History Tour

Nancy Austin By Nancy Austin, 7th May 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

This jam packed how-to-guide predicts the future of your history tour although you never know exactly what you might come across along your journey into a time before your own. Learn the path of local legends and necessary haunts.

Introduction To History

You don't have to be a historian to track down and appreciate the past. In just a few minutes, you could be on your way. History is literally everywhere. Google historical markers for your area and get started today. You may even decide to expand your search county or state wide.

As you reach the city limits stop at the visitor's center and you'll be glad you made the essential, extra effort. It's usually in the heart of historic downtown. Here you'll score free brochures and maps to help you on your mission. You might even come across something of historical significance before you ever leave their grounds as we did in Corsicana at their visitor's center housed in an old train station. Talk to the people who monitor and operate your center for more information if they are available and on duty. During off hours you might find pamphlets in a plastic case near the front door. You can keep them as souvenir's and use them as reference materials.

Now, onto the bigger picture. The courthouse is a lasting staple of early government in counties across America so it's a fitting place to begin understanding the people who came before us. This is where local laws were put into place and enforced by judge and jury. A county's heritage should be well documented, but don't take my word for it. Your quest begins on the court house lawn and you can take it inside those historical walls as well if you wish. Look for the plaque out front where history's details are inscribed.

Hunting down history can be exciting with all the legends and legacies. The courthouse in Waxahachie, Texas has been standing since 1897. They've taken great pain to keep it in uniform condition. The swift architecture alone draws a crowd. Just to indicate it's consistent notoriety, I'm reminded of my husband's experience. He was told in the 1970's it was reported to be already haunted. He visited at night with his classmates from the YMCA camp. This made for a very memorable or shall we say haunting trip he will never forget. No ghosts were sought, but it's still exciting.

Churches, Schools And Libraries

You might be surprised your history hunt will take you to church. It's true, they were the pillar of the community just as they are today. This is where early settlers gathered to pray for a healthy abundance of crops at the end of a long, back breaking week on the farms and in the fields. Their livelihood when it was lacking could be supplemented with good times and reliable friends. In fact, when the town's economy failed the church was the last structure standing long after the congregation moved elsewhere.

During the social, political and economic crisis of the civil war many churches were in danger of closing their doors. In addition to differences in opinion concerning the issues of the time in question, progress was hampered due to lack of support in funding church activities. The Great Depression resulted in similar financial unrest for these religious institutions. From this lesson we learn the church is an organization in certain ways no different from any other sponsored workshop worthy of respect for it's debts and dues.

Here we go from the temple to the chalk board. Many original schools are designated as historical landmarks. Pine Mountain Settlement School in the Appalachian Mountain region of Southeastern Kentucky opened it's doors in 1913. It was a boarding school and later a day school. Through-out my life, I've known folks who attended this school. They are happy to report it's still in use today. This national historic landmark continues the tradition of quality education with workshops, environmental studies and yoga retreats. It's also available for weddings and other events. I'm sure their first teachers would be very pleased with the continued progress.

Schools in general play a worthwhile part in educating the public about the past. Colleges and universities practice preserving the past through various programs. For example, Pearce Museum at Navarro Community College in Corsicana, Texas houses a variety of artifacts, important letters and valid documents pertaining to the civil war. This department is open to anyone with an interest in this subject.

Then, there's the local library where historical information is presented on various platforms. Libraries are well known for maintaining genealogy records, but that's not all they do. Tri-County Library in Mabank supports a group known as, Daughters of the Republic of Texas. During monthly meetings they share their ancestral research hearkening back to the days when the lone star state was an independent country. A multitude of history themed clubs exist nationwide. Join one or start your own today.

Cemetaries And Parks

Although the cemetery might be a little creepy and it's certainly not my favorite place, you can't get any closer to those who made history. Here you might find monuments paying homage to early settlers and others who shaped the community. Perhaps, you are intent on finding the plot of a particular ancestor. Respect for those who have passed on is one way to show reverence for your historical roots.

The department of recreation owns a reputation for educating and empowering the community. Along your tour, your journey will take you to public parks where you will find fine, iconic displays. Petroleum Park in Corsicana is proud to commemorate the birthplace of the state's oil industry with the historic war cannon, an original oil derrick and a blacksmith site. Of course, sometimes you can find what you're looking for at the playground. Yes, you heard me correctly. You might discover an early automobile or old tractor parked next to a slide and swing set. For a hands on example, at Community Park in Corsicana we explored a retired fire truck complete with wood seats. We can consider ourselves very lucky to hold onto these things, because they're essential to learning with our eyes as our guide. There's no limit to the creativity and imagination of a civic minded volunteer.

Local Economy

Your local economy had to start someplace. The first major course of income becomes part of the town's apparent legacy. Some businesses have managed to stay in shape while others have closed down. Near Kerens on the way to Corsicana the cotton gin is still up and running today. In October, fluffy sheets of this carefully processed product are stacked outside where they can be viewed from the street just in time to celebrate harvest and heritage.

In Athens a roadside reminder is all that remains of their first factory. A press and plunger on display are a permanent vantage point. Tourists stop to admire history's relics as they imagine brick being made from clay in the early days. A couple of benches exist so traveler's can take in the sites and sounds of the busy area. It's a serene environment on the edge of a productive community. This is a must see attraction if you happen along the East Texas way through Henderson County.

When the economy failed, small towns faced the possibility of loosing resident land owners. The impact could be felt for generations to come in some locations. People literally packed up and left home to start over. Another tour you can take originates in these ghost towns as they're usually called. How do you find one? If there's nobody there to advertise this can be a difficult duty especially when new communities are built in place of the original.This occurred in one East Texas town now known as Cross Roads, Texas in Henderson County. It's a small unestablished neighborhood. You won't know you've actually entered what used to be called, Science Hill unless you look closely into the history and ask the residents. We drove around past night fall before figuring this out. The Methodist Church, Patterson Cemetery and the land itself are all you'll find left of yesteryear here. This is what happened to the cotton industry during the civil war when they couldn't adapt to new social and economic changes.

At The Museum

The museum is a resourceful way to locate a reasonable or rightful amount of data at once while encountering nostalgia and channeling classic charm. Think of this visit as being on your feet at school. You're not only opening the pages of a text book, you're walking through the halls of history. After all, the content is real. You've read about ancient villages. Now, you're face to face with the artifacts ready to make real life observations upon which solid educations are built.

What you might find in a museum will vary depending on where you go. At the history museum in Canton, Texas my family were intrigued to learn of their bell collection, the largest in Van Zant county. The bells are behind glass, but you can certainly imagine ringing each one. Take a moment to capture a creative vision of how these bells might be put to use. Could someone please ring the king for his supper? Excellent.

You might be surprised, museums can be situated in any small town. They're not found only in mega cities. The Ellis County Museum of Local History beckons spectator's in as they pass by the window downtown in the old part of this vintage city. They allow you to sign their book permitting you to stamp your name on a piece of their property. You feel like royalty. Centers of history and historical intrigue have a way of regarding each patron as an important visitor.

Antiques And History

Everything you set out to learn and more is available on your history tour. Now, let's go window shopping. Strumming through thrift stores and antique shops the avid seeker can find many remnants straight out of time. You might run across historically significant items such as the iconic wash board, a turn of the century wedding dress, or early advertisements including small billboards and a multitude of signs depicting the birthday of popular culture. Andy Warhol, anyone?

Clearly and dearly, you can learn a lot from an afternoon of garage sales. A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I spotted a 1920's baby carriage for sale in someone's yard. We weren't in the market for such an item, but I did check it out. That's how I learned the seat was made out of wood. Driving around in search of noteworthy sites, it usually runs through my mind the notion of what secret treasures home owners might have tucked away in their attic or basement. It's fun to create your own antique's roadshow and you can do this if you're a travelling picker who actually tries to meet with people in accordance to their collections or you're simply going from garage sale to garage sale.


The lessons we learn from history are irreplaceable. There's a reason anthropologists engage archeologists and share their findings with other historians. Civilizations grow from where they've been in the past. History is central to the heart of a social education. No one looks back wanting to be Bonnie and Clyde or Hitler hopefully. Boys grow up fascinated with Daniel Boone and Stephen F. Austin. Girls relish the story of Betsy Ross and her vision for the American flag. Likewise, everyone wants to grow up under the instruction of Abraham Lincoln. We're united in our dreams for our country then and now. Look around you. History is where we live. New stories are being written every day.


Artifacts, Civil War, Education, Field Trips, Historic Buildings, Historic Places, Historical Documents, Historical Monuments, History, History Of United States, Texas Towns, War Memorials

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author avatar Nancy Austin
I'm a freelance writer interested in poetry and social issues, gardening and the outdoors. .

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author avatar Ptrikha
12th May 2015 (#)

I too have a keen interest in history. So, whenever I am touring somewhere, I am keen to know: When did something came into being, who used to reside there earlier, how have the cultures evolved and so on.
It is so exciting to know and follow.

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author avatar Nancy Austin
13th May 2015 (#)

Yes, Ptrikha. I agree.

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