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10th Annual Save Texas History Symposium — Graduate Student Research Showcase

Texas General Land Office
Jul 3 · 11 min read

This year, for our tenth annual Save Texas History Symposium, we will examine Texas borderland exploration, from the earliest maps of the Gulf Coast to sovereign Indian territorial claims, and look at defining the Southwest. Join us at the historic Intercontinental | Stephen F. Austin Hotel in downtown Austin for an exciting Texas history event.

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On Friday, September 13 from 1:00–5:00 at the Stephen F. Austin Building, the GLO will host a special event new to this year’s Symposium: the Graduate Student Research Showcase. Included with registration for the Symposium, the Showcase will help foster an emerging generation of Texas history researchers as they present on Texas and the borderlands. Please read on to learn more about them and their work.


Christopher Menking, University of North Texas — Conquered Frontier: How the US Army Helped Change the Geography of the US-Mexico Borderlands

This presentation will demonstrate how the U.S. Army Quartermaster Department left a lasting impact as did the presence on the Lower Río Grande Borderlands, especially the region of South Texas, during the interwar period of 1848–1860.

The results of the war on South Texas and the presence of the Quartermaster Department along the Río Grande served as a catalyst for economic, geographic, social, and demographic changes along this borderland region. Combining primary source analysis of the wartime logistical efforts with a synthesis of divergent military and social histories of the Lower Río Grande Valley borderlands will demonstrate the clear influence of the Department on the development of South Texas during the mid-nineteenth century. The presence of the Quartermaster Department, with lucrative Army contracts, created an economic environment that favored Anglo-American entrepreneurs allowing them to grow in wealth and begin to supplant the traditional Tejano/Mexican-American power structure in South Texas. This Anglo-dominated outcome shaped South Texas for decades to follow. The most visible result being the numerous new towns that appeared on the borderlands map north of the Río Grande.

About Christopher Menking: Christopher Menking is a PhD student at the University of North Texas studying the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands during the Mexican-American War Era. His dissertation is titled: Catalyst for Change in the Borderlands: U.S. Army Logistics during the U.S.-Mexico War and the Post-War Period, 1846–1860. Currently, he is working full time at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth as an Associate Professor of History. Other projects he is working on include a concert of Mexican-American War Music, a book chapter in Battlefields and Homefronts: Expanding Boundaries in Food and Warfare, 1840–1990, for the University of Arkansas Press discussing United States Soldiers’ first interactions with Mexican food, and an article on women during the Mexican-American War. He is expected to graduate from UNT in December of 2019.


Jackson Pearson, Texas Christian University — Borders, Commerce, and Intrigue: The Neutral Ground Agreement and the Environment of the Louisiana-Texas Borderland, 1803–1821

On November 6, 1806, American General James Wilkinson and Spanish Lieutenant Colonel Símon de Herrera averted a potential conflict by negotiating the Neutral Ground Agreement. The agreement declared the region between the Sabine River and Arroyo Hondo as outside the sovereignty of either Spain or the United States pending an international treaty.

My research explores how these officers defined the Neutral Ground’s borders through nature. These “natural borders” divided the region from the sovereign influence of either nation-state’s influence. However, the conception of borders and local realities could not have been more divergent. The nature of this region created a haven for both commerce and intrigue which linked the region with the larger Atlantic world. Traders, revolutionaries, and bandits competed with Native Americans and political officials to define the contours of daily existence. This paper will explore the interconnected relationship between the nature of borders, commerce, and intrigue in the Louisiana-Texas borderland. The paper aims to enhance our understanding of the historical processes which occurred as individuals interacted with the environment in the Louisiana-Texas borderland between 1803 and 1821.

About Jackson Pearson: Jackson Pearson is a PhD Student at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. His research examines the Neutral Ground Agreement and the Louisiana-Texas Borderland beginning with the Louisiana Purchase and concluding with the implementation of the Transcontinental Treaty of 1819. His scholarship focuses on how nature and the environment defined the imperial struggle to establish sovereignty in the Louisiana-Texas Borderland. Prior to arriving at TCU, Jackson earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama.


Maria Vallejo, University of Texas at El Paso — On the Rio Grande: The Mapping of San Vicente del Llano Grande and its Lasting Effects

Often the value and importance of land are overlooked, yet my research places it at the forefront by analyzing how race, class, gender, and citizenship played an integral role in land ownership through the Spanish, Mexican, Texan, and U.S. eras.

The San Vicente del Llano Grande land grant, in the Rio Grande Valley, offers a complex and rich history that is an essential contribution to borderlands history through its assessment of the politics of land use over the Spanish, Mexican, Texan, and U.S. eras while analyzing the ways in which empires, nation-states, families, and individuals reshape their identities over time. The Spanish land grant policies and mapping the Llano Grande are to be the focus of my presentation since many of these practices and markers were contested or disputed after the U.S-Mexico war when the Texas government took over the public lands of the new state. Using a rope to measure, known as a cordel, mesquites or other physical markers were used to map the Llano Grande’s boundary. Located along the Rio Grande, this particular grant offers a view not only into water concerns but the bureaucracy and the systematic fashion that Spain granted land to its residents along the northern frontier colonies.

About Maria Vallejo: María G. Vallejo is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Texas at El Paso. Vallejo is a first-generation Mexican American student who received both her bachelor’s, in Social Studies composite in 2009, and master’s degrees, in History in 2013, from the University of Texas-Pan American, now University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. She entered the Borderlands History Ph.D. program in 2014 and is currently writing her dissertation titled “On the Rio Grande: A Struggle for Land and Citizenship in San Vicente del Llano Grande, 1749–1930.” Deriving her inspiration from her hometown and family history, her research centers on the history of Spanish land grants, gender, class, race, and citizenship throughout the Spanish and early American period in South Texas. Her publications include two book chapters on Rio Grande Valley history and the Llano Grande, as well as an article on Nuevo Santander for the Journal of South Texas.


Alejandra Garza, University of Texas at Austin — Broncos, Brush, and Celebration: Vaqueros and Memory in South Texas, 1900-Present

At twelve years of age, Horacio Evers left school to work on a ranch outside Hebbronville, Texas where he learned bronco busting, participated in cattle round-ups, and branded livestock. From then on, he was a vaquero, a cowboy. Evers was a part of a group of men, mostly Mexican American, who lived and worked on ranches well into their later years and knew the brush like the back of their hand. Studies of Texas ranches have indicated that the cattle industry declined at the turn of the twentieth century, however, they often ignore the cultural element that this industry left behind.“Broncos, Brush, and Celebration” uncovers vaqueros’ individual histories, as well as a communal history of how they came to be revered and celebrated in our times. This research focuses on public festivals that acknowledge the importance of vaqueros, against the backdrop of the ranching industry in the twentieth century. In order to uncover the full impact of this history, we must understand the people who created and curated vaquero culture.

About Alejandra Garza: Alejandra C. Garza is a PhD candidate in the History Department at the University of Texas at Austin and American Historical Association Career Diversity Fellow. Her research centers around twentieth-century South Texas ranching communities. She is interested in how gender, masculinity, environmental, and cultural histories intersect in this region’s history. She examines these communities as sites of memory against the backdrop of the ranching economy. Alejandra is a Texas native and grew up in South Texas. In 2014 she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Texas A&M University-Kingsville with a B.A. in History and a minor in Journalism. She began her graduate career at UT-Austin in Fall 2015 under the direction of Dr. Emilio Zamora. She is also a portfolio student in the Mexican American Latina/o Studies Department.


Ron Davis, University of Texas at Austin — Before the Cattle Run: The Lives of Enslaved Cowboys in Tejas, the Republic of Texas, and the Lone Star State

Between 1866 and 1895, approximately one-quarter of all cowboys on the cattle trail were black. These men learned their trade as slaves. My Project, “Before the Cattle Run” investigates the lived experiences of enslaved cowhands in Texas in the nineteenth century. Through an examination of personal accounts, business records, newspapers, and legal documents, I explore how black cowboys performed labor, forged community, and resisted enslavement. Since the scholarship on enslaved labor in the United States centers on the cash crops of cotton, sugar, and rice, the work of enslaved cowboys is often overlooked. This study contributes to the scholarship on slavery studies and Texas history. It highlights the importance of the work of enslaved cowboys to the expansion of slavery in Texas in addition to the evolution of the American cattle industry. My research opens a window into a seldom examined history, black cowboys in Texas, during the nineteenth century.

About Ron Davis: Ron Davis is a fourth-year graduate student in the History Department at the University of Texas at Austin. He is studying under the direction of Dr. Daina Ramey Berry. His dissertation project examines enslaved cowboys, labor, and resistance in antebellum Texas. Davis received The University of Texas at Austin History Department Research Fellowship for the academic year 2019–2020. He is a twenty-two-year veteran of the U.S. military and served in various capacities through five deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Because of these experiences, his research interests also include exploring the lived experiences of black servicewomen and men from the Revolutionary War to Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. The U.S. Air Force honored Davis with a 4th Air Force Aircrew Excellence Award in 2010 for safely conducting air-to-air refueling with an F-16 Falcon, at night, during a complete loss of electrical power in his aircraft, among other commendations and medals.


Christina Villarreal, University of Texas at Austin — The Shape of Sovereignty: Native American Territoriality in the Texas Borderlands

Texas was never Spanish. Throughout the seventeenth century, indigenous peoples of North America were responding — offensively and defensively — to European colonialism in different ways. Some tribes reinforced their geopolitical positions while others migrated away from colonizing forces. During this period, modern-day Texas had yet to become a site of Spanish settlement. Nonetheless, it was a diplomatic center for Native American affairs. “The Shape of Sovereignty: Native American Territoriality in the Texas Borderlands” examines the impact of Native American territoriality on Spanish colonialism in Texas. Specifically, it analyses how Caddo, Karankawa, and Apache conceptualizations of domain affected Spanish settlement patterns across the eighteenth century. It argues that Native spatial realities, or the ways in which indigenous people used space and divided it politically, continued to influence land use in Texas into the nineteenth century. By limiting the movements of Spaniards, indigenous people mapped the internal and external frontiers of Texas throughout its history.

About Christina Villarreal: Christina Villarreal is a PhD candidate in the field of Latin American history at the University of Texas at Austin. She studies desertion, sanctuary, and asylum in the Spanish Gulf Coast borderlands during the late-eighteenth century. Her work theorizes the relationship between colonial domination and anti-colonial politics and examines how those dynamics played out with different groups of people, specifically in relation to different/shifting racial identities. Villarreal has received support from the Ford Foundation, Fulbright, SSRC Mellon-Mays, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. When she is not working on her dissertation, she enjoys traveling and breaking out into spontaneous song.


Penelope L. Jacobus, University of Texas at El Paso — The Scramble for Texas: The Republic of Texas, European Diplomatic Relations, and Imperialism in the North American Southwest, 1836–1846

Throughout the nine years of its independence, Texas became the subject of diplomatic correspondence of European states, including Britain and France, as well as Prussia and the Hanse Towns. Behind each of these European parties stood commercial interests that dovetailed with imperial motives. The Adelsverein, led by Carl Count zu Castell-Castell, Friedrich Prince of Prussia, and Karl Fürst zu Leiningen, hoped that colonization projects in Texas would enable the German Bund, and Prussia in particular, to participate in the imperial game dominated by Britain and France. Hanseatic representatives hoped that their commercial relations with Texas would establish the Hanseatic cities as more powerful entities in the Bund dominated by Prussia, which sought to gain supremacy over this federation. Through trade with Texas, the Hansa aspired to contest Prussia’s expansion of power within the Bund and secure their status as independent Miniaturstaatswesen (miniature state entities.) Given that Texas was desperate for foreign recognition, French and British statesmen believed that they could assert more influence there and acquire cotton from a raw material producer unlikely to develop significant industry. For Britain, an independent Texas also provided an opportunity to halt the westward expansion of the U.S. and protect Mexico from U.S. imperialism.

About Penelope L. Jacobus: Penelope L. Jacobus is a doctoral student in the Borderlands History Program at the University of Texas at El Paso. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor in Secondary Education in 2016 and a Master of Arts in History in 2018, both from UTEP. Her research interests include European socio-economic and political ties to the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, particularly the Republic of Texas (1836–1845) and Mexico (between 1821 and 1940), as well as nineteenth-century European imperialism. Her dissertation focuses on Euro-Texan diplomacy and its impact on power relations in the American Southwest. In particular, she considers the imperial motives behind European state and non-state actors’ interest in Texas, such as those of British, French, and Prussian officials, Hanseatic merchants and statesmen, and the German Adelsverein (Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas,) as well as how their actions influenced Mexico and the United States.


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Articles from the Texas General Land Office Save Texas History Program

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Save Texas History

Articles from the Texas General Land Office Save Texas History Program

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