by Lucile Estell and Joy Graham
FLAIR magazine, Fall 2012, published: Sherry McCartney
It Takes a Village
On October 8 at 10:00 a.m., officials will unveil the first signed national historic
trail in Texas, El Camino Real de los Tejas, at Apache Pass on FM 908. Milam will be
Texas’ first county to receive National Park Service (NPS) signage, marking part of the
historic 2500 mile trail from Mexico to Louisiana. In addition, Senator Kay Bailey
Hutchison and past Representative Ciro Rodriguez, co-sponsors of the bill creating the
trail, will be honored.
This occasion happens after a year’s planning by El Camino Real de los Tejas National
Trail Association’s president, Lucile Estell, vice president, Joy Graham, and executive
director, Steven Gonzales. They worked with event co-coordinators, Texas Historical
Commission’s April Garner and Santa Fe NPS’s Kristin van Fleet. Together with the Texas
Department of Transportation, Milam County, and elected officials, they determined
the sign’s placement for marking the trail. Even more impressive is that 62 signs
throughout Milam County will highlight the trail’s high potential sites. Locals raised
money for the signs, with 1/3 expenses coming from the NPS’s Intermountain Region in
Santa Fe, New Mexico. Its superintendent, Aaron Mahr, will be attending the ceremony,
The NPS identified Milam County’s six high potential segments on this historical trail:
1) Mission Neutral Candelaria (1749-1755), 2) Mission San Ildefonso (1749-1755), 3)
Mission San Francisco Xavier de Horcasitas (1746-1756), 4) Presidio San Francisco
Xavier de Gigedo (1750-1757), 5) Apache Pass (1539) and 6) Sugarloaf Mountain.
In 1994, Tonkawa Indians returned here to claim the mountain as their birth home.
Not Always Happy, but Definitely Historic, Trails
This network of paths began in 1690, when Spanish explorer, Alonso de Leon, followed
the routes of Indians and buffalo to establish missions. Diaries from early years on
the trail documented travel, early colonization, and missionary efforts. In fact, three
Spanish missions and a presidio operated in 18th century Texas. Weather conditions and
Indian threats determined the trail’s path.
While part of Mexico, Texas’ trails provided passage from Mexico City to East Texas.
Texas’ independence decreased trade with Mexico, but U.S. trade increased. During the
Civil War, the trail provided supplies for the Confederacy and cotton exchange to
Mexico. However, the railroad decreased the road’s use between San Antonio and Mexico.
This occasion will preserve a trail that defined Texas’ early development. With signage
bringing tourism to the Milam County area, Lucile Estell agrees, “This opportunity is a
sign of better times for this area of Texas.”