Heritage, Volume 4, Number 2, Fall 1986

Cornerstone

THE FAMILY LAND HERITAGE EXHIBIT

by Valerie Crosswell
"Settling in Texas 150 years ago took
courage, tenacity, and the will to survive
in a harsh, sometimes hostile environment.
The timid stayed behind as bold
men and women climbed aboard horses
and wagons to head west. Beneath their
homespun coats beat the hearts of
gamblers. A vast unknown land lay
ahead, holding promise but not without
peril."
So states the Family Land Heritage
Sesquicentennial exhibit, a traveling salute
to the farmers and ranchers of Texas
whose ancestors created a statewide economy
based on their labor and the crops
and livestock that they raised.
Housed in an 18-wheel tractor-trailer
rig emblazoned with an orange sunset and
silhouettes of farm life, the exhibit is
visiting urban and rural communities
throughout most of the state during 1986,
and will spend five weeks this fall at the
Texas State Fair in Dallas. A cooperative
venture from start to finish, the project
was initiated by Central Freight Lines,
Inc., of Waco, and Neal Spelce Communications,
an Austin public relations firm
representing the freight company. Central
Freight was looking for a touring Sesquicentennial
project at the same time the
Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA)
was planning a series of exhibitions based
on Family Land Heritage, a program it
began in 1974, to honor farm and ranch
families who had owned and worked the
same land for 100 years or more. The two
combined efforts with Lufkin Industries,
Inc., which built a special trailer for the
exhibit, and the Texas Motor Transportation
Association, which paid to paint the
spectacular mural on the outside of the
truck.
Since January 15, when it was unveiled
at the state Capitol, the exhibit has
drawn between 400-500 people a day
28

Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Smith. Smith Ranch, Kimble
County. Courtesy Texas Department of
Agriculture.

who walk the long curving aisle that
takes them from past to present. Occasionally
one will stop in front of an old
picture, as a woman in Houston did, not
long ago, and exclaim, "Why that's my
great-granddaddy!" More often, visitors
stand before the Family Land Heritage
Registry, running a finger down a countyby-county
list of 1,894 century farms and
ranches to find the name of a relative
or friend whose life is interwoven with
their own.
Land enrolled in the program dates as
far back as 1740 when Simon de Hinojosa
founded Noriecitas Ranch, under the authority
of the King of Spain, near what is
today Hebbronville. All of the oldest
properties were settled not far from the
Rio Grande by Spanish and Mexican pioneers
who infused the first of many bloodlines
into the agricultural wellspring of

Texas. Their heritage and that of cultures
that followed; Black, Anglo, Northern
and Southern European, is etched in the
faces staring from photographs along the
walls. Solemn, direct, sad, smiling, and
cocky, they represent the reality of hard
work and often harder times from which
the state's romantic legend grew. Fix it up.
Wear it out. Make it do. Do without. It
was a folk rhyme that, as one section of
the display reminds us, nearly everyone
understood.
Visitors who enter the trailer are
greeted at the door by two photographic
images that personalize the historical
giants of Texas agriculture, cotton and
cattle. The larger picture shows 17 men,
women, and children; sacks in hand, facing
the camera in a snowy field of Travis
County cotton. To its left, a cowboy cuts
a steer from a herd of cattle as a recorded
voice asserts: "The greatest wealth of
Texas is not in oil and gas wells, hightech
industries, or the giant bank towers
that dominate our urban skylines.
Rather, it is the land, the water, the sun,
and the people who, for generations,
have fed us."
Austin exhibit designer John Ianelli
organized the exhibit into six main pictorial
sections headed "Early Life," "Agriculture
in Texas," "Homesteads," "Texas
Weather," "Rural Life in Texas," and
"Transportation." Part of "Transportation"
is devoted to histories of Central
Freight and Lufkin Industries. Photographs
were enlarged and mounted by the
Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio.
Artifacts, some dating to the
1830's, are displayed to expand the exhibit's
scope with concrete examples of
the past. A reproduction of an 1839 color
map provides a topographical view of
Texas during the Republic.
Even before the Republic was established,
Mosea Rousseau had moved his
family from Alabama to Texas, where he
patented land in 1830, in what is now

Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 4, Number 2, Fall 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45442/. Accessed May 26, 2016.

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