Val Verde County Historical Commission


Val Verde County Historical Commission

 

History Projects

This page has links to a variety of community history projects and documents.

 


 

In October 2013, the Union Pacific Railroad sent a train to Del Rio. Actually, the Union Pacific sends many trains to and through Del Rio. But this one was special. The train of October 16, 2013 was a passenger train, and the editor got to take a ride on it. Click here for some pictures of the ride.

 


 

Archeology enthusiast Bill Sontag has branched out and interviewed Del Rio veterans. Click on the link for the list that Sontag calls the "Honor Role."

 


 

Two pieces of Val Verde history have recently been sent to the VVCHC.

Ron Cook from California found this Rose Dawn astrological chart from 1937. It is a large file, so give a minute to download.

Gareth Bahlmann sent this picture is of Langtry School in 1901.

Langtry School in 1901

The teacher at the school then was Paulina Herreford. Paulina was born in Del Rio 12/24/1881. Her parents were Elkanah Minitree Herriford and Charlotte Isabel Allen. Charlotte died in Del Rio on 11/11/1957. Elkanah died on 9/6/1886 on a ranch near Marathon, TX (probably the Circle Dot headquarters ranch). Elkanah was a cowboy boss who reprimanded a cowboy who subsequently killed him. Elkanah's father, Elcanah Minitree Heryford, was associated with the Circle Dot Ranch. Paulina moved to the Los Angeles area some years after she married Charles Herbert Bowers." (Photo courtesy of Gareth Bahlmann.)

 


 

This link leads to a slideshow of early Del Rio and Val Verde County maps. It is a large file. Click the icon in the lower right-hand corner to expand the video to full-screen. The video runs about a minute and a half.

 


 

Hattie Brown is a member of one of Del Rio's oldest families. Her home still stands at 413 Losoya, an adobe home that is a century old. (A similar adobe home next door was demolished last year.)

 


 

Jack Waid, the Laughlin Base Historian, has researched Jack Laughlin and found information that no one else has been able to find. He has gathered together a large body data. Click on A day in the life of Second Lieutenant Jack T. Laughlin: The forgotten Story of his final day 29 Jan 1942 to read about the man for whom Laughlin Air Force Base is named.

 


 

A few years ago, the V.V.C.H.C. sent some documents to the University of North Texas to be digitized and uploaded onto the web. UNT is hosting the Portal to Texas History, a program to save Texas' documentary history and make that history available to the general public. Click on Portal to Texas History to get to the website, and type in Val Verde County in the search box. Click here for a list of the documents. Among other documents, the website has historical survey forms compiled in 1976 and 1978 giving information about historic properties around Del Rio and Val Verde County. Those forms generally include photos of the buildings (including some that are no longer standing).

 


 

Val Verde County Historical Commission member Willie Braudaway writes a column for the Del Rio News-Herald. The column covers a wide range of topics, and occasionally history topics. Click on librarywillies history columns to read those columns about historical topics, particularly topics about the census and "indexing."

 


 

These two projects, Archeology of Val Verde County and Seminole Cave and Seminole Canyon were initially approved for historical markers to be placed at Seminole Canyon State Historical Park. Before the markers were placed, the state offices of Texas Parks and Wildlife revoked their permission to place markers. Oh well.

More recently, on January 14, 2012, Seminole Canyon State Historical Park opened a new exhibit dedicated to the Seminole Scouts for whom the Park is named. Willie Warrior and other Scout descendents were on hand. For more information about this group of frontier soldiers, check out the Seminole Negro Scouts and Medal of Honor historical markers and applications.

 


 

A few years ago I (Doug Braudaway) was part of a conversation with a Del Rio Police Officer. We talked about the history of the Del Rio Police Department. I had hoped we would end up with some sort of plaque memorializing or showing thanks to the police officers over the years. Until that happens, we offer this. It is a listing of all police officers in Del Rio from the beginning of the City in 1905 through 1948. All police officers who appeared in the minutes through 1955 are also here. All of these names came from City Council minutes. In 1948, the police department converted to civil service and the hiring and firing of officers was no longer done by City Council.
This document includes the names of many people. Photos and biographies of the people listed in the document would be welcome. Please contact the V.V.C.H.C. at chair@vvchc.net.

 


 

In 2002 Del Rio became Main Street community. As part of the project, Doug Braudaway researched some of the downtown properties.

This 1907 sketch map of downtown Del Rio has a few familiar names (though) many of the sites have otherwise been forgotten.

This aerial photo of the northern part of downtown seems to have been photographed in the 1930s.

This aerial photo of 1950's downtown Del Rio shows many of Del Rio's historic buildings.

This aerial photo is late 1940s or early 1950s show a different angle of the downtown area. Rosie Calvetti and Warren Studio have copies of many classic Del Rio photos.

The pictures have links embedded within connecting some of the buildings with historical narratives or photos. Some specific building histories follow.

Del Rio National Bank history

The old Elks Lodge Hall is now a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.

Kress Building

Montgomery Ward Building

The Old Del Rio National Bank Building was awarded a Val Verde County Historical Commission Marker. This century-old building was designed by reknown architect Alfred Giles of San Antonio.

Old Del Rio National Bank Building dedication crowd
The first Val Verde County Historical Commission historical marker was placed for the Old Del Rio National Bank Building in 2003.

Old Del Rio National Bank Building and Humphries Family
Property owner Martin Humphries and family stand with the new marker for the Old Del Rio National Bank Building.

Warner Building

The Woolworth Building was awarded a Val Verde County Historical Marker.

The Old Elks Hall was awarded RTHL status from the Texas Historical Commission. The Old Del Rio National Bank Building and the Old Woolworth Building were awarded with Val Verde County Historical Commission Markers. Maybe some other markers will be added to the downtown area in future years.

 


 

The Val Verde County Historical Commission would like to thank the San Felipe High School Alumni. When the V.V.C.H.C. began work on the San Felipe High School historical marker, Teno Flores and Adrian J. Falcon talked to alumni from SFHS. The response was positive and generous. The alumni raised and collected money to pay for the historical marker that is now placed in front of the old high school building on Garza Street.

 


 

Del Rio was once home, sort of, of the world's most powerful broadcast station, Radio XER & XERA. Radio XER (the original call letters) and XERA (the second set of call letters used after a relicensing) was the world's most powerful broadcast station. It could be heard coast-to-coast and even across the oceans. And it was built in Villa Acuña across the Rio Grande from Del Rio.

Rose Dawn and Koran are the stage names for two of the radio personalities who broadcast shows on John Brinkley's Radio XERA.

 


 

Restoration of Judge Roy Bean's Opera House/Residence

In 1998 the Texas Department of Transportation restored Judge Roy Bean's home, commonly called the Opera House.

 


 

Maria Sanchez wrote this history of North Heights Elementary School as her project in an American history class.

 


 

The first historical marker application Doug Braudaway sent to the Texas Historical Commission was for the Price-Woods House. It was rejected. A few years later I started submitting other marker applications. Somewhere along the way, I was fortunate to have a long conversation with Dan Utley, who was then a staff member with the Texas Historical Commission. He told me stories of past marker applications and explained old marker application standards and modern, more stringent standards. I was better able to understand what the Texas Historical Commission needs to approve a marker application. Since then most of my applications have been approved. But not all. Another rejected application was for the Old Model Bakery, more recently remembered as Seeger's Bakery. I gave it my best, but very few bakeries have been awarded historical markers.

 


 

Bessie Locker, the City Secretary, researched the City Council Minutes Books and typed up a list of all of Del Rio's mayors and council members. The list includes from the City’s beginning into the 1980s.

Some unknown person researched the election records of Val Verde County in the County Clerk’s office. The Val Verde County Judges, Commissioners, and other county officials are listed through a hundred years of elections from the 1880s to the 1980s. (The copy I have is missing the first page; the remaining twenty-five pages are part of the pdf. If anyone out there has that first page, please drop an email to the V.V.C.H.C. DB)

 


 

Very little about Willie Wong has been written into the public record. He is buried in Del Rio; I have found a little about of him and his work, but I would like to know more. (DB) Just email us.

Willie Wongs cafe in Villa Acuna.
Willie Wong operated cafes both in Del Rio and, shown here, in Villa Acuna.


Willie Wongs cafe in 1943.
This image of Willie Wong's was dated 1943.

 


 

The water supply from San Felipe Springs and Creek is the reason why the Del Rio community exists. Without that water, life would be very difficult here on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert. The Springs and Creek are central to many elements of community history.

The early settlers diverted the creekflow into a system of canals, making the Del Rio area a productive farming oasis. The V.V.C.H.C. has placed a historical marker for the Canal System of Del Rio. The application narrative contains much research about the canal system which still flows through South Del Rio.

The City of Del Rio once organized an event called Dia Del Rio. As part of the celebration of life along the river, the Rio Grande and its tributaries, the City placed a historical plaque celebrating San Felipe Creek. The plaque stands alongside the Creek across from Memo's Restaurant.

Many of Del Rio's parks lie alongside that very important body of water (though not all). Once upon a time, I researched the history of some of Del Rio's parks. Little information is actually written down, and more information surely exists in oral form. But here is what we have so far:

Greenwood Park;

Moore Park;

Roosevelt Park;

Star Park; and

Tardy Dam and San Felipe Lions Park Park.

 


 

How do you summarize hundreds of events into a single narrative? Write a book. But what if someone wanted something shorter? The following Val Verde County Chronology condenses several books worth of material into a few pages.

 


 

The Texas State Historial Association has placed their New Handbook of Texas online. Del Rio and Val Verde County are well represented in this important source for Texas history.

 


 

Some of the historical marker narratives mention the Chihuahuan Desert in their introductions. For example, "The community now known as Del Rio was founded in the 1860s as a group of families settled along San Felipe Creek and organized an irrigation company capturing the waters of the Creek and converting land on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert into fertile farm and pasture land." On occasion when traveling the Val Verde countryside, I (Doug Braudaway) have seen a large and mysterious black bird, a bird that is not a grackle. In fact this bird is a great deal larger. I didn't know what it was, so I contacted Karen Gleason of the News-Herald.

 


 

The New Encyclopedia of Texas, published by the Texas Development Bureau between 1927 and 1930 contains short biographies of people across the state. (I only have two volumes of this and am missing at least two others. I know there are at least a few names in those missing volumes. This list of “important persons” is very heavy with bankers and ranchers. I would guess every banker and rancher in the state in the 1920s is in this. And, I do not think I saw any racial or ethnic minority members in the volumes I have. DB)
There is a two-page description of Del Rio (in addition to similarly-styled descriptions of other Texas towns). Scattered pages include Del Rio and Val Verde personages. (Many of the pages have a fuzzy edge as a result of the thickness of the source books.)
 
The Historical Encyclopedia of Texas is a similiar type of document, published by the Texas Historical Society between 1947 and 1949 contains short biographies of people across the state. In addition to biographies of prominent persons, there are small text descriptions of Del Rio and Val Verde County.
 
Del Rio data 1947  Val Verde data 1947.

 


 


 

Are you a member of one of Val Verde County's

Centennial Families

Val Verde County was organized in 1885. The County’s communities were generally founded in the years shortly before that time: Del Rio about 1868, Comstock about 1882, and Langtry about 1882.

The following links list people recorded by the U.S. Census.
So, who is in your family tree?
Were your grandparents or great-grandparents here a hundred years ago?
Take a look, and let us know-that you are part of a Centennial Family.

Val Verde County residents listed in the 1870 Census
The first U.S. Census to cover the area of Del Rio/Val Verde County. (A few of the early Del Rio residents appeared in the 1860 Census in Uvalde.)

 

Val Verde County residents listed in the 1880 Census

 

The 1890 Census for Val Verde County was destroyed in a 1921 Washington, D.C. fire, along with the Census records from most of the country.

 

Val Verde County residents listed in the 1900 Census

 

Val Verde County residents listed in the 1910 Census

 

Val Verde County, Camp Michie residents listed in the 1920 Census