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Big Bend's Ancient and Modern Past

Bruce A. Glasrud

Publication Year: 2013

The Big Bend region of Texas—variously referred to as “El Despoblado” (the uninhabited land), “a land of contrasts,” “Texas’ last frontier,” or simply as part of the Trans-Pecos—enjoys a long, colorful, and eventful history, a history that began before written records were maintained.

With Big Bend’s Ancient and Modern Past, editors Bruce A. Glasrud and Robert J. Mallouf provide a helpful compilation of articles originally published in the Journal of Big Bend Studies, reviewing the unique past of the Big Bend area from the earliest habitation to 1900.

Scholars of the region investigate not only the peoples who have successively inhabited it but also the nature of the environment and the responses to that environment. As the studies in this book demonstrate, the character of the region has, to a great extent, dictated its history.

The study of Big Bend history is also the study of borderlands history. Studying and researching across borders or boundaries, whether national, state, or regional, requires a focus on the factors that often both unite and divide the inhabitants. The dual nature of citizenship, of land holding, of legal procedures and remedies, of education, and of history permeate the lives and livelihoods of past and present residents of the Big Bend.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Front Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-5


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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-viii

...The Big Bend of Texas is one of those places that exist more vividly in the imagination than in reality. Everyone in Texas has a story about it, even though there is not total agreement among Texans about exactly where it is. The region takes its name from the big bend in the Rio Grande, which starts to deflect southward from its southeast course just at the point where the western tip of Jeff Davis County touches...

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pp. ix-xii

...We received considerable help in preparing and publishing this book. For that assistance we wish to thank a number of people. We are of course grateful for the cooperation of the authors whose studies are featured. We are indebted to members of the staff at the Center for Big Bend Studies who aided and supported us. Particularly helpful were...

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Introduction: Big Bend History and Prehistory

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pp. 1-16

...The Big Bend’s name is derived from the substantial curve of the Rio Grande River. In Mexico, it includes the provinces of Coahuila and Chihuahua. In Texas, the Big Bend/Trans-Pecos includes the counties of Val Verde, Terrell, Pecos, Brewster, Presidio, Jeff Davis, Reeves, Culberson, perhaps Crockett, and, even though they are located east of the Pecos River, Loving, Winkler, Ward, and Crane. Since Hudspeth and El Paso...

I. Prehistory Meets History

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1. Cradles, Cribs, and Mattresses: Prehistoric Sleeping Accommodations in the Chihuahuan Desert

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pp. 19-33

...Although people spend more time sleeping than they do eating or producing tools, archaeologists know considerably more about food preparation and flint knapping than they do about beds and mattresses. Two dry rock-shelters, one in southwestern Texas and one in northern Coahuila, have produced some well-preserved examples of early bedding that was apparently specifically designed to counteract inclement...

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2. Comments on the Prehistory of Far Northeastern Chihuahua, the La Junta District, and the Cielo Complex

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pp. 34-68

...The far northeastern region of Chihuahua is defined arbitrarily as a rectangular area bound on the north by the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte), on the west by the lower reaches of the Río Conchos, on the east by the Chihuahua-Coahuila border, and on the south by a line extending approximately from Cuchillo Parado on the lower Río Conchos to the Sierra Altares on the Chihuahua-Coahuila boundary...

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3. The Rough Run Burial: A Semisubterranean Cairn Burial from Brewster County, Texas

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pp. 69-105

...Prehistoric peoples traversed the rugged Trans-Pecos landscape for thousands of years focused on survival in this harsh and formidable environment. Over the course of time many Native Americans lived and died in the desert, with some remains ultimately interred or disposed of in accordance with various belief systems. Although numerous...

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4. The Río Conchos Drainage: History, Archaeology, Significance

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pp. 106-116

...The Río Conchos drainage is the major river system of Chihuahua. Its major tributaries originate in the Sierra Madre Occidental—one of them (the Río Florido), in the state of Durango. The Río Conchos joins the Rio Grande (Río Bravo) at La Junta de los Ríos, near Ojinaga, Chihuahua, and Presidio, Texas. At the river junction the Río Conchos is the master stream; reportedly, the...

II. History Meets Native Americans

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5. Native American and Mestizo Farming at La Junta de los Ríos

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pp. 119-131

...The lands of La Junta de los Ríos—the junction of the Río Conchos from Chihuahua and the Rio Grande or Río Bravo in the Texas Big Bend—have been home to farming peoples for many centuries. The origins of these farmers in the Late Prehistoric period may lie with migratory Puebloan groups—more properly Jornada Mogollon—who settled La Junta about AD 1200 (Kelley 1986) and who were linked economically to the...

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6. The Peyote Religion and Mescalero Apaches: An Ethnohistorical View from West Texas

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pp. 132-146

...Peyote, an unassuming, spineless cactus known for its mind-altering effects, has for centuries held a central place in the religious traditions of numerous indigenous groups in North America. Most of the contemporary border of the Rio Grande/Río Bravo between the northern Mexico states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Chihuahua...

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7. Spanish-Indian Relations in the Big Bend Region during the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries

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pp. 147-156

...For most of the eighteenth century, the Big Bend was really Apache country. Apache warriors had grabbed this land when they were newly empowered by the horse and irresistibly drawn toward the Spanish frontier source of that animal. In taking the region, Apaches ousted, destroyed, or absorbed countless little groups of indigenous peoples, who vanished into the mists of history...

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8. New Light on Chisos Apache Indian Chief Alsate

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pp. 157-174

...Behind every place name in the Big Bend region of Texas there is a story, and some of these stories are fascinating. Many names are descriptive of a feature or a locality, and their origins are obvious. As examples, Mitre Peak near the Brewster-Jeff Davis county line was first known as Bishop’s Mitre for its shape, and Tornillo Creek in southern Brewster County was named for the Mexican screwbean or tornillo plant, which abounds along its course. Other names may commemorate a person or event...

III. Settlers & Settlements

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9. Settlements and Settlers at La Junta de los Ríos, 1759–1822

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pp. 177-195

...“La Junta de los Ríos del Norte y Conchos,” as Spanish officials frequently called the region, was indeed an appropriate title for it. Located where the Río Conchos empties into the Rio Grande in the vicinity of today’s Ojinaga, Chihuahua, and Presidio, Texas, it has been the center of human habitation along the Rio Grande in the borderlands between...

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10. Mexican American Traditional Foodways at La Junta de los Ríos

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pp. 196-217

...Perhaps more than any other single aspect of Mexican culture, its foodways have been accepted in Anglo culture, and they have influenced the way Anglos eat. Many Anglos have become aficionados of Mexican food. To have something as fundamental as food be not only accepted but liked, sometimes passionately, is to have one’s culture validated. It is a small but important victory over Anglo culture..

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11. Naming Practices among the Black Seminole of the Texas-Mexico Border Region

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pp. 218-237

...Kenneth Wiggins Porter (1971) was the first of a succession of American scholars to focus upon the culturally and ethnically diverse Black Seminole communities of Texas and Mexico. Porter began his research in the early 1940s and continued developing his manuscript about the Seminoles throughout his professional life, although his major work on this topic was not published until after his death...

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12. Transient Clergy in the Trans-Pecos Area, 1848–1892

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pp. 238-275

...The Trans-Pecos region of Texas extends westward from the Pecos River all the way to the El Paso district. Outside that district, where Spanish settlement began in 1682, there was no European-origin settlement until the mid-1800s. Given that great difference in their histories, this chapter does not include the El Paso district. The only Spanish missions established in the rest of the Trans-Pecos region were at La Junta de los Ríos, the confluence of the Río Conchos and the Río del Norte or Rio Grande. The missions established at La Junta on what is now the...

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13. William Rufus Shafter with the Frontier Army in the Big Bend

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pp. 276-287

...William R. Shafter, who in 1898 led the American expeditionary force to Cuba in the Spanish-American War, served for nearly seventeen years on the Texas frontier. A lieutenant colonel of the black 24th Infantry, he was a bulky, lumbering, overweight man, but considered the most energetic man of his rank on the Texas frontier. Although Shafter was coarse and abrasive, his record in Texas, including the Big Bend...

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14. Acculturation on the Rio Grande Frontier: The Founding of San José Del Polvo and the Family of Lucia Rede Madrid

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pp. 288-300

...It was unusually hot and dry in July 1852 when Major William H. Emory rode into Presidio del Norte, leading the American survey team that was mapping the international boundary between the United States and Mexico, as provided for in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The temperatures, which sometimes reach 115 degrees or more in the area, though not recorded at that date, apparently exceeded...

Glossary of Archaeological Terms

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pp. 301-304

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Suggested Readings

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pp. 305-310

...The studies we include here ought to provide both scholars and general readers with relevant secondary sources about the history and prehistory of the Big Bend region of Texas. Many of these works have proven particularly useful to us...

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pp. 311-314

...William A. Cloud is the director of the Center for Big Bend Studies at Sul Ross State University and has extensive archaeological experience in Texas, having served with the office of the State Archaeologist, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Big Bend National Park, and the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory. He is the author of numerous publications and has an avid interest in the archaeology and history of the Big Bend. Cloud lives in Alpine, Texas...


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pp. 315-332

Back Cover

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p. 346-346

E-ISBN-13: 9781623491055
E-ISBN-10: 1623491053
Print-ISBN-13: 9781623490225

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2013