Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Texas Independence Trail Region

Topics (click on a topic to jump to that section).
Aransas Creek Settlers | Bee County | Bee County Courthouse | Early Trails in Bee County | Beeville on the Poesta | Campo Santo | Medio Creek | Normanna | Papalote Creek | Town of Pettus | Skidmore Historical Society
Aransas Creek Settlers

Marker Title: Aransas Creek Settlers
Address: Corner of Sullivan St. and US 181
City: Skidmore
County: Bee
Year Marker Erected: 1967
Marker Location: At Skidmore Historical Society museum, corner of Sullivan St. and US 181, Skidmore.
Marker Text: Earliest known residents were Karankawa Indians who named creek. On this stream was one of the most famous ranches in early Texas, occupied in 1805 by Don Martin de Leon, who in 1824 founded Victoria. In 1830's Irish colonists came by way of Copano Bay, settling downcreek. Anglo-Americans from older settlements, came by road and trail, stopping mainly upcreek. Stockraising, trucking and freighting provided livelihoods in the rich, new prairie land. In 1850 Patrick Fadden sold to Ft. Merrill corn and vegetables from 1835 land grant of his uncle, Father John Thomas Malloy. Fadden and W.R. Hayes freighted supplies to settlers in 1860's. Hays had early post office in his home, 1870; was county judge 1876-92. John Wilson, an 1850's upcreek settler, brought first Durham cattle to country; built one of first wooden fences, enclosing 600 acres of homesite with rough heart pine plank. On creek's north bank stood ranch of Frank O. Skidmore, founder of Skidmore, who gained fame for building first barbed wire fence and windmill in county. He promoted breeding of registered Herefords and in 1886 gave much of right-of-way to the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad. (1967)

Bee County

Marker Title: Bee County
Address: 2 mi.N on US 181
City: Pettus
County: Bee
Year Marker Erected: 1936
Marker Location: From Pettus, take US 181 about 2 miles north to roadside park.
Marker Text: Named for Col. Barnard E. Bee (1787-1853), who served Republic of Texas as Secretary of War, Secretary of State, and Minister to the United States. County was created by legislative act on Dec. 8, 1857; organized Jan. 25, 1858, from land earlier in Goliad, Karnes, Live Oak, Refugio, and San Patricio counties. County seat in 1858 was on Medio Creek; since 1860 at present Beeville. A cattle region since Spanish times, Bee County became important beef producer in 1865. San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad provided first modern transportation in 1886. Oil was discovered here in 1929.

Bee County Courthouse

Marker Title: Bee County Courthouse
Address: 105 W. Corpus St.
City: Beeville
County: Bee
Year Marker Erected: 2000
Marker Text: Bee County was created in 1857 from parts of five neighboring counties. The first county seat was located seven miles east of this site, and the first commissioners court was held on the banks of Medio Creek in February 1858. The city's earliest courthouse consisted of a box frame structure. In 1912, local architect W.C. Stephenson designed this, the county's fourth courthouse. A native of Buffalo, New York, Stephenson aided in the design of the death mask of President William McKinley. He was the architect of several Beeville buildings, including the Rialto Theater, two churches and several houses, and later designed the Classical Revival McMullen County courthouse. W.C. Whitney, builder of three other Texas courthouses, contracted to build the Bee County courthouse for $72,050. Whitney died during construction and W.C. Stephenson's partner, Fritz Heldenfels, completed the project. Stephenson drew upon the strong contemporary influence of the French Beaux Arts School with a level of grandeur previously nonexistent in Bee County. Some original Beaux Arts features such as the cast stone balustrade originally outlining the roof were later removed, and the 1943 addition partially obscured the symmetrical plan and façade of the edifice. The Bee County courthouse is a fine example of the Classical Revival style. Of particular significance are the grand portico and projecting pediment entry with Corinthian columns and dentils along the roofline. The Chicago-style windows, comprised of one glass pane flanked by two narrower ones, with transoms above, are noteworthy. Also unusual is Stephenson's lady of justice; unlike most such symbols, she is not depicted as blind. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark 2000

Early Trails in Bee County

Marker Title: Early Trails in Bee County
Address: 3.6 mi.N on US 181, in roadside park
City: Beeville
County: Bee
Year Marker Erected: 1968
Marker Location: From Beeville, take US 181 north about 3.6 miles to roadside park.
Marker Text: From pack trails and wagon roads that marked this area at least 300 years, have developed such modern roads as U.S. Highway 181. The old trails of Indians, wild cattle and mustang horses formed highways for 17th, 18th and 19th century expeditions coming from Mexico to claim sovereignty for Spain over land of Texas. When pioneers established land grants in this section, they also found Indian trails useful, placing towns along them. Beeville, the county seat, was situated at the natural intersection of San Patricio-Helena Road with Goliad-Laredo Road. About 20 miles south, the Matamoros-Goliad road ("Camino Real" to old-timbers) was probably the most historic road in this area. In the years 1861-1865 the "cotton road"--called "lifeline of the southern Confederacy"--crossed Bee County. A later route of great value was a cattle trail that channeled thousands of Longhorns from the Rio Grande to the Red River and up the Dodge City Trail or the Chisholm Trail to northern markets. In this area were also La Para (or Grapevine) Road; the Indianola-Papalote Road; and a road to now vanished St. Mary's, a port on Copano Bay, off the Gulf of Mexico. (1968)

Beeville on the Poesta

Marker Title: Beeville on the Poesta
Address: Courthouse lawn, corner of Corpus Christi and Washington Sts.
City: Beeville
County: Bee
Year Marker Erected: 1967
Marker Location: Courthouse lawn, corner of Corpus Christi and Washington.
Marker Text: Long before Mexico granted land (1834) on Poesta Creek to the first settlers, Anne Burke and James Heffernan, savage Indians roamed this valley at will. Their colony, although successful at first, soon met disaster. In 1836 James Heffernan, his brother John, and John Ryan, who had planned to join Texas patriots at Goliad, were planting a crop in a field at this site when they were massacred by Comanches. Also killed was James' family, in his picket house upcreek. Bee County was organized in 1858 and named for Col. Barnard E. Bee, a Republic of Texas statesman. Soon after, choice of a county seat came into hot dispute. A site seven miles east, on Medio Creek, was chosen for "Beeville". But ten months later, voters made the 150-acre donation of Anne Burke "O'Carroll permanent county seat, on the banks on the Poesta. The new town, first called "Maryville" for Mary Heffernan (relative of those killed in 1836) was soon renamed Beeville. In its first decade, it had two stores, one saloon, and a blacksmith shop. First courthouse was built for $750 on west side of present square, 1860. First railroad came through, 1866, and a larger courthouse was soon built. After it burned, the present one was erected in 1913. (1967)

Campo Santo

Marker Title: Campo Santo
Address: 5.5 mi.E on county road, at Campo Santo Cemetery
City: Skidmore
County: Bee
Year Marker Erected: 1971
Marker Location: At campo Santo Cemetery, from Skidmore, take county road about 5.5 mi.east; private property-no access.
Marker Text: Situated on headright of an 1829 settler, Jeremiah O'Toole, from New York. The isolated oak log home of O'Toole stood on San Patricio-La Bahia road; his family fled repeatedly from Indians or invading armies. In time other pioneers built homes nearby in Corrigan settlement (named for O'Toole's son-in-law). Community is now extinct. Ten acres were donated in 1871 by Ellen O'Toole Corrigan and brother, Martin, as site for Sacred Heart of Jesus Church (now razed) and grounds. This cemetery is a reminder of the courageous pioneer settlers. (1971)

Medio Creek

Marker Title: Medio Creek
Address: 4 mi.NE on US 59, then 0.2 mi. E of junction with Medio Creek.
City: Beeville
County: Bee
Year Marker Erected: 1967
Marker Location: From Beeville, take US 59 about 4 mi NE to junction of US 59 & Medio Creek, then continue east 0.2 mi.
Marker Text: Named by the Spaniards about 1800 because of its midway position between the San Antonio and Nueces Rivers. Rises in Karnes County; empties into Mission River. Crossed by explorers, padres, soldiers, settlers who traveled on three early ox-cart roads that led from Mexico to Mission La Bahia at Goliad. The Cart War of 1857, between Texas and Mexican teamsters on the freight route between San Antonio and Gulf ports, originated along San Patricio Road, southernmost of the three roads. The Mexican cart drivers used mesquite beans as feed for their teams, starting the mesquite brush which thrives along creek. Settlers were attracted here by the tall grass, and many veterans of the Texas Revolution were given bounty lands in the area. First post office in Bee County was established in 1857 at Medio Hill pioneer community, once a down-creek settlement. In 1909, the town of Candlish was founded within 50 feet of here, with a hotel, general store, school. The store closed; Candlish became a ghost town. In 1938-39 on Medio and Blanco creeks, fossil beds yielded 1,000,000-year-old fossils of a new mastodon species (named Buckner's Mastodon), rhinoceros, elephants, alligators, camels and three-toed horses. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, 1967 Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, 1967


Marker Title: Normanna
Address: At Medio Creek crossing of US 181, at south city limits
City: Normanna
County: Bee
Year Marker Erected: 1969
Marker Location: at Medio Creek crossing of US 181, south city limits, Normanna
Marker Text: Settlement dates from about 1850. First town, 2 miles west, was called San Domingo for its location near junction of San Domingo and dry Medio Creeks. After railroad was built, 1886, citizens moved to Walton (new flag station) to be on line. Name honored sheriff D.A.T. Walton. When Norwegians settled area, 1890's, Walton became Normanna. Word originally suggested the qualities of old Norse heroes, but through local usage came to mean "Home of the Norseman". Town thrived for years; then declined after series of fires and advent of the automobile. (1969)

Papalote Creek

Marker Title: Papalote Creek
Address: 20 mi.SE on US 181 in roadside park
City: Beeville
County: Bee
Year Marker Erected: 1965
Marker Location: From Beeville, take US 181 SE about 20 mi to roadside park.
Marker Text: A few yards south passes Papalote Creek, crossed by the fierce Karankawa Indians who found kite-shaped pebbles and named it Papalote, which means "kite-shaped" or "wing-shaped". Along its banks came the leaders of the Power and Hewetson colonists, holding Mexican land grants in the 1830's. On its Rata tributary there is evidence the Mexican Army camped on its way to suppress the Texas Revolution. By 1857 the town of Papalote had emerged. It was the center of entertainment for the county, boasting of a circular dance hall built by cowboys trading steer yearlings at $3 a head for lumber. There were rooster fights, ring tournaments and horse races. In 1886, when the railroad came, the town was booming. After the turn of the century, however, Papalote began to die away. A land company sold lots to settlers from as far away as Hawaii. Expecting to grow citurs fruits, they were disillusioned when the first killing frost doomed the project. Threats of Pancho Villa's raids continued as late as 1916, when women and children hid in a brick schoolhouse. In 1948, Main Street was bypassed by U.S. Highway 181. Today there is no post office--only a rural route for the few remaining households. (1965)

Town of Pettus

Marker Title: Town of Pettus
Address: 2 mi. north of town on US 181 in roadside park
City: Pettus
County: Bee
Year Marker Erected: 1968
Marker Location: From Pettus, take Hwy 181 about 2 mi. north to roadside park.
Marker Text: Oil capital of Bee County, Pettus was settled in the 1850's when John Freeman Pettus set up his sprawling ranch about 4 miles south of here. The son of one of Stephen F. Austin's first 300 colonists, Pettus was an extensive cattle and horse breeder. The town, previously called "Dry Medio" for a nearby creek, was named for him during the Civil War. The community was in the vicinity of two important Indian skirmishes in Bee County in 1859 and the 1870's; but the town slept until 1886, when the tracks of the San Antionio & Aransas Pass railroad reached this site. It then awoke to become the cattle shipping center for the area. In the same year, John S. Hodges, a pioneer citizen, laid out the townsite and donated land to be used for streets and S.A. & A.P. right-of-way. For years the railroad stockyards and depot were places of bustling activity as freight trains came for loading and wood-burning steam engines took on water. In 1909 the presidential train of Wm. H. Taft stopped at the Pettus water tank. The tank--a final monument to steam railroading here--was razed, 1965. In 1929 the Houston Oil Co. brought in its well "No. 1 Maggie Ray McKinney" and from that time Pettus has played a continuing useful role in Texas economy. (1968)

Skidmore Historical Society

Museum Name: Skidmore Historical Society
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 243
City: Skidmore
Zip Code: 78389
County: Bee
Area Code: 512
Phone Number: 287-3270
Types of Exhibits/Collections: Local/Pioneer History

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