Fire Near San Jacinto Battlefield Causes Indefinite Closure

The San Jacinto battleground, along with the Battleship Texas museum, has been closed for an indefinite period of time following an ITC chemical fire that occurred in March of 2019. While fighting the fire, some of the fire suppressant foam along with toxic chemicals leaking from the tank flowed down into the Houston Ship Channel which lies between the battleground and the ITC chemical plant. Because of this, celebrations for the annual celebration of the Battle of San Jacinto were canceled. This is only the second time in thirty five years that the festivities have had to be canceled. This was a rather big letdown for many people as this remembrance celebration takes many months to plan. The Battle of San Jacinto was the last big battle of the Texas War for Independence which famously saw the Texan forces route the Mexican soldiers under the command of Santa Anna. Texan troops also ended up “capturing” Santa Anna’s prosthetic leg after the battle was over. At the end of the battle Santa Anna surrendered to Texan forces however this was not officially recognized by the American government. Battleship Texas is a famed battleship that sailed in both World Wars and was converted into a museum after being decommissioned.

Public History in the Wild – Manuel Musquiz Ranch Home

The author standing outside the ruins of the house, across the highway stands the plaque dedicated to the home.

These are the ruins of a ranch home built by Manuel Musquiz who was a pioneer who settled down in between Fort Davis and Alpine, TX in 1854. Due to the frequency of Native American raids during that period Mr. Musquiz eventually abandoned his home and moved elsewhere. From 1880 to 1882, the Texas Rangers used it as a Ranger station while they were clearing out Native Americans and marauding bandits in the surrounding area. After the Rangers abandoned it, the home eventually fell into disarray until it became as it is today.

Public History in the Wild – Jeff Davis County Jail

The author outside the entrance to the jail

The Jeff Davis County Jail, located in Fort Davis, TX, was constructed at the start of the 1910’s to replace an older jail that was deemed inefficient due to its adobe construction. The jail took on a castle like appearance because it was what was popular for most jails in the 19th century. The jail remained open until 1978 where new inmates were transported to Marfa, TX. The jail was funny to observe as it is seated next to the intricate Jeff Davis County Courthouse and the remainder of the small town is mostly brick and mortar buildings.

Public History in the Wild – Terlingua Cemetery

This is a plaque inside the Terlingua Cemetery which is located by the US-Mexican border in Terlingua, TX. Terlingua was once a mining town at the end of the 19th century into the early parts of the 20th century but is now a ghost town with a small population that consists of local artists. The cemetery mostly holds the remains of older residents of the town but there are also graves from as recently as 2018. It was amazing to see how some of these plots had withstood the test of time and continue showing the local traditions.The Author by a plaque inside Terlingua Cemetery

Competing Narratives in History

Because there are many different people and cultures throughout the world it is not uncommon for different individuals to have different beliefs on certain topics. History is no exception to this as often time’s different cultures or groups of people perceive certain events or important figures in history differently. In a modern society that has placed an emphasis on making sure unheard voices are listened too, competing narratives and how to address them has posed a problem for public historians and those interested in history alike. One example of this is the Western Wall in the city of Jerusalem and the fact that it is renowned and viewed as sacred by three different religions in the area; Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I think that it is definitely a difficult problem to come to terms with because if executed wrongly it can lead to one group feeling marginalized and unimportant. One of the best things we can do is just make sure that everyone is heard and has a chance to tell their story too an audience. It is also our responsibility as students of history to ensure that we let people know that we want their experiences to be told and to go out on our own and look for stories we may not have been aware of before.

A picture of the Western Wall in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM – DECEMBER 15: The Western Wall in the night with a praying pilgrims on December 15, 2013 in Jerusalem. It’s located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount.

Public History in the Wild: Little Bighorn Battlefield

The author standing in front of the monument to the 7th Cavalry
This is the monument for the men of the US Army’s 7th Cavalry who fought and died at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Famously known as General Custer’s Last Stand, the battle famously saw the total annihilation of the famed general and his men by a combined force of several Native American tribes led by Chief Sitting Bull. The monument stands roughly where historians believe Custer fell on Last Stand Hill. While visiting the battlefield I was taken aback by the feeling of knowing I was walking on the same ground where warriors from both sides fought and fell.