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