Texas History Through the Eyes of Our Ancestors

As the day draws to a close, I step into the crisp air to watch the sun sink in a brilliant display of red and orange painted across the deep blue of the West Texas sky. Some may think the plains of the Texas Panhandle barren and devoid of beauty, but I was born here, my roots grow deep into the dry soil, and I love the rich farmlands, grassy plains, and endless sky. Texas is the biggest state in the continental United States, with one of the most diverse landscapes of any state. From the canyons of Palo Duro to the seashores of Corpus Christi, there are graceful plains, rolling hill country, forested lands, beautiful lakes, and mighty rivers.

It is a land rich in history with a heritage of strong, independent pioneers, and it is that history and that legacy that I wanted to pass on to my children. We studied Texas history both as a subject on its own and intermingled with other history studies—not because it was required of us, but because we love this beautiful state in which we live. Our ancestors came to this country several generations back, and they pioneered the land, building farms and ranches on the grassy plains and rocky canyons. As a child, I listened to stories of how my great-grandparents hauled lumber in a wagon all the way from Big Spring to the Texas Panhandle to build their first house. This story and many others like it, though not recorded in history books, are not only part of our family history but are also part of Texas history.

Therefore, while we studied the rich history of Texas during the early 1800s and the various other aspects of it from the mid-1800s during the time of Reconstruction to the more recent past, we also explored some of our own history as well. We learned about irrigation, the railroad, changes in farm equipment and transportation, and the inventions and people that tamed this land and made it what it is today while intertwining our own roots with those of the state.

Texas is a beautiful state, rich with historical places, but when my children were younger our family circumstances severely limited how much we were able to travel; however, that did not stop us from taking field trips to study Texas history. A trip to the Hale Center Museum and a bicycle trip to the cemetery gave us greater insight into the lives of those who settled our town. As we studied about our town or talked about our family history, we also discussed the other things going on in Texas at that time.

As my children got older, the circumstances in our family changed, and we were able to travel a little more. An annual trip to Palo Duro Canyon to see the play Texas became integrated into our history studies. We took day trips and short camping trips to other museums and places of interest, and we discussed the historical differences between the farming and ranching communities of the Panhandle. It was fascinating to see how inventions and historic events impacted the people of Texas.

Now that my children are young adults, we have been able to expand our horizons some and take a few trips to other parts of Texas. We have now seen the sandy shores of the Gulf Coast, traveled through the Hill Country, seen the majestic statue of Sam Houston outside of Huntsville, and traveled through other places of historical interest. As we have traveled, we have talked about the history we once studied and tried to recall details of past assignments. There is still much about Texas that we do not know and much about Texas that we have forgotten. Despite time constraints that often hinder us, there is still much that we desire to learn both about Texas and how it relates to our own past. Perhaps the opportunity to learn more will present itself when my children teach their own children about the place where they were born—the place where their roots run deep—this great state of Texas.