Virtual Pilgrimage Dates:

June 15th -August 15th

We will be collectively walking the span of our diocese this summer. It’s roughly 2,000 miles or about 4,000,000 steps. We will be adding all our steps together to make the journey. Along the way we will “stop” in each city with an Episcopal Church.
While in that city we will learn about a story of racial justice or injustice that took place in the area. This is one small way that we can acknowledge our nation’s historic struggle with racial equality and a small step towards reconciliation for our nation.




How does a virtual pilgrimage work?



Each week you will receive an email that includes:

  • An update on where we are in the diocese
  • Stories of racial injustice or cultural significance from the area
  • Prayers for pilgrims and for racial reconciliation 
  • Journal prompts to use at your leisure
  • A google from link to send in your steps/miles taken
Once registered you can also come to the church to pick up your pilgrimage packet which includes:
  • A holding cross to carry as you walk your steps
  • A journal for notes and reflections during the journey
  • Prayers for pilgrimage and more

What is a Pilgrimage?

A pilgrimage is a journey that holds religious significance. Christians have been going on pilgrimages since the beginning of the church. Walking to and near places that tell a part of our faith story has been a sacred way to celebrate and deepen spiritual lives throughout history. One of the most famous pilgrimages is the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Every year thousands of pilgrims travel to the Holy Land, Rome, Iona in Scotland, and other significant sites of Christianity. These journeys are a way to deepen our connection with God, feel connected to Christians around the world, and to experience prayer through walking and the use of our bodies. 




This pilgrimage is unique in three ways.

First, this is a virtual pilgrimage. We will not physically be traveling to the locations we’ll be talking about. Instead, pilgrims will be submitting their steps each week, and collectively we will walk our journey together.

Second, this is a local pilgrimage. We will be virtually journeying through the span of the Diocese of West Texas. We begin in San Antonio, make a large and spiraling loop through each city with an Episcopal church, and complete the trip back in San Antonio.

Third, the theme of this pilgrimage is racial reconciling. At each stop we will pray for wisdom and God’s presence to be with us on our travels, but also for reconciliation. We will read a cultural story from history that has not often been told, and reflect on ways that we can better strive for justice and peace to see the image of God in all persons, and respect the dignity of every human being. 

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 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 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

Read more

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 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 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

Read more

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 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.



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

Read more

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 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:


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 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

Read more

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 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 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 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


Read more

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:

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:

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 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

Read more

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 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.


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 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:

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.”

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

Read more

Heroes, Border Crossings, and School Segregation

Distance Traveled from San Antonio: 977,397 steps

Location: Junction, Sonora, and Del Rio, TX
Churches: Trinity Episcopal, St. John’s, and St. James’

Opening Prayer
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.
Prayer of Thomas Merton 


Welcome to Junction, Sonora, and Del Rio, TX!

About 115 miles northwest of San Antonio, with a population of 2500, Junction is a destination spot for river seekers and deer hunters. The South, North, and Main Llano rivers converge just outside of Junction, making it the perfect spot for kayakers, canoers, and tubers. Junction is also the central market center for Kimble County’s livestock, wool, mohair, and pecan production. 

Junction is home to Trinity Episcopal Church. They have a service of the Holy Eucharist every Sunday at 11 am. They are currently served by The Rev. Sam Hunnicutt. In 2011 a lifelong member of the congregation was awarded the boy scout rank of eagle scout for helping restore the steeple and bell tower. 

A common story we see on the news today or hear about in our local papers is the discovery of new information on a historic individual that reveals either actions or thoughts they held that cause us to reconsider their legacy.  History, much like humans ourselves, is complicated and a simple view of black and white doesn’t always work to understand an entire historical narrative.  For the city of Junction one individual who called the city home who looms largely in Texas history, but leaves a complicated legacy is that of former Governor Coke R. Stevenson.

Coke Stevenson was not only one of Texas’s longest-serving governors, but also holds the distinction of being the only individual to hold the three offices of Speaker of the Texas House, Lieutenant Governor, and Governor.  He also oversaw a major expansion of the Texas economy during the Second World War and narrowly lost the senate election that saw future President Lyndon B. Johnson elected to office.  While Stevenson had many accomplishments, it is now noted by many historians and biographers today that Coke pushed back strongly against the early civil rights movement and was known to hold incredibly racist ideas.  When informed of the lynching of an African American man in Texarkana in 1942, Stevenson responded “You know, these negroes sometimes do things that provoke whites to such violence”.

Human nature is incredibly complicated, and throughout our lives, we constantly reevaluate how we view certain actions and whether they are morally correct.  The challenge for us students of history is to learn how to balance and accurately portray the historical record and what this means in telling the stories going forward.  We can speak both to the good that Stevenson did as governor, but also his failings and acknowledging the racist thoughts of many politicians throughout much of the 20th century.

Sonora has a population of just under 3,000 and offers the best of both the Hill Country and West Texas. Eight miles outside of town are the Caverns of Sonora, a beautiful active cave where 95% of the formations inside are still growing. Sonora also offers fun entertainment in their historic downtown, courthouse, and Old Ice House Ranching Museum. They also have a nature preserve where native birds and plants can be viewed. 

Sonora is home to St. John’s Episcopal Church, a very active parish currently served by The Rev. Casey Berkhouse. 

If we were to look at a map of the North American content, I am sure many would be able to pinpoint where the US-Mexico border is located, even if it is not drawn in on the map.  Whether the border follows a natural feature such as a river or mountain or is an imaginary line through the countryside, there are real impacts from these demarcations of landscape that have not always existed.  One group that has been heavily impacted by the international border between the US and Mexico is the Lipan Apache of both Sonora and Nogales.  

The Lipan represents one of twelve tribes that make up the larger Apache nation, and while the group is recognized as a sovereign nation by the state of Texas they are not recognized at the federal level on either side of the border.  Historically the Lipan would move fluidly between the two countries and would face bloody wars with both the Mexican and US militaries that decimated their numbers.  With the strengthening of the border throughout the 20th century and limiting the ability for the tribe to move, many Lipan on the Mexican side would lose touch with their history and culture, till by the early 90’s only 70 registered tribal members remained in Nogales.  

This would begin to slowly change in the early 2000s as contact was reestablished, allowing families once divided by the border to begin to share the culture and rituals that had been lost.  The Lipan of Nogales began working closely with their relatives in Sonora, and through the work of the two have established a non-profit “One Step Towards Federal Recognition”.  This non-profit seeks to gain federal recognition for the tribe on both sides of the border and allow for the Lipan to join other federally recognized tribes which are allowed free access across the border.  As the Lipan continue to struggle in the journey for greater recognition, the stories and rituals of the past that were once lost on one side of the border are now being shared once again and a tribe divided is once again becoming one.

Lipan Apache at the state capital in 2013

The Lipan Apache Events and Activities page can be found here: 

Del Rio

Del Rio is 150 miles west of San Antonio with a population of 35,000. The original name for the town was San Felipe Del Rio, after the lore that the Spanish first held mass in the area on St. Phillip’s Day in 1635. It would not become an established town until after the Civil War. The name of the town was shortened to Del Rio by the US Post Office in 1883.
Del Rio offers a wide variety of attractions, including the Laughlin Air Force Base Museum, the Amistad National Recreation Area, and the San Felipe Springs, which produces 90,000,000 gallons of water a day.
The Episcopal Church’s presence in Del Rio began in 1871 when The Rev. Engleton Barr. The St. James’ Mission was established in 1883. A church building was completed in 1884, with 13 members accounted for. They became a self-sustaining parish in 1919, and the current building was completed in 1949. They worship together at 9 am on Sunday mornings and are served by The Rev. Arnoldo Romero. 

The scars of when segregation of the races was the law of the land in much of the Southern United States can still be felt in many communities to this day.  Even as separation of the races reigned as the order of the day, there were members of these marginalized communities who attempted to fight these injustices.  One of the first and most prominent fights in the state of Texas occurred in Del Rio on March 21st, 1930, when Jesus Salvatierra and several other parents in Del Rio hired lawyer John L. Dodson to file a suit against Del Rio ISD, charging that students of Mexican descent were being deprived the benefits afforded to students at “white only” schools.

From the beginning of the 20th century until the 1960s, many Texas schools worked under the tripartite model of segregation, with schools for whites, blacks, and Latinos being established, that while billed as separate but equal, were anything but equal.

At the initial trial, Dodson and fellow lawyer M. C. Gonzales (also a member of the “League of United Latin American Citizens” (LULAC)) argued that Mexican students were being deprived of the same quality of education and resources as other “white” students.  In this initial trial, the judge ruled in Salvatierra’s favor and granted an injunction.  However, when the case was brought before an appeals court in San Antonio, the injunction was voided and a rehearing of the trial denied.  Undeterred, Salvatierra and the LULAC lawyers brought the case to the Texas Supreme Court, who refused to hear the case and with it brought an end to this particular case.  While Del Rio v. Salvatierra may be viewed as a loss, the case proved to be a factor in the galvanizing of various segments of the Latino population of Texas and helped give birth to Latino activism in the state.  
Eventually in the 1948 case Delgado v. Bastrop ISD, the US Western District Court of Texas would rule that the separation of children of Mexican descent was a violation of the fourteenth Amendment and ruled that Mexican students no longer be segregated into their own schools.  Despite this victory, this court case would not be enforced in much of the state, resulting in the continued segregation of Latino students well into the 1960s.  Even as late as 1971 in the case of Cisneros v. Corpus Christi ISD elements of Salvatierra’s case be used to make the argument to forcibly end the segregation of Texas public schools.

Closing Prayer
Holy God,
In the effort to dismantle racism, I understand that I struggle not merely against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities – those institutions and systems that keep racism alive by perpetuating the lie that some members of our family are inferior and others superior. Create in me a new mind and heart that will enable me to see brothers and sisters in the faces of those divided by racial categories. Give me the grace and strength to rid myself of racial stereotypes that oppress some in my family while providing entitlements to others. Help me to create a nation that embraces the hopes and fears of oppressed people of color where we live, as well as those around the world. Help me to heal your family making me one with you and empowered by your Holy Spirit.

Adapted by Debra Mooney, Ph.D. from Pax Christi

Next Stop Coming Thursday, July 1st

Next Location: Bracketville, Montell, and Uvalde, TX
Distance to Travel: 198,000 from Del Rio
Churches: St. Andrew’s, Church of the Ascension, and St. Phillip’s

Read more

Confronting Hard Stories

Location: San Saba, Brady, Menard, Ft. McKavett TX
Churches: St. Luke’s, St. Paul’s, Calvary Episcopal, and St. James’

Opening Prayer
Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe. Amen.
This is the Day: Readings and Meditations from the Iona Community, Neil Paynter, ed., Glasgow, UK: Wild Goose Publications, 2002 

Welcome to San Saba, Brady, Menard, and Ft. McKavett!

San Saba
San Saba is known as the Pecan Capital of the World (Seguin, TX boasts to have the world’s largest pecan). San Saba has a population of 3,000 and is a gem of a small town. They have a beautiful historic downtown (online or in-person tour guide can be found here: )
San Saba is the hometown of Tommy Lee Jones and opera singer Thomas Stewart.

It is also home to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Established by Bp. R.W.B. Elliot in 1886, St. Luke’s is one of the oldest churches in the county. The first Senior Warden donated the land that the church building still stands on today. St. Luke’s has a service of Holy Eucharist on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Sundays of the month and a service of Morning Prayer on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month. They are currently served by The Rev. William C. Grusendorf. 

San Saba’s history has its highlights, as well as stories that are hard to hear. While most of us believe that it is a simple fact that as US citizens we have the right to be free from violence, and if we commit a crime we will be tried by a jury of our peers. However, through much of the nation’s history, these basic rights have not always been guaranteed to all.  During the years following the end of the Civil War, during the time known as Reconstruction, large portions of the population of the state of Texas lived in fear of extrajudicial killings and nighttime attacks in what has come to be known as lynching.  While lynching is now usually seen as a hanging, the act of lynching is any form of violence and execution without the due process of law.  From 1865 until the beginning of the 20th century, a known 120 lynchings occurred throughout the state.  Certainly, many more lynchings occurred that were never reported or when reported those notes were lost.  Some of the prime targets of these terrors were members of the recently-freed African American community, as well as white individuals who had supported the Union during the war or were known, abolitionists.  It was in San Saba county that some of the worst extrajudicial violence occurred, with 25 known victims being recorded between 1880 and 1896.  The violence was so extensive that the state government sent in the Texas Rangers to investigate the lynchings and attempt to restore order to the county.  

One victim of these crimes was Asa Brown, a young man who was the brother of the former sheriff, who was found on February 15, 1889, hanging from a tree.  It is believed that Brown was killed for political reasons, as both money and a pistol were found on his body showing it was not a robbery. 

As Christians, some of our work is to acknowledge this history and be empathetic to the stories of surviving loved ones who lived through this brutal time in our country. One way this is being done is through a special soil collection project. The Equal Justice Initiative, based in Montgomery, AL, works with local community leaders in collecting soil from lynching sites and has a continuously growing memorial to lynching victims and their families. A short video about the project can be found here: 

For more information about the Equal Justice Initiative go to their website here:

Additional sources: Outlaws & Scorned Women Podcast on Texas Lynchings and the San Saba Mob.

Brady, TX
Brady is known as the “Heart of Texas”, as it is the city closest to the geographical center of the state. It has a population of 5500, and many entertainment options, including the Heart of Texas Country Music Museum and state renowned antique shops. You can watch a short video welcome of the town here:

St. Paul’s provides an episcopal presence in the community and a portion of their mission statement says, “The Episcopal Church is not the building, not the service, not the pomp or attire, it is people, people just like you. Without you, there is no church.”

Brady, along with every other individual and community in the nation was truly impacted, in one way or another by the Second World War.  While many Texans headed overseas to serve in the war effort, a portion of the war came in a unique way to the town of Brady with the establishment of Prisoner of War (POW) camps.  It is estimated that between 400,000 and 500,000 POWs would be brought to the US, with roughly 20% of these being interred in the nearly three dozen camps set up across the state.  Many of these initial prisoners had been captured in the North African campaign, and as per the rules of the Geneva Convention, the Texas environment was judged close to the environment they had been captured in.  With the end of the war in 1945, the majority of the prisoners would be returned home, however, several chose to remain and their descendants can still be found in Brady today.

With the war’s end, many of the buildings used to house the POWs were abandoned. In 1947 the State of Texas established a reformatory for female African American Juvenile offenders at the former Camp Brady grounds. While juveniles were to be tried and housed in separate facilities from adult offenders, due to segregation policies passed in 1913, and lack of an appropriate facility, African American juvenile females found themselves housed alongside adults.  The goal of the school was to act as both a reformatory and holding center while these youths awaited trial.  However, corruption among the administration was rife and many of the young women were victims of sexual assault and mistreatment by the guards, with few of these events being investigated by the state and usually brushed under the rug.  Many of these women were victims of Jim Crow era laws which denied them their rights and found them subjected to harsher punishments than their Anglo peers.  The Camp Brady school would shut down in 1951, with the opening of a reformatory school in Houston.  It would not be until 1975 that legislation would be enacted that banned racial segregation in Texas prisons.  The remains of both the POW camp and reformatory are now managed by the Heart of Texas Museum of Brady.

A guard post at Camp Brady POW Camp Image courtesy of UTSA Special Collections

Menard and Ft. McKavett
Menard, TX has a population of 1400 and is located 140 miles Northwest of San Antonio. The town began as a Spanish mission along the San Saba River. Eighty percent of the land in Menard County is used for farming and ranching, and the local economy relies on the beef, goat, grain, and pecan industries. The area is a popular destination for hunting and fishing.
Located 21 miles west of Menard, Fort McKavett was established by the 8th US Infantry to protect settlers and act as a rest stop for settlers traveling to California. Tension and violence between settlers and Comanche tribes increased after the time of the Civil War, until, in 1875 the US Government mandated the relocation of native peoples to Oklahoma. The Fort was abandoned in 1883. The Fort is now considered a ghost town, as well as one of the most well-preserved army forts in the country. Calvary Episcopal Church serves the town of Menard, and St. James’ Episcopal Church is located just outside Fort McKavett. (photos not available)

While African Americans have served in every conflict since the founding of the nation leading up to the American Civil War, they had never served as members of the regular peacetime army, instead of serving in volunteer units.  When the Civil War broke out in 1861 African Americans were forbidden from serving in the army, with a few roles being opened to them in the navy.  However, there was a strong movement among the African American and abolitionist communities that argued for allowing African American men to serve, as this was a fight for their freedom.  In 1863 the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation not only freed all enslaved individuals in States currently in rebellion, but it also allowed for the service of African Americans in both volunteer units and as members of the United States Colored Troops.  By the end of the war, over 180,000 black men would put on the uniform and played pivotal roles in ending the war.  When the war came to a close in 1865, the US government decided that while they would greatly reduce the size of the army, they would create two cavalry and six infantry units composed solely of African American men (aside from the officers who would be white).  After some budget cuts, the two cavalry units (the 9th and 10th) and the two infantry units (the 24th and 25th) would be mustered into service in 1866 and find themselves sent immediately to Texas to serve in the Indian Wars.  The men of these units would go on to serve with great distinction and prove themselves to be some of the finest troops on the frontier, and earn the nickname the Buffalo Soldiers.

Sent out to the various forts on the Texas frontier, one of the main forts the Buffalo Soldiers would find themselves stationed at was Fort McKavett.  While the main job of these soldiers was to deal with perceived threats from Native American tribes in the area, much of the work done by the Buffalo Soldiers were supporting and growing the infrastructure of these remote locations.  Whether it was stringing telegraph lines, protecting cattle drives, or mapping the frontier, the Buffalo Soldiers proved themselves time and time again the equal of any other unit in the army.  The Buffalo Soldiers would go on to serve in the Spanish American War, fighting in the battles of Kettle and San Juan Hill, and would actually beat the rough riders to the top of both hills, though this was not reported at the time.  Many Buffalo soldiers would find themselves sent overseas in WWI and WWII, with the units finally being disbanded with the end of segregation in the army during the Korean War.

While the Buffalo Soldiers proved themselves the equal of any other unit, they also had to deal with ingrained racism both from within the military and in the communities they served in.  One incident of racial violence that occurred close to Fort McKavett was the murder of a Buffalo Soldier by John Monroe Jackson in 1870.  Jackson and many residents of Menard Texas found it to be an insult that African American troops were stationed near their town.  Acting on a rumor that a black soldier from the fort had written a love letter to an Anglo woman in town, Jackson shot the soldier and then fled from justice.  Buffalo Soldiers would be dispatched to seek out Jackson and several of his compatriots, engaging in a shootout with the individuals and killing two of their party.  While the soldiers were legally in the right to apprehend and arrest Jackson and his compatriots for the murder of a US soldier, in the ensuing written narrative the Jackson party would be portrayed as men defending their home in an attempt to cover up the ingrained racism of the murder.  Many incidents such as this would occur to many Buffalo Soldiers during their service on the frontier, and many of these stories are still written in a way that portrays the soldiers not as victims of racial violence, but instead as deserving of their murder.

Additional Resources: Texas Parks & Wildlife Buffalo Soldier Program

Closing Prayer
When our eyes do not see the gravity of racial justice,

Shake us from our slumber and open our eyes, O Lord.

When out of fear we are frozen into inaction,
Give us a spirit of bravery, O Lord.

When we try our best but say the wrong things,
Give us a spirit of humility, O Lord.

When the chaos of this dies down,
Give us a lasting spirit of solidarity, O Lord.

When it becomes easier to point fingers outwards,
Help us to examine our own hearts, O Lord.

God of truth, in your wisdom, Enlighten Us.
God of hope in your kindness, Heal Us.
Creator of All People, in your generosity, Guide Us.

Racism breaks your heart,
break our hearts for what breaks yours, O Lord.

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.

      – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Next Stop Coming Tuesday, June 29th

Heroes, Border Crossings, and School Segregation

Next Location: Junction, Sonora, and Del Rio, TX
Distance to Travel: 406,000 steps from Fort McKavett
Churches: Trinity Episcopal, St. John’s, and St. James’

Read more

Seminole Scout Descendants, Matthew Gaines, and Packsaddle Mountain

Distance Traveled: 504,665 steps taken together from San Antonio

Location: Kerrville, Fredericksburg, and Llano, TX
Churches: St. Peter’s, St. Barnabas’, and Grace Episcopal

Opening Prayer
You call us, Lord,
to leave familiar things and to leave our “comfort zone”.
May we open our eyes to new experiences,
may we open our ears to hear you speaking to us
and may we open our hearts to your love.
Grant that this time spent on pilgrimage
may help us to see ourselves as we really are
and may we strive to become the people you would have us be. Amen


Welcome to Kerrville, Fredericksburg, and Llano!

Kerrville, TX

We’ve headed northwest of Comfort to find ourselves in the town of Kerrville. With a population just under 24,000, Kerrville has become a destination hot spot for dining, shopping, and music in the last few years. It is also home to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. 

St. Peter’s held its first public service in 1881 and became the first denominational church in Kerrville in 1888. The church building is in the same location today. They have a school that serves children pre-k through kindergarten which opened in 1969. St. Peter’s has three services on Sunday and hosts Christian Formation for all ages throughout the week. They also have a charitable resale shop called The Cottage House that was opened in 1967 by the Episcopal Church Women of St. Peter’s. In addition to providing high-quality second-hand goods to the community of Kerrville, The Cottage House donates to a myriad of charities with their profits including The Battered Women’s Shelter, Habitat for Humanity, Good Samaritan Center, World Missions of DWTX, and more. They are currently served by The Rev. Bert Baetz, Rector. 

Since the founding of the nation, many Native American tribes and individuals have served in the military, though their stories have often been overshadowed and untold.  One group with direct links to Texas was the Black Seminole Scouts.  During both the colonial era and early years of the nation, the Seminoles of Florida resisted occupation and were able to live autonomously in the Florida wilderness.  Many escaped slaves would seek refuge among the Seminoles, forming communities on the edge of tribal lands and intermarrying with tribal members.  After several wars with the US, in 1842 the Seminole tribes were forced to relocate to reservations in modern-day Oklahoma.  However, members of the tribes of African descent ran the risk of being enslaved, so many members escaped to Mexico where they were welcomed by the government and would later be joined by members of other Native tribes.

After the end of the Civil War and during the beginning of what would be known as the Indian Wars, the US government sent representatives to Mexico to recruit members of the Black Seminoles to serve as scouts for the army in their fights in Texas and the Southwest.  About 200 members of the tribe and their families would make the move, and the Seminole scouts would come to be regarded as one of the toughest soldiers on the frontier, often serving alongside the other African American units (the Buffalo Soldiers).  While the unit saw extensive combat in Texas and the Southwest the unit never lost a single man to combat, though several members would be killed in incidents of racial violence with local townspeople near the forts they were stationed at.  In 1914 the US army would officially disband the unit, and force all but a few older members off of military bases.  However, members of the unit and their descendants settled in many towns throughout Texas, with one of the largest descendent populations being located in Kerrville.

Fredericksburg, TX

From shopping and local winery tours to the Pacific War Museum and Admiral Nimitz’s childhood home, Fredericksburg, TX boasts entertainment for all. The Episcopal Church’s presence in the town began in 1946 when Episcopalians began meeting in one another’s homes. In 1954 they purchased an old German settler family log cabin which would become their first public house of worship. In 1965 the new parish building of St. Barnabas was consecrated, although the original log cabin is still in use today as a chapel. They hold three services a Sunday and are currently served by The Rev. Jeff Hammond, Rector. 

The institution of American chattel slavery was by its nature designed to crush the soul of those enslaved through brutality and backbreaking labor.  Even with these crushing shackles, many enslaved and formerly enslaved individuals would find ways to not only help their fellow man but also make the world better through acts of selflessness and devotion.  One such individual who resided in Texas was the minister, Texas State Senator, and community leader Matthew Gaines.

Matthew Gaines

Born into slavery in Louisiana in 1812, Gaines would teach himself to read from smuggled books by candlelight.  During his years of enslavement, Gaines would attempt two escapes to freedom, with the second one to Mexico resulting in his recapture in 1863 in Fredericksburg, Texas where he would remain until emancipation on June 19th, 1865 (now known as Juneteenth).

Settling in Washington County, Gaines would establish himself as a leader in the African American community as a Minister in the Baptist Church, and in 1869 he was elected as a State Senator.  Believing strongly in education and breaking the system of itinerant farming known as sharecropping, throughout his term Gaines supported the establishment of the first public school systems and the use of Federal land grants to create the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (modern Day A&M University).  Gaine’s political career would, unfortunately, be cut short when in a politically motivated trial he was accused of bigamy.  Though the charge was overturned on appeal, he was removed from office and replaced by a white senator.  Gaines would continue to be active in politics and would advocate for the African American community both in public and from the pulpit.  Gaines would pass away in Giddings, Texas on June 11, 1900.


Llano, TX

Llano, TX has a population of 3,400 and sits on the picturesque Llano River. The first European settlers arrived in 1847 and were of German descent. Llano is home to Grace Episcopal Church. The stone building of the church was erected in 1881 and was intended to be a private academy. When this venture failed the building and land were conveyed to the West Texas Missionary District in 1885. The first service was held in 1888. The stone church was designated as a historical landmark in 1962 and a new parish hall was added in 1972. Today, Grace Church holds a service of Holy Eucharist on Sunday and Morning Prayer on Wednesday. Members host food drives regularly for the local food bank and meet for Bible Study weekly. They are currently served by The Rev. Betsy Stephenson, Priest-in-Charge. 

Llano county officially lists the 1873 Packsaddle fight as the last Native American raid in the county. Two small markers are denoting the story of an Apache raid and retaliation by a group of local ranchers that resulted in four deaths of Apache natives and three injured ranchers. What this history fails to tell is the larger history of the tension of European settlers coming into a land that was already inhabited by native peoples. Texas’ early history is often said to be sparsely populated, however, we know that a wide diversity of first peoples and tribes inhabited the region and called it home for centuries before the arrival of the Spanish. Not only was the land taken from these groups, but treaties were often not upheld and the genocide of native culture and traditions was excused and viewed as necessary to assimilate tribes into the euro-centric culture. The particular violence in Llano County is not unique in the United States, nor is how the Packsaddle event is written. Aside from the two historical markers, a painting said to show the Packsaddle battle hangs in the Llano county courthouse. This painting depicts the ranchers in the foreground as defenders of the land, only one side of this complicated story.

Optional Exercises

Research the land of your upbringing and learn what native peoples called it home before modern settlers. Did you already know this history? If so, where did you learn this history? Are the tribes still a part of that community?  

For an outing, visit the Witte Museum to learn more about the First Peoples of Texas. 

Closing Prayer

O God of infinite mercy, we live in a land where the native peoples were moved, often by force, from the bountiful lands they inhabited to places of desolation. Help us to support them now as they seek to retain their rich native cultures. Open our eyes to the poverty and despair that so often accompany them through life, and give us the courage and will to change the systems that perpetuate injustice, for the sake of your Son our Lord. Amen. -The Diocese of West Virginia


Next Stop Coming Thursday, June 24th

Confronting Hard Stories

Next Location: San Saba, Brady, Menard, Ft. McKavett TX
Distance to Travel: 258,000 steps from Llano (487,000 from San Antonio total)
Churches: St. Luke’s, St. Paul’s, Calvary Episcopal, and St. James’

Read more


One Response to “This Far by Faith”

  1. David Chidgey says:

    Looking forward to learning more about our history in the area.

Leave a Reply