Heritage, Volume 5, Number 3, Autumn 1987 Page: 23
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Early 1900s rockshelter home of Aaron and
Fawcett Shelter: K. E. Fawcett stands in front of
his former rockshelter home.
Fawcett Shelter: E. K. Fawcett's grandson, John
Keyes Finegan in front of his grandfather's
rockshelter home. Note the date July 24, 1883
on the shelter wall.
his father to the chicanery of assuring
his freedom. His rockshelter refuge,
known as Sam Bean Cave, overlooks a
trail that plunges down the steep cliffs
above the Rio Grande, east of Langtry.
The cavern is a double-decker, with
numerous alcoves and crannies. A man
could avoid detection by laying flat on
a ledge beneath the ceiling of the cave
or slip around the rimrock, making good
his escape while pursuers followed the
trail. Sam Bean Shelter is now empty,
not a sliver of glass or scrap of metal betrays
its occupancy by a most infamous
tenant, but Charlie Upshaw's grandchildren
still maintain his gravesite in
The rockshelters of the canyon country
were a natural haven for the archaic
people for almost 10,000 years. Their
domestic debris accumulated meter
above meter, leaving a vivid record of
everyday life. The mounted nomads of
the Plains-the Apache, Kiowa and
Comanche-displaced the last remnants
of the indigenous peoples. These
latecomers were mobile transients who
avoided the deep canyons, preferring to
camp on promontories with sweeping
views of the surrounding country and
ample grazing land for their horses.
The Anglo settlers came with a new
cultural imperative. They too were
transient, exploiting the natural haven
of the rockshelters only as long as it
took to build more conventional homes.
Few permanent features or artifact scatters
testify to their occupancy of these
sites. If it were not for the tales Keyes
Fawcett told his grandsons and the vivid
memories of local residents like Pete
Billings and Jack Skiles, all remembrance
of this facet of early Texas
history would be lost.
Solveig A. Turpin is Associate Director of
the Texas Archaeological Survey, UT,
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 5, Number 3, Autumn 1987, periodical, Autumn 1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45439/m1/23/: accessed January 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.