History, antiques and pie, oh my!
Washington County Revealed
By Laurette M. Veres
Many German settlers arrived in America through the Port of Galveston. They loaded wagons with supplies and their families and headed northwest in search of fertile farming land. It wasn’t the greatest exploration in American history; they found the rolling hills, of what is now Washington County, 130 miles from the port. They settled and thrived, with cotton as their most abundant crop.
Today, you’ll find many Houstonians exiled in this hill-country substitute. Just one hour from downtown Houston, Washington County is known for bed and breakfast experiences, historic homes, wildflowers, Bluebell Ice Cream and homemade pie. It is also the birthplace of Texas.
So Much History, So Close
Most Texans have shouted “Remember the Alamo!” when motivating teammates or facing tough challenges, but do you recall the historic events surrounding this battle? Brush off your seventh grade history book and spend a day at Washington on the Brazos, a 293-acre state park located where Washington, a major political and commercial center, once stood.
Not even ghosts remain from the old town. A cistern from the hotel and remnants of a foundation, believed to have supported Independence Hall, and some weathered pecan trees are the only original artifacts left. In case you can’t find your old textbook and can’t remember the details, Independence Hall was the historic site of the signing of Texas’ Declaration of Independence, which was happening while Jim Bowie and his comrades were fighting to be remembered at the Alamo. Guides here do a great job of re-telling the story and providing fun facts, like why Sam Houston’s signature does not appear on the Declaration.
You will find two other major attractions in addition to Independence Hall- Barrington Living History Farm, and the Star of the Republic Museum.
The Barrington Living History Farm recreates what life was like for Dr. Anson Jones, the last President of the Republic of Texas. The staff raises cotton, corn, cattle and hogs using the same tools and methods the good doctor used in early to mid 1800s. Oxen pull plows around the small, restored farm house he shared with his wife, their 4 children, his wife’s younger siblings and his sister; the group appreciated their large porch and extensive acreage. Servant’s quarters and outbuildings have been recreated to complete the historic depiction.
It will take hours to fully explore the Star of the Republic Museum’s overview of the ten years Texas spent as a country. Back then, steamships smoked up the Brazos and cowboys sang to the herd. It was a rough territory; the museum let’s you experience it through interactive displays, authentic artifacts and original stories.
Continue the Texas experience
Texas Ranch Life owner’s John and Taunia Elick share their love of rodeo and ranching with guests from all over the world. Visitors can experience eight historic homes, a chapel, Spanish hacienda and several rodeo arenas on property. The barn is the main gathering area and Southern hospitality and homemade meals abound. The night we visited, our dinner consisted of barbecue beef, homemade sausage, spinach casserole, biscuits and was topped off with pecan and buttermilk pies.
Looking for easy access to wineries, antiques and more? Wakefield Farms in historic Chappell Hill is a great place to experience modern luxuries. You will enjoy the serene setting as you lounge by the pool, drink wine and enjoy the open space.
From this vantage point, you can easily enjoy a historic tour of Brenham, Chappell Hill, or you can hop on up to Round Top and its antique stores. If so, you must have a stop at Royer’s Round Top Café for some homemade pie and a heaping serving of hospitality. Bud Royer fled Houston in the eighties out of necessity. “There were no jobs in Houston, so I thought I’d give it a try here,” says Bud.
Current Washington County immigrants are more in tune to running wineries and restaurants than growing cotton. The friendly folks desire small town life and refuse from the big city. The area is filled with resilient entrepreneurs who are ready and waiting to help you slow down, ease the burden and enjoy small town pace. Get out of the big city – even for the weekend.
Editor’s note: The proximity to College Station makes this area very Aggie friendly. Gig ‘Em Ags.
Photos by Laurette M. Veres