Lee County illustrates the region’s history through vintage photographs, many of which are previously unpublished. This truly multi-cultural, central Texas county is home to a variety of ethnic communities, including the Wends of Serbin and the Czechs of Dime Box, as well as the more diverse settlements of British and German immigrants and former slaves throughout the county. This pictorial retrospective of Lee County begins before the county was formed and continues to about 1940. Narratives taken from local citizens’ letters, diaries, and memoirs provide an informative commentary, and individual portraits personalize the accounts. The major foci are the larger towns of Lexington in the northeast and Giddings in the southwest, and the diagonal of the Old San Antonio Road, although shots of the rural areas and towns give a fascinating glimpse into the everyday lives of residents.
In the early 1900s, it was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco, bustling with the raw material of Wild West legends. Bisbee’s infamous Brewery Gulch once supported 47 saloons and was considered the “liveliest spot between El Paso and San Francisco.” By the 1970s, opportunists had relieved Bisbee’s Mule Mountains of billions of pounds of copper, 102 million ounces of silver, 2.8 million ounces of gold, and millions of pounds of zinc, lead, and manganese. The ore reserves were depleted, and when the last pickaxe struck plain old dirt, a mass exodus of miners collapsed the real estate market. But the lure of cheap land was a magnet for retirees, hippies, and artists. Boarding houses were converted into charming bed and breakfasts. Antique stores, galleries, cafes, and restaurants replaced the saloons. These days, a vibrant and eclectic community of ranchers, politicians, and free spirits; a well-preserved architectural and historic heritage; and “the most perfect year-round climate” make Bisbee, the county seat, a one-of-a-kind gem.
Constructed between 1956 and 1966 by the United States Bureau of Reclamation, Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River was a project of immense proportions. Even before the non-stop pouring of 5 million yards of concrete began, much work had to be accomplished. The town of Page, Arizona was established on a windswept mesa to house workers and their families, and the 1,028-foot Glen Canyon Bridge was built to carry men, materials, and equipment to the dam site. Though the dam has proven a controversial structure throughout its history, the massive undertaking of its construction was an undeniable triumph of ingenuity and determination.
In 1849, James Hervy Simpson, a lieutenant and engineer in the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers, was ordered to survey a wagon road as a southern alternative to the Santa Fe Trail from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Simpson hired two brothers, Edward "Ned" and Richard Kern, to provide survey sketches that included the pueblo ruins of Giusewa and natural hot springs of Ojo Caliente, which are known today as Jemez Springs. Prior to incorporation in 1955, Jemez Springs, like many frontier towns, was supported by ranching, logging, and mining. It also had an influx of tourists who enjoyed the hot springs or one of the many dude ranches in the area. In 1995, Jemez Springs won an award as an All-America City from the National Civic League, and with a mere 375 residents at the time, it was one of the smallest communities to earn the honor.
Originally known as Holford’s Prairie, Lewisville’s name is not the only thing that has changed about this town in its long history. Settlers sponsored by the Peters Colony Company founded the small community in the 1840s. In the ensuing years, the settlement, renamed to Lewisville by Basdeal W. Lewis in 1856, consistently grew and prospered until its incorporation in 1925. Cotton farming and ginning, the arrival of the Dallas and Wichita Railroad in 1881, the expansion of Lake Dallas into Lake Lewisville in 1954, and the opening of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in 1974 ensured that Lewisville became an important commercial center in booming North Texas. Throughout its phenomenal growth, however, Lewisville still retained the charm and bonds of its farm-centered past. Today Lewisville boasts the largest population and school district in Denton County and serves as a suburb for the bustling Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.
With a population of more than 48,000, Buckeye is the ninth-fastest growing municipality in the United States. The town's rapid growth has left many longtime residents wondering what happened to the place where they grew up. Originally an agricultural community, Buckeye has embraced the 21st century, becoming a hub for the affordable housing market in the Valley of the Sun. Buckeye's colorful history is told by an Arizona Culture Keeper and lifelong resident of the Buckeye Valley, Verlyne Meck, who has woven a tapestry of words and images that tell the unique story of the Buckeye Valley.
Nacogdoches derives its name from the Caddo tribe that once lived in central East Texas along Banita and LaNana Creeks. Franciscan father Antonio Jesus de Margil established a mission for the Caddo people there in 1716. In 1779, Antonio Gil Y’Barbo founded the puebla of Nacogdoches and built the Stone House, or Stone Fort, the town’s most enduring symbol of European influence. Nacogdoches served as headquarters for one of three administrative districts in Texas under Mexican authority and played a significant role in the Texas Revolution before stabilizing into a predominately rural and agricultural society. Two notable 20th-century developments—the selection of Nacogdoches as the home of Stephen F. Austin State University and the founding of Texas Farm Products, the city’s first major industry—changed the community into a regional education, medical, and commercial center.
Originally named Walnut Springs in 1838, Seguin was renamed one year later after Mexican Texas Revolution hero Juan N. Seguin, who fought at the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. The town of Seguin and the surrounding area have always been a crossroads for commerce—from the southeast Gulf Coast region throughout the rest of the state. Seguin’s Texas Rangers initially provided security for frontier settlers, and many of the area’s residents served in the U.S. military. From Austin to the U.S. Congress, Seguin’s citizens have also served their country as representatives, state senators, and as governor. In the 21st century, Seguin continues to redefine itself as a leading business and manufacturing community while still retaining its agricultural roots. Seguin and Guadalupe County’s achievements in education have been recognized at the national level for Texas Lutheran University, and by the state for its public school system. Longtime residents of Seguin and Guadalupe County remember their heritage with pride as they welcome newcomers to the area.
On a bend in the Colorado River where it meanders through the Bay Prairie lies the town of Wharton. Caney and Peach Creeks spill into the river nearby and mark the boundaries of this small community. Stephen F. Austin first brought settlers here in the early 1820s, and the town of Wharton was organized in 1846. Named in memory of two brothers who fought in the Texas Revolution, the town sits astride trade routes that connect larger cities like Houston and San Antonio. Steamboats made their way up the Colorado River, and the railroad bustled through in the 1880s. The town began to grow quickly by 1900, and now, a century later, Wharton honors a diverse cultural heritage passed down for six generations. Today Wharton has more than 9,000 residents who make up a diverse and thriving community, and who still appreciate their special place along the mighty Colorado River.
“Hot Springs, New Mexico, Ain’t That Any More” was one of the headlines on April 4, 1950, in the Gallup Independent. As a publicity stunt, Ralph Edwards had invited a town to change its name to “Truth or Consequences,” the name of his popular radio quiz show, and Hot Springs agreed to do so. Since the late 1800s, the area has attracted health seekers to bathe in and drink from the area’s hot mineral springs. The region is home to Elephant Butte Dam and lake, completed in 1916, which remains one of the largest irrigation dams in the United States. Carrie Tingley Crippled Children’s Hospital, built in 1937 by New Mexico governor Clyde Tingley, utilized the natural hot mineral waters to treat children with polio. From the placement of the Hot Springs Bathhouse and Commercial District on the State and National Register of Historic Places to the centennial celebration of Elephant Butte Dam, Truth or Consequences continues to grow and develop while still honoring its heritage.