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Herman: Helping to mark the centennial, again

By Ken Herman
July 9, 2013 at 11 p.m.


Back in 1935, as you'll recall, we all were buzzing (if not tweeting) about the upcoming 100th anniversary of Texas' independence from Mexico.

In preparation for 1936's big party, our legislators, bless their party-loving hearts, created the Commission of Control for Texas Centennial Celebrations (as if you can control something as big as a Texas centennial celebration).

Lawmakers set aside $3 million (they now spend that much on incidentals) for what the law said was "the placing of suitable markers, memorials or buildings at places where historic events occurred." Also to be paid for were "monuments to early patriots of Texas," the purchase of "suitable tracts of land where necessary for an approved celebration," and the "staging of pageants at appropriate places."

We're Texas. We didn't let a Great Depression get in the way of a great pageant.

The funds paid for more than 1,100 markers, statues, memorials and monuments. It's a nice legacy, but stuff (natural and otherwise) happens over the years and now many of the centennial markers need some work. That's why the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission, a non-profit dedicated to "preserving the real places and the real stories of Texas," wants you to send some money.

"Over the past 75 years, these markers have experienced various degrees of vandalism and deterioration from the elements," the organization says in explaining its 1936 Texas Centennial Marker Restoration Project.

Volunteers have been inspecting and documenting the damage, which includes missing details such as wreaths and stars, damaged granite, algae stains, graffiti, movement and (my personal favorite) "cattle damage due to rubbing." Can somebody please speak with the cattle about this?

The project also includes looking for some of the centennial markers.

"Some markers have been barricaded or encased in fencing, knocked down and even buried by the current landowner," project officials note on their website. "The location of some markers has changed significantly in the past 75 years and many are now in undignified or threatened locations, placed in storage or moved to a location without historical relevance."

That's where your money comes in. The Friends of the Texas Historical Commission is seeking to raise $150,000 for repairs and rehab and another $50,000 to prime an endowment for long-term care aimed at never getting in the state of disrepair now faced. Somewhere out there there's a good Texas citizen, corporate or otherwise, that could fund this whole thing.

Bob Brinkman, coordinator of the Texas Historical Commission's historical markers program, has a list showing centennial markers that have lost parts over the years.

In Williamson County, for example, the grave marker for the Webster Massacre has algae and other damage. There's an interesting inscription on that one, which is near FM 2243, two miles east of Leander:

"Here sleep the victims of the Webster Massacre of August 27, 1839. About thirty homeseekers headed by John Webster enroute to what is now Burnet County, were attacked by a band of Comanche Indians. After attempting to flee under cover of darkness, they were trapped in this vicinity. Mrs. Webster and her two children were captured and later released. All the others were killed. Martha Webster then but three years old was later married to Marmaduke Strickland."

It's a historical note written in a then-current vernacular that probably wouldn't be replicated today. And does anybody know any humans named Marmaduke?

For information about the project and how to donate to it, go to tinyurl.com/markerproject.

If you don't want to donate, the least you can do is intervene if you see cattle rubbing against a centennial marker.

<em>- Ken Herman writes for the Austin American-Statesman.</em>

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