|Leslie Morales and Johanna Morales||Fall, 2005|
|U.S. History 1302||R. Hines, Instructor|
In April of 1853, a man named Reading W. Black purchased 460,535 acres for the price of $2,500.00. In 1855, Black founded a small town which he originally named Encina, this town was furiously attacked by Seminole, Tonkawa and Lipan-Apache Indians and this, among many other contributing factors, discouraged people from coming to this new town, but after time, Uvalde began to attract settlers with its mine and railroad and thus began to grow. In 1856 the name of the town was changed to Uvalde, after a Spanish governor whose name was Juan de Ugalde, and became the county seat at the time. Reading Black was assassinated after the Civil War, but the town that he left behind would make him proud today.
The town of Uvalde in Uvalde County is located at the crossroads of the nation’s two longest highways, Highway 83 and Highway 90, it is a beautiful town where many people, including winter Texans, make their home and enjoy a peaceful life. The town is known as the "world's honey capital" and it is distinguished by its huge oak trees that give the town an interesting appeal as they sit in the middle of several of its streets- hence it is also known as the “City of trees”.
Uvalde is the official home town of Matthew McConaughey, Hollywood actor and producer who starred in the 1998 film, The Newton Boys, about the famous bank and train robbers that were also from Uvalde. Also, this town was home of the former Vice President, John Nance Garner, who contributed greatly to Uvalde’s Southwest Texas Junior College and whose home is now a museum, The Garner Museum.
Agriculture in Uvalde has always been the mainstay of the economy, with cotton and several winter garden vegetables as the main crops, such as cabbage and cantaloupe. Many people here own ranches where they raise cattle, sheep, and goats. In 1950, a major drought hit Uvalde and affected the crops and herds of many people; this drought cut back the economy of this town and “a lot of people lost a lot of money” said a town resident. Despite the losses, the town did survive and today it continues with a strong agricultural influence. Another great contributing factor to the economy of Uvalde today is the hunting license business. Many ranchers who have large lands lease hunting licenses to visitors and residents alike, this sport is a year round sport in this town.
The town of Uvalde has several interesting stories, some are even funny! There is one of a man whose home had burned down and was rebuilding another (1906-1907) and got arrested for working on a Sunday, or Sabbath. He had been walking around his old home’s site looking for nails to use in his new home and when the town people saw that he was not keeping the Sabbath, they had him arrested. A World War II story is that of a veteran, Jack Lent, who presently lives in Uvalde. During the war, he was shot on the head, the bullet went through his helmet yet he somehow survived. It is hard to imagine being at war, in the midst of all this commotion and rage, then being shot on the head and surviving! It is very likely that Mr. Lent now a senior citizen, must often recall that day when he almost lost his life and lived to tell of the war and his experience fighting in it- he must be very thankful (Interview).
Another interesting and historical story is the one of the famous outlaw, King Fisher, who eventually became a lawful man. Fisher was a man of crime, he rustled cattle and horses and was respected by other criminals, and he even put up a sign on a road that read "This is King Fisher’s road take the other." (Historical marker pioneer cemetery) Fisher was arrested in 1876, by the famous Texas Ranger Leander McNelly and after that he turned from his old and wicked ways and in 1883 he became Uvalde’s sheriff. Fisher was killed in a shootout in San Antonio, and today there stands a marker for him in Uvalde’s historic Pioneer Cemetery.
Located in the corner of 104 W. North St. stands the Janey Slaughter Briscoe Grand Opera House.
Built in 1891 and restored in 1982, this opera house was expected to fulfill the cultural needs of the developing town. At first, it was used for local events such as graduations and such, but then after 1904, professionals came to Uvalde and performed there for the amusement of the townfolk. This two floor building is incredible, both on the outside and the inside, it seats people on the lower floor and on a balcony, which was considered to be for the lower classes. The stage is remarkable, the lighting and everything make this precious historical marker a must see when visiting Uvalde. Today, the opera house is used by the people of Uvalde for its performing arts and several other events.
Another historic site in Uvalde is the John Nance Garner Museum, which was former U.S. Vice President Garner’s home back when he was still living in Uvalde. It is in this home that Garner and his wife lived after Garner’s career ended in 1941. Garner was known as “Cactus Jack” by people because he wanted the state flower to be the prickly cactus instead of the blue bonnet, but he lost in this idea, yet the name President Franklin D. Roosevelt called him stuck. Garner was once called “…the original red-white-and-blue candidate” because of his sunburned face after a fishing trip, his grey hair and his blue eyes (Cox, 273).
A very important historical site as well is the Pioneer Cemetery, there are markers dating back to 1859. Among these markers are the graves of the town’s founder, Reading W. Black, and King Fisher, a famous peace officer of the town. Two of the grave stones state that the person buried was killed by Indians, such as the Lipan-Apache, Seminole, and theTonkawa Indians, the first one read:Ben A. Pulliam, born January 3, 1841, was killed by Indians July 13 A.D. 1873, and the second read:Watkins, born September 19, AD 1836, Assassinated by Indians August 11, 1862, this stone marks the place of his grave and remains. The first man was killed before the town was founded in 1855, and the second was assassinated after the town was founded, and this reveals a glimpse of just how tough it must have been for the settlers, even after the town was established, there seemed to be various attacks from these Indians among the developing town.
Also, the El Progresso Memorial Library- Museum is a very important historical marker in this town. It holds many archives of the town and historic books on the town’s foundation and like topics. This library has just recently been moved to a new location and it is a great place to go and read, and discover about the town's history. On September the 16th, 2005 the library had a display on the World War II and in one of the glass cases there was the very helmet of Jack Lent, for all to see along with many other things belonging to veterans such as boots and pictures, there also were several newspaper articles.
Uvalde today has access to three continuing education institutions; the Southwest Texas Junior College, the Sul Ross University Rio Grande College, and the Texas A&M University Research & Extension Center. As mentioned before, Vice President Garner made notable donations to the Junior College which allows people from Uvalde to study and get their associate in town without having to leave, or drive far away. A bachelor’s and master’s degree are also possible to achieve without leaving home for the people of Uvalde through the University Rio Grande. The continuing education schools bring people in from neighboring towns so this is good for the economy of Uvalde.
World War II resulted in many losses, broken hearts and torn families everywhere in the world, and Uvalde was no exception. One person that was interviewed in the town stated that the boy she went to prom with died in the war, she also said that “almost everyone [she] knew was in the service and some of them didn’t retire” (Interview). Now, some people like Jack Lent, did make it, as mentioned before he now lives in Uvalde with his wife after returning from World War II and surviving a shot that penetrated his helmet. Lent's mother received his helmet before she even knew that her son was alive, this only gives us a glimpse of what people went through because of the poor communication that took place during the war. Many people in Uvalde lost family members and friends, but there were some fortunate people who did get their loved ones back.
Uvalde’s population according to the 2000 U.S. Census was 14,929, with its major ethnicity being Hispanic because of the town’s proximity to the Mexican border. According to an interview with one of the residents, the town is growing because of the “increase in border patrol people” that are coming to Uvalde to guard the border. When walking around town or at the local stores, one may almost become confused and believe to be in Mexico. The people of the town are very kind and the Hispanic influence is dominant, standing at around 75.5 percent (2000 U.S. Census).
The interviewee for this project said that when she first arrived Uvalde, in 1958, there was a lot of racism going on in the town; “they didn’t’ allow blacks to come or even Mexican people to sit at the counter”. Today it is better but there are still a few people who keep the spirit of racism alive in the town, although not with its original Jim Crow laws on the books.
This town seems to be doing well for itself, it is constantly growing because of the migration that takes place from Mexico and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the percentage of Hispanic residents may actually come close to being 100 percent some day. The town, has endured war time, survived droughts, and has expanded in its cultural way of life. The people of Uvalde are very pleased with the town, and it is a great town indeed, beautiful and full of history at every corner, you don’t have to live in this small town to appreciate it, all you have to do is become acquainted with it's history and it's people; The El Progresso Memorial Library- Museum is a great place to start by checking out the towns archives. Next, you should take a whole afternoon and talk to people around town, at the parks, the antique stores and at the Opera House, and Garner museum. You will see that before long you will come to love the small town of Uvalde, Texas.
An Interview with A Resident from Uvalde
LinksThe Handbook of Texas Online
The Uvalde Leader News