The newly designated El Camino Real del los Tejas National Historic Trail was originally established to connect a series of missions and posts between Monclova, Mexico, and Los Adaes, the first capital of the province of Texas (in what is now northwestern Louisiana). It constituted the only primary overland route from the Rio Grande to the Red River Valley in Louisiana during the Spanish Colonial Period from 1690 to 1821.
Every year, weather and political conditions would change, and people using El Camino Real de los Tejas would alter their route. This resulted in many different trails across the landscape. The National Park Service in developing the National Historic Trail, broke the trail into four segments that represent use during various time periods. The Four Trails are El Camino Real de los Tejas, Lower Road, Old San Antonio Road and Laredo Road.
Bee County, the northern portion, falls into what as known as the Lower Road. There is other evidence though that this trail also may have cut through the southern portion of the county.
Members of the Bee County Historical Commission are continuing to search for evidence of this trail through the county. Members of the commission are asking that anyone with evidence of a trail, such as a crossing or even campsite, to call.
Talbot, an associate professor of art at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, is working to photographically document the paths of this trail.
“I have always been interested in landscape and man’s connection to it,” Talbot said in a news release. “When I learned that a segment of the historic Camino Real passes through my property, I was drawn to learn about the road and to photograph its remnants.
“As I got to know the trail, I came to realize what an amazing piece of history it is. The overlapping historic and modern uses of the trail are the subject of this work.”
Talbot will be at the Joe Barnhart Bee County Library for an opening reception from 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19, of his photographic exhibit.
The exhibit, presented by the Bee County Historical Commission along with the Joe Barnhart Bee County Library, Bee County Chamber of Commerce and National Trails Intermountain Region Office of the National Park Service in cooperation with Stephen F. Austin State University, will remain on display through May.
The Joe Barnhart Bee County Library already has 31 of his photos on display and a monitor with a running display of an additional 300 photos.
“Every trail has a source and a destination as well as a past, present and future,” Talbot said. “As I walk these trails, I contemplate the source of their history, aware of the present and hopeful for the future.”
Musician and educator Robert Rivera Ojeda also will appear at this El Camino Real de los Tejas Symposium and Fajita Festival on April 19 at 5:30 in the Dougherty Room of the library. The event is sponsored by the Bee County Historical Commission and Joe Barnhart Bee County Library with the Bee County Chamber of Commerce assisting.
Ojeda has a master’s degree and his field of study is music performance, music ethnology and music education. He has received many awards such as a grant from the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations as well as a scholarship from the National Association of Latino Art and Culture.
He has sung with Little Ray and the Highlights, Los Coroneles, and participated in El Teatro Campesino in California. He has worked on the sound track of movies such as “Seguin” and “Zoot Suit.”
One of his specialties is to perform early Texas music as this fits well with the April 19 program of El Camino Real de los Tejas. He will perform music for the public and during the intermission as a tribute to the early inhabitants of Bee County.
Also on the program will be Steven Gonzales, director of El Camino Real de los Tejas, and historian Gary Dunnam from Victoria.
Dunnam, also a native Texan, has lived in Victoria for more than 40 years. Since September 1996, he has served as executive director of Victoria Preservation Inc. In January 2000, he was appointed as director of the Victoria County Heritage Department.
Currently serving on the board of directors of El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association, Dunnam recently spent a week in Washington seeking support for our national historic trail.
Of particular interest is the Bexar-La Bahia-Nacogdoches Road, or Lower Camino Real, which ran through Victoria County during Spanish Colonial times.
Also a native of Texas, Steven Gonzales obtained his bachelor of arts degree in cultural geography with a minor in cultural anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. His studies focused on Spanish missions and presidios on the northern frontier of New Spain. Gonzales later earned a master of applied geography degree from Texas State University at San Marcos. His research focused on case studies of national scenic and historic trails from across the country and the measures they took to get their trails on the ground.
Gonzales enjoys the opportunity to serve the association and communities along the trail, and believes that “we can have a greater appreciation for the places we live in by understanding the cultural and natural history of the area.”
Barbara Welder, with the Bee County Historical Commission, said knowledge of history is important as it helps the community understand where it came from.
“Knowledge of our early history should help citizens learn about their early roots and instill a real sense of pride to know what earlier inhabitants experienced,” Welder said. “To see the remains, artifacts and places where they were brings history to us... It truly becomes alive.”