Val Verde County Historical Commission

Val Verde County Historical Commission

Moore Park of Del Rio

Doug Braudaway
Southwest Texas Junior College

The area now called Moore Park has been used as a rest stop and camping ground for many years. Archeological investigations have demonstrated that the area along San Felipe Creek has been inhabited by early North American nomadic peoples as have many Val Verde County sites.1 In historic times, the area was visited by a handful of Spanish explorers and more recently crossed by the San Antonio-El Paso Road first traveled after statehood in the United States. The San Felipe Springs were an important rest-stop for merchants and soldiers alike.

The area was also home to two military posts: Camp Del Rio and Camp Michie. Camp San Felipe, renamed Camp Del Rio when the town’s name was changed, was an outpost of the better-known Fort Clark some thirty miles to the east. Some reports state a temporary camp was established during the 1850s; while, a more permanent facility was built in the 1870s.2 An attached illustration shows the main building of the post was very near the creek, and the surrounding area was put at the Army’s disposal for livestock grazing. (Note the Madre Canal on the west side carrying water into the original townsite of Del Rio.)3 Camp Michie was organized during the 1910s and served as a training camp for soldiers during the First World War. An attached illustration shows a photo of the camp and a second photo of soldiers’ housing in “Ramageville,” the section of town including Cypress and Stanley Streets facing the parkland area.4

The Moore Park are was once a ford over Del Rio’s San Felipe Creek. In 1914 the City Commission addressed the problem of livestock being driven through the city. Other rules prohibited the keeping of cattle in the town. However, cattle were also moved around Southwest Texas and across the Rio Grande. The Commission passed an ordinance limiting cattle crossing San Felipe Creek to the “Pig Pen” Crossing “at the ford below [a short distance downstream from] the railroad bridge.”5

The area was also used by tourists after the City Commission leased the “John Glynn Place” for a “tourist camping ground” or “Public Camping Ground” in 1922. The campground near the Pig Pen Crossing was to be maintained by the Chamber of Commerce, suggesting that automobile (tourist) traffic from the direction of San Antonio was on the increase.6

The origin of the Park dates to 1930. G. Bedell Moore was the owner of several creekside and riverside properties near Del Rio when he died in 1907. His son came of age in 1929 and inherited the land. Also named G. Bedell Moore, the son “promptly sold most of the property in Kinney and Val Verde Counties, some acreage in Maverick County, and all of the family’s stock in the San Felipe Agricultural, Manufacturing and Irrigation Company.7 Among those properties was the land near the confluence of the east and west branches of San Felipe Creek.

G. Bedell Moore deeded the original tract for the park to the City October 2, 1930, as illustrated in the deed records with a hand-drawn map. The deed conveyed no water rights or mineral rights to the City and stipulated that the creation of the park must not interfere with downstream users. The City then gave the park land to a specially created board composed of civic group leaders. The six-man board was composed of two Lions (James C. Netts and William P. Wallace), two Rotarians (A.G. Edwards and Phil B. Foster), and two Legionnaires (Frank Schmidt and Marvin Ellis).8 The park, presumably, was named after G. Bedell Moore. An attached illustration, from a 1930s Chamber of Commerce pamphlet, includes a photo of the park with semi-tropical flowers and another of the swimming pool: truly an oasis in the desert.

The next year, on August 12, 1931, the City formalized the management of the park by creating a Park Board. The first Park Board was composed of E.K. Fawcett, E.F. Measels, Frank Schimdt, George E. Love, and J.C. Netts. An attached illustration includes what may be the earliest extant photographs of the park. One shows the semi-tropical foliage along the Creek, and the other shows the existence of the Moore Park Swimming Pool which was in place by April 26, 1932.9 The Park Board had been advised that “immediate steps be taken to improve and beautify” the area because the City had “no appropriate Park or other facilities for amusement and recreation.”

The boundaries of the park area were increased in 1935 with the addition of “State Park.” In that year the Highway Department announced that it would create a roadside park between State Highway #3 and the Texas & New Orleans Railroad tracks that formed the northern boundary of Moore Park.10 This new park now boasts one of Del Rio’s best swimming spots, the Blue Hole. The park was also home to an old water system Pumphouse which was later used by the City Federation of Women’s Clubs of Del Rio at a rate of $1 per year.11 The structure no longer stands.

The Moore Park Swimming Pool became a point of contention during the Second World War. The pool was a segregated facility whereas some of the soldiers (airmen?) from Laughlin Army Air Field were Black or Hispanic. The details of the when and how the situation started are not recorded, but the solution has been. Laughlin personnel were allowed to use the pool free of charge and pool chlorination equipment was installed. In 1945 the agreement between the City and Laughlin was extended and expanded so that Laughlin personnel could use the pool for training “life saving and other aquatic procedures.”12

The issue of ethnic discrimination arose again after Laughlin Army Air Field was recreated as Laughlin Air Force Base. A letter from the local chapter of the American G.I. Forum to the City Commission noted that two Airmen, Ernest Vasquez and Alfredo Jaime, were refused entry to the swimming pool on April 11, 1953. Mayor Arthur Kennedy responded that such incidents would not happen again. “You can be assured that the City Council will exert all possible pressure to eliminate future acts of discrimination.”13

About this same time, the civic organizations sponsoring Moore Park announced their decision transfer operation control of the park back to the City of Del Rio. The Commission passed a resolution conveying the park property back to Moore on November 10, 1953. Moore then deeded the property back to the City without the expectation of civic organization management. The deal was completed February 11, 1954, and Moore Park became a city park owned and operated by the City. The City then allowed the Park Board’s contract with Sam Swinson, the manager of the swimming pool, to lapse, bought Swinson’s pool maintenance equipment, and managed the pool itself. The gate was set at fifteen cents per child and twenty-five cents per adult.14

The City cast is eyes on the adjacent State Park late in 1953. On October 16 the City resolved that it wanted to enlarge its own park facilities and requested that the State of Texas transfer ownership to the City.15

Endnotes--
1 As part of the construction of Del Rio’s new water treatment plant, an archeological investigation and review was conducted and summarized in Gemma Mehalchick, Terri Myers, Karl W. Kibler & Douglas K. Boyd, “Val Verde On The Sunny Rio Grande, Geoarcheological and Historical Investigations at San Felipe Springs, Val Verde, Texas,” Reports of Investigations, Number 122.
2 Camp Del Rio is the subject of a Texas Historical Commission marker alongside San Felipe Creek near the amphitheater.
3 Terri Myers, “Historic Overview of San Felipe Springs, Del Rio, and Val Verde County, Texas,” in Val Verde On The Sunny Rio Grande, Reports of Investigations, Number 122, page 33.
4 Doug Braudaway, Del Rio: Queen City of the Rio Grande, Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2002, pages 68-69.
5 City Council Minutes Vol. 1, page 147. This crossing was originally named “Thigpen Crossing” after a nearby property owner named Thigpen. The crossing is now marked by a low concrete bridge underneath the U.S. Highway 277. Elizabeth Daughtrey, “Note,” in a file of collected materials about San Felipe Creek, copy in the possession of the author.
6 City Council Minutes Vol. 2, pages 26, 35.
7 Terri Myers, “Historic Overview of San Felipe Springs, Del Rio, and Val Verde County, Texas,” in Val Verde On The Sunny Rio Grande, Reports of Investigations, Number 122, page 46 (footnote 11).
8 Val Verde County Clerk’s Office, Deed Records Vol. 81, pages 2-6.
9 City Council Minutes Vol. 2, pages 462-464, 485; the photos are from a pamphlet named “Del Rio, Texas: Queen City of the Rio Grande” and dated to a period from 1931 to 1935.
10 City Council Minutes, Vol. 3, pages 287-288.
11 City Council Minutes Vol. 3, pages 355-356.
12 City Council Minutes Vol. 5, pages 13-14, 45-47.
13 City Council Minutes Vol. 5, page 421.
14 City Council Minutes Vol. 5, pages 420, 446, 448-449, 460, 475, 479; Vol. 6, pages 87, 121; County Clerk’s Office Deed Records Vol. 129, pages 504-506.
15 City Council Minutes Vol. 5, pages 451-452.