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History buffs travel Camino Real
by Gary Kent
Apr 25, 2012 | 1256 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gary Kent photo
Robert Ojeda, with guitar, and Alfredo Serna serenade diners during an intermission at the El Camino Real De Los Tejas in Bee County program Thursday evening at the Joe Barnhart Bee County Library. More than 60 history lovers attended the function.
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BEEVILLE — More than 60 history lovers crowded into a conference room at the Joe Barnhart Bee County Library last Thursday for a special program on “El Camino Real De Los Tejas in Bee County.”

The highway, known in English as “The King’s Highway of Texas in Bee County,” was one of several trails in early Texas that travelers took on treks between Louisiana and the Rio Grande.

Local historian Dr. Barbara Welder opened the program by introducing Stephen Gonzales, executive director of the El Camino Real de los Texas organization.

Another dedicated historian, Gonzales has studied the presidios and missions of Texas for much of his career.

Gonzales told the standing-room-only crowd that the surveys of Texas’ early trails began in 1915 and markers and plaques were installed three years later on 540 miles of historic trails.

“By 1949, most of the road from San Antonio to the Sabine River had been paved,” Gonzales said.

These days, 30 scenic and historic trails had been mapped across the country.

In 2011, Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation making El Camino Real a “Historic Highway of Texas.”

Currently, there are no signs on the road marking the trail. However, Gonzales said he hopes to see signs in place by the end of this year.

The historian said efforts are underway now to connect the historic trails of the nation with its national parks.

Also, El Camino Real organization members are developing a curriculum on Texas’ historic trails for seventh-grade students in the state.

The next historian to speak was Gary Dunnam of Victoria, one of the board members of the El Camino Real organization.

He spoke of the colony established in Texas, known as Fort St. Louis, by the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle.

When asked about the significance of that fort, Dunnam said he always answers, “If there had never been a Fort St. Louis, there would have never have been an Alamo.”

Dunnam went on to explain the locations of the missions built in Texas by the Spaniards and then outlined the problems of some of the trails.

He said the Old San Antonio Road was especially troublesome in the early days because “the Apaches were robbing the Spanish blind.”

Dunnam showed the gathering a slide of a roadway going through La Villita on the banks of the San Antonio River and said that was the old town and the roadway in the photo was the San Antonio Road.

Those attending the event then heard some historical songs of the vaqueros performed by Robert Ojeda and Alfredo Serna before they adjourned to the patio beside the library and dined on fajitas and listened to more songs from Ojeda and Serna.

The evening was wrapped up by Chris Talbot of Stephen F. Austin University, who showed those attending the event photos he had taken of El Camino Real.

Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.

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