longer than most of us can remember, Texans have been squabbling over which community
is the state’s oldest.|
The principal players
in this ongoing feud are a couple of East
Texas cities, Nacogdoches
and San Augustine,
and a West Texas village, Ysleta.
Now, it appears there may be another contender.
History watcher Billy
Bob Crim of Kilgore recently
sent us an article from Marfa’s Big
Bend Sentinel indicating that Presidio,
on the Texas-Mexico border
in the Big
Bend country, may also be a player in the oldest town competition.
it recently observed only its twentieth anniversary as a municipality, Presidio
claims it was first inhabited about 1200 A.D., more than 500 years before the
Declaration of Independence, and was founded in 1683 when Jesuit priests from
El Paso established a
number of missions in the area, an event commemorated by Presidio’s
Santa Teresa de Jesus Catholic Church each fall.
Archeologists claim hunter-gatherer
tribes came to the valleys of the Rio Grande and Rio Concho rivers about 1200
claim as the oldest town is based on archeological research which established
that mounds found in the area date from approximately 1250 A.D. when Indians built
lodges along LaNana and Banita creeks, which converge just south of Nacogdoches.
The mounds were found to contain human bones and pottery.
Augustine also had an Ayish Indian village as early as the 1200s and the
first European visitors arrived there early in the 1540s. In 1717 Father
Antonio Margil de Jesus established a Spanish mission near the Indian village
on Ayish Bayou.
Ysleta, now part of the city of El
Paso, has been continuously occupied since 1682 when the Tigua Indians came
here from their pueblo at Isleta, New Mexico. The Handbook of Texas says with
a touch of reservation that Ysleta “is perhaps the oldest town in Texas.”
East Texans take the half-hearted assumption with more than a grain of salt.
Even Presidio’s claim is a
little weak. Archeologists say details of the region’s archeology remains spotty.
“We’ve worked on this thing for years, and we’re still not able to work out who
was where at what time,” admitted Bob Mullouf, director of the Center for Big
Bend Studies at Sul Ross State University.
Every town seems to have its
own way of staking a claim in the oldest town sweepstakes.
We like the
story told us by a Nacogdoches
resident with a good memory. He says a local booster wanted to make the claim
that Nacogdoches was Texas’
oldest town and went to a historian at Stephen F. Austin State University. He
asked him: “Can anyone prove we aren’t the oldest town?”
thought about it for a few minutes and concluded, “Nope, I don’t think they can.”
said the booster, “from now on, we’re the oldest town in Texas.”
Bowman's East Texas
January 18, 2009 Column.
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers
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