The Blackland Museum

The Blackland Museum Striving to preserve the history of Taft, the Coastal Bend and San Patricio County of Texas, the Blackland Museum remains a free admission attraction with the generous support of patrons, members and fans since 1979.
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The Taft Blackland Museum is 501-c-3 non-profit history museum which offers Free Admission to all patrons, open fours days a week. We accept monitary gifts and maintain support through donations and generous giving from members, the general public and private contributions. Without your help we could not exist.

Before It Was South Texas-Part II- KARANKAWA by Patrick KingLike the ancient Anasazi Indians of the South West, the Kara...
01/20/2020

Before It Was South Texas-Part II- KARANKAWA by Patrick King

Like the ancient Anasazi Indians of the South West, the Karankawas of Texas are as much a mystery today as they were. Many northern tribes today have descendants with oral or pictorial histories, the Karankawa left us with nothing. They left no living progenies.

What remains are some artifacts, a few graves, and a reputation of their violent past.

They stand out as probably the most feared and hated tribe of our earliest history. The Karankawa were comprised of five nomadic, individual family tribes, all coastal dwellers, they were the Carancaques, the Coco, the Coaques, the Copano and Capoques.

Brief but violent encounters with Europeans began in 1528, and 1685. Between 1691 through 1815, the Spanish recorded their long-troubled experiences.

Dozens of early accounts record their fierce nature. In 1823, Stephen F. Austin, speaking from his own personal observations, stated “…the Karankawas may be called the universal enemies of all man…there will be no way of subduing them but extermination.”

The reputation of the Karankawas is enveloped with total resistance to assimilation, unpredictable acts of violence and cannibalism. They fought everyone, white, brown or fellow natives, with staggering vehemence. Notably, they were also a people with long memories.

In 1813, Freebooter/pirate Samuel Kemper, accepted an offer from Mexican Rebels to lead an army of 800 against the Spanish in San Antonio. He successfully forced them back to Mexico. On his return trip to the coast, unprovoked, he attacked a large Karankawa village, killing many of them. The Karankawa never forgot.

In one of the last recorded attacks against white settlers in Texas, in December 1844, in Victoria County, a small war party of ten Karankawas attacked the home of John F. Kemper, Samuel Kemper’s brother. Targeting him only they filled his body with arrows from long distance. The Kemper debt was paid in full.

Having left Texas in 1848 for Mexico, the Mexicans chased them back into Texas in 1858. Within weeks, after attacking Hispanic ranchers on the U.S. side, they were exterminated near Rio Grande City by a small civilian army. The Karankawa passed into legend.

Before It Was South Texas – Part I – Introduction by Patrick King. MAThe shape of Texas character and legends was establ...
01/13/2020

Before It Was South Texas – Part I – Introduction by Patrick King. MA

The shape of Texas character and legends was established long before the Spanish colonization of 1691; well before the Mexican and Anglo-American influences were ever introduced to our State. Our beginnings were cradled in the arms of three prominent Native American tribes, the Karankawa, Lipan Apache and Comanche Tribes.

In South Texas, along the Gulf Coast, south to Padre Island, or Galveston to Robstown, extending inland approximately 150 miles north, this became the founding root work of early Texas history.

The first notable step in that history began in July 1519, when Spanish Explorer and Cartographer, Capitán Alonso Alvarez de Pineda, navigated his fleet carefully through the Pass of Aransas and sailed into what he would name Corpus Christi Bay on the very day of the Catholic Feast of Corpus Christi. It became a seed, which would germinate 329 years later.

In all probabilities, in great fear, mingled with fascination, watching from the shorelines as this puzzling flotilla of strange vessels sailed around the bay, the watchful eyes of a nomadic peoples viewed their passage. In nine years, they would be known as ‘Karankawas’, They were the first of the three key Native influences of our past.

In November of 1528, the first physical encounter between Europeans and Karankawa took place when Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, a subordinate officer under the command of Spanish Governor Panfilo de Navarez, along with roughly forty soldiers and sailors, were rescued on Galveston Island from starvation by “Giants,” as Cabeza de Vaca would call them. They were the Carancaques branch of the Karankawa.

In 1685, the French, under Rene Robert Cavelier de La Salle, would have deadly encounters with them on the shores of Matagorda Bay. Only seven people would survive to tell the tale

By 1691, the first Spanish colonizers came to settle in what they called Tejas, establishing a government seat at San Antonio de Bejar. Over the next 130 years, they would learn hard lessons about trying to strip culture identity away from fiercely determined peoples, who desperately resisted foreign invaders.

Trial by Fire - by Patrick King, MAThe term “Trial by Fire” originates from a medieval practice of determining an accuse...
01/06/2020

Trial by Fire - by Patrick King, MA

The term “Trial by Fire” originates from a medieval practice of determining an accused person’s guilt by making them walk through a bed of hot coals. Today, we consider it an undue pressure which either shapes or breaks one's character and personal determination.

1918 through 1919 became the “Trial by Fire” that would test the mettle of much of the United States, especially Texas.
On April 6, 1917, the U.S. was drawn into WWI after Congress declared War on Germany for submarine attacks on U.S. Maritime fleets.

As battles raged in France in January 1918, an even more sinister adversary surfaced, taking human life faster than the war itself.

The culprit was the “Spanish Flu”, named for having struck Spain the hardest. More U.S. soldiers died from the flu than were killed in battle. It is estimated by the CDC that 50 to 100 million victims died and 500 million were affected by the pandemic worldwide.

It appeared in the U.S. on March 4, 1918, at Ft. Riley, Kansas, when an ailing camp cook reported for sick call. Within hours 522 fellow soldiers were stricken. It quickly spread to New York and beyond. Within months it was being reported in almost all U.S territories and major cities.

In Texas, it would claim over 20,000 victims. San Antonio was placed in quarantine and shut down, reporting over 12,367 cases with 881 dead. El Paso saw 131 deaths by October. Waco reported 900 cases. Dallas 200. Corpus Christi ground to a halt; dozens of stores, schools and public gatherings were closed. By October 26, 475 people were sickened, and 21 deaths were reported. Outlying communities like Taft, Gregory and Sinton were sending their sick and dying to Corpus for treatment, including patients from the Taft Ranch Hospital which was ill equipped to deal with the afflicted.

By mid-August of 1919, the pandemic in Texas was over. Its “Trial by Fire” appeared to be finished. But, unforeseen, the events of September 13 were just 30 days away. In the waters of the Atlantic a deadly Hurricane was brewing.

Happy New Year – Glancing back 100 and 120 years. by Patrick King, MAWe are facing the beginning of a new decade, 2020 i...
12/30/2019

Happy New Year – Glancing back 100 and 120 years. by Patrick King, MA

We are facing the beginning of a new decade, 2020 is upon us. However, January 1, 1920 was 100 years ago. Where has time gone? In 1920, South Texans were adjusting to such things as telephones, radios, silent movies, automobiles with inflatable tires, electric operated refrigerators with freezers, washing machines and vacuum cleaners. In Dallas, Texas, Bonnie Parker was 9 years old and Clyde Barrow was 11.

Step back 120 years to the turn of the 20th century. Place yourself in the night of December 31, 1899, 11:55 P.M. say loudly, ‘Millennial Bug” and watch people grab handkerchiefs and cover their mouths or go looking for critters under tables with fly swatters.

In large cities around the country, ending and starting another century was exciting. On the Taft Ranch, they shot off some fireworks, by day break, cowboys rose with the sun, ate quickly and went on herding cattle.

One newspaper in Texas reported stories from…South Africa? Yes, The Houston Daily Post (Houston, Tex.), Vol. XVth Year, No. 272, Ed. 1, Monday, January 1, 1900., covered a full front-page story on the Boer Wars in South Africa. The impressive story of that day appeared on page one, dated Friday December 29, “All Well, the Boers have been firing plugged shells containing plum pudding, and the compliments of the season. They are fortifying their positions and are evidently determined to hold their positions.”

The Brownsville Daily Herald. (Brownsville, Tex.), Vol. 8, No. 156, Ed. 1, Monday, January 1, 1900, the front page story, ‘The Fear of the Mouse’, “The Instance where it made a lunatic of a woman…”

January 1, 1920, however, the news was different, San Antonio Express. (San Antonio, Tex.), Vol. 55, No. 1, Ed. 1 Thursday, January 1, 1920, “Germany Looks on the New Year with Mingled Hopes and Fear.” “Notables of Old and New Worlds Unite in Seasonable Wishes for a Prosperous New Year.”

Remember where you were on December 31, 1999, 11:55 P.M.? Chasing a Millennial bug? What will you remember on Tuesday, December 31, 2019 at 11:55 P.M.?

Christmas Traditions Unique to Texas - by Patrick King, MAIn most every home in America which celebrates Christmas, fami...
12/23/2019

Christmas Traditions Unique to Texas - by Patrick King, MA

In most every home in America which celebrates Christmas, family food and customs are repeated each year, almost religiously. Christmas traditions are passed down from generation to generation with little change.

Christmas observances, long practiced in Europe, made their way to America through different national colonizers.
Oddly, Christmas was not that widely celebrated in the early years of this nation. It gained in popularity when British author Charles Dickens published four books about Christmas in 1843 and they spread to America. By the Civil War, Christmas celebrations were ingrained.

In Texas, Christmas traditions developed individually, becoming unique to this State.

The Christmas tradition of Tamales, began with Jane Wilkinson Long, known as the Mother of Texas. Settling at Bolivar Point on Galveston Bay in 1821, Jane was left alone with her children when her husband, General Wilkinson was ordered off to war. That year’s winter was extremely hard, freezing the Bay over with five feet of ice. Jane survived by retrieving frozen fish she found in the bay ice, she smoked them, salted them or added them to corn masa supplies and dried chiles she had obtained before the winter set in.

Tamales, as a food staple, invented by Toltec and Olmec armies about 5,000 B.C; traveled over time into Texas with the Hispanic culture. They are a traditional Texan Christmas food.

Smoked turkey - The abundance of these wild birds, ranging from central America to north America, made them the meal of choice for Christmas. In Texas, with its love for barbeque and a plethora of mesquite and oak, smoking them became a traditional Christmas meal. Why roast when you can smoke it?

Fried turkey – Invented by Cajun’s, migrated in popularity and moved into Texas, taking root by the early 1840’s.

Luminarias – Also called Little Lanterns or vigil fires, used originally in Catholic traditions, were introduced by the Spanish colonist in New Mexico and Texas and have pretty much been adopted into all Christmas celebrations by all Christian based faiths.

There are many more uniquely Texas Christmas traditions held throughout the State we call home.

You Snooze, You Lose - The CFPC v. APHC - by Patrick King, MAIn 1888, George Fulton, of the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Compa...
12/16/2019

You Snooze, You Lose - The CFPC v. APHC - by Patrick King, MA

In 1888, George Fulton, of the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company (CFPC) put 10,000 acres of its Brazada Range up for sale. The land was considered worthless for cattle grazing; too much brush and mesquite trees to deal with. A feeding frenzy ensued, and it sold for $1.62 an acre.

In 1889, Thomas Benton Wheeler founded the Aransas Pass Harbor Company (APHC) and a year later the Aransas Harbor. Even though efforts to change the name of Rockport to Aransas Pass failed, Wheeler became Lt. Governor of Texas in 1891. Settlers flocked to the area, populating Rockport and the surrounding land to the San Patricio County line.

In 1890, the U.S. Government, stalling in its efforts to build two jetties and dredge the sand bars in the Pass, granted an exclusive franchise to the APHC to complete the work. As an added incentive to take on the job, George Fulton promised 10,000 acres to the APHC if they finished the project.
In October 1893, Fulton died leaving his son, George Fulton, Jr. in charge of the CFPC and the agreement with the APHC. When Fulton, Jr. died in September of 1895, Company Treasurer, Charles Taft became interim President.

Living in Cincinnati, Taft was unschooled in daily operations of a cattle ranch, ignorant in complexities of ranch politics, and hampered in decision making without the Board’s approval. Representatives of the APHC took advantage of this, convincing him to sign over the deed to the 10,000 acres.

In 1900, Taft was made permanent President of the CFPC and had become much wiser with experience. He hired New York law firm McCampbells & Stayton in 1902 to sue the APHC for the lost acreage. The case was brought before the 36th District Court in Sinton, Texas in September 18, 1906.

With dozens of depositions and witnesses ready, arguments were presented by both sides. Finally, the Judge ruled saying (in modern terms), “Mr. Taft, you snooze, you lose.” The decision returned 3,971.55 acres to the CFPC and left 6,028.45 acres with the APHC. By 1909, however, the APHC had sold its holdings and established the city of Aransas Pass.

“Aranza zu” - aka Aransas Pass. - by Patrick King , MAThe name ‘Aransas’ was derived from a Spanish Basque axiom describ...
12/09/2019

“Aranza zu” - aka Aransas Pass. - by Patrick King , MA

The name ‘Aransas’ was derived from a Spanish Basque axiom describing a vision of the Virgin Mary, occurring in mid-fifteenth-century Spain.

The town of Aransas Pass in San Patricio County was not created by the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company. Its rough beginnings (under historical debate) was either started by J. B. Wheeler on December 9,1909, by reason of a land auction by the Aransas Harbor City & Improvement Co. or, as others claim, it was conceived in 1891 as another port of commerce, rivalling Rockport because of its closer proximity to the Gulf.

The Pass itself, first discovered by Spain, was heavily used by shipping vessels leaving and entering Copano Bay.

The United States became interested in it by 1850. The U.S. Department of Commerce, along with the Department of Lighthouses took note of the steady Maritime traffic in and out of the Bay. On March 3, 1851, Congress authorized the construction of a lighthouse at Dollar Point. Funding for this project was appropriated between 1852, and 1855. The structure was built in 1857, to withstand 200 mph winds.

By 1862, the channel was dominated by U.S. Navy blockades until 1865.

In 1895, after Gorge Fulton Jr.’s death, Charles Taft, treasurer for the CFPC, and son-in-law to David Sinton, the chief stockholder of the company, was appointed as interim President. In 1893, the CFPC promised 10,000 prime coastal acres as a finishing incentive to the Aransas Harbor City & Improvement Co. which was under contract with the U.S. Government to dredge out the Pass within five years.

By 1898, far from done, the heads of the AHC Improvement Co. traveled to Cincinnati and met with Taft, convincing him to sign over the deed for all 10,000 acres. He did, and the dredging went unfinished. In 1909, an auction was held by the errant company, profiting from the sales of 8,000 lots of land to eager buyers from all over the United States. The Pass was eventually completed by the Army Corp. of Engineers and people made their homes at the developing town of Aransas Pass.

“It Must Have Been So Much Simpler in the Good Old Days” - by Patrick King, MAWe’ve all heard it said, we may have even ...
12/01/2019

“It Must Have Been So Much Simpler in the Good Old Days” - by Patrick King, MA

We’ve all heard it said, we may have even said it ourselves after visiting a history museum or watching a nostalgic movie of some nature. Life today, being so fast paced, so chaotic in some cases, so full of complications, may leave us wishing we lived in the past.

Here is some information that may change that thinking. For example, in the “Good Old Days”, wages in 1880, for the average farm/ranch worker were shocking. The records of the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company (CFPC) tell us that the average weekly wage for a ranch hand was between $5.00 to $7.00.

With this, and families to support, they were able to purchase food, clothing, miscellaneous, and personal care, etc. However, those wages were based on several mitigating factors, education, race and experience. The 1904, pay records of the Catarina Ranch, (owned by the Blackland Museum) reveal that several Hispanic foremen were employed at the comparable rate of their white counterparts. These were cattlemen with experience, and an education between sixth grade to tenth grade. In general, they received about $15.00 a week.

Typical weekly groceries could cost just about $4.00. In 1880, land was $0.14 cents an acre. One 600lb. beef cost $56.00. Lumber prices for a barn or house averaged $250 to $300. Shipping that amount of wood from supplier to destination by rail cost $9.60.

The Fulton Mansion in Rockport, started in 1874, completed in 1877, cost George Fulton $80,000. Author Alva R. Stephens, wrote in his authoritative book, “The Taft Ranch-A Texas Principality”, that Fulton stopped keeping records at $80,000, but it may have cost him $100,000+ to complete. Thomas Coleman’s mansion cost him $150,000 in 1881.

In conclusion, based on 2019, inflation calculators, what cost Fulton $100,00 in 1877, would cost him over $4, 300,000 to build today. After talking with a source at the Fulton Mansion, this author was told that State Engineers recently discovered that the Mansion has so much wood built into it, there is enough there to construct 100 tract homes today.

Address

301 Green Ave
Taft, TX
78390

General information

The Taft Blackland Museum is a two-story structure located at 301 Green Ave. in Taft, Texas and is the largest museum in San Patricio County. Housed in the last headquarters of the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company (1871-1930), the Museum features a large collection of historical displays from the Taft Ranch including documents, map archives, a research library, historical displays from the city of Taft, an argicultural barn featuring displays of early farm emplements used on the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Co. farms, photo's, rare art pieces, donated private collections and much more. The Museum is dedicated to preserving and dislaying the history of the giant cattle business that helped develope and shape the County of San Patricio between 1871 and 1930, as well as many of the small towns and cities which sprung from the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company's years of operation, such as Aransas Pass, Rockport, Portland, Ingleside, Gregory, Taft, Sinton, Odem and several others. The hours of operation for the general public are: Thursday and Friday 10-4, Sat. 10-5. Closed Sunday and all major holidays.

Opening Hours

Thursday 10:00 - 16:00
Friday 10:00 - 16:00
Saturday 10:00 - 16:00

Telephone

(361) 528-2206

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