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

The Curious Case Jim Thorpe’s Remains

 

The brown granite tomb of Jim Thorpe, flanked to the right by a statue of him, on a bright and sunny fall day.
The tomb of Jim Thorpe, flanked by a statue depicting him.

When American Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe passed away in 1953, his remains were sent across the country in an odd series of events directly out of a movie.

When he died in California, Thorpe’s body was sent to Oklahoma for funeral services. It was to be then returned to California with his wife and son for burial. The problem was, Jim was essentially broke at the time of his death, and his wife had no way to transport the body again. The citizens of Shawnee tried to raise the funds for the transport, but couldn’t get them together. Fearing that Jim would be buried in a porter’s grave, she spirited away the remains to, of all places, a town in Pennsylvania he had never been to.

The towns of East and West Mauch Chunk were financially strapped in the 1950s, and looking for a way to diversify the economy of the former mining town. Precilla Thorpe, Jim’s wife, heard about this and made them a deal: Jim’s body and rights to his likeness for an undisclosed amount. The town agreed, and that same year merged and renamed into what is now Jim Thopre, Pennsylvania.

Some sixty years later, Jack Thorpe, Jim’s son, wanted to see his father buried in his homeland in Oklahoma, as did the majority of the Thorpe family. In 2010, he sued the city of Jim Thorpe for his father’s remains, citing the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act as grounds. Ultimately, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals would rule in favor of the city, citing the town receives no direct state of federal aid that would designate the whole town as a museum, and that Priscilla sold the remains in good faith to the city as Jim’s direct beneficiary and proxy.

As painful as it is not honor a loved one’s wishes, the positive thing to come out of all of this is the fact Jim’s legacy is forever enshrined in a little town in Pennsylvania, and the fight for his remains provided publicity about the greatest athlete you never knew.

You can read more about the legal battle in Supreme Court Ends Fight Over Jim Thorpes Resting Place and Fight for Jim Thorpe’s Remains Continues 62 Years Later, or about the man himself with Encyclopædia Britannica’s Biography

 

St. Stanislaus Church

 

St. Stanislaus Church's front entrance, taken from the parking lot on a sunny afternoon.
The front entrance to St. Stanislaus Church

Known for being the second oldest Polish parish in the United States, St. Stanislaus Church stands far from the busy main street in Bandera, closer to the original survey location and modern day suburbs. The current limestone structure was built in 1876 by Polish immigrants who first settled the area in the 1850s. Gothic styling dominates the exterior of the church, while the interior is much more conservative, reflecting the parish mission of being focused on Catholic teachings.

 

The church is flanked by several buildings on the surrounding streets, with two old rectories for nuns, now a museum and church office, an adoration chapel (Now the priest’s quarters.), and the now defunct St. Jospeh’s school, which serves as a meeting hall for local christian groups.

 

141st Infantry Regiment

 

 Historical marker, San Antonio, Texas, 141ST infantry Regiment, Bexar county
141st infantry Regiment historical marker located in San Antonio, Texas

“ To the men who died at the Alamo: All Texans a claim both and song and in the story the days of our youth – the days of your glory may they also remember, wherever they go, the man left behind at some far Alamo”

   The  state  of Texas has a long history of  military affairs.   When it comes to military affairs the 141st infantry Regiment has the title of the oldest militia unit in Texas for the United Stares Army.  The 141st infantry Regiment has a long history of military  involvement by being able to trace its lineage back to the Texas revolution of 1836.  In  addition to the Texas revolution the 141st infantry Regiment can trace its involvement back to the Spanish American war of 1898, the Cuban occupation of 1898, the Mexican border service beginning in 1916, World War I in 1918, and World War II from 1941-1945.  The 141st  infantry division’s  military history continues on now as part of the 72nd Birgade  Combat Division.

This is  historical  marker, dedicated to the 141st infantry division, does not do the history of this military division justice.  This military division has such an extensive history that we can’t fully see the whole picture of the significance of this division  from what is shown on this historical marker.  Much like you may have been, I was also very surprised of the extensive military lineage of the oldest militia unit in Texas.  What stands out most to me is the infantry units motto, “Remember the Alamo.”  What surprised me most about this motto is that it is still said to this day. The history behind this motto is something that is deeply rooted into all Texans.

Castroville’s Original St. Louis Church

Photo of St. Louis Church in Castroville, TX
St. Louis Church in Castroville, TX | Courtesy of Tyler Sleeter

Castroville’s original St. Louis (Catholic) Church is one of only a handful of remaining churches built before Texas was a state.  It sits on the grounds of a convent that maintains and cares for the structure.  The parish has a newer church a block away.

Photo of historic landmark placard on St. Louis Church in Castroville, TX
Historic St. Louis Church in Castroville, TX | Courtesy of Tyler Sleeter

 

 

This is an amazing piece of Texas history that serves as a reminder of the age some of these small communities.  The church has been a commonality for Catholics in the Castroville area since it was built as it remains the only Catholic church to serve the community.

Up in the Air: Who is Wright?

Photograph of Airplane Crash

Where on earth did the birthplace of aviation occur? North Carolina boasts “First in Flight” license plates as well as Ohio boasting plates that state, “The Birthplace of Aviation”. Is either of these states WRIGHT? It is debated by some historians whether this feat was truly first done by the Wright Brothers. German immigrant and Texas Hill Country resident, Jakob Brodbeck, is debated to have been the first man in flight over four decades before the Wright Brothers even attempted their own flight. The only problem with Brodbeck being the first man to flight, is that there is a lack of blueprints and firsthand witness accounts but there seems to be compelling some of the documents in his favor.

Black and white; Newspaper article
Picture File Equipment and Furnishings Transportation Airplanes 14120 [Airplane crash] Courtesy of DRT Documents Collections
This image shows a republished copy of the Galveston’s Tri-Weekinlg News from 7 August 1865. The point of the article was to find investors for the actual constructions and development of his air-ship.

Damaged stock certificates
Certificates for shares of stock, Jacob Brodbeck to Ferdinand Herff, 1865 June 27 Courtesy of Collection: DRT 9 Documents Collection

These stock certificates indicate that there were in fact investors in Brodbeck’s “air-ship”. Investors even included that of Ferdinand Herff, a San Antonio physician.

Document with specifications
Specifications are written by Jacob Brodbeck for his airship, 1863 Collection: Courtesy of DRT 9 Documents Collection

This image a six-page document translated by Brodbeck’s granddaughter from German to English detailing the specifications of Brodbeck’s “air-ship” that could be used to fly from the Texas Hill Country to New York City then to Chicago.

Official TSHA Marker
TSHA Marker. Courtesy of Findagrave.com

In 2017, the Texas State Historical Association established Jokob Brodbeck as a historical figure with an official marker highlighting his work as a teacher, public servant, innovator, and “the father of aviation”.

Despite the lack of firsthand witness accounts, it seems that the idea that Jakob Brodbeck was the first man in flight, not the Wright Brothers, does not appear to be completely implausible.

 

 

 

Sources:

Was a Texan the First Man to Fly an Airplane?

Brodbeck, Jakob

Wright Brothers

JakobBrodbeckand the Flying Texas Machine

What’s Hot, What’s Not Part III: Eval. of the Rehabber Club Project

Welcome back to another public history project evaluation! This time we will be evaluating the Rehabber Club Project and narrowing in on the preservation efforts and stakeholders involved.

First thing first though…

What exactly is the San Antonio Rehabber Club Project, anyway?

Well, what sticks out from the title? For me, it’s Rehabber…sort of like rehabilitation…and if you click on the project link you’ll find that this enterprise is dedicated to a group of people rebuilding historic buildings! Very fitting for the whole rehabilitation-Rehabber name.

Here’s a photo from the Rehabber Club’s website that shows the final stage of one historic building’s rehabilitation.

Now, it should be noted that this isn’t just any group of people coming together. This is a continuous project initially launched in 2016 by the City of San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation. But what more should we know about this oh-so official club? Let’s check it out.

Background

Like every good city project, there’s usually some kind of formal summary that expresses their assignment, values, and goal, otherwise known as a mission statement. So what’s their mission, you ask? Well, pulling directly from their website…

“The Rehabber Club mission is to build and support a network of do-it-yourselfers, craftsmen, contractors, historic homeowners, realtors, and everyday citizens to revitalize San Antonio’s historic buildings. We accomplish this through networking, training, certification, and plain ole encouragement.”

Okay, okay, okay, so we know what they do, but who do the Rehabber Club involve?

Basically all the people mentioned in the mission statement. So, do-it-yourselfers, or people who work on a building and revitalize the foundation themselves; realtors, or agents who sell and purchase a building; and everyday citizens, or people who come together in this club to offer their volunteered service.

Alright, we seem to have a sturdy foundation of what this organization is…But who else might be involved? Who else partners with the Rehabber Club? Interestingly enough, a great deal of the Rehabber Club preservation and promotion  is owed to the Power of Preservation Foundation, which helps achieve projects throughout the community.

“Started in 2012, the Power of Preservation Foundation (PoP) is a coalition of advocates, businesses, neighborhoods, and agencies interested in promoting the literal “power” of preservation in our community” (PoP Website).

Promotion

Now that we know who the Rehabbers are, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty evaluation portion. Some areas that were considered to comment on include aesthetics, content, and functionality. However, the main areas that stand interestingly apart are in the promotion, history, and outreach efforts of this project. See, if there’s one thing that city projects either lack or excel at, it’s promotion; and it’s draining work honestly (I’ve been there).

Not only can is it a hassle to promote a business but it can also be discouraging knowing that you’ll pass out information to 250 people and have maybe 4 check backs that people are actually interested. Especially with city projects, the interest level is probably not as high as, let’s say, a new local ice cream joint. Still, the constant push for promotion is crucial to receive support from volunteers, donors, and marketers. This is where I think the Rehabber Club makes a smart move.

Not only does their website have a “Get Involved” promotion, but it’s also listed as one of their five tabs at the top. Allowing this easy access, without being annoyingly persistent, this website make a strategic promotion to attract newcomers. After all, if a visitor clicks on the easily accessible “Get Involved” tab then that individual will next have the opportunity to “Join the Club” or become a “Volunteer”. Refer to Ex. 1 and Ex. 2 from the Rehabber Club’s page for a visual.

Ex. 1 – Five Tabs: Five Promotions

 

Ex. 2 – Notice also the positive invocation in “You can make a difference”.

The “You can make a difference” call-to-action marketing method helps a potential client feel as if their contribution will make a significant impact in other people’s lives, or specifically, their city’s historical rehabilitation project efforts. These are the exact details that are important to note when evaluating the promotional aspects of public history projects.

Historical Marketing

On a larger scale, there is another kind of marketing that focuses the attention to historic intercity neighborhoods. Take for example the revitalization of inner-city St. Louis. In the book Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities, Andrew Hurley states that,

“There is nothing inherently wrong about using history as a marketing tool. In an age of globalization and increasingly homogenized experience, heritage tourism satisfies a real hunger for the distinctive and the autochthonous [indigenous inhabitant], that which springs from local sources. For overlooked inner-city neighborhoods like Old North St. Louis, is a perfectly logical and reasonable way to command greater attention and generate more revenue for local business” (Hurley, 71).

Furthermore, the history of inner-cities, like that of St. Louis and San Antonio, have something great to be shared, preserved, and marketed. If these spaces need revitalization, then what better way to do that than by emphasizing the history that makes each place unique and interesting?

Old North, St. Louis – Provided by Joe, NextSTL

With the Rehabber Club in place, the City of San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation has a beneficial opportunity to help out local businesses that surround the inner-city of SA by focusing on the historic buildings from 10, 50, or even 100 years ago. With history as the focus, tourists and even the general public are then attracted to a building’s makeover and will most likely visit local businesses in the area.

This utilization of history is perfect for marketing.

In another sense, take into consideration how the Pearl Brewery, here in San Antonio, has made inner-city revitalization more visible within the city. Aside from the negativity of gentrification that this project has also caused, there is no denying that the historic Pearl Brewery is now bringing heightened business to the surrounding area.

Nevertheless, coming back to the second point of this evaluation, the Rehabber Club makes a clever move by inviting people to get involved when they visit their website and through this method of historical marketing. In this way people also have a chance to become part of the revamped inner-city life and businesses.

Pearl Brewery – Provided by Bonnie Arbittier, Rivard Report

Outreach

If there’s one final category to mention, it’s that this project makes a striking effort to outreach. This is a good thing! Staying connected is the key to any project, especially city wide projects. Not only does outreach help people stay in touch with the organization, but it also helps the organization stay in touch with the community. How else did the Rehabbers know that there were historic buildings out in San Antonio that needed rehabilitation and preservation? Staying connected to the community is the epitome of public history communication, for without this, these buildings would have wasted away, or worse, these community histories would have wasted away.

Ex. 3 – Digital platforms of outreach are becoming more and more popular that carefully allow individuals to express their desire to be apart of an organization.

Next, let’s taking a look and evaluating Ex. 3 above and notice that the Rehabber Club offers a digital way to “Become a Partner”. In understanding its importance,  if an individual wants to get involved but may not way to call, then that person might find it easier to send a quick “Hey, I’m interested!” message verses an audible phone call that probably won’t have much of an effect versus a visual email.

Ex. 4 – Stay Connected Through Social Media

Finally, evaluating Ex. 4, the Rehabber Club makes an astute move here to include address, phone number, and social media accounts. I think this is great because I haven’t seen too many public history projects that include variety of social media account. Yet, it’s quite important in this day in age if you’re especially wanting to reach out to youth. Plus, with more methods of outreach to connect people to organizations, the more effective this project will be in the end to accrue publicity and popularity.

Tally the Score

All in all, I would say that this project is on point, as my generation says. Aside from the few typos I saw, the aesthetics look great and the content is formatted to a clean cut. Most importantly, this project is on point in it’s promotion, historical marketing, and outreach. Again, these are important factors that not only help with the overall attraction of this organization, but that also help individuals feel like their support can make a positive impact, preserve the stories rooted in project walls, and further connect people beyond volunteer shifts.

At it’s whole, this is one public history project that is definitely hot. Now where do I sign up!? Oh wait, I can’t use that cheesy line because I just told you where…

8/10 Rehabbers.