The Texas State Historical Survey Committee, renamed the Texas Historical Commission in 1973, was created in 1953 by the State to survey Texas historical resources and suggest ideas how to preserve those resources. The historical marker program is one of those ideas. The first historical marker in Texas were cast in 1962, half a century ago (Camp Ford in Smith County). Churches and cemeteries are the most common subjects for Texas historical makers, but markers may be dedicated to almost anything. Below is a list of Val Verde County historical markers. The topics are wide-ranging and important to county history, state history, national history, and even world history.
Click on the Val Verde County Historical Commission historical marker map
to see a map with the sites of historical markers in Val Verde County. (Some markers listed below have not yet been placed, so their sites have not been pinned to the map.)
Click the name of the markers below to see more information for the marker.
Click each name a second time to hide the information.
U.S. Air Force pilot Rudolf Anderson was the only American airman shot down during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Born in 1927 in South Carolina, Anderson joined the military in 1951 and soon began flying reconnaissance missions during the Korean Conflict. Stationed at Laughlin Air Force Base by 1957, he was here when the Cuban Missile Crisis developed in October 1962. On October 27, while piloting a U-2 plane over Cuba to provide surveillance of a medium range ballistic missile site under construction, antiaircraft fire hit his plane, killing him. The Air Force decorated Anderson posthumously and in 2001 renamed Laughlin's operation building Anderson Hall. He is buried in South Carolina. (2006)
The first cemetery to receive Historic Texas Cemetery status in Val Verde County is Babb Cemetery at Langtry
. It is a small cemetery on the south edge of the Langtry townsite.
The concrete is still wet in this picture of the Babb Cemetery Historic Texas Cemetery medallion and plaque (April 2012).
Roy Bean was born in Kentucky. A trader in Mexico, 1848. Mining in New Mexico when Civil War broke out. As spy and scout, joined Texans in the Command of Gen. John R. Baylor during the 1861-1862 Arizona-New Mexico Campaign. Organized irregular company called "Free Rovers". In a narrow canyon, took part in capture of 800 federals by 250 Confederates. After 1862 was a Confederate freighter, hauling cotton to Matamoros from San Antonio and bringing into Texas wartime goods: guns, ammunition, medicines, cloth, shoes, food. In 1882, began following with a tent saloon crews building railroad along the Rio Grande. Cooperating with Texas Rangers, was appointed justice of peace-- "Law West of the Pecos". Tamed rough frontier town of Langtry, where he spent rest of his life. Won fame in unique court decisions, as in trial and fining of a dead man for carrying a concealed wapon. Most widely celebrated show he staged was Fitzsimmons-Maher world championship boxing match, on a Rio Grande sand bar near his saloon in 1896. Court was held in the saloon, where he displayed pictures of "The Jersey Lily"--British actress Lily Langtry, whom he never met. She visited town at his invitation, but only after Judge Bean's death.
The Roy Bean historical marker stands on South Main Street at the Whitehead Memorial Museum.
North Carolina native John R. Brinkley (1885-1942) opened a medical clinic and radio station in Kansas and promoted controversial medical practices, including one that used goat gland implants to increase sexual "pep" in men. He became rich but was criticized by the American Medical Association and the Federal Radio Commission. In 1933, he moved his family to Del Rio, opening a hospital and setting up the powerful radio station XER in Villa Acuńa, Mexico. He was a colorful, charitable individual, known for his lavish lifestyle. He buoyed the local economy during the Great Depression and brought much attention to Del Rio. Despite fame and wealth, authorities shut down the Brinkley enterprise in 1938. (2004)
The markers for Dr. Brinkley and the Brinkley Mansion stand in front of the Mansion at 512 Qualia in South Del Rio.
Brinkley Mansion site was once farmland irrigated by Del Rio's canal system. Construction on this house began in the early 1930s. In 1934, infamous "goat-gland doctor" John R. Brinkley and his wife, Minnie (Jones), bought the home, which exhibits elements of the Spanish Eclectic style. The couple enlarged it and added elaborate water features on the grounds, complete with menagerie, flashing colored lights and loudspeakers connected to a pipe organ inside. Local residents often came to dance to the music and enjoy the light show at the local landmark, which the Brinkley family owned for 46 years. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark – 2003
Austin and Olga King restored the Brinkley Mansion to appear much as it did in the 1930s.
Austin and Olga King and VVCHC Chair Rob Poteet are shown here with the markers.
First Plaza established in Del Rio--a city built one site of a Pre-Colombian Indian Village. Abundant water, which attracted the Indians, also drew to this spot the earliest Europeans to visit Texas, including Cabeza De Vaca (1535) and Castaño de Sosa (1590). The permanent community of San Felipe Del Rio was founded after frontier protection was assured in 1860s. The San Felipe Agricultural, Manufacturing & Irrigation Company (organized Oct. 8, 1869) promoted settlement by giving land along San Felipe Creek as wages to its employees. Railroad lines reached Del Rio in 1884, furthering growth. Brown Plaza, dedicated on Cinco De Mayo, 1908, was gathering place for the community. A bandstand (or kiosko) was built by the people. Musical concerts delighted audiences and performers. The Plaza was scene of political and social gatherings. Formal promenades became a custom. Travelers rested here and cooked their food over charcoal fires. George Washington Brown (1836-1918), donor of the Plaza, was born in North Carolina, migrating West in his youth. He served his adopted state for 43 years in offices of county clerk and district clerk. The Plaza was restored in 1969. (1970)
A United States Army post was established in this area on September 6, 1876. Originally known as Camp San Felipe, it was an outpost of Fort Clark (28 mile E), one of a chain of military fortifications constructed to defend isolated settlements of the Southwest Texas frontier. General E. O. C. Ord, Commander of the department of Texas, created the camp to protect the border area from raiding parties of Indians in Mexico who entered Texas to secure horses along the Pecos and Devil's Rivers. In 1880 the San Felipe Agricultural, Manufacturing and Irrigation Company donated land at this site to the United State Government for use as a military reservation. Since the original shareholders of the firm had founded the town of Del Rio, the camp name was changed. The grounds here included officers' quarters, a hospital, bakery, quartermaster's storehouse, and barracks. Later, when it was discovered some of the structures had been built on private property, additional land was leased from the owners. Indians raids in the area had ended by 1890 and the troops were moved to other posts. Camp Del Rio was officially abandoned the next year and the land was later transferred back to the original owners. (1980)
Site of Camp Hudson, established by the United States Army, June 7, 1857, as a means of protecting the road from San Antonio to El Paso against hostile Indians. Named in honor of 2nd Lieutenant Walter W. Hudson who died April 19, 1850, of wounds received in action with Indians in Texas. Evacuated by Federal troops March 17, 1861 but reoccupied after the Civil War. Abandoned in April 1868. Erected by the State of Texas 1936.
The Camp Hudson Texas Centennial marker was placed in 1936 for the one-hundredth anniversary of the independence of Texas.
The centennial markers are generally made of gray stone rather than the modern aluminum.
When U. S. Troops were surrendered at outbreak of Civil War, camp became Confederate frontier outpost 1861-1862 to guard military road, escort supply trains, curb hostile Indians. Manned by 2nd Texas Cavalry. Texas Confederate Troops used as supply base in route to and from New Mexico campaign to stop flow of gold to north and gain access to pacific. Routine camp life prompted camp newspaper written to amuse troops who fervently desired to fight for Dixie. Located center of county on South Bank Devil's River.
The military established Camp Michie, formerly known as Camp Del Rio, during the 1910s to serve forces assigned to secure the U.S.-Mexico border during the Mexican Revolution. As part of that duty, troops guarded railroad bridges along the border, including the High Bridge across the Pecos River and other strategic points. This task was important, as the tracks were a vital link for moving men and equipment between the Pacific Coast and the Gulf of Mexico during World War I. In 1920, the camp was renamed Camp Michie in honor of Brigadier General Robert Edward Lee Michie, who died in combat in France in 1918. The federal government officially closed the camp and surplused the property in 1923. (2006)
Crude irrigation systems, drawing water from San Felipe Springs and Creek, were first devised by Indian and Spanish inhabitants of this area. Anglo-American settlers also saw the need for irrigation in this arid region, and about 1869 a group of landowners formed the San Felipe Agricultural, Manufacturing & Irrigation Company. Among early stockholders were W. C. Adams, Donald Jackson, Joseph Ney, Randolph Pafford, James H. Taylor, and A. O. Strickland. They dammed San Felipe Creek just below the Springs, and by 1871 had built canals diverting water to 1,500 acres of land. Under an 1875 irrigation law, the company received a 99-year state charter which authorized the digging of two canals: five-mile-long "Madre Ditch" and mile long "San Felipe Ditch", plus lateral canals. In 1876 the state inspector reported that the San Felipe Company had irrigated about 3,000 acres. Land grant provisions of an 1876 law awarded the company 5,000 acres of state land for the total mileage of its canals. In addition to promoting agricultural development, the work of the San Felipe Company stimulated the growth of Del Rio, since the irrigation canals provided water to the city as well. Today this vital water supply system is still in operation. (1975)
Known as country music's First Family, the Carter family first found national acclaim while on XERA radio. Owned by Dr. John R. Brinkley, the powerful radio station across the Rio Grande from Del Rio reached listeners around the country. A.P. Carter, his wife Sara, and his sister-in-law, Maybelle, first broadcast from the station during the 1938-39 season. For the next few years, they and others performed gospel and folk standards, early elements of country music. Often opening their "Good Neighbor Get-Together" show with "Keep on the Sunny Side," the group at times included other family members, who continued to influence American music for many decades. (2005)
Italian stonemason G.B. Cassinelli and his partner John Taini were recruited in their native county by an American contractor who wanted them to construct buildings in New York. Shortly after their arrival in the United States, the project failed and they went to work for the railroads. Later, they were hired by the Federal Government to construct several stone buildings at Fort Clark in Brackettville. When that project was completed, they came to Del Rio to work on the Val Verde County Courthouse. Cassinelli became a successful area businessman. He owned a general store, a contracting firm, and sold wood, hay, lime, and brick. In 1903 he purchased land at this site for the construction of a cotton gin housed Cassinelli's short-lived gin operation and the upper floor was used for community dances and receptions. Located near a ford of the San Felipe Creek and downstream from an ice house and dam, built by Cassinnelli, the gin house was a popular site for many early Del Rio Social Functions. Interior alterations made in the early 1950s for residential purposes were later destroyed by fire. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1981
The Cassinelli Gin House is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
Early land developer Paula Losoya Taylor Rivers (ca. 1830-1902) realized that the people of Del Rio's Mexican Colony had no official cemetery in which to bury their dead. She donated four acres to be designated as a cemetery in 1884. Also buried here are three former U. S. Army Indian Scouts and the Rev. Ramon V. Palomares, first pastor of Del Rio's Mexican American Methodist Church. A cross placed at the top of a hill gave the cemetery its name. The last burial here took place in 1933. A cemetery association restored and maintains the graveyard. Texas Sesquicentennial 1836-1986.
The historical marker with the Historic Texas Cemetery plaque stands at the entrance of the cemetery.
Click here to see pictures of some of the grave markers.
In the 19th century, a life line that connected Chihuahua, Mexico, with the Texas port of Indianola. Opened to exploit rich trade in Mexican silver and gold, the road eventually carried every type of goods (including, in 1860, 27 camels), adventurers, settlers, soldiers, and "forty-niners" bound for the California gold rush. All sorts of vehicles used the Chihuahua Road: stagecoaches, wagons, ox-carts, and traveling ambulances, which were light carriages with 4-foot wheels. Not until the railroad came to San Antonio, 1877, did this road lose its commercial importance. 1968
In the early 1880s, Comstock developed as a station on the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway because of the natural lake and water supply. The former townsite of Soto or Sotol City was replaced with Comstock, named after John B. Comstock, a railtoar dispatcher. The community quickly grew and boasted a variety of establishments. The town was a key element in the wool and lamb industry and served as a temporary home to several Texas Rangers. After World War II and advances in technology, the population declined. Comstock is an example of the influence of small communities that led to the development of larger commercial cities.
Photo from Jim Butterworth.
This narrow canyon marks a remote and perilous section of a road traveled from San Antonio to El Paso and on to California following the Gold Rush of the 1840s. Adding to the hardships of a journey that took several weeks, this particular area was notorious for wild animal attacks and raids by Native Americans and highwaymen. Also known as Dead Man's Run, the feature was named by 1849; an ambush on a Dr. Lyon's wagon train that year ended with two teamsters and an unknown number of Indians dead. In 1850, a group met a similar fate when they turned back from Beaver Lake (25 mi. N) and passed through here en route to San Antonio for supplies. Four teamsters were killed in the encounter. The U.S. Army attempted to protect travelers on the hazardous road. When forts Clark (60 mi. SE) and Inge (90 mi. SE) proved to be too remote, the army established Camp Hudson on the Devils River 10 miles north of here in 1857. However, dangerous conditions continued for many years. In A Texas Pioneer, freighter August Santleben (1845-1911) enumerated several dozen civilians and soldiers killed along the trail, including five members of the Amlung family and seven others who perished here one day in 1858. The pass was considered dangerous as late as the early 1880s. Santleben chronicled several deaths in the area over a 40-year period, totaling nearly 400 in southwest Texas. Two similar topographic names nearby recall the risks of 19th century travel. Dead Man's Creek rises two miles southwest of this site and flows southeast to the Devils River, while Dead Man's Canyon begins a mile to the northeast and runs west to the Pecos. This path that later became a stage route to Ozona and then State Highway 163 is today remembered as a treacherous frontier road. (2007)
Dead Mans Pass is about ten miles north of Comstock; the historical marker stands on the east side of Highway 163.
Founded in 1868 on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert and just three miles from the Rio Grande, Del Rio began as an agricultural community. Early residents had access to intermittent schooling opportunities for their children. In the 1870s, the community used an adobe structure as a schoolhouse whenever a teacher was available. During the 1880s, children attended classes in a two-room, wood-frame building at Pecan and Greenwood streets. That decade brought significant changes to the community, as the Del Rio Common School District organized in 1884 and Val Verde County began the following year with Del Rio as the seat of government. In 1890, residents voted to create an independent school district, which included much of present-day Del Rio except for the San Felipe neighborhood, which created its own school district. Following creation of the Del Rio district, trustees approved a new school building at this site. Called Del Rio High School, or Secondary School, it housed classes through the tenth grade. By 1906, the district had divided into three campuses: the high school, Hill School (Northside Elementary) and an African American school. Ongoing construction projects expanded to meet the growing number of students. The district added an eleventh grade in 1910 and a twelfth grade level following construction of this school building in 1930. Built by Phil Garoni, the new structure served until 1968, when the district built a larger high school on the north side. The district continues to use the 1930 structure for school programs. Today, the campus of the Old Del Rio High School serves as an important reminder of early educational efforts in the city. (2005)
The city of Del Rio was selected as Val Verde County seat when the county was organized in 1885, but it was another 20 years before the first city government was established. In 1905, city residents voted to incorporate, and James McLymont was elected first mayor. Although records from the early 1900s are scarce, there are indications that Del Rio unincorporated after 1906. In November 1911, voters elected to incorporate again under the city commission form of government. A home rule charter was adopted in 1918, allowing for greater flexibility in governing. The city commission remained in place until a 1967 election set up a council-manager system of government for Del Rio. (2002)
Four distinct cemeteries lie at the west end of Second Street and collectively have been awarded a National Register of Historic Places designation. The Del Rio Cemeteries Historic District
includes the three gated cemeteries, Masonic, Westlawn, and Sacred Heart, and the St. Joseph Cemetery adjacent to Sacred Heart.
In 1910 Del Rio National Bank bought this lot and hired noted Texas architect Alfred Giles to design this structure
. The cartouche and cornice above the main entrance, stylistic flourishes not seen in Giles' earlier San Antonio and Hill Country work, reflect his later work in northern Mexico. The Bank vacated this structure in 1931 for a larger building. In 1937 community leaders, including John Brinkley and Thomas Graham, Jr., chartered the Del Rio Loan Company and moved into this building, which also became home to lawyers, doctors, dentists, the Mexican Consulate, and the Edwards-Graham Insurance Company. After World War II Victor Lee worked his was up to D.R.L.C. president becoming sole proprietor and owner of the property. The business and building remain in the family in 2003.
William H. Dodd Born in 1868, England native William H. Dodd settled in Val Verde County by 1894, establishing a ranch and general merchandise store. He also served as postmaster, operating the post office from his store, which occupied this site for many years. Dodd and his wife, Lula, also owned a rooming and boarding house and were both active in the Langtry community. She organized town festivals, and between 1892 and 1933, he served in many official positions, including Justice of the Peace and County Commissioner. Dodd also reportedly aided Mexican revolutionaries, providing them with arms and other supplies. Remembered fondly by much of Langtry, Dodd died in 1935, survived by Lula and their four children. (2003)
The William Dodd marker stands at the site of Dodd's General Store, near the center of the Langtry community (April 2012).
Eagle's Nest Humans are believed to have traveled through the remote and dramatic landscape near the confluence of the Pecos River and the Rio Grande for centuries. For years, the cliff across the river from this site was home to a pair of golden eagles, whose nest gave name to the canyon and crossing downstream from it, as well as the community that began on this side of the Rio Grande as a railroad camp. The crossing was used by Indian tribes, ranchers, soldiers and Texas Rangers. The town, later known as Langtry, grew due to efforts of the Torres family, who owned the townsite and provided water for steam locomotives. Even after the town's name changed, the eagle's nest was a well-known landmark. (2003)
Pete Billings, left, and Jack Skiles unveil the Eagle's Nest historical marker at the Langtry Settlers' Reunion in 2004.
Elks Lodge Hall Lodge 837 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks built this meeting hall in 1916 from plans provided by local builder Martin Brauer. It replaced an earlier structure, Gildea Hall, at this site. The Elks Lodge hall exhibits influences of the Prairie Style of architecture in its use of a low, sloping hipped roof and overhanging eaves with exposed rafters. Other features include paired French doors and a second floor balcony supported by brick piers. The hall provided space for meetings, dances and other community functions, and served the Elks Lodge until the 1980s, when members constructed a new facility. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 2003
The Recorded Texas Historic Landmark plaque is mounted near the west entrance to the building, facing Pecan Street.
The Hall is across the street from the county courthouse.
On May 24, 1896, Pastor Frank Marrs joined the Rev. and Mrs. Edwin S. Stucker as founding members of Del Rio's First Baptist Church. Marrs was from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary of Kentucky, and the Stuckers were both missionaries. The couple served railroad workers and their families from a railway car named "Goodwill," sponsored by the American Baptist Sunday School Society of Philadelphia, Pa. The church formally organized with six charter members. As Del Rio grew, so did the congregation and the need for a larger structure. Through a land donation, members moved church services to an adobe building on the southwest corner of Garfield and Pecan streets. On February 17, 1925, they laid the cornerstone of a brick and stone building at that same location to replace the adobe structure. That sanctuary remained home to the First Baptist congregation for 35 years. In 1960, the growing church built a new structure on Avenue G, outside the downtown area, incorporating the cornerstone of the old building. Over the years, Del Rio's First Baptist Church has constructed additional buildings to use for classrooms. It has also acquired land throughout the region to build other churches, including what would become the congregations of El Buen Pastor and Northside Baptist. Despite a fire that destroyed early church records, First Baptist Church has a strong sense of its history and remains true to the vision of service set forth by the founders. It continues to be an important institution in the Del Rio community more than a century after its modest beginning. (2005)
The First Baptist Church historical marker stands in front of the chapel on Avenue G. The marker project was the brainchild of Becky Taylor, a long-time member of the congregation.
Six individuals met on September 23, 1882, creating the first Methodist congregation in Del Rio. These first congregants were Randolph Pafford, J. Lyman Bailey, William M. Bailey, Sarah Bailey, Rosalie Roberts and William G. Hancock. During the earliest days of the congregation's existence, church meetings were held in the homes of members. Pafford donated a town lot and $500 to the Church in 1883, and a wood-frame structure was soon erected on Cemetery Street (now Pecan Street), on what was then the northern edge of town. Growth of the congregation was modest into the 20th century, and a stone chapel was constructed in 1903-1904.
The congregation grew to slightly greater than three hundred members by 1917, as members opened their homes to soldier trainees at Camp Del Rio, later known as Camp Michie. Continued growth of the congregation created the necessity for another, larger facility, and the first service in this new building was held on May 31, 1931. The larger sanctuary was well justified, as the congregation doubled in size to over seven hundred members between the world wars. The growth of the city and the opening of Laughlin Air Force Base facilitated the enlargement of the membership to more than nine hundred during the 1960s. In 1968, the Methodist Church and Evangelical United Brethren Church merged into the United Methodist Church.
The Church has promoted missions and charitable work after hurricane Camille, as well as abroad in Mexico and Liberia, and also provides numerous outreach programs throughout the local community. (2008)
The First United Methodist Church historical marker was dedicated in 2010.
In 1896, Judge Roy Bean made national headlines with a unique boxing match held at this site. Robert James Fitzsimmons was to fight James J. Corbett, the heavyweight champion, but the Legislature had outlawed boxing in Texas. While promoters sought a new location for the match, Corbett retired, handing the title to Irishman Peter Maher, who soon agreed to fight Fitzsimmons. Bean arranged for spectators, the press and Texas Rangers to travel by train from El Paso to Langtry, where he held the fight on a sandbar on Mexico's side of the Rio Grande; Texas lawmen had no authority there and Mexico had no law enforcement on hand. Fitzsimmons knocked Maher out in 95 seconds, winning the title. (2006)
The Fitzsimmons-Maher Prizefight marker overlooks the site on the prizefight, down in the canyon of the Rio Grande (April 2012).
Santos S. Garza, also known as “Don Santos” or “Father of San Felipe schools,” was born Nov. 2, 1881 in either Piedras Negras or Eagle Pass. He came to Del Rio in 1898 where he owned numerous businesses including a theater, general store, dairy, ranch and bar. He married Jesusita Menchaca Galindo on Jan. 3, 1901, and they had five children and adopted a sixth. Garza was a civic leader who is best remembered for preventing the annexation of the San Felipe area by Del Rio Independent School District in 1928, allowing his community greater control of its schools, and for his leadership in the movement towards creating the San Felipe I.S.D. on Aug. 21, 1929. Garza died Jul. 25, 1936.
The San Felipe Exes with some VVCHC members dedicated the Santos S. Garza historical marker on November 2, 2012 at the annual meeting.
Attending the dedication are (from left to right) Armando Garcia, Jr., Jenny Garcia, Mary Ann Zepeda, Fred Vasquez, Gloria Paredes, Clem Vasquez, Danny Chavira, [person #8], Lupe De Hoyos, [person #10], Maria Elena Ramirez, Mario Garcia, Jo Elda Perez (granddaughter of SSG), Ramiro Ramon (President of the Exes), Dolly Calderon (granddaughter of SSG), Oralia Galindo, Tina Martinez, Mary Ann Gonzalez, Mae Pierce (VVCHC member), Irma Juarez, Arturo Rocha, Dolores Tanaka, Elisa Cruz, Dora Sanchez, Eloy Barrera, Mary Ramirez.
[Editor's note: I am still working on the names for all of the attendees. If you are in the picture, or know someone who is, please email us a name or a correct spelling of a name. Thank you.
Local contractor Daniel Glenn built this residence in 1900-01, incorporating a band of decorative brickwork in the design. He sold the property in 1901 to Bessie Chisum, a widow who married Luke Dowe in 1906. Dowe had a long career as a peace officer on the Texas-Mexican border, serving first with the frontier battalion of the Texas Rangers and later with the U. S. Customs service. The Dowes occupied this house for 50 years. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark – 1985
The Glenn-Dowe House at the corner Spring and Washington is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and home of the Adrian J. Falcon Gallery.
Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church--Organized in the 1920s, this congregation is the oldest surviving with origins in Del Rio's African American community. Members first held service in the A.M.E. Methodist Church. Before securing their own property on Peirce Street on May 15, 1922, Rev. James Fennell directed this important step and led the Church from 1922 to 1958. Despite many hardships, the Church grew in membership and finances. The sanctuary was remodeled and enlarged in the 1940s. In 1974, the congregation moved again, this time to the former Grace Lutheran Church. Members continue to enrich the community in worship and service.
Tennessee native Robert T. Hill (1858-1941) moved to Comanche, Texas at age 16 and developed an interest in Texas Geology. Educated at Columbia University, he worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Texas and as State Geologist. Known as the father of Texas Geology, he identified many of the state's geological features and regions. In 1899, he and five others surveyed the Rio Grande. Beginning in Presidio, the team charted the river's path through steep canyons and perilous obstacles. After 350 miles of river travel, the men saw a landmark eagle's nest and at that point ended their trip and hiked into Langtry. Hill's work was the first to document the Rio Grande through the Trans-Pecos region of Texas. (2005)
The Robert Hill marker overlooks the canyon of the Rio Grande near Langtry (April 2012).
The men of Company G, a small unit of the U.S. 2nd Cavalry, left Fort Mason on July 5, 1857, under the command of Lt. John Bell Hood (1831-1879), in pursuit of Comanche Indians in the vicinity. Traveling northwest, they discovered a fresh Indian trail leading southward toward Mexico. Crossing bluffs near the Devil's River on July 20, the men encountered an Indian camp on a ridge about two miles from the stream, marked by a wide flat. Suspecting an ambush, Hood proceeded cautiously toward the ridge.
A small band of Indians advanced to meet Hood's party. Then, throwing down the flag to signal their concealed allies, a group of close to 100 Comanches and Lipan Apaches attached. Outnumbered, and hampered by brush fires set by Indian women, the soldiers were forced into fierce hand-to-hand combat. Outflanked by a force at least three times his number and hemmed in by a wall of fire and smoke to his front, all that Hood could hope for was that superior marksmanship and discipline would prove to be the decisive elements in the fight. The company fell back to reload its weapons, only to hear the loud cries of Comanche women through the smoke and dust, indicating an Indian retreat.
Two cavalrymen, William Barry and Thomas Ryan, were killed, and five others, including Hood, were wounded. A relief unit from Camp Hudson (20 mi. S) arrived the following day, rendering medical aid and helping to bury the dead. Pvt. Ryan was buried at the site, and Pvt. Barry's body was never found. Later reports revealed that nineteen Indians were killed, and many more wounded. Hood and his men were later cited for valor in army reports. During the Civil War, Hood became a general in the Confederate States Army. (1987)
This historical marker stands forty-two miles north of Comstock on Highway 163. The marker is dedicated to [Lt. John Bell] Hood's Devils River Fight. Years later, General Hood commanded Texans in the Confederate army during the American Civil War. He was badly wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Paul Kallinger (December 4, 1922 - May 29, 2001)
Fascinated with the verbal abilities of auctioneers and radio hosts, Paul Kallinger entered Frederick H. Sphere Radio Announcing School in Hollywood after serving in WWII with the U.S. Coast Guard. After a short job in Del Rio with KDLK, Kallinger and his family moved to Louisiana before returning to Del Rio in 1948 for a disc jockey position with XERF. Kallinger played hillbilly and bluegrass music and promoted various products on air. He received several awards including induction into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame. Kallinger is remembered as a nationally-famous disc jockey and "Your Good Neighbor Along the Way."
The Kallinger Family unveiled the Paul Kallinger marker at Star Park on March 30, 2013 amidst a crowd of onlookers.
San Felipe ISD operated a school for African American students for a short time in the 1930s and again from 1945-1956. Langston School on De La Rosa Street was named for Langston Hughes, notable writer of the Harlem Renaissance. San Felipe ISD bought the property in 1934 in built a two-rrom schoolhouse, consisting of one classroom and a smaller storeroom. Sparse records indicate no principal for Langston and one teacher at a time, who taught up to thirty students in grades one to eight. Those wishing to attend high school went to Del Rio's Tarver School or as far as San Antonio or Houston. Langston School did have a parent-teacher association (PTA). As the school district integrated, Langston closed in 1957.
The Langston School historical marker.
Roger Blanks and Ivonne Best-Sanders unveiled the marker on Feb 22, 2014.
Langtry was created in 1882, when the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio Railroad, later known as Southern Pacific, signed a deed with the Torres Family, who owned the land. The town, which provided water for locomotives, developed from a tent town to a bustling settlement after the rail line was completed. The town was most likely named for George Langtry, who led an area rail building crew. Lore, though, links the town's most famous inhabitant to its naming; Roy Bean, who owned a local saloon and served as justice of the peace, became known as "The Law West of the Pecos." He was enamored of Lillie Langtry, a popular British actress, and although she was probably not the town's namesake, she did visit here in the early 20th century. In addition to the infamous Bean, other local men and women contributed to the town's western ambience. J.P. Torres, part of the town's founding family, also served as justice of the peace and operated a store and saloon. He, like many of the area residents, also raised livestock, most often sheep or goats. Accessibility to the trains attracted many ranchers, who supported local businesses. Langtry supported other industries, including a rock crushing plant created for the railroad. The town also attracted tuberculosis patients who came in hopes of regaining their health. During the Mexican Revolution, soldiers came to Langtry for goods, guns and munitions. The rail line was rerouted in the 1920s, and Langtry's population declined, today existing primarily as a tourist site. The landscape and the remaining buildings still speak to what once was a bustling West Texas town. (2003)
The crowd at the Langtry historical marker dedication. At front and center, Leslie and Lavonne Schmidt. Leslie Schmidt was born and raised in Del Rio, served in the U.S. Army during the Second World War, served in the State Department during the Cold War/Marshall Plan, and then came home to teach high school art.
The Langtry marker stands at the center of Langtry, at the mythical hanging tree (April 2012).
The first Langtry School was built on this site prior to 1900. A 1911 school building had a bell to summon children to class and the community to Sunday School. The academic year typically lasted six months or less, with reading, writing, civics and math as the the main subjects. In 1934 the present schoolhouse was built for ten grades under one roof. The auditorium hosted many school, church and social activities. In the 1950s, Pumpville school consolidated with Langtry, which in turn closed in 1972 when students started attending Comstock. The historic schoolhouse, renamed Vashti Skiles Community Cenyer for Langtry's longtime teacher, remains a focal point of the historic town. (2008)
The Langtry School marker stands in front of the school building now used as a community center (April 2012).
With the need to train more pilots for military service during World War II, the U.S. Army established an air field east of Del Rio in 1942. The region's year-round good weather and vast areas of open ground offered near ideal flight training conditions. On July 2 of that year, the Army activated the field as what the local press called a "jaw-shattering title": The Army Air Forces Transition Flying School, Medium Bombardment. Lt. Col. E.W. Suarez oversaw construction of the base, which was accessible by U.S. Highway 90 and by the Southern Pacific rail line. Col. George W. Mundy became the base's commanding officer on December 26, 1942. Earlier in 1942, Del Rio native and Army pilot Lt. Jack Thomas Laughlin died in military action, becoming the first pilot from the community killed in World War II. He was shot down over the Java Sea while flying a B-17. Local citizens and U.S. Congressman Charles L. South petitioned the Army to name the base for Laughlin, which the Army agreed to in 1943. Laughlin's widow and the young daughter he never met attended the field's dedication that year, and Maj. Gen. Gerald C. Brant delivered a dedicatory speech. Instructors at the field trained experienced pilots on the Martin B-26 medium bomber, which was also known as the Marauder, the Widow Maker and the Flying Prostitute. Laughlin pilots went on to fly missions in both the European and Pacific theaters of the war. The Army closed the base at the end of the war but reopened it as Laughlin Air Force Base in 1952. (2006)
Born in Del Rio on Sept. 17, 1914, Jack Thomas Laughlin graduated from Del Rio high School and earned a degree from the University of Texas. In 1940, he joined the Army Air Corps and the following year received his pilot's wings at Stockton, CA. On Jan. 29, 1942, during World War II, his B-17 Flying Fortress was shot down over the Java Sea in the Indonesian islands. The U.S. Army established an airfield in Del Rio that year, and citizens and officials requested it be named for Laughlin, the first Del Rio-born pilot killed in the war. Despite the official policy for naming bases, the idea prevailed, and in March 1943 Laughlin Field was dedicated with the pilot's widow and daughter in attendance. (2006)
Judge Roy Bean lived a life in which fiction became so intermingled with fact that he became a legend within his lifetime. Basis for his renown were the decisions which he reached in this building as the Law West of the Pecos. Court was held as frequently on the porch, spectators grouped about on horseback, as within the building. Nor was Bean above breaking off proceedings long enough to serve customers seeking services dispensed by the other businesses carried on in his courtroom-home. The Judge's "law library" consisted of a single volume, an 1879 copy of the Revised Statutes of Texas. He seldom consulted it, however, calling instead on his own ideas about the brand of justice which should apply. This he effectively dispensed together with liberal quantities of bluff and bluster. Since Langtry had no jail, all offenses were deemed finable with Beam pocketing the fines. Drunken prisoners often were chained to mesquite trees in front of the building until they sobered up enough to stand trial. Bean reached a peak of notoriety when, on February 21, 1896, he staged the banned Fitzsimmons-Maher heavyweight title fight on a sand bar in the Rio Grande River, a stone's throw from his front porch. By holding it on Mexican territory he outwitted Texas Rangers sent to stop the match -- and turned a handsome profit for his shrewdness. This building was named the "Jersey Lilly" for the famous English actress Lillie Langtry whom Bean admired and for whom he claimed to have named the town. His lamp frequently burned into the night as he composed letters to her. But he never saw her since her only visit to Langtry occurred in 1904, less than a year after Bean died.
This historical marker, Law West of the Pecos, was placed by the Texas Highway Department (now the Texas Department of Transportation) at Jersey Lily Saloon in Langtry.
A native of New York, local businessman James H. Mason (1835-1916) constructed his home here shortly after he purchased the site in 1887. He later developed a spring on the property for mineral baths and a medicinal drink. John J. Foster (1867-1935), a Del Rio attorney and civic leader bought the residence in 1905. During his ownership major additions were made to the home, originally a four-room frame structure. Interior detailing included artwork by Foster's wife Mary (1868-1958). The residence remained in the Foster family until 1962. (1980)
In the 1870s, the U.S. Army relied on Black Seminole (Seminole-Negro) Indian scouts in campaigns against raiding Native Americans along the Texas-Mexico border. In April 1875, Lt. John L. Bullis and three scouts -- Sergeant John Ward, Private Pompey Factor and Trumpeter Isaac Payne -- left Fort Clark to scout for raiders in this area. After four days, they found a fresh trail and on April 25, within a half-mile of this site, they engaged a party of about 30 Comanche Indians with dozens of horses. Outgunned and outnumbered, the scouts withdrew, but Bullis' horse bolted, stranding him. Factor and Payne provided cover fire, and Ward rescued his Lieutenant. The three Seminole scouts later received Medals of Honor for their gallantry. (2006)
The Medal of Honor Fight historical marker stands at the U.S. Highway 90 rest stop overlooking the Pecos River.
Military aviation in Val Verde County flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Galbraith Perry Rodgers landed his plane at Del Rio while on the first transcontinental flight across the United State. The arrival of a plane in Del Rio was a major event then, but it became a common sight in later years. During World War I, the town was a center of aerial patrols along the United State-Mexico Border. In 1919 planes were dispatched to the area in reaction to Pancho Villa's border raids. One pilot stationed here to fly border patrols was Lt. James H. Doolittle, who later gained international attention in World War II. In the 1940s Del Rio was chosen as the site of an Air Base because of the flat terrain and the mild climate. Opened as the first B-26 bombardier school, Laughlin Air Force Base was named in honor of Lt. Jack T. Laughlin, the first pilot from Del Rio killed in action in World War II. Later a pilot training school, it closed after the war. In 1952, through the efforts of local residents, it was reopened. Laughlin has been utilized for Astronaut Training, strategic Air Command U-2 reconnaissance missions, the development of Air Training Command's undergraduate pilot training mission, and other important innovations.
Laughlin Air Force Base pilots flew secret surveillance missions during the height of the Cold War. The Strategic Air Command formed the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing in 1956, utilizing high altitude Martin RB-57D and Lockheed U-2 aircraft for covert surveillance of the Soviet Union. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) used U-2s, most staged from Laughlin AFB, to monitor activities in the Caribbean following the Cuban Revolution. Based on intelligence reports, President John Kennedy ordered military flights over Cuba to investigate a suspected buildup of Soviet-supplied missiles with nuclear warheads close to American soil.
The first flight over Cuban airspace, on October 14, 1962, used reconnaissance photography to find evidence of medium range ballistic missiles in Cuba. The U.S. Navy processed and the CIA confirmed the presence of launch sites through photo interpretation. On October 16, the CIA briefed Kennedy, and a maximum aerial photographic reconnaissance effort commenced, codenamed "Operation Brass Knob." Subsequent U-2 flights produced photographs of 95 percent of Cuba's territory.
Kennedy announced a naval quarantine of Cuba on October 22. Military action, including naval maneuvers, increased, and the Cuban Missile Crisis peaked on the 27th, when a surface to air missile shot down the U-2 of Rudolf Anderson, Jr., the only combat casualty of the conflict. Surviving U-2 pilots later revealed all eleven U-2 pilots received enemy fire. When Kennedy presented the 4080th with an outstanding unit award, he noted, "The work of these units has contributed as much to the security of the United States as any unit in our history, and any group of men in our history." (2007)
Operation Brass Knob is the Air Force's name for the Cuban Missile Crisis.
High canyon walls dominate the last 60 miles of the Pecos River before it enters the Rio Grande. The Southern Pacific Railroad built the first highway bridge to span the river was built one mile down river from here in 1923. Just 50 feet above water, the 1923 bridge was destroyed by floodwaters in 1954. Two temporary low water bridges built nearby in 1954 and 1955 also were destroyed by floodwaters. A new 1,310-feet long bridge was completed here in 1957. At 273-feet above the river it is the highest highway bridge in Texas.
This soaring highway (U.S. Highway 90) bridge over the Pecos Canyon was built after the 1954 flood destroyed a smaller bridge built within the canyon.
Noted for mineral-thick waters and sudden floods, the Pecos River snakes through Texas on its way to the Rio Grande. Historian J. Evetts Haley and folklorist J. Frank Dobie, who called it "a strange river," and a "barricade," are among many who have immortalized the Pecos in writing. Zane Grey wrote, "Rising clear and cold in the mountains of northern New Mexico, its pure waters cut through rough country that changed its flood to turbid red." Storytellers have likened the river and the arid land along it to hell, death and violence. A natural border for several counties, the Pecos is where the mythic Wild West begins, the land that produced the legendary Judge Roy Bean and fabled Pecos Bill. (2005)
The storied Pecos River is the subject of stories, songs, articles, and books.
Erected 1871, before Del Rio was founded, by John Perry, as General Store. Once the largest store between San Antonio and El Paso. Served also as courthouse, church, Masonic lodge, and post office. Given in 1965 to city and county by descendants of Walter and Will Whitehead. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, 1966.
The Old Perry Building/Store is a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark.
The Old Perry Building/Store is one of the oldest buildings in Del Rio and is a part of the Whitehead Memorial Museum on South Main Street (which used to be called Perry Street).
In 1882, the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio Railway created a water stop for steam engines on a new line through this area. Two and a half miles north of this site, the company built a pump house, depot and other facilities. A community first known as Samuels and later renamed Pumpville developed around the rail amenities. Residents worked for the rail company or area ranches, which used the stop as a way to get livestock to market. With the advent of the diesel engine, which did not require water, the railroad removed its structures, and only the ranching community remained. The townsite, which once boasted a post office, schools and general store, remains a focal point for the local population. (2005)
Click here to see how far across the county Pumpville is.
A major tributary of the Rio Grande, the Pecos River was long a barrier to transportation, particularly across the deep gorge that once marked its joining with the Rio Grande. Construction of the first railroad bridge over the Pecos took place in 1882 as part of the transcontinental route of the Southern Pacific Railroad across the lower portion of the United States. Access to the bridge, which was then deep in the canyon, was by means of a circuitous route and two tunnels. In 1890, Southern Pacific officials began planning for a new bridge, one that would cut directly across the ravine by means of a high-line viaduct that would save miles and straighten the route. Work began in late 1891 and was completed within three months at a cost of more than $250,000. Supported by 24 towers, the bridge was the highest in North America and the third highest in the world at the time of its completion. Passenger trains slowed to six miles per hour before crossing it and stopped while on the bridge to afford travelers a view. During World War II, the Pecos High Bridge became essential to the transportation of war materials. In response to heavier trains and the war demand, a new bridge was built in 1944, with special permission from the War Production Board to use "critical materials" in its construction. The 1944 Pecos High Bridge remains in use, although the gorge is not so deep as it once was, due to the rising of the river with the construction of Amistad Reservoir. (2002)
The Pecos River canyon was a formidable obstacle. As such the bridges over the three-hundred feet canyon are feats of engineering.
In 1910, publishing titan William Randolph Hearst offered $50,000 to the first person to successfully complete a transcontinental flight across America in 30 days, with a stop in Chicago, Illinois. Adventurer and newly-trained aviator Calbraith "Cal" Perry Rodgers sought sponsorship from the Armour Meatpacking Company to bankroll his attempt. In return, Rodgers agreed to promote Armour's new grape-flavored soft drink called Vin Fiz. The marketing agreement finalized, Rodgers took off for the West Coast from Sheepshead Bay, Long Island, New York, on Sept. 17, 1911, in a customized Wright Brothers EX Flyer he named, appropriately, Vin Fiz. Mountain ranges were a major problem for early underpowered aircraft, so after reaching Chicago, to avoid large ranges, Rodgers steered southward to Texas. Accompanying him on his record-breaking attempt was a support train carrying spare parts, mechanics and Rodgers' wife, Mabel. Rodgers crossed into Texas and reached San Antonio by Oct. 22. Two days later, he landed in Uvalde and later in Spofford. The next morning, he crashed while taking off but survived. On Oct. 26, 1911, Rodgers landed in Del Rio. The arrival of the airplane was such an event that schools closed to allow children to see the Vin Fiz land in a field east of San Felipe Creek and south of the railroad tracks. Rodgers' stay in Del Rio was brief, but his landing brought aviation to Val Verde County. From here, Rodgers proceeded westward toward El Paso and landed in Pasadena, California on Nov. 5, 1911, but failed to win the Hearst challenge. In his attempt, though, Rodgers flew over 1,000 miles of Texas and landed in the state 23 times. (2006)
Mass was celebrated in private homes and in a wooden house at this site before construction of this native Limestone church in 1891-92. Under the direction of the oblate fathers, the mission of Del Rio became Sacred Heart parish in 1895. This gothic revival structure was enlarged and remodeled in 1929. The stained glass windows installed at that time were moved to a new church building, dedicated in 1969. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, 1978
The old chapel at Sacred Heart Parish is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
The Recorded Texas Historic Landmark plaque is located near the front door facing Mill Street.
In 1929, San Felipe Independent School District (I.S.D.) formed; one of the District's first decisions was to establish a high school. Residents voted unanimously for a bond for the institution. Building was completed at the corner of Plaza and Garza Streets and the new high school opened in December 1930. The new campus hosted a full range of grades, with secondary students attending school in the main building and grades six through eight housed in a posterior structure. The high school offered traditional subjects, competitive sports and a wide variety of fine arts. The colors for the Mighty Mustangs of San Felipe High School were purple and gold. In 1932, the School held its first commencement exercises for a graduating class of seven students.
San Felipe High School was known for its caring teachers, who along with administrators helped to create a close-knit community. The School also had high parental involvement. This encouraging atmosphere shaped students, aiding them in achieving later career and life success. Additionally, the School served as a focal point for the community. It held adult education classes and citizenship classes, functioned as a voting place, and has housed families displaced by floods.
In 1971, San Felipe High School closed when San Felipe I.S.D. consolidated with Del Rio I.S.D. Memory of the institution has been kept alive by the generations of students who attended and by the School's alumni association a rarity for a school that no longer exists. Today, San Felipe High School is remembered for being a cornerstone in the San Felipe community for over 40 years. (2009)
The San Felipe High School marker.
From its early days, the historically Hispanic community on the east side of San Felipe Creek has made education a priority, erecting a schoolhouse by 1883. Although the 1890 creation of Del Rio Independent School District (I.S.D.) did not include San Felipe residents persisted and by 1909, the community had two schools. During the 1920s, San Felipe's school population continued to increase as immigrants came here from Mexico.
In 1928, Del Rio I.S.D. annexed a large portion of San Felipe Common School District, including most of the community and both schools, in an effort to gain tax revenue. San Felipe residents, led by school trustees Santos Garza, Hernan Cadena and Andres Cortinas, opposed the action. A district court sided with the community, reversing the annexation. Santos Garza and attorney Rodolfo Gutierrez then worked to create an independent school district; Garza presented a petition to Val Verde County School Trustees, and San Felipe Independent School District was formally established in 1929.
The District completed a new high school building in 1930, which became a focal point of the community. San Felipe I.S.D. served Del Rio's east side until 1971, when a federal court ruled that it must consolidate with Del Rio I.S.D. for integration purposes. Both districts were abolished and the new San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School was formed. Today San Felipe Independent School District continues to be remembered as an integral part of the movement for educational and social equality for Americans of Mexican descent in Texas. (2009)
The San Felipe I.S.D. marker stands in front of the old San Felipe High School building.
San Felipe Springs Oasis for explorers, soldiers, freighters--from 1542 onward. In 1675 priests named the 7 springs for King of Spain. In 18th century Comanches camped here on their war trail into Mexico. In 1808 a mission was established 3 miles downstream, on San Felipe Creek. By 1856-57, springs were on the 1470-mile San Antonio-to-San Diego Mail Route and on Chihuahua Road for wagons hauling silver adn gold from Mexico to Indianola, then chief port on Texas coast. After settlers came in 1864, irrigation "Mother Ditch" was dug; soon Del Rio was founded.
Serving with the U. S. Army at Forts Duncan and Clark and Camp Del Rio (1870-1881). The Scouts were key figures in ridding Texas of hostile Indians. The 100 Scouts were mainly descendants of runaway slaves who had intermarried with the Florida Seminoles, later moved to Oklahoma Indian Territory. They were invaluable because of their uncanny trailing skill, bravery, and ability to survive on meager rations (including rattlesnakes) during months of tracking. During an 8-year span of fighting under Lt. J. L. Bullis, not one scout was killed. (1968)
Marked completion of Southern Pacific Railway. Eastern part originated in Texas in 1850s; then was rechartered 1870 by Texas Legislature as Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio Hwy., designed to join Houston and San Antonio to the Rio Grande. T. W. Pierce of Boston gained control in 1874. Meantime, C. P. Huntington of California was building the Southern Pacific eastward; he wanted a Texas line to join his tracks, and reached agreement with Pierce. On Jan. 12, 1883, the two railroads met near the Pecos High Bridge, and were joined by a Silver Spike. (1967)
The Silver Spike Ceremony marker has been damaged somewhat during its lonely vigil in West Texas.
Jewish merchant Max Stool (d. 1972) emigrated to the U.S. from an area of Russia once part of Poland. Settling first in Chicago, he came to Del Rio in 1904 while on a train trip to California and decided to stay. He sold wares as a peddler and soon opened a department store known as "The Guarantee." His wife, Anna (Ratner) (d. 1934), also a native of Russia, joined him in the business, and together they bought land and built commercial structures, persuading national chain stores to locate in the developing downtown. The story of Jewish immigrants Max and Anna Stool, whose home was located here, reflects hard work, entrepreneurship and commitment to the quality of life in their adopted hometown. (2006)
Max Stool came to Del Rio in 1904 and established one of Del Rio's most respected stores.
A crowd assembled for the Max and Anna Stool historical marker dedication, August 15 2008.
On November 1, 1854, John Taini was born in Rezzato, Italy (near Brescia) to Gerolamo and Lucia Prandelli Taini. John later became a stonemason there, and an American contractor recruited him and his partner, G.B. Cassinelli, to build structures in New York. Although those projects fell through, Taini and Cassinelli worked for the railroads and then for the U.S. Army constructing stone buildings at Fort Clark in Brackettville, Texas. Like many hired to work at Fort Clark, Taini and Cassinelli later moved to Del Rio, where many other Italians immigrated in the 1880s.
Family tradition holds that Taini returned to Italy in 1889 to wed Erminia Gerola (1874-1955). The couple reared two daughters, Annie and Lucy. Taini maintained his partnership with Cassinelli, building several structures, as well as buying and selling real estate in the Del Rio area. As a stonemason, Taini worked as a sub-contractor on the Val Verde County Courthouse in 1885. Other projects at that time included Southern Pacific Railroad employee housing, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Club Café, the 1904 Methodist church building and numerous residences. Taini's partnership with Cassinelli dissolved by 1904, but he continued working on construction projects. He won multiple county and city contracts, including work on the county jail, bridges, canal and creek improvements, and two dams across San Felipe Creek. Unfortunately, many of Taini's structures were damaged or razed as a result of a 1998 flood.
In addition to Taini's architectural contributions, he was also a leader in the Del Rio community. He donated land for civic improvements and served as an election judge and on the board of directors of the Italian Catholic Cemetery, now part of Sacred Heart Cemetery, where he was buried in 1929. (2006)
This photo of John Taini was burned in a fire, but restored by Taini's grandson, John Anthony Garoni.
The marker stands on the corner of Greenwood and Mill on the grounds of Sacred Heart Catholic Parish.
Records show a school for African American students in Del Rio was organized as early as 1901, closing in the 1920s. Del Rio ISD used part of a 1929-1930 bond package to build a one-room stucco exterior school on Ware Street. The school, first known as Brackenridge, had few books or equipment, often using materials discarded from other schools. Typically, each grade included just a few students. In the 1950s, the faculty numbered one principal and three teachers. A building moved in from Laughlin Air Force Base was divided into junior and senior high grades. When Principal W.H. Tarver died, the school was renamed in his honor. With the end of segregation, the school closed in 1957.
The crowd attending the Tarver School historical marker.
The Tarver School historical marker.
James H. Taylor (d. 1876), one of the five founders of Del Rio, and his wife Paula (Losoya) (d.1902), a native of Mexico, moved here from Uvalde about 1870 and built this one-story adobe residence. A prominent landowner and merchant, Taylor also owned a local gristmill. After his death, Paula married Charles Rivers (d. 1879) and later operated the home as a boarding house. She also became benefactress for the city's Mexican community, contributing land for a school and cemetery. The Taylor-Rivers house remained in her family until 1939. (1982)
The Taylor Rivers House is being restored by Adrian J. Falcon and Dee Cerde.
The Edwards Plateau area of southwest Texas has long been associated with the sheep and goat industries of the state. Both sheep and goats were significant elements of the local economy, having been introduced to Texas by Spanish explorers and late-19th-century colonists. In 1869, rancher Phillip Palmer brought the first sheep to the Fort Clark area, and his operation grew to a flock of nearly 9,000 sheep. Within a few years, Charles Dissler began Val Verde County's goat industry, bringing his animals with him from Kimble County. In 1915, ranchers met in Del Rio to organize the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers' Association to bring a halt to a wave of stock thefts. The organizational meeting, held at the Princess Theater on this city block, was called by five prominent ranchmen: J.B. Murrah, Johnson Robinson, E.E. Stricklen, V.A. Brown and B.M. Halbert. Sixty stockmen attended, and 30 signed the charter, originally naming the group the Sheep and Goat Raiser's Association of Texas. Members chose Murrah, of Del Rio, as the group's first president, and Julian Lacross, also of Del Rio, as secretary-treasurer. The headquarters moved to San Angelo in the 1930s, and a split within the association resulted in the creation of the rival Texas Wool and Mohair Growers Association. The two groups merged in 1935 as the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers' Association, with a statewide agenda that included advocacy, research and promotion. Today, the association is an important trade organization and political force. Although the association had its beginning in Del Rio, the headquarters is in San Angelo, which is now more central to Texas' sheep and goat industries. (2005)
The Torres Family In the 1870-80s, brothers Cesario, Bernardo and Juan Torres were prominent West Texas citizens due to their irrigation work in the region. For work out west, Bernardo received land in Val Verde County at the Rio Grande-Pecos river confluence. His land was chosen as the route of the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio rail line. After Bernardo's death in 1882, Cesario acquired the land, established the 7D Ranch and gave land for the railroad tracks and depot. His son, Jesus Pablo J.P." Torres, was reportedly the first permanent resident of Langtry, then called Eagle's Nest. J.P. was also Val Verde county's first Hispanic elected official. He and his rival Roy Bean alternately served as justices of the peace in the 1890s. (2003)
The Torres Family marker stands at the site of the Torres Family home and store (April 2012).
The Torres Family home and store, shown here, no longer stands.
A storm in 2010 collapsed the structure.
U. S. Army Camel Corps The proposal to use camels for commerce and transportation in the arid southwest came about in the 1830s, but it was under U. S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis that the idea became a reality. The first shipment of camels arrived on the Texas Gulf Coast in 1856, and they were taken to Camp Verde (150 mi. NE of here) for training. Several expeditions made their way west through Del Rio, and this park was the site of one of their camps. Although the officers in charge wrote favorably of the Camel Corps, the Civil War brought the experiment to a close. Confederate troops stationed at nearby Fort Hudson found camels still in the area, and confirmed sightings of wild camels continued into the mid-20th century. (2002)
Doug Baum, a historical reenactor who is portraying himself as an American soldier in 1857 assigned to the U.S. Army Camel Corps, spoke at the 2002 historical marker dedication along with four of his camels.
Willie Braudaway, member of the Val Verde County Historical Commission, stands with the the U.S. Army Camel Corps historical marker, the first historical marker dedicated in Val Verde County since 1987.
Formed from Crockett, Kinney and Pecos counties. Created March 24, 1885. Organized March 31, 1885. Named in honor of the battle fought at Val Verde, near Fort Craig, New Mexico, February 19, 1862. Del Rio, the county seat.
The new, full size Val Verde County historical marker has been approved by the THC but has not yet been placed.
Organized in 1885 from sections of Crockett, Kinney, and Pecos Counties, Val Verde County was named for a Civil War battle in New Mexico which involved Texas Confederate forces. The growing railroad town of Del Rio was chosen as the seat of government and commissioners set up offices in a commercial building on Perry Street, now South Main.
Soon after formation of the County, the limestone jail was built here on a corner of the public square. During construction of the courthouse, it provided additional office space. A three-story annex to the building was completed later.
The limestone courthouse was constructed at this site in 1887. Architects were A.O. Watson and Jacob Larmour of Austin designers of courthouses in Milam and Comanche Counties. Built by the contracting fir of Hood and McLeod, it features classical revival detailing and octagonal corner turrets.
As the area population increased, the buildings were modified to provide for the expansion of services. A separate facility for the Sheriff's Office and County prisoners was completed in 1956, and the Old Jail was remodeled for use by other departments. (1980)
Known as Texas' oldest bonded winery; only survivor of about 25 once operated in the state. Founded by Frank Qualia, who came in 1882 to Del Rio (then a town of 200) from Milan, Italy. In 1883 he married Mary Frank. Their children were John, Chris, Margaret, Charles, Mary Louis, and Jeanne. The Qualias and neighbors planted vineyards and made wine in old country tradition. Original winery, still in use, is kept cool by 18-inch adobe walls. Louis Qualia and wife Kathleen use Spanish Lenoir and Herbemont grapes in making 2000 gallons of wine yearly. (1971)
Crossing the Pecos River Canyon was the last major obstacle in the Southern Pacific Railroad faced in completing its southern transcontinental route linking New Orleans and San Francisco. At "Tunnel No. 2" was excavated on the west side of the canyon in 1882, a camp for the railroad workers was established near the site. Named Vinegarroon for a type of scorpion found in the area, the camp served as a temporary home for thousands of primarily Chinese laborers. Roy Bean had a saloon and served as Justice of the Peace in Vinegarroon until it was abandoned after the rail line was complete in 1883. (2001)
Vinegarroon was a tent city of railroad construction workers building the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio (Southern Pacific) Railroad.
The Val Verde County Historical Commission dedicated the Vinegarroon marker in 2002.
The Woolworth Building
is one of the early brick buildings that defined Del Rio’s Main Street architecture in the 1920s. “Papa” Max Stool bought this property in 1916 and built the structure to Frank Woolworth’s specifications in 1922. Woolworth’s was a 5 & 10 pioneer started in 1879 in Utica, New York. The original variety store, F.W. Woolworth & Company stores sold school items, holiday decorations, pets, and things for newlyweds. Musical scores and films were based on the company name, and the store was a popular dating venue. During the Second World War C.G. Morrison & Company moved into this building, and some people still refer to the structure as the Morrison Building. Mangel’s clothing store moved in from the early 1980s to the late 1990s. The Conrads purchased the building and opened Toni’s Flower Shop in 1998.