The larger-than-life story of the Lone Star State
Encapsulating the 500-year saga of the one-of-a-kind state of Texas, this interactive book takes readers from the founding of the Spanish Missions and the victory at San Jacinto to the Great Storm that destroyed Galveston and the establishment of NASA’s Mission Control in Houston while covering everything in between. Texas History for Kids includes 21 informative and fun activities to help readers better understand the state’s culture, politics, and geography. Kids will recreate one of the six national flags that have flown over the state, make castings of local wildlife tracks, design a ranch’s branding iron, celebrate Juneteenth by reciting General Order Number 3, build a miniature Battle of Flowers float, and more. This valuable resource also includes a timeline of significant events, a list of historic sites to visit or explore online, and web resources for further study.
About the Author
Karen Bush Gibson is the author of Native American History for Kids, Women Aviators, Women in Space, and three dozen other books for young readers.
Read an Excerpt
Texas History for Kids
Lone Star lives and legends, with 21 activities
By Karen Bush Gibson
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2015 Karen Bush Gibson
All rights reserved.
The sun was shining upon Glen Rose, in the north central part of Texas. It was the kind of day made for being outdoors. And that's just where nine-year-old George Adams was. Instead of going to school one day in 1909, George decided to go exploring at the nearby Wheeler Branch Creek, which was part of the Paluxey River. George probably scanned the ground for interesting bugs and tested himself by throwing rocks toward the other side of the creek.
George stopped what he was doing as soon as he saw something strange in the shallow clear water — the tracks of a large animal with three toes on each foot. It looked like the tracks of a giant bird. George was interested, and a little scared. He ran to school to tell his teacher and principal what he found. The school had an impromptu field trip to see the tracks.
They weren't the only people to see the tracks at the Paluxy. The river was also popular with moonshiners like Charlie Moss, who was scouting locations to set up a still to brew illegal liquor when he came across the tracks.
Southern Methodist University paleontologist Dr. Ellis Shuler identified the tracks as belonging to a theropod dinosaur, one that primarily traveled on two feet. Dr. Shuler published a paper about the tracks in 1918. Afterward, the tracks were largely forgotten, although replicas were made and sold at tourist stops throughout the Southwest. That's where fossil collector R. T. Bird saw the theropod tracks, at a trading post in Gallup, New Mexico. Bird, who worked for the American Museum of Natural History in New York, thought the tracks showed amazing detail. He decided to return to New York through Glen Rose, Texas.
The actual tracks were even more impressive. Bird believed that they probably belonged to the Acrocanthosaurus, a smaller relative of Tyrannosaurus rex. The tracks ranged from 12 to 24 inches long and 9 to 17 inches wide. And there were more. Bird was able to uncover more of the trackway, a collection of the footprints as the dinosaur moved.
While looking for more theropod tracks, Bird came upon a print that looked like an elephant track. But it wasn't; it belonged to a sauropod. Not only was it the first he had ever seen, it was also one of the clearest prints anyone had ever found of the four-legged dinosaurs.
Upon further investigation, Bird discovered a trackway with prints from multiple dinosaurs, both sauropods and theropods. Bird's theory was that the smaller, carnivorous the-ropods were chasing the larger plant-eating sauropods. Sauropods traveled in herds with the adults on the outside and the youth in the middle. Moving only 2.7 miles an hour, they needed to use size to their advantage to escape the faster theropods traveling 5 miles an hour.
Although Glen Rose is located in the Paluxy River Valley where evergreen woodlands and prairie grasses cover the terrain, it hadn't always looked like this. During the Cretaceous period, Glen Rose was on the Texas coast, and a shallow sea covered the area. The shells of crustaceans left the area rich in limestone, so the dinosaurs left their tracks in calcium-rich mud.
Twenty-one of the 300 known dinosaur species lived in what is now Texas. Discoveries made so far suggest that dinosaurs first appeared in the late Triassic period before flourishing in the Cretaceous period. The tracks at Glen Rose became Dinosaur Valley State Park, and people come from around the world to see them.
About 113 million years ago limestone, sandstone, and mudstone was deposited along the shoreline of an ancient sea. Over the last million years, the river has sculpted the rock and worn it down to reveal large amounts of rocky ground on the river bottom.
Upriver from Dinosaur Valley State Park, the paleontology department from Southern Methodist University was at work on dinosaur bones found at a ranch in 2007. Graduate student Peter Rose had never seen anything like them. At 60 to 70 feet long and 12 feet high, the 20-ton dinosaur had a long neck, even longer than its tail. Interestingly, its footprints matched those of the sauropod tracks in Glen Rose. The dinosaur was named the Paluxysaurus jonesi in 2007 and designated the Texas state dinosaur two years later.
About 65 million years ago, the dinosaurs disappeared. A giant meteor hit the Earth so hard that tidal waves traveled inland at least 150 miles from the coast, depositing treasures from the sea in the Brazos River area. Mammoths, giant armadillos, and other prehistoric mammals replaced the dinosaurs.
Both dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals left behind bones, fossils, and tracks that can be seen at museums throughout the world. In recent years, the Houston Museum of Natural History and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas have joined the world's museums in showcasing the early prehistory of Texas.
In 1989, 12-year-old Johnny Maurice and his father were looking for shark's teeth in the yellow-gray shallow mud near Fort Worth. The region was once a marine area, and fossilized remains of marine animals have been found there by amateur fossil hunters and professional paleontologists. Instead of shark teeth, Johnny found the bones of the first baby nodosaur, an armored dinosaur related to the ankylosaurus. Scientists say that this nodosaur died soon after hatching. Later, 19-year-old Cameron Campbell found an adult nodosaur skull in the same area.
And dinosaur discoveries continue to be made. In Arlington, a city between Dallas and Fort Worth, excavations began in 2008 in an area called the Arlington Archosaur Site, located just down the street from a Starbucks. The area, once a swampy bog, holds a treasure trove for scientists. There, researchers have found a complete skeleton of an early duck-billed dinosaur, in addition to a new species of theropod. The area also includes prehistoric crocodiles, fish, sharks, turtles, plants, and trees.
Like paleontology, the studies of archeology and anthropology are always evolving. New techniques for dating, analyzing, and preserving artifacts continue to be developed. For example, artifacts that include organic matter can now be accurately dated with carbon-14 or radiocarbon dating.
Examples of early human life are also being continually discovered. Soon after the Clovis (New Mexico) sites excavated in the 1930s estimated early human life in North America at 10,000 years old, discoveries in Texas forced scientists to take another look.
Midland County is located midway between Fort Worth and El Paso, which is how it got its name. It's located in the Texas High Plains where water is less than plentiful. This area is also called the Permian Basin, an area thick with rocks from the Permian geologic period. The basin is also a significant location for oil and gas, and the petroleum industry has long been a chief employer. Oil and gas are fossil fuels that come from the remains of animals and plants from 300 million years ago.
One day in 1953, pipeline welder Keith Glasscock was six miles south of the town of Midland, on the Scharbauer Ranch. He and his son were traipsing around looking for arrowheads; plenty had been found in the Midland area. The son found some bone fragments and brought them to his dad. Glasscock, an amateur archeologist, looked at the area where his son had found the fragments. After looking around more, he found a fossilized skull, a rib, and two bones from a foot — all from a human who lived a very long time ago. This was the first discovery of the Midland Man.
Glasscock didn't disturb the site any further, but notified some archeologists he knew. Four months later, a group of archeologists from Texas and New Mexico arrived. They dug a six-foot-square pit and collected samples of animal life in order to help date the site — extinct species of horses, sloths, mammoths, and four-horned antelope were found. The more searching and analyzing they performed, the more the archeologists became convinced that several early transportation routes had crossed the area.
Other discoveries, such as dinosaur tracks discovered at Fort Stockton, shed more light on the region. Around 100 to 120 million years earlier, 30-foot long iguanodons waded through the shallow waters of the Permian Sea. Trilobite fossils found in the area dated the site to around 360 million years old because that's when the trilobites had died out.
When funding arrived from a New York foundation, the archeologists returned for more extensive excavations of the "Midland Man." More human bones were found. The dry, sandy Midland County had actually once been an oasis with a cool, humid climate that helped preserve fossils.
The bone fragments were sent to the University of Michigan where carbon dating revealed that they were more than 10,000 years old. And that's not all the fragments had to say. The Midland Man was actually "Midland Minnie," an approximately 30-year- old woman with bad teeth and type A blood. Hers were the oldest human remains found in the New World so far.
And Midland Minnie wasn't alone. In 2001, US Fish and Wildlife Service workers were digging on the coastal plains south of Houston near the Gulf of Mexico. When they realized they had cut the top off a human skull, they immediately stopped and contacted authorities. While initial indicators suggested it was 13,000 years old, a piece of that skull was sent to the University of Arizona for radiocarbon testing. The skull was determined to be female and 10,700 years old.
Archeological consultant Robert d'Aigle wondered if Brazoria Woman, as this skeleton became known due to her location in Brazoria County, had sunk in the coastal bog or been buried face down. Archeologists from Texas A&M University were called in to help with the excavation. The young woman had been purposefully buried face down with her arms crossing her chest.
Other ancient human remains have been unearthed in Texas as well. Albert Redder and Frank Watt discovered the remains of an adult man and a child in Bosque County on the west bank of the Brazos River in 1970. They were discovered in a rock shelter formed by limestone erosion. The site is known as Horn Shelter 2. Examination of the adult skull places it approximately 11,200 years ago; it's also been determined by scientists from the Smithsonian and various universities that the skeletons did not resemble modern Native Americans. Instead, the discovery from the late Ice Age seemed connected to earlier people, perhaps from the San Patrice and Dalton cultures of the Southeast.
By systematically examining each layer at Horn Shelter 2, scientists have been able to learn more about different groups who have lived and visited the area. Much can be learned about a society by examining what they ate. How did people get their food and prepare it? Did they share food? What were the social relationships and physical health like?
Life in Texas has been around for a very long time.
The Early Humans of Texas
If you venture into the Lower Pecos area of southwest Texas, look at the rock walls carefully. You just might see a message from someone who lived 4,000 years ago. The canyons and rock shelters along the Pecos, Devils, and Rio Grande Rivers are home to one of the largest collections of prehistoric pictographs in the Americas. While some of the pictographs are found on private land, a large concentration of pictographs is being preserved in Seminole Canyon State Park.
With fibrous plant leaves for brushes and shells or flat rocks for palettes, artists created a significant amount of art. Various minerals provided different hues. Hundreds of pictographs, ranging from a single picture to areas that stretch hundreds of feet, tell the stories of people who lived thousands of years ago.
The purpose and meaning of the rock art aren't always clear. Many of the pictures, referred to as the Pecos River Style art, include spear throwers. It has been suggested that some of the murals show people's beliefs at the time, such as shamanic journeys to the land of the dead. Were the pictographs a means of communication? A historical record? An artist's canvas? We'll never know.
What is known is that life existed long before artists began using the limestone of the Pecos River valley for paintings. Bones of prehistoric mammals — mammoths, camels, ancient bison, giant armadillos, giant short-faced bears — have been uncovered in the Lubbock area. They are dated up to 7,000 years earlier than the paintings.
Midland Minnie and the Horn Shelter Man lived in Texas 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, but what came after them? In the far northeast part of Texas, known as the Panhandle, a hunting and gathering society lived in stone dwellings along the Canadian River. The first excavations at "Old Buried City" done in 1900 uncovered many single room dwellings suggesting a large population.
And then there were the strange arrangements of rocks that west-central Texas ranchers found on their lands. Known as cairns, the circular piles of rocks varied in size, but many looked down on valleys and canyons. Whispers of Indian burial grounds were common, and they were actually correct. When archeologists investigated the stone mounds perched upon ridges above the Brazos and Colorado Rivers, they found the human remains of men, women, and children.
The cairns appeared to be a type of cemetery from the Late Prehistoric time period, from about 800 CE (Common Era) to 1300 CE. During this time, people farmed, picked berries, and hunted both small game and large game, like rabbits and mammoth, in this area of Texas. Spears were the most effective hunting tools.
Water from the Brazos and Colorado Rivers and their tributaries flowed until the year 750, when there was a significant drought. There may have been movement as groups moved to be closer to water or conflict as people competed for resources. Big game probably died out, and subsequent cultures hunted the smaller bison and deer familiar to us today.
More dirt mounds were found in East Texas, in an area known as Pine Tree Mound. Excavation didn't start until 2004. The artifacts uncovered then point to an important agricultural society, called the Caddo, that existed from the 1300s until possibly the 1700s. Archeologists believe that Pine Tree Mound was the social and political center of the Nadaco Caddo province.
At Pine Tree Mound, 12 to 15 households surrounded three temple mounds and ceremonial buildings where leaders probably lived. Each household was circular, about 20 feet in diameter, and covered in thatch. Not everyone lived in the main village, which probably contained about 125 people. Other homes were scattered in nearby valleys. Ceremony was an important part of the society, and the priests and/or leaders had much power.
The Spanish started arriving by the mid-1500s and traveled a popular trail, the Hasinai Trace, which ran close to Pine Tree Mound. However, little is known about any encounters between the Nadaco Caddo and Europeans. All that is known is that the Nadaco Caddo seemed to fade away. Some may have joined other bands of Caddo. The population may have also been affected by the introduction of disease by the Europeans.
Science has long said that the Clovis society produced the first humans in North America. This theory states that Native Americans first crossed the Bering Land Bridge into North America. Clovis societies were initially identified by the type of type of tools and weapons found at the Clovis site in New Mexico.
Some archeologists question the theory that the first humans in North America were of the Clovis society, ancestors of today's Native Americans. Some studies have produced DNA evidence that says this might not be true. Other archeological sites suggest that human life in the Americas is actually much older. One site is in Chile. Another one may be the Buttermilk Creek site (also known as the Debra L. Friedkin site) in central Texas.
Buttermilk Creek is in Hill Country near the town of Salado. Excavations started in 2006 when archeologist and professor Michael Waters from Texas A&M University excavated tools with smaller blades than those associated with the Clovis culture. Artifacts were discovered in older sediment layers. Waters believes that the over 15,000 artifacts discovered suggest the site is 13.2 to 15.5 thousand years old. There's much disagreement among archeologists, but excavations and analysis continue.CHAPTER 2
The Texas Missions
By the 16th century, Texas was filled with three types of people.
First, there were the coastal Native Americans, like the Karankawa, who mainly lived off what the ocean provided. Although they were nomadic, the Karankawa remained in a small region, from Galveston Bay southwestward to Corpus Christi Bay. They made their homes on the coast of the long line of barrier islands. Each band of 30 to 40 people was ruled by a chief who let the weather and food supply dictate where they set up their wigwams. Smoke signals between the bands worked as well as today's social media in letting members know where to meet for ceremonies or mitotes. At mitotes, the Karankawa enjoyed dancing and playing warlike games. A favorite pastime was wrestling. Occasionally, bands would also join forces to fight off other Native American tribes.
Excerpted from Texas History for Kids by Karen Bush Gibson. Copyright © 2015 Karen Bush Gibson. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 Cretaceous Times,
2 The Texas Missions,
3 The Republic of Texas Is Born,
4 Statehood and Settlement,
5 War Comes Again,
6 Home on the Range,
7 The Great Storm,
8 From Oil Boom to Space Age,
9 The American Southwest,
The Road to Texas,
Places to Visit,