Saturday, October 26, 2013



6:30 PM OPEN HOUSE at the Homestead with

 new curator, Brian Almon, on the 


About 20 people came to see the Wells Branch Homestead

 a.k.a. the Gault Homestead at dusk.

With the beat of the Shaman drum, the presentation started at the Community Center with 1850-type refreshments of ginger cake, honey buns, and almond tea.
Virginia Almon, curator of Wells Branch in the line of past curator and resident liar Bill Todd - who taught that Wells Branch is different from Pioneer Farms; we are folkloric and do Education with Showmanship - opened with a saying from John Foster Dulles: 

If only we are faithful to our past, we shall not have to fear our future. The cause of peace, justice and liberty need not fail and must not fail.

Since it is somewhat unusual for a Municipal Utility District to be in the museum business, all present took a moment to recognize and thank the current Wells Branch Trustees, the Well Branch Homestead Board and donors to The Homestead for their support.

 The featured speaker from the Texas General Land Office, was Mr. Buck Cole, Education and Outreach Coordinator.  He began his outstanding Educational program Done with Showmanship on how early land grants from Mexico and Texas influenced the settlements in our area. 

Those present learned that Thomas Jefferson Chambers, in payment for his role as a Mexican supreme judge, was the first to claim a league of land on which Wells Branch and many others are now located.  However, due to the Texas Revolution and the quickness of squatters, Judge Chambers was unable to make claim on all his land.  This valuable information will not change the Wells Branch historical marker which shows a soldier of the Texas Revolution, J.P. Whelin first. Enlisting for three months, Whelin was given an honorable discharge in August 1836. In 1851 he was awarded a grant of 320 acres for his military service to the Republic of Texas.

Whelin made no improvements to his new property, but sold it the same year, through his assignee Francis Brichta of New Orleans, to Nathaniel C. Raymond (1820-1870.) Moving to Texas from Mississippi, Raymond owned the Whelin tract from 1851 to 1853, when he sold it to John M. Gault. According to family tradition, John M. Gault constructed the original section of the cabin on the Whelin grant.

In addition to original land grants, the TX General Land Office has love letters of married couples, and letters from soldiers and pioneers that have been preserved and typed out for ease of reading today.  Communicating back in the 1800s was very different from today.  Mr. Cole whetted our appetite to read or hear the love letters of married couples and concerns of past Texans. I wonder how we can be faithful to our past in this regard. Until we meet again, let us be faithful to the past by being present to those we love, attentive to their needs. 

Mr. Cole concluded his presentation with a drawing for three historical Texas maps.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Long-distance Intern and Day of the Dead


Day of the Dead Lady

                                                       Day of the Dead Sugar Coffin   (see more trinkets below)
Long-Distance Intern Kelly Matsom, a student at University of Seattle who volunteers at the Burke Museum has been guiding Homestead archiving efforts through her volunteer experience at the museum in Seattle. Kelly has emailed the Excel format for artifact records and suggested the PastPerfect software when we are ready.  She is taking a new management class and has mentioned new tools forthcoming.   I wanted to send her a "thank you" and asked what she might want from Texas.  Without hesitation, she mentioned Day of the Dead trinkets. 
 More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death.

It was a ritual the indigenous people had been practicing at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards would try unsuccessfully to eradicate, known as Day of the Dead
The ritual is celebrated in Mexico and certain parts of the United States. Although the ritual has since been merged with Catholic theology, it still maintains the basic principles of the Aztec ritual, such as the use of skulls.

Today, people don wooden skull masks called calacas and dance in honor of their deceased relatives. The wooden skulls are also placed on altars that are dedicated to the dead. Sugar skulls, made with the names of the dead person on the forehead, are eaten by a relative or friend, according to Mary J. Adrade, who has written three books on the ritual.
The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them during the ritual. The skulls were used to symbolize death and rebirth.
The skulls were used to honor the dead, whom the Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations believed came back to visit during the month long ritual.
"The pre-Hispanic people honored duality as being dynamic," said Christina Gonzalez, senior lecturer on Hispanic issues at Arizona State University. "They didn't separate death from pain, wealth from poverty like they did in Western cultures."

To make the ritual more Christian, the Spaniards moved it so it coincided with All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day (Nov. 1 and 2), which is when it is celebrated today.

Previously it fell on the ninth month of the Aztec Solar Calendar, approximately the beginning of August, and was celebrated for the entire month. Festivities were presided over by the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The goddess, known as "Lady of the Dead," was believed to have died at birth, Andrade said.

Last Saturday I went shopping in downtown Austin and found the trinkets:

Day of the Dead Tatoos and Skull
Day of the Dead Earrings

Day of the Dead Paper Alter