructed in 1949, in the middle of cotton fields. The city has since grown around them, and in 2005 major renovations expanded the church to accommodate new needs and their growing numbers. They have two services a Sunday, and they have continued their covid-19 schedule of live streaming Morning Prayer and Compline every weekday. They have a beautiful indoor labyrinth and a long list of outreach programs. They are currently served by The Rev. Jonathan Wickham, Rector, and The Rev. Keith Davis, Curate. 

St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church began as a missionary church, Church of the Good Shepherd in 1959 and was given full parish status in 1964. They have two services a Sunday and strive to keep a family atmosphere in all that they do. They are currently served by The Rev. Sean Maloney, Rector

St. Mark’s motto is, “Real Faith for Real Life.  We welcome people of all backgrounds and ages.  No matter where we are in our faith journey, God Himself works with us in community building faith.” They currently hold one outdoor service and one live-streamed service each Sunday morning. They are involved in a myriad of outreach ministries, and formation activities for all ages. They are currently served by The Rev. John Hardy. 

The call to action for social justice is one felt by countless individuals throughout history, with a multitude of names filling the pages of Texas history with stories of fighting for the rights and freedoms of their fellow humans.  While the term abolitionist is one associated with the anti-slavery movement of the 18th and 19th centuries, the reality is that the term abolitionist only applied to those who sought the immediate end to the institution of slavery.  For an individual to proclaim immediate abolition of slavery could prove dangerous as much of the wealth found in the Southern United States was concentrated in the institution that kept humans in bondage and concentrated efforts were made to ensure not only the continuation but the spread of slavery in the US.  Many abolitionists of the day began to look to other countries and lands as possible homes and colonies for those formerly enslaved individuals to establish, with Mexico and Mexican Texas serving as a possibility for many with Mexico’s abolition of slavery in 1824.  One individual who would attempt to start his own freed slave colony in what is now Corpus Christi was the Quaker Benjamin Lundy.

The New Jersey native, Lundy was a passionate advocate for the universal immediate emancipation of all enslaved individuals and for the resettling of these individuals in colonies outside of the US.  While today we would look at this notion of sending away the formerly enslaved as racist (and by the standards of today it certainly is), at the time this was an attempted solution to the argument made by many pro-slavery advocates that the formerly enslaved would not live willingly or peacefully with their former enslavers.  For Lundy to establish this colony, he began in 1833 to travel to the land he believed perfect for a colony and one that he would hold close to his heart, Texas.  Traveling throughout the State and Northern Mexico, Lundy would visit and ingratiate himself with many in the Mexican government in attempts to be given a land grant for the future colony.  Gradually Lundy’s plan took shape and with the backing of Mexico’s government, Lundy would begin work in 1834 at the chosen site for the colony in modern-day Corpus Christi.  However, the tides of history would intervene and with the Texas Revolution and founding of the Texas Republic, Lundy would find his plans interrupted and permanently ended as the new Republic enacted laws in its constitution forbidding any free African Americans from residing in Texas.  Even though his plan for a colony had fallen apart, Lundy would continue to advocate for the full abolition of slavery and work alongside former President John Quincy Adams to delay Texas’s annexation to the US before passing away in 1839.

Throughout our lives, we will be called upon to stand up for our fellow human beings in one form or another.  There will be times when we will be afraid to act and certain times when we will fail, but as disciples of Christ, we are called to care for all our neighbors.  As we walk with Christ on our pilgrimage, so too do we walk with Christ as we come to better understand both ourselves and those we share our homes with.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Portland
Portland has a population of 15,000 and rests on the top of the second-highest bluff on the Gulf Coast. It overlooks the Nueces and Corpus Christi Bay. Being close to the water, Portland offers visitors ideal locations for swimming, boating, fishing, and more. Sunset Lake park offers 300+ acres of marshland and a saltwater lake. The park has bike and walking paths, as well as the opportunity to boat, fish, and bird watching. 

St. Christopher’s by the Sea provides an Episcopal presence to the area. They hold one service a Sunday at 10:30 am, and celebrate feast days with great celebration throughout the year. They offer a food pantry to the community twice a month, and on Wednesday evenings host a theological book study. They are currently served by The Rev. John Blackburn, Priest in charge. 

For many individuals, the knowledge that we are truly known is both comforting and helps to reassure us that we are important to someone.  But what does it mean for an individual when their identity is lost to history?  An even more pressing question is what does it mean to have your identity lost in all aspects aside from being known as the victim of unjust extrajudicial violence.  In several of the places, we have found ourselves during the pilgrimage we have encountered both the named and unnamed victims of the various crimes of lynching that occurred in these towns.  Even when we do know the name of the individual, this information is often all we know of the individual along with their race, with the newspapers of the time reporting just the ethnicity of the victim and if we’re lucky maybe the age.  For countless others, ethnicity is all we know of those who suffered this violence, with their names and in truth, the life stories of these individuals lost to time.  In the case of the violence that engulfed Portland Texas and much of Nueces County in 1877, we know none of the names of those lynched, only the name of the individual whose death touched off the violence.

Texas in 1877 was a State that was both still feeling the economic impact of defeat during the Civil War and rebuilding its economy through the growth of the cattle drives heading north along with one of the many trails.  While the price one could get for cattle in Texas was low, significant profit could be made by selling one’s cattle at one of the railheads in Kansas prompting many acts of cattle rustling from both sides of the border.  Raids would occur periodically back and forth across the border with cattle being stolen from Mexico and some of those very cattle being stolen back.  In July of 1877, a victim of one of these tit-for-tat raids was Lee Rabb, the son of Martha Rabb who owned one of the largest cattle herds in the state.  While newspapers of the time report that he was killed by friends of the woman he loved because she was Mexican and he was not, later historical research shows that Rabb was killed while returning from a raid into Mexico for cattle.  Lee’s death would prompt large-scale attacks against the Mexican and Tejano communities of the County, with over 40 individuals lynched, many of whom were attacked randomly.  Sadly we do not know the names of any of these victims, only their ethnicity, and that their deaths were celebrated in many newspapers in the County.  From the newspapers, we also know that none of the murderers who participated in this violence were ever caught or tried, though years later many prominent County members would claim to have ridden in these terrors.  The story of this incident is one of many that occurred in the violence that erupted in Texas from the end of the Civil War to the mid 20th century that has been all but forgotten.  It is only in a few books that the event is referenced, with the possibility of knowing the names of the victims becoming an ever more distant prospect.

What does it mean to be truly known?  As a family, we come together every Sunday to proclaim not only the name of Jesus but to remember both those members of the Church who have gone before us and our neighbors who are still with us.  It is important to learn and discover more about the events of the past and the stories that have been lost from the narrative so that in a way we can come to better know those whose names are now lost to us.  These individuals are a part of the community of Christ and as we wish to be known so should we know those around us.

Closing Prayer

O God of unconditional love, you who show no partiality in respect to people or nations, we have heard your good news of great joy for all the people. We hear that good news, and in hearing, believe. We know that your sanctuary is a house of worship for all people, with no regard for the colour of our skin. As we worship you, knit us into a people, a seamless garment of many colours. May we celebrate our unity, made whole in our diversity. Forgive us for our inability to let our “old selves” die to the world. Amen.
-Church of Scotland

 

Next Stop Thursday, July 22nd

Location: Aransas Pass, Port Aransas, and Rockport, TX

Distance to travel: 74,000 steps

Churches: Church of our Savior, Trinity, and St. Peter’s


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The Brownsville Affair, Mexican-American War, and a gruesome history with the KKK

Location: Brownsville, Port Isabel, and Kingsville, TX

Churches: Church of the Advent, St. Andrew’s, and Church of the Epiphany

 

Opening Prayer
Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious

favor, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our

works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify

thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting

life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

-A prayer for Guidance, BCP p. 832

 

Welcome to Brownsville, Port Isabel, and Kingsville!

 

Brownsville

Brownsville was founded in 1848 by American entrepreneur Charles Stillman after he developed a successful riverboat company nearby. The population grew significantly in the early 1900s with the introduction of the steel industry. Today Brownsville’s population is 183,000 and they are most known for their subtropical climate, seaport, and Hispanic culture. 

For nature options, visitors can enjoy the extensive trail systems and World Birding Center, and the Brownsville Zoo. For a more historical tour, one can visit the numerous battle sites of the Texas Revolution, Mexican-American War, and American Civil War. Brownsville is also home to Boca Chica Beach, the commercial launch pad for SpaceX rockets. 

 

Church of the Advent has been holding Episcopal services in Brownsville since 1851. In 1867 a hurricane destroyed their first church building, and a second church, a replica of the first, was completed in 1877. Their current Spanish Colonial-style church building was complete in 1927 and is now listed as a historic landmark. 

Through worship, formation, and service, they certainly live into their mission statement,  “That Church of the Advent is a cup of strength to our neighbors in need and that every true need brought to Church of the Advent is met with Christ’s loving-kindness.” They hold three services a Sunday, two in English and one in Spanish. They host a variety of formation programs for all ages and have a 2k-6th grade day school that opened in 1948. They host a food pantry once a month, and pre-covid they offered a free hot meal to anyone in the community who needed one. Church of the Advent, and the Diocese of West Texas, are also involved in supporting Team Brownsville, a nonprofit aimed at providing humanitarian assistance to asylum seekers. You may recall that St. Luke’s participated in a food and PPE kit drive for asylum seekers and refugees traveling through San Antonio. Many of these kits, put together by churches all over the diocese, were also sent to Brownsville to aid the people there. Church of the Advent is currently served by The Rev. Laurie McKim, Rector. 

 

The story of the Buffalo Soldiers is one of bravery and service that has been told countless times in movies, books, and by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Buffalo Soldiers living history program.  From their initial founding in 1866 until the end of segregation in the army during the Korean War, all four units of the Buffalo Soldiers (9th & 10th cavalry/24th & 25th infantry) would at some point call Texas their home.  However, these brave soldiers would not always find a welcoming home and despite their service to the nation, they would find deeply ingrained racism in many of their postings from both commanding officers and civilians alike.  One of the worst incidents of outright racism encountered by the Buffalo Soldiers would occur in the town of Brownsville in what has become known as the Brownsville Affair of 1906.

In July 1906 the 25th infantry would find itself posted to Fort Brown which was nearby the town of Brownsville.  From their first day at the fort, the soldiers received a frosty reception, being informed by their commanding officers that they would need to adhere to the Jim Crow laws of Texas and always show deferment to white townsfolk to avoid trouble.  Many of the town’s citizens hated the notion of having African American soldiers stationed in their town, and many civic leaders were looking for an incident that could help them get rid of the 25th.  This incident would occur on August 12th when a local white woman reported being attacked during the night.  The Mayor, Frederick Combe, declared a curfew for the soldiers, and the officers at the base confined the men to their barracks.  The following night of August 13th a local bartender would be killed in a shooting and a police officer wounded, and the townspeople of Brownsville immediately began to point the finger of blame at the soldiers of the 25th.  Despite the protests of the officers (who were all white), an investigation would be launched by the Texas Rangers, with spent rifle casings from the rifles used by the US army at the time being presented as evidence.  While the soldiers of the 25th would plead their innocence, President Theodore Roosevelt would step in and order all 167 African American soldiers of the 25th dishonorably discharged for a “conspiracy of silence”.  This dishonorable discharge had a profound impact on the soldiers of the 25th who now found themselves not only kicked out of the army but banned from ever re-enlisting or serving in any future federal employment.  Among some of those discharged included many soldiers who had been a part of the regiment since the 1880s and would now lose their pensions.

After the discharge of the soldiers, a wave of condemnation from many political and civic leaders would be leveled at Roosevelt, with Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute personally appealing against the President’s orders, to no avail.  It would not be until an Army investigation and Presidential pardon in 1972 by Richard Nixon that the truth of the events in 1906 would come to light.  The investigation found that the soldiers had been denied their due right under the Constitution and that much of the evidence presented against them had been planted by the Texas authorities.  With Nixon’s issuance of a pardon, the men of the 25th would be awarded honorable discharges, but for the majority of the regiment, it would be too late.  Of the 167 men discharged in 1906, only one Dorsie Willis, was still alive in 1972 and it would take the work of Senator Hubert Humphry for Willis to be awarded his pension.

The men who served as Buffalo Soldiers showed great devotion to the nation in their service, while also dealing with the aspects of our society that we least like to acknowledge.  Ingrained racism both from within the army and the larger society of the time resulted in many of the stories of the Buffalo Soldiers being forgotten or consigned to the back pages of history books.  As we bring the stories of these soldiers to light, we come to better understand what it meant for these men to serve and the role they played in the history of the Nation and the State.

 

Port Isabel

Port Isabel is a beautiful coastal town with a population of 5,000. It was established after the Mexican War of Independence and was important to cotton export before the Civil War. The harbor, town, and iconic lighthouse were all fought over during the Civil War. The town has survived and rebuilt after extensive damage caused by two hurricanes, one in 1967 and Hurricane Dolly was in 2008. Many visitors come to enjoy the beautiful beaches, fishing opportunities, and to tour their historic lighthouse. 

 

St. Andrew’s by the Sea began as a group of seven Episcopalians meeting in the home of Thelma Gambrell for Evening Prayer in October of 1955. They held their first larger public worship service in the American Legion later that year. Clergy from Brownsville and San Benito began traveling to Port Isabel to hold services, and they were granted mission status by the diocese in March of 1956 and the bishop commissioned their first Vicar, The Rev. Branch. The first church building was created from renovated army barracks. The Hurricane of 1967 destroyed this building. Their current church building was completed in 1969. 

They hold services at 8 and 10 am every Sunday and have a myriad of ministries to plug into during the week. They began hosting ESL classes in 2014, with many parishioners helping teach or with hospitality. They host a regular book club, needlepoint ministry, and have a vibrant lay-led pastoral care team. They are currently served by The Rev. Dr. Claudia Nalven, Rector. 

 

One of the most prominent draws for many visitors to Port Isabel Texas is the lighthouse known as Point Isabel and listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.  First constructed in 1852, the lighthouse would guide countless ships into the port throughout its history and see everything from being fought over during the Civil War and hurricanes.  The grounds of the lighthouse have an even longer history and have a connection to one of the most pivotal wars in US history that now is mostly forgotten, the Mexican American War.  

While often overshadowed by the following Civil War, the Mexican American War is important in understanding both Southern US history and Texas State history and the relationship between the US and Mexico.  By the war’s end in 1848, the US would expand by one-third with the new territories and the nation would reach from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans.  Many of the future generals of the Civil War would experience their first combat in Mexico including Ulysses Grant, Robert E. Lee, William T. Sherman, and many more.  However, the war would also leave a bitter taste in many American mouths, with Grant later stating that “I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation”.  Jumping back to the beginning of the war in 1846, we can see how the designs of President James K. Polk on California and Mexican territory influenced his push towards embroiling the US in a war with our Southern neighbor.

At the close of the Texas revolution, the new Republic of Texas and Mexico were in disagreement over the placement of the border.  For Texas, the border was the Rio Grande River while for Mexico the border was the Nueces River.  This area in between the rivers became known as the Nueces strip and would be a source of contention and occasional fighting between Texas and Mexico right up until Texas was admitted into the Union in 1845.  Polk seized upon this political problem by sending US troops into the disputed territory and as many historians now agree, was an attempt by the President to coax Mexico into a fight.  After the beginning of the war, a fort named for Polk would be constructed at Port Isabel at the future site of the lighthouse, and this Fort Polk would serve as both an arms depot and the largest hospital during the war.  The loss of the Territory for Mexico would be devastating, and as we have seen in our pilgrimage the new border cut right through the lands that many residents had called home for generations.  

As students of history, we will encounter many stories during our pilgrimage.  Some will be wonderful stories that show the best in people, while others will challenge us to discover the darker sides of human nature.  But to truly understand the history of Texas and our own history, we must understand all the stories and be willing to confront what may be difficult for us to hear.

 

Kingsville

Heading inland we find ourselves in Kingsville, located on Hwy 77 between Harlingen and Corpus Christi with a population of 25,000. Kingsville is named for the famed Richard King and was established to provide infrastructure to the adjacent King Ranch. A railroad was laid in 1904 and the city was incorporated in 1911. The main sources for the economy today are agriculture, oil, and natural gas production. Visitors can enjoy the King Ranch Museum, a myriad of shops, a local brewery, and the Naval Air Space Visitors Center. Kingsville is one of three locations in the US where naval jet training takes place. 

 

Church of the Epiphany was organized as a mission in 1908 and has been worshipping in its current building since 1963. They opened a day school in 1950, which has recently converted to the Epiphany Montessori School that serves children ages PreK-5th grade. They hold one service each Sunday, with the first Sunday of the month being Rite I and the other Sundays being Rite II. They host many ministry opportunities and are currently served by The Rev. Jan Dantone. 

 

As we have walked together on this pilgrimage through the diocese we have come across many instances of nighttime terror violence being used to intimidate and marginalize various communities.  The innate fear of the dark we as humans have makes the thought of these nightly attacks deeply horrific, but we must not forget that as these communities endured terror by night, a soul-crushing system disenfranchised them by day.  The era of Jim Crow and racial segregation continues to impact the daily lives of many throughout the state, with the scars of the practices of “separate but equal” still shown in the layouts of cities.  In the town of Kingsville throughout the early and mid 20th century, both forms of racial prejudice reared their heads in the form of segregation and attacks by one of the most well-known hate groups, the Klu Klux Klan.

During the first years of the 1900s as Kingsville was taking shape, three distinct sections of the town began to emerge due to limits on where individuals could own property or find housing based on their ethnic identity.  Tejano and Mexican American citizens would primarily find work in agriculture in the North of town, especially with ranching.  To the South, the African American population of the town would mostly find work on the railroad, with the Anglo population centered in the downtown area.  This de facto segregation came about as schools and businesses were opened that by the laws of Texas were only allowed to cater or serve certain groups.  These Jim Crow laws were strictly enforced by both State and local police, with harsh punishments often dealt out to those who were seen as breaking the law or threatening to break them.  In 1916 the Tejano residents of Kingsville petitioned both President Woodrow Wilson and the Texas Governor to intervene on their behalf due to a great deal of fear they felt in extrajudicial actions being taken by the local police force.  One resident wrote in their petition, “One or more of us may have incurred the displeasure of someone, and it seems only necessary for that some one whisper our names to an officer, to have us imprisoned and killed without an opportunity to prove in a fair trial the falsity of the charges against us”.  When news of this petition reached the local Texas Ranger force, one of the attorneys who helped draft the petition found himself confronted in the courthouse by a Ranger who proceeded to pistol-whip him.  By the 1920s there were attempts by members of both the Tejano and African American communities to form groups that would advocate for the civil rights of these marginalized groups.  In 1929 many of the railroad workers in Kingsville formed the Colored Trainmen Organization (CTA) and began a general strike that saw an increase in pay and better, safer working conditions for railroad employees.  These small victories allowed a glimmer of a better life to shine through for these workers, which was an outrage for some members of the Kingsville community and resulted in violent attacks by the KKK.  Throughout the rest of the year, the Klan would commit several murders and lynchings along with physical attacks on African American homes.  While the wave of violence following the strike was particularly violent it was not the first time either the Hispanic or African American community had encountered this group.  Earlier in the decade in 1923 an African American physician who had been passing through town would be lynched, with his identity now lost to history aside from a few newspaper accounts detailing the event.

While the scars of the past and events such as these continue to impact local communities to this day, one can also see and find the healing that has occurred since the end of Jim Crow and the nighttime terrors.  Many of these stories that were once hidden from history have been researched and preserved by the work of dedicated faculty and students at Texas A&M Kingsville.  In 2018 after an incident of a racist tirade being directed at a student of color in Kingsville, the Mayor wrote to all students at the University his feelings of disgust regarding the event and his support for the student and for anyone who encounters such acts.  It is indeed hard and painful when we are confronted by stories such as these from the past, but to truly understand the road that others have had to travel it is necessary to discover the past.  By understanding these stories we come to better understand not only our neighbors but ourselves and how we can truly love one another as Christ loves us. 

 

Closing Prayer

Almighty God, Source of all that is, Giver of every good gift: You create all people in your image and call us to love one another as you love us. We confess that we have failed to honor you in the great diversity of the human family. We have desired to live in freedom while building walls between ourselves and others. We have longed to be known and accepted for who we are, while making judgments of others based on the color of skin, or the shape of features, or the varieties of human experience. We have tried to love our neighbors individually while yet benefitting from systems that hold those same neighbors in oppression. Forgive us, Holy God. Give us eyes to see you as you are revealed in all people. Strengthen us for the work of reconciliation rooted in love. Restore us in your image, to be a beloved community, united in our diversity, even as you are one with Christ and the Spirit, Holy and undivided Trinity, now and for ever. Amen.

 

Next stop Tuesday, July 20th

Alice, Corpus Christi, and Portland, TX

Distance to travel: 164,000 steps

Churches: Church of the Advent, All Saints, Good Shepherd, St. Mark’s, St. Bartholomew’s, and St. Christopher’s by the Sea


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Segregation in 1921, the Underground Railroad to Mexico, and the Birth of Conjunto Music

 

Location: Weslaco, Harlingen, and San Benito, TX
Churches: Grace Church, St. Alban’s, and All Saints

 

Opening Prayer
Psalm 84

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts! *
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of
the LORD; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; *
by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.

Happy are they who dwell in your house! *
they will always be praising you.

Happy are the people whose strength is in you! *
whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.

Those who go through the desolate valley will find
it a place of springs, *
for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

They will climb from height to height, *
and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

.

Welcome to Weslaco, Harlingen, and San Benito!

Weslaco
Weslaco sits at the very tip of the Rio Grande Valley bordering Mexico. They have a population of 42,000 and their name is derived from the initials for W.E. Stewart Land Company. Visitors can find a variety of attractions that peak their interests. Weslaco is home to the Valley Nature Center and Estero Llano State Park. They boast of having the world’s smallest museum located in their historic downtown district, and you can take in a show at the local community theater, ITheater of Texas, built in a historic 1928 water tank. To watch a seven-minute historic tour of Weslaco click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MI2FjFDvaQ&t=19s

 

Grace Church provides an Episcopal presence to the community through worship, formation, and outreach. They have three services a Sunday, two in English and one in Spanish. They hold Bible studies and a centering prayer group throughout the week and have an active DOK group. They stay busy with outreach with their Hand-Up Food Pantry and Accion de Gracia, a ministry that provides low-cost assistance with immigration forms and legal techniques. They are currently served by the Rev. Michael Fulk.

Texas has long been a melting pot of the different cultures that call the state home.  Whether you’re sampling some Tex-Mex food down at the Riverwalk or enjoying a day at the Institute of Texan Cultures, throughout the state it is easy to see how over time different groups have shared their traditions and blended them together to create new ones.  This practice of allowing different traditions and cultures to blend has not always been accepted, and many times throughout the state’s history has actively been fought against through the acts of segregation.  In the town of Weslaco, the history of segregation can be seen in the very streets of the town, and the divide from the railroad resulting in “the other side of the tracks”.

The town of Weslaco had a long history of both Tejano and Anglo families residing in it, with many of the Tejano families practicing ranching traditions dating back to the colonial era.  Construction of the town began in 1920 and in 1921 a municipal ordinance was passed that designated the area of town North of the railroad track for Hispanics and the Southside for Anglo residents.  This division resulted in essentially two towns forming with the North known as “Mexican Town” and the South as “American Town”.  Aside from the fact that the majority of the residents on the Northside were American citizens, this segregation saw a true chasm of disparities between the two sections of town.  On the Southside of the track, the buildings were made of brick or framed houses, with closed sewers and access to electricity.  On the Northside, tin-roofed shacks were the main housing available, with open sewers, unpaved streets, and grossly underfunded “Hispanic & Negro” only schools.  Segregation of the town extended well beyond just structures, with residents of the Northside only being allowed into the Southside during select hours (usually early in the morning), and having to be back on the Northside of town by a scheduled hour or risk arrest.  Racial violence in the community was common, with many Hispanic residents targeted in nighttime attacks.  Hispanic residents also faced voter intimidation as shown in 1928 during a contested election when judge A. W. Cameron testified that Mexican-American voters had been intimidated by a crowd yelling “Don’t let those Mexican in to vote.  Throw them out.”.

Weslaco would continue to face segregation between the two sides of town well into the second half of the 20th century, with the sewers on the Northside not fully being enclosed until 1954.  While the official policy of segregation in the town came to an end in the 1960s, driving the streets North or South of the tracks quickly reveals that the scars of these past municipal ordinances still impact the residents today.

 

Harlingen

Harlingen has a population of 65,000 and sits 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. The city was established in 1904 as a shipping and industrial center, especially focused on commercial waterway opportunities. It was named after another waterway industry town, Harlingen, Netherlands. Harlingen offers many things to do while visiting. With over 1200 acres of public land many visit in order to take advantage of the good fishing, hunting, golfing, birding, and hiking available in the area. 

St. Alban’s Episcopal Church has been serving Harlingen since it became a parish in 1939. They opened a day school in 1948, and since that time both the church and the school have flourished into wonderful communities sharing Christ’s light with all. They currently have two Sunday services, with a formation hour in between. They hold classes for all ages and participate in their local food pantry during the week. They are currently served by The Rev. John Inserra, Rector, and The Rev. Kendrah McDonald, Assistant Priest. 

As we have explored already in this pilgrimage, the institution of Slavery had a dramatic impact on the history of both the Nation and the State of Texas.  For many enslaved individuals the dream of escaping to freedom by use of the Underground Railroad provided a modicum of comfort and hope in a system built to destroy the idea of freedom to individuals enslaved and reduced humanity to the concept of property.  We often think of the Underground Railroad as a system of safe houses and guides who would lead escaped enslaved individuals to freedom in the North or Canada. There also existed an Underground Railroad through the heart of the Rio Grande Valley to freedom in Mexico.  Since 1824 Mexico had abolished the institution of slavery and had standing laws that any enslaved individual who made it to Mexican soil would be both immediately freed and protected from “slave catchers”, individuals who would hunt down those seeking freedom or oftentimes kidnap freedmen and sell them into slavery.  One of the stops for this Railroad was through Harlingen Texas.

While we do not have an exact number of enslaved individuals who managed to make it to freedom in Mexico, we do know that throughout the antebellum period that it was considered enough of a problem by the State that several units of Texas Rangers at various times were stationed in the region to help hunt down those escaping to freedom.  In 1861 and the beginning of the Civil War, many slave owners throughout the South saw Texas as a safe place to send their slaves and forced those enslaved to the State.  As the population of those enslaved in Texas grew, so too did the number of those attempting to make it to Mexico.  Aiding them in their escape to freedom were local residents who acted as conductors on the railroad, providing food, shelter, or information to help reach the border.  Many of the families involved in the railroad were old Tejano families who tended to favor abolitionism and had been in the valley since the colonial era. 

With the end of the Civil War in 1865 and the end of the institution of slavery, the Railroad to Mexico came to an end, and many formerly enslaved individuals who had found shelter in Mexico either returned to the US or remained in Mexico.  Those who remained founded their own communities that can still be found in the border region today.  The story of this Underground Railroad through Texas, while once mostly forgotten, has seen recent efforts to research and bring this history to life through archaeological work done by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

 

San Benito

San Benito has a population of 24,000 and is known as the “Resaca City”. The Resaca de Los Fresnos flows through the city, once a dry river bed, it is now the main canal of a large irrigation system. The town’s original name was Diaz, after the Mexican President at the time. Prior to 1906 and the installation of the irrigation system the town was made up primarily of Mexican-Americans. Around 1906 the town was renamed San Benito, after Benjamin Hicks, a local rancher. San Benito has many histories and cultural museums for its size, along with a myriad of nature trails, and fine dining. 

All Saints Episcopal Church is the second oldest Episcopal Church in the Rio Grande Valley. Services began in 1910, and they were established as a parish in 1912. Their first church building was built for a cost of $2,000, excluding the cost of the pews. They continue to worship together and serve the area of San Benito with joy. 

Whether you are traveling around the world or find yourself on a weekend drive through the Texas countryside, the act of listening to music serves as a way for us as listeners to experience the intersection of the artist’s place and time and cultural history.  Music serves as a core element in the construction of our cultural worldview and being able to help conceptualize the world around us. We can also tell the history of the cultures the music comes from, and how they have changed over time.  When listening to Tejano Conjunto (group) music, you are experiencing the melting pot that is and has been Texas. The father of that musical style is none other than Narciso Martinez or El Huracan del Valle, The Hurricane of the Valley.  

The origin of Conjunto music in the valley dates back to the mid 19th century when German immigrants began to introduce the accordion to the region and would become adopted by numerous Tejano bands.  In addition to the accordion, the core instruments of the Conjunto group are the bajo sexto (a guitar with 12 strings in six double courses) and the contrabajo (string bass).  Narciso Martinez would arrive on the musical scene in the 1930s with the purchase of a used two-row button accordion, but his history prior to this purchase is similar to many Mexican American stories of the Valley.

Born October 29, 1911, in Reynosa Mexico, Martinez was the child of migrant farmworkers who would move back and forth across the border and around the many towns in Southern Texas.  Despite never receiving a formal education, Martinez was a gifted musician and quickly learned to play the accordion from German families in the area around Bishop, Texas.  After purchasing his first accordion, Narciso would begin collaborating with bajo sexto player Santiago Almeida, and the two would play for local dances throughout the region.  The duo would have their first big break in 1936 with their first recording session.  The two would take a break from recording and playing during WWII, but following the end of the war in 1945, the two would begin recording with Ideal Records, a small Mexican American label that was based in San Benito, Texas.  Narciso would continue to play as his recordings inspired future generations of Conjunto artists, eventually being awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts in 1983.  Martinez would pass away in 1992 after a long battle with leukemia and would be laid to rest in San Benito.  While Conjunto music has largely been eclipsed in popular culture by Nortena and other Tejano musical styles, the groundwork first established by Narciso shows how intertwined the communities and cultures of Texas have been throughout the history of the State. With this cultural history, San Benito is known as the Conjunto Music Capital of the World. 

 

Closing Prayer

Holy God, I recognize that you created every person in your image and that you have great purpose for each of us. I ask you to help me see every person as you see them. Help me to love others with the unconditional love of Jesus and to make every effort to promote peace, unity, and equality for all people. Forgive me for the times that I have not valued others or spoken up for what is right. Give me boldness to confront inequality when I see it and to honor others in my thoughts, words, and actions. Help me to love my neighbor as myself and to be an ambassador for reconciliation, as you have called me to be. I ask you to break the spirit of racism and division off of our nation, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Next stop coming Thursday, July 15th
The Brownsville Affair, Mexican-American War, and a gruesome history with the KKK

 

Location: Brownsville, Port Isabel, and Kingsville, TX
Distance to travel: 340,000 steps 

Churches: Church of the Advent, St. Andrew’s, and Church of the Epiphany


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Laredo, Vaquero Capital of Texas, and Commerce at the Border

Distance travled from San Antonio:

 

Location: Laredo, Hebbronville, and McAllen, TX

Churches: Christ Episcopal, St. James’, and St. John’s

 

Opening Prayer
May I walk this day in the realm of grace, walking with You my feet firmly on your earth-path, my heart loving all as kindred, my words and deeds alive with justice. May I walk as blessing, meeting blessing at every turn in every challenge, blessing, in all opposition, blessing, in harm’s way, blessing. May I walk each step in this moment of grace, alert to hear You and awake enough to say a simple Yes. Amen.
Robert Corin Morris 

 

Welcome to Laredo, Hebbronville, and McAllen!

Laredo
Laredo has a population of 260,000, and along with its sister city across the border, Nuevo Laredo, there is a combined metropolitan population of around 640,000. Laredo is 95% Hispanic, making it one of the least racially diverse cities in the United States. Texas’ largest trading partner is Mexico. The Port of Laredo is the number 1 inland port along the US-Mexico border and ranked No. 4 in the nation with $205.88 billion in imports and exports in 2020.  In 2018, the Laredo port of entry handled northbound border-crossing traffic of about 2.3 million trucks, more than 5 million cars (with nearly 11 million passengers), and more than 3.7 million pedestrians. 

When visiting Laredo, attractions are not hard to come by. Restaurants and shopping options are in abundance, museums featuring history and arts and culture are prolific, and festivals, concerts, and carnivals are scheduled throughout the year. Laredo is home to the Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos baseball team, the world’s only binational baseball team, splitting their home games between Mexico and the United States. Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) is also located within the city.

Christ Church Episcopal has been serving the Laredo community since 1881, with a mission church meeting as far back as 1871, and Episcopalians being in the area since the 1840s. Christ Church was located in downtown Laredo until in the 1960s, in order to expand, they moved to a new location farther north. 

The Rev. Paul Frey, Rector, writes about Christ Church, “Christ Church, like many churches in our Diocese, in its early days was largely Anglo dominated. But even the earliest parish records starting in the 1880′ contain Hispanic surnames in lists of members, weddings, baptism’s confirmations, etc. When I arrived in 2004 the perception of most folks was that this was an Anglo parish, but the reality was that it was a mixed group of people. And during the last 16 years as a parish, we have been very intentional about welcoming all people, and we are certainly more like our majority community than when I arrived.  Our last official parish directory had 80 households listed and 47 of those households would be Hispanic or “mixed” Hispanic and other ethnicities. We use Spanish in one service and English in two services. Most of our baptisms, weddings, and funerals will have some of both. I would venture that most of our congregation is functionally bilingual, with probably 50 percent of our adult members able to communicate effectively in Spanish and English. Having said that, we’ve got members originally from Switzerland, Jamaica, South Africa, Kenya, and more. We are active as a parish in various ministries in town with many members on the board and workgroups of Casa Misericordia Domestic violence shelter. We have in the past been active in Habitat, and most of our folks help support various social agencies in town from Azteca which helps folks with immigration issues, to the Holding Institute which helps with immigration, education, and more. In addition, many of our folks are part of TAMIU, (Texas A&M International University), as well as both our local school systems.”

As we have walked the footsteps of this pilgrimage together, we have also brought to the forefront many instances and stories of injustices from the past that have not always been included in the historical narrative.  While it would be easy to think that these stories were not major news in their own time when we look at writings from individuals from the past we find that even in the face of these injustices there were those willing to stand up for the rights of others.  One of the most famous Civil Rights icons of the time, and still celebrated among Tejanos and Mexican Americans alike, is the native of Laredo, Jovita Idar.  Idar served as a teacher, journalist, writer, nurse, political activist, and civil rights leader throughout the first half of the 20th century, fighting for the rights of Mexican and Mexican Americans on both sides of the border.  To truly understand Idar’s life and passion for social justice, one also has to understand her background and her hometown of Laredo.

Jovita Idar was born September 7th, 1885 into a family well established in the Laredo intelligentsia community.  Idar’s parents, Jovita and Nicasio Idar promoted a love of education among their children, and Jovita would be provided an education that was far above that which was available to many of her fellow Tejanos at the time.  Earning her teaching certificate in 1903, Idar would quickly come face to face with the great disparities that existed in the “separate but equal” schools for Hispanic children.  These segregated schools often lacked basic facilities we take for granted, such as stoves to heat the classrooms in the winter and enough desks for all the students to sit at.  Books, if available at all, were in chronic short supply and despite the students’ parents paying taxes to support education, little of that money ever went to their own children’s schools.

Idar wrote of the situation, “There were never enough textbooks for her pupils or enough paper, pens or pencils; if all her students came to class, there were not enough chairs or desks for them.”

During the years of the Mexican Revolution (a time of increased racial strife all along the border), Idar would leave the career of teaching and begin work as a journalist at her father’s newspaper La Cronica (The Chronicle).  Idar would dive headfirst into writing on the inequalities faced by the Hispanic population, writing a multitude of articles that criticized the response by both the State government and the US government to the acts of violence being perpetrated along the border against Mexican Americans.  In 1914 Idar would write an article that criticized President Woodrow Wilson’s decision to send US troops into Mexico which would anger local Texas Rangers.  The Rangers attempted to close Idar’s newspaper, resulting in Jovita barricading herself in her office and denying the Rangers a chance to silence her.  However, the Rangers would return while Jovita was away and destroy the printing presses.

In addition to her work as a journalist, Jovita advocated strongly for the education of Mexican American children and would serve as the president of the League of Mexican Women.  Idar would also recruit and lead groups of Mexican American women across the border to serve as nurses whenever the battles of the revolution came near, such as when major fighting broke out in Nuevo Laredo.  After her father’s death in 1914, Jovita would become the editor and writer for La Cronica, and would go on to found her own newspaper, Evolucion in 1916.  After the closure of Evolucion in 1920, Idar would move to San Antonio and found a free kindergarten for Hispanic students, and continue to write about the injustices faced by the community.

While Jovita Idar’s story would subsequently be overlooked for much of the second half of the 20th century, a spate of biographies at the start of the 21st century would bring her story to life and ignite a remembrance of Idar and her accomplishments well beyond the Tejano community.  Idar would even be celebrated in a Google Doodle in 2020, with the Doodle portraying her famous act of barricading her newspaper office from being destroyed by the Texas Rangers.

 

Hebbronville
Hebbronville is 56 miles northwest of Laredo, with a population of 4,600. The town was established when the Texas-Mexican Railway came through the area. It is a hub for ranching, and at one time was the largest cattle shipping center in the United States. Visitors can enjoy a variety of attractions, including many historical museums and buildings. One such attraction is the Scotus College Campus, a Franciscan seminary built by priests in 1926 who were fleeing persecution in Mexico. The seminary was open until the 1960s. 

Hebbronville is home to St. James’ Episcopal Church, a bilingual, bicultural congregation whose mission is, “to honor, love, and serve Christ through worship, fellowship, and outreach within the community.” They are currently served by The Rev. Ernest Buchanan, Vicar. 

The story of Texas is one that is intertwined with the legacy of ranching and the beef industry.  The image of the Texas Cowboy is one that can be seen all over the state from the giant cowboy boots in front of North Star Mall in San Antonio, to the greetings of Big Tex at the annual State Fair in Dallas.  Now to be a successful cowboy one needs two things, a cattle to herd and a horse to herd from.  Despite these animals being synonymous with ranching, neither of these creatures are native to North America but were instead like the ranching traditions used today brought over by the Spanish.  To understand the modern Texas cowboy, we must first understand their origin in the ranching and herding practices of Spanish and Mexican Texas and the original Texas Cowboy, the Vaquero.  And to find out that history, a journey to Hebbronville is necessary, as it is the Vaquero Capital of the world.

The land that the town of Hebbronville sits on was part of a land grant dating back to 1740.  While the town itself wasn’t founded until 1888, many of the families in the region and their cattle brands can trace their history back to the 18th century.  These early ranching families would employ Vaqueros to tend to the cattle, using many of the same tools and skills still seen today such as the lasso and western saddle.  The use of wide-brimmed hats, chaps, and the traditions of the rodeo were all learned and borrowed by the modern Texas Cowboy by their Vaquero counterparts, and Hebbronville continues to celebrate this exchange of cultures in their annual Vaquero Festival.  Guests to the festival have a chance to see and experience rode and roping events, taste true Tex-Mex dishes and learn the history of the town and the role the vaquero has played in the state’s history.  While last year’s festival was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s festival is back and planned for November later this year.

McAllen

McAllen rests in the Rio Grande Valley, with a population of 146,000. The city was settled in 1904 and for most of the 20th century, it was a small agricultural township. Since the introduction of the North American Free Trade Association in the 1990s, McAllen continues to grow as a large metropolitan area along the border. McAllen is home to a variety of museums, a symphony orchestra, and several fine art galleries. The city holds its own Fiesta celebrations each year, alongside the MXLAN, a 5-day event where traditions are rarely seen outside interior Mexico happen alongside modern artists and revelers honoring their cultural roots. 

St. John’s Episcopal Church serves the area of McAllen. They are involved in both local and international outreach in the form of a food pantry and regular mission trips to Guatemala. They are currently served by The Rev. Rod Clark, Rector. 

If one were to stand along the banks of the Rio Grande river in McAllen Texas, they would find themselves at the line on a map that marks the border between the United States and Mexico.  As we have already explored during our pilgrimage, for much of the state’s history and for many peoples, the border was not a true dividing line, but instead an open bridge through which thousands have crossed both in the past and today.  While it is easy to think of McAllen, and its sister city of Reynosa on the Mexico side of the border, as two distinct entities, they are truly dependent on one another in a myriad of ways and have allowed this once rural area of Texas to grow into a booming metropolitan trading city.

The construction of the railroad in 1904 opened the first door to large-scale trade between the residents of the Reynosa-McAllen area with the rest of the state and nation.  Where once ox carts were the mainstay of getting goods across the river, the railroad allowed for greater interconnectivity of both communities and the members of the same families on either side of the border.  This growth of trade truly began to boom in 1994 with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), with McAllen becoming the first inland Foreign Trade Zone in the US.  This Zone is overseen by both the US and Mexico and is a representation of the joint nature of international trade, with thousands of tons of goods crossing through the zone every day.

While there has been a lot of positives to come about through this increase in international trade, we must also look to some of the negative impacts that have developed.  During the early 90’s many US corporations began to move their factories to Reynosa for cheaper labor, establishing the maquiladora economy.  Thousands of Mexican citizens flocked from their home states to Reynosa to find work in these factories despite the hard work and long hours for wages far lower than those found just over the border.  This mass influx quickly outstripped the number of available homes, resulting in shanty towns being built to house the workers with little access to electricity or water.  Once these companies found another country that allowed for even lower wages, they would relocate the factories, leaving many former workers stranded far from their families and without work.  This environment of impoverished and unemployed workers proved to be the recruiting ground for many of the cartels that have fueled much of the violence for the last three decades that has ravaged Mexico.  As the restrictions on border crossings have been strengthened in the last decade, many families that resided on both sides have found themselves cut off from loved ones.

The McAllen-Reynosa metropolitan area is a representation of just how interconnected the border communities are with their counterparts on the Mexican side of the border.  While there may be a river and a line on a map cutting through this region, the peoples that call this region home have long traded and shared their cultures with one another, and continue to rely on each other as the trains continue to rumble up from Mexico to various points across the US.

 

Closing Prayer
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn
but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the
strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that
all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of
Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and
glory, now and for ever. Amen.
A Prayer for Peace, BCP p. 815

 

Next stop coming Tuesday, July 13th
Segregation in 1921, the Underground Railroad to Mexico, and the Birth of Conjunto Music

 

Location: Weslaco, Harlingen, and San Benito, TX
Distance to travel: 82,000 steps to Weslaco
Churches: Grace Church, St. Alban’s, and All Saints

 


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MLB Negro League, Immigration in Texas, and a Sorrowful Tale of Lynching

Distance traveled from San Antonio: 1,3224,849

 

Location: Eagle Pass, Carrizo Springs, and Cotulla, TX
Churches: Church of the Redeemer, Church of the Holy Trinity, and St. Timothy’s

 

Opening Prayer
O God, who brought your servant Abraham out of the land of the Chaldeans, protecting him in his wanderings, who guided the Hebrew people across the desert, we ask that you watch over us, your servants, as we walk in the love of your name.

Be for us our companion on the walk, 
Our guide at the crossroads,
Our breath in our weariness,
Our protection in danger,
Our shade in the heat,
Our light in the darkness,
Our consolation in our discouragements,
And our strength in our intentions.

So that with your guidance we may arrive safe and sound at the end of the Road and enriched with grace and virtue we return safely to our homes filled with joy. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

 

Welcome to Eagle Pass, Carrizo Springs, and Cotulla, TX!

Eagle Pass

Eagle Pass has a population of just under 30,000 and sits directly on the border of Mexico. Just across the Rio Grande river is Eagle Pass’s sister city of Piedras Negras, making Eagle Pass-Piedras Negras one of six bi-national metro areas along the border. 

The city offers numerous shops and restaurants in its downtown district and offers many historical attractions. Eagle Pass was first established as Fort Duncan in 1849. Santa Ana and the Mexican army passed through the fort on their way to the Alamo. 

Eagle Pass is home to the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. Established in 1878 Church of the Redeemer continues to be a beacon of Christ’s light to the community.

The first minister to conduct monthly services, outside the post of Fort Duncan, was the Rev. J.T. Hutcheson. His report, included in the Journal of the Diocese for 1878 gives a short but vivid description of his first work in Eagle Pass: “Eagle Pass is, at present, a good specimen of a frontier town – no Lord’s Day and no churches. But a spirit of improvement, moral and religious as well as material, is now taking possession of the minds of many of its people. There is a least a desire to have Churches as well as barrooms and gambling saloons.” Today, they offer three services a Sunday, one in English, a bilingual service, and a service in Spanish. 

For countless Americans, the sport of Baseball has been both the national pastime and a way to remember the joys of games from the past.  Whether it was going to a game to celebrate July 4th, or sitting down for a marathon run of the Ken Burns documentary, baseball has played a pivotal role in many of our lives.  The game of baseball has allowed many individuals to shine on a national stage. However, we must also acknowledge the injustices of the past during the era of the “gentleman’s agreement” when players of color were banned from playing in the national league.  While African Americans were not allowed to play with their Anglo peers, this would not stop them from participating in the national pastime in the form of various Negro League teams.  Starting with the first team in the 1880s, countless young African American hopefuls would play in fields across the country, with one of the biggest stars of these leagues being the native Texan, James Raleigh “Biz” Mackey.  Mackey, both in his time and today, is known as one of the all-time greatest catchers, playing for as many as twelve teams in a career that spanned from 1918 to 1950.  

Before making it to professional baseball, Mackey would get his introduction to the game like many children by playing with his siblings in his hometown of Eagle Pass, Texas.  The son of sharecroppers, Biz would first start playing with the prairie league team in Luling Texas, before joining with the professional San Antonio aces for his debut in 1918.  In 1920, Biz signed with the Indianapolis ABCs just in time for the first season of the Negro National League.  

Biz’s career would take him far from his Texas home, barnstorming across the nation and playing in a highly successful trip to Japan in 1927, where he would become the first player to hit a home run out of Meiji Shrine Stadium.  Mackey would continue to play right up till the 1940’s when he would begin managing the Newark Eagles to their 1946 win in the Negro World Series.  As late as 1947 Mackey would appear in the All-Star games at the age of 50, finally retiring from the game in 1950.  

While Biz had been a household name throughout this era of baseball, like many other players in the Negro Leagues he was never given the chance to play against his peers in the national leagues and it would not be until 2006 when he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame that Mackey would be given the true credit for his role in developing the game of baseball.

Carrizo Springs

Carrizo Springs has a population of 5,400 and is 82 miles northwest of Laredo. The name of the town is derived from the local Artesian springs, which are known for their purity and clarity. In recent years Carrizo Springs has become home to a local olive orchard and oil press. The Olive Texas Ranch has successfully been growing olive trees and pressing olive oil for fifteen years. The dry, rocky soil mimics that of Southern Spain and parts of Italy which are prime for olive tree growth. To shop their online store, find recipes, or see visitor information you can check out their website here: https://texasoliveranch.com/

The Church of the Holy Trinity provides an Episcopal presence to the community. Trinity offers Sunday School and either Holy Eucharist or Morning Prayer every Sunday at 10:45 am with a beautiful worship space. 

Carrizo Springs is home to the Influx Car Facility, an unaccompanied minor detention site. Children aged 2-17 who cross the border unaccompanied by an adult can be housed at the facility, which has a capacity of 1,000-1,600 children. The site opened in February 2021 and has since had 3,909 children pass through its facilities. The current number of children being held is 627. As numbers of those seeking refuge in the United States continue to grow it will be a part of our Christian responsibility to ask how we can serve Christ in others and how we will strive to respect the dignity of every human being. The Diocese of West Texas has a vital Immigration Ministry, working toward showing empathy and compassion to those who come among us as neighbors in Christ. St. Luke’s participated in a PPE/Food Kit drive for immigrants traveling through San Antonio, and churches along the border continue to serve refugees and immigrants in need. For more information and to find out how you can help you can go to the diocesan Immigration and Refugee web page: https://www.dwtx.org/what-we-do/ministries/immigration-refugee-ministries

At the bottom of the page is an option to sign up for a bi-weekly Immigration Ministries Update, featuring events, volunteer and giving opportunities, news, and prayer requests.

 

Cotulla
Cotulla has a population of 4,100 and was named after the Polish and Prussian immigrant Joseph Cotulla who established a large ranching business in the area.
When Joseph heard that the Great Northern Railroad was seeking to lay tracks nearby he donated 120 acres of land to the railroad. Joseph’s family still lives in the area and they continue the ranching tradition started by their grandfather and great-grandfather. While the town of Cotulla began its economy through the ranch and farming industry, they now also rely on leasing land for hunting and the petroleum and natural gas industries. Lying along the Eagle Ford Shale deposit the population and growth in Cotulla have been exponential in the last decade. New housing and business are being established and there have been major renovations to many of their historic downtown buildings. 

St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church serves the local community, with worship services every Sunday at 11 am. 

The right to a trial by a jury of our peers and protection under the law are rights enshrined to all residing in the US by the Constitution.  However, as we have already discovered during this pilgrimage the history of these protections has not always extended to all members of society and many instances of extrajudicial killings and crimes occurred throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.  Texas, in particular, has a long history with the extrajudicial crime of lynching, and in the town of Cotulla, we find a case from 1895 showing that while we associate lynching with groups such as the Klu Klux Klan and violence against African Americans, Hispanic residents of the state were also terrorized by this crime.  

The later years of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th are known in Mexican history as the Porfiriato when Mexico was under the rule of President Porfirio Diaz who came to power in a coup in 1876 and would rule until 1910.  While this era of Mexican-US history is characterized by a close relationship between the Diaz government and Washington, as Diaz opened up Mexico to foreign investment, it was also a time of growing racial tension along the border as seen in incidents such as military raids and bandit attacks back and forth.  As this tension grew, so too did the number of crimes committed against Mexican and Mexican Americans as families who had been on the land for generations were being forced off by new settlers.  Terror tactics were often used, and even the protection of the authorities could oftentimes not stop these nighttime attacks.  

On the night of October 12th, 1895, Floantina Suaito was incarcerated in the local jail for the alleged murder of the rancher U. T. Saul in the town of Cotulla.  Early that week Saul had found one of his calves stolen, and while riding out to track down those who stole his calf he found a wagon on the side of the road being driven by Suaito and two women who were also Mexican.  While attempting to illegally search Suaito’s wagon, a shot rang out and by the end of the firefight Saul along with one of the other members of Suaito’s wagon would be dead.  While Suaito was in the jail that night, a group of ten armed hooded individuals overpowered the jailer and took Suaito to the banks of the Nueces River.  Once there, without any trial or due process of law, Suaito would be hung from a nearby tree and his body riddled with bullets as the hooded individuals used his body for target practice.  It would not be until the following morning that Suaito’s body would be cut down, and there would be no investigation or arrests made in his case, despite the identities of the murderers being well known within the local community.  

While these crimes of terror took place well over half a century ago, the impact of these crimes can and still has an impact on those alive today.  The memories of these nighttime raids of terror are passed down through the generations and unfortunately still cause hurt and anguish in many communities today. While taking in these stories is difficult, they are important to remember as we try to understand and build relationships across racial lines and in hopes of healing our nation from its current divisions. 

 

Closing Prayer
God of Heaven and Earth, you created the one human family
and endowed each person with great dignity. Aid us, we pray, in overcoming the sin of racism. Grant us your grace in eliminating this blight

from our hearts, our communities, our social and civil institutions. Fill our hearts with love for you and our neighbor so that we may work with you in healing our land from racial injustice. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Next Stop: Laredo, Hebronville, and McAllen, TX
Steps to next Location: 146,000 to Laredo
Churches: Christ Episcopal, St. James’, and St. John’s
 
 

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Fort Clark, Missions, and the Struggle for Desegregation

Distance Traveled from San Antonio: 1,092,946 steps

Location: Brackettville, Montell, and Uvalde, TX

Churches: St. Andrew’s, Church of the Ascension, and St. Phillip’s

 

Opening Prayer

God of our pilgrimage,
you have given us a desire
to take the questing way
and set out on our journey.
Help us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,
that whatever we encounter as we travel,
we may seek to glorify you by the way we live. Amen
 

Welcome to Brackettville, Montell, and Uvalde!

Brackettville

Brackettville has a population of 1700 and was originally founded as a supply stop on the San Antonio-El Paso road and a supply depot for the US Army’s Fort Clark nearby. The town was named after Oscar Brackett, the owner of the first dry goods store. Attractions include nearby Fort Clark, deactivated in 1947, Kickapoo Cavern State Park, and Fort Clark Springs, a naturally lovely place to swim during the hot Texas summers.

St. Andrew’s provides an Episcopal Church presence to the area. They meet together every Sunday at 11 am for either Holy Eucharist or Morning Prayer. They recently began work on an outdoor memorial garden, and members volunteer at the Hope Center, which provides meals for school-age children during the summer months. They are a small, but active congregation filled with the love of Christ for all.

As we drive through some of the communities near the border on long stretches of highways, it seems as though we could go miles without encountering another soul. In many Westerns, this area of the Texas frontier was depicted as desolate, with only a few lonely outposts serving as watering stations for weary travelers. However, if we had a chance to travel back to the late 19th century Texas frontier, we would find a region with vibrant communities on both sides of the border, and land that had been settled by various Native tribes going back centuries. During this jump into the past, we would also find conflict, a conflict which would see one group nearly wiped out from their traditional land, and the seeds for later turmoil and strife along the Rio Grande.

Like many Texas frontier forts of the time, Fort Clark was established as a base to drive the various Native tribes that called the region home either out of the area or onto reservations. Tribes such as the Kickapoo, Lipan, Pottawattamie, and Mescalero Apache would find themselves chased by various US Cavalry units, often forced to cross the border into Mexico where they would find themselves in conflict with the Mexican military. Beginning in 1873, Secretary of War William Belknap pushed for ever more violent raids to be conducted on the tribes, often resulting in US units crossing the border and violating Mexican sovereignty to chase down the tribes. One such incident in May of 1873 was the Mackenzie Massacre, where 19 Natives were killed, over 50 taken as prisoners, their homes burned, and over 200 horses taken. These raids would continue well into the late 1880s, and despite the protests of the Mexican government over these raids on their territory, these actions were condoned and pushed by the various commanders at Fort Clark. One unintended consequence of these raids was the resulting animosity that developed on both sides of the border. These animosities would continue to fester and grow and resulted in many instances of violence along with the border communities during the first half of the 20th century such as the Porvenir Massacre.
 

Montell

In 2000 the population of Montell, TX was listed as 20 people. The post office closed down in 1930, but Montell still has a general store and community building. Two churches were built in the area following the immigration of Irish and English settlers into the area in the 1870s. Those churches remain active today and are a Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church of the Ascension. The Church of the Ascension was built in 1890 and is designated as a Texas Historical Landmark. Services are still held at the church throughout the year.

In recent weeks, many Canadians have seen the news and had to reflect and in many cases learn about the discovery of mass graves at two former schools that had housed First Nations children who had been taken from their homes in attempts to “civilize” them. As of this posting, over 800 bodies have been discovered between the two sites, showing what many First Nation leaders in Canada call the outright murder of their people. While Texas may seem a long way from the Canadian border, dotted throughout the Texas landscape are the remains of many former Spanish Missions which in their time served a similar role to the Native schools in Canada. And like many of these schools, many mass unmarked graves have been discovered at these locations over the years.

Close to Montell Texas is the location of the Franciscan Mission Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria del Canon, founded in February 1762. While the initial goal of the missions was to establish bases of Spanish power in the far-flung frontier, the primary goal of the mission system was to “civilize” the various Native tribes by forcing them to adopt European agricultural practices and customs. For Mission Candelaria, the primary group who would come to call the mission home were members of the Lipan Apache. Natives who would come into the Mission would be required to give up their traditional beliefs and religious practices, and abandon hunting and gathering practices that had been the way of life for these tribes for centuries. One issue that greatly impacted Mission Candelaria, was that these new European agricultural practices were not suited for the region, and soon crop failure set in among the residents of the Mission. By 1767 when an inspection tour of the region was conducted, it was found that Candelaria had been abandoned, with many Lipan residents succumbing to starvation. The failure of Mission Candelaria, along with the discovery of the mass graves at Canadian Native schools should challenge us to reevaluate what it means to think of oneself as “civilized” and what exactly it means to put our own expectations on our neighbor of what society looks like.
 

Uvalde

Uvalde was founded in 1853 and is known as the crossroads to the Hill Country. They have a population of just under 16,000, and many local attractions. Cook’s Slough Nature Park is home to thousands of migratory and nesting birds and other wildlife from fall through spring, including sandhill cranes, painted buntings, collard plovers, quail, bobcats, blue indigo snakes, and softshell turtles. Visitors can enjoy a visit to the Aviation Museum located in the historic Garner Army Air Force Base, a training base during WWII. Their downtown district holds the Briscoe Art and Antique Collection, and the Janey Briscoe Opera House.

St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church has been an active part of the community since 1881. Under current post-pandemic conditions, they are meeting once in person on Sunday mornings at 10:30 am. Pre-covid they held two services a Sunday, a Holy Eucharist service with Unction on Thursdays, and two chapel services for the St. Phillip’s School twice a week. They are known as “the church that cares” in Uvalde, with many active outreach programs including a food pantry, second-hand clothing store, and a partnership with Crossroads Academy, a program for high school students to be able to finish high school requirements at a pace that works for students with various needs, including those who may be single parents or dependent family members, working full-time, or even homeless. They are currently served by The Rev. Dr. Mike Marsh.

The Rector of St. Phillip’s Uvalde, The Rev. Mike Marsh has provided us with a video interview with parishioner Willie Edwards. They discuss the history of racial segregation and the fight for desegregation in Uvalde: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTYnIlSMLlM

Thank you to The Rev. Mike Marsh and Parishioner Willie Edwards for taking the time to record their stories!
 
The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District was party to one of the longest legal cases involving a school district in Texas history. The case of Genoveva Morales, et al. vs. E.P. Shannon, et al. first began in 1970 when Genoveva Morales brought suit against UCISD on behalf of her children for the district failing to desegregate its school district, a violation of both the 14th amendment and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. UCISD, like many Texas school districts at the time, practiced segregation of schools with Mexican Americans, African Americans, and White students all having their own schools. While the term separate but equal was often quoted when referring to these schools, there existed grave inequalities between the various schools, which Morales as a concerned parent would go on to fight against. Morales’ actions were not limited to just the legal case, she would also organize sit-ins, walkouts, and protest against the segregation of the school system. To discredit Morales, members of the UCISD Board would label her a communist and make accusations that she had been personally trained by Fidel Castro. Morales, however, persevered and in 2017, decades after Uvalde’s schools had been desegregated, she and the UCISD Board would come to an agreement that saw the hiring of a consultant to ensure the district was in compliance. In another sign of the changing times, in 2014 UCISD would honor Morales by naming a junior high school.
 

Closing Prayer

Wake me up Lord, so that the evil of racism
finds no home within me.
Keep watch over my heart Lord,
and remove from me any barriers to your grace,
that may oppress and offend my brothers and sisters.
Fill my spirit Lord, so that I may give
services of justice and peace.
Clear my mind Lord, and use it for your glory.
And finally, remind us Lord that you said,
“blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.”
Amen.
 

Next Stop Tuesday, July 6th

Location: Eagle Pass, Carrizo Springs, and Cotulla, TX
Distance to travel: 198,000 to Eagle Pass
Churches: Church of the Redeemer, Church of the Holy Trinity, and St. Timothy’s

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