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