Big Bend
Administrative History
NPS Logo

CHAPTER 3:
First Impressions: A Critical Year of Park Planning, 1935

Enthusiasm ran high in the winter of 1934-1935 for creation of a national park in the Big Bend country. Brewster County officials had secured federal funding for a CCC camp in the Chisos Basin, NPS staff members had visited the potential site to initiate scientific surveys, and the Texas congressional delegation had signaled its willingness to sponsor enabling legislation. Mexican officials under the reform leadership of President Lazaro Cardenas announced their intention to establish a joint U.S.-Mexico international peace park, akin to the Canadian-American venture connecting Glacier and Waterton Lakes parks. At the same time, the sluggish economy dictated delays in Texas' desire to pay for the massive land acquisition program mandated by federal law. U.S. officials also chafed at the restrictions that Texas placed upon land transactions between private owners and public entities. Not until the onset of World War II, with its massive federal expenditures for weapons procurement, food and fiber production, and employment in the public and private sectors, did Texas's leadership agree to contribute its share of financial resources. Thus a careful analysis of the "first impressions" of all parties to the formation of Big Bend National Park might reveal the lessons learned in the first year of park planning.

Indication of the seriousness of the NPS's position on Big Bend came in January 1935, when ECW regional director Herbert Maier released a lengthy report on the geology, vegetation, wildlife, history, boundaries, and international dimensions of Big Bend National Park. Consisting of a series of studies begun in the fall of 1934, and serving as the rationale for El Paso Congressman R. Ewing Thomason's bill to establish the NPS's first park site in Texas, the report outlined the complexity of Big Bend's appeal. "The Big Bend area is the last great wilderness area of Texas," wrote the NPS official, with "the reason for the long isolation . . . [being] its low economic value." Other than quicksilver operations at Mariscal, Study Butte, and Terlingua, "there has been no need for arteries of trade." The ECW did not seek control of the entire ecosystem of 3.5 million acres, "since the northern portion thereof consists principally of dry plain having no superlative features." Maier and the NPS staff members did see value in recognizing the presence of Mexico across the border. "The romance of old frontier Mexico," said the report, "is in the atmosphere of the Big Bend region." Echoing the sentiments of Everett Townsend, Maier believed that "everything should be done in developing the area to preserve for the tourists seeking rest and relaxation the Spanish-Mexican feeling of manana." This meant pursuit of the "highly intriguing . . . aspects of a possible international park." Finally, the state of Texas, which Maier identified as the "largest state in the Union," had no national park unit, an oversight that Big Bend could correct. [1]

While the park service's preliminary endorsement of a site along the Rio Grande stimulated much public interest, the NPS recognized many challenges awaiting its personnel. Maier informed Conrad Wirth, at that time the director of the ECW's state-park program in Washington, that Congressman Thomason had solicited advice from Everett Townsend, now designated "project manager" of the "land acquisition program." Two features of local interest concerned Maier: the potential for increased land values, and the independent initiative for an international park. Maier knew that "West Texas had National Park aspirations for this area and carried out publicity accordingly long before we came into the picture." For that reason, "it is . . . difficult to entirely smother publicity especially since a CCC Camp has been installed there." Regarding the international park idea, "while I believe it will be a most outstanding thing if such an international recreational area of this scope could be realized," Maier sensed that "such a thing is far in the offing." Speaking prophetically to Wirth, Maier contended that "Mexico would move very slowly in such a matter since she has done little in large park development." History also would affect any negotiations for the venture, as "the Mexicans and Texans were pretty bitter toward each other in the old days." Maier predicted that "a National Park on the U.S. side would have to be a glorious relationship before the Mexicans would enter into the thing with gusto." [2]

Beyond the dream of Mexican-U.S. collaboration, Maier faced the task of acquiring land on the American side of the border in the event that Congress approved Thomason's bill. In January 1935, the ECW district director wrote to Dan T. Gray of the University of Arkansas to explain the preliminary steps to define the scale and scope of land purchases in Brewster County. The NPS hoped to accelerate park creation by including much of the acreage under the New Deal program of "sub-marginal land projects." This initiative allowed for federal purchase of lands considered unfit for future agricultural production, and their restoration for purposes of recreation and wildlife habitat. To that end, the NPS had hired Everett Townsend to classify all of the potential acreage, pursuant to an official survey and campaign for acquisition. "It takes a great many years," Maier told the Arkansas university dean, "to get the land matters straightened up in an area considered for an National Park." In his capacity as a reviewer of the merits of sub-marginal lands, Gray could assist the NPS in "this outstanding opportunity not only for working up the land status but also for land acquisition." [3]

In addition to land surveys, the NPS also needed to link the ongoing construction work of the CCC camp in the Chisos Basin with any future plans for the park. George Nason had asked Maier in January 1935 for advice on building permanent structures with an eye to NPS use and maintenance. Maier cautioned Nason that the NPS needed a master plan prior to any approval, a condition exacerbated by the agency's workload and the distance to the Chisos CCC site. Maier noted with some concern the increases in cost for roads and trails construction, which could exceed the NPS's standard of spending no more than 25 percent of a camp's budget on roadwork. Nason asked Maier to support his efforts in the Chisos Basin, as "carefulness of development is the important thing in this area." Nason also agreed that the park service should move cautiously on plans to build elaborate resort facilities in the Basin without NPS approval of the master plan. [4]

To ascertain the merits of ECW plans for Big Bend, Maier asked Dr. Hermon C. Bumpus, chairman of the NPS's education advisory board, to visit the future park site in late December of 1934. Familiarizing himself with the planning process by means of Maier's report, Bumpus joined A.F. Ahrens, district inspector for the ECW, and their spouses on a trip from Oklahoma City to Big Bend. Bumpus found the isolation of Brewster County invigorating. "To leave a trans-continental highway," he wrote to Wirth, "and motor away from railroads, hotels and filling-stations invariably gives a pleasurable reaction to a sensitive person." Big Bend, moreover, exceeded Bumpus's expectations. "When [a visitor] passes through a country that is wide in its expanse, rich in the volcanic monuments of the geologic past, fascinating in its color effect and suddenly comes to a stop within the solid walls that Nature has erected around the 'Chisos Bowl,'" said Bumpus, "he is prepared to relax." Particularly attractive to Bumpus and other NPS officials was the area's proximity to Mexico. Describing the village of Boquillas, Texas, as "a miniature garden," and its Mexican counterpart "an irresistible lure for the kodak [camera]," the advisory board member summarized the charm of the border for future visitors: "May the burros, that provide the scant international transportation across the river at this point, never be succeeded by ferry or bridge." To Bumpus, "the beauty of the river, the enclosing walls, the vegetation and the primitive human habitations all conspire against modernity." Bumpus deferred to NPS experts in wildlife and geology to explain the area's natural resource significance. He concluded that "the desires and ambitions of a relatively small fraction of our population should not alone [inspire] hope that this - possibly the last of our frontiers - may come under Federal control and be preserved so coming generations may derive pleasure therefrom." [5]

Bumpus's description of the Big Bend area intrigued ECW personnel, as he offered the first "outsider's" view of their planning. A.F. Ahrens told Maier of the good time that the Bumpus party had in traversing the countryside, despite the cold temperatures and dusty conditions. Bumpus "spent considerable time studying the rock formations and especially the fossils and relics" that J.O. Langford had on display in his store at Hot Springs. While visiting the mining community of Terlingua, Bumpus remarked to his NPS and CCC hosts about "the typical local color portrayed and the lack of any attempt to 'modernize' the village." He also told Ahrens of his preference for hotel accommodations within the Chisos Basin, rather than at the entrance in Green Gulch (Bumpus noted the fact that sunlight struck that location later than in the basin, resulting in a lingering chill on winter mornings). "It is hardly necessary for me to say," Ahrens concluded, that the party "departed very much enthused over the country and most anxious to see it become a National Park." [6]

For Maier and Nason, the visit by Dr. Bumpus vindicated their efforts to design the NPS's 27th park site in the absence of close supervision by Washington officials. "As far as you and I know," Maier told Nason, "in dealing with this ever-changing picture, we might not be able to get [Conrad] Wirth down here for a year." Absent the guidance of the ECW's planning chief, Maier had to pursue the sub-marginal lands project, and to initiate road construction. Nason concurred, heralding "Dr. Bumpus' opinion [as] the first authoritative opinion we have had." Nason told his superior that he "had just approved and had forwarded to you plans showing some four and three-quarters miles of road leading from the desert up to the saddle [of the Chisos Basin]." The ECW inspector believed that "any road that we build must go through this pass," a situation which entailed "a considerable amount of work to be done." Yet "we do own the land up to this point," Nason told Maier, and hoped that problems with future land purchases could be addressed by the Texas state parks board. [7]

Nason's delight at Bumpus's praise for the work at Big Bend contrasted sharply with the ongoing dispute between the park service and Texas attorney general, James V. Allred. The latter on November 19, 1934, had ruled on the legality of the Big Bend State Park Act, finding unconstitutional the provision to "sell" the mineral rights of approximately 121,000 acres of state school lands. While granting that the Texas legislature had the right to create parks, maintain them, and accept donations for the purchase of private lands, Allred opined that "one cent an acre or five cents an acre [the valuation given by the lawmakers to the mineral rights] is so palpably insufficient as consideration for the sale of Texas Public School Lands that it must be treated as no consideration at all." Allred placed himself between the schoolchildren of Texas and the ambitions of park promoters by holding that "the two parks acts [of 1933] plainly violate Sections 4 and 5, Article VII, of the Texas Constitution." The attorney general agreed that "the establishment of a system of State Parks is important to the health and happiness of a people," but concluded bluntly that "support therefore must be found in sources other than [the] Permanent School Fund." [8]

The future Texas governor's ruling caused much consternation in the park service's Washington and Oklahoma City. The NPS had counted on the state legislature's generosity to expedite planning for Big Bend National Park. Douglas C. Lauderdale, regional attorney for the NPS, hurriedly drafted a memorandum in February 1935 to explain the park service's position on the school lands controversy. Lauderdale argued that the $1,500 allocated by the legislature to the state school fund from the sale of the mineral rights constituted a donation. In addition, "after the park has been developed, much revenue should be derived from the sale of gas, and much profit to the people in general." Neither should one overlook the intangible benefits of Big Bend, said the regional attorney, as "the scenic beauty of the Big Bend project will be brought out as a diamond in the rough." Allred's charge that the state had been denied full market value for its lands struck Lauderdale as spurious. "I am sure," he wrote, "that no individual would accept the school lands that have been picked over and left, which now lie idle, as a gift if they had to pay taxes on it and further, if the mineral rights were reserved by the Public School fund." Lauderdale believed that the state park had managed to generate revenue where none had existed, since the lawmakers had included "the consideration of an added tax revenue that would be derived from the sale of gasoline from tourists in every section of the country coming to Texas to view the beautiful park that we hope to develop." The NPS lawyer then turned Allred's argument around, noting that in light of the hardships that the people of Texas had endured throughout the Depression, "the Federal government, in . . . buying up the lands within the various states of the Union, does so only to relieve the farmers who have here-to-fore been unable to enjoy a high standard of living." Lauderdale further charged that "if the State is unwilling to cooperate by adding lands which they own to projects within the purchase area of proposed [park] sites, then the Federal Government does not want to be antagonistic, and therefore, will not insist in this program being carried out." [9]

As Congressman Thomason drafted his legislation to create a federal park in Brewster County, and the state of Texas argued with its future partner in park management, NPS officials in February 1935 continued to struggle with the vagaries of nature in the Big Bend region, and the politics of New Deal agency funding. Maier and Nason discussed at length the problem of building a campground high in the Chisos Basin. "We have the blue print of the Big Bend Shelter here in the office now," said Maier, "and obviously it is impossible." The district ECW officer told Nason that "for a structure to be placed in a future National Park it certainly looks like hell." Nason had designed a facility that was "vertical rather than horizontal," with a "roof well-nigh impossible" and "rocks . . . all out of scale." Maier then addressed the complaint made a year earlier by W.G. Carnes about the lack of architectural expertise at Big Bend. "That [shelter] seems to be one of the difficulties down at the Big Bend," said Maier. "No one down there seems to have grasped the idea of scale," and despite the fact that "it may be very hard to get big rocks," Maier nonetheless warned that "we will never get away with using the size of stuff that is restricted to city parks." Instead he suggested that Nason "call off work on the shelter immediately," and await the arrival of an NPS architect. [10]

As if funding, staffing, design, and legal issues were not enough, the NPS also faced in early 1935 local ranchers' confusion over the status of grazing lands in the future park. Maier learned that "grazing is still continued in the Chisos Mountains on the areas on which we are working." Because of this, "the trails that we have built have been destroyed at several points." Contributing to this problem was the attitude of rancher Ira Hector, the first to sell a portion of his land to the NPS for the Chisos CCC camp. Nason informed Maier of the tenuous relationship that the NPS had with Hector, as "the section just west of No. 32, which was turned over to the [state] Parks Board by Mr. Hector, was turned over with a definite agreement that cattle could be left in until the sum of $3800 had been paid." Hector had agreed to accept less payment from the parks board for each year that he continued to graze on his former acreage. "We are now faced with the proposition," said Nason, "that the State does not really own this land and cannot stop the grazing." Nor did the NPS "have any fences around the few sections that we do own that can keep cattle from wandering on." The ECW official also disliked the fact that "Section 32, where a lot of the trails are, is school land and there is no authority to order these cattle off." Local ranchers had used the school lands of the Big Bend area as open range, and "until we can consolidate enough sections in one area," said Nason, "there is no use of fencing." Then in a contradictory conclusion, Nason suggested: "I do not think the damage to the trails is so very serious." He believed that the cattle "are breaking down the shoulder slopes on the upper side into a rather natural condition." This led Nason to remark: "This may be classified as 'local participation' by the local inhabitants!" [11]

Far from the trails of the Chisos Basin, on March 4, 1935, Ewing Thomason formally requested that the U.S. House of Representatives make permanent the dream of Everett Townsend and the NPS planners for a national park in the Big Bend country. In the first session of the 74th Congress, the El Paso Democrat introduced House Resolution (HR) 6373, "A Bill To provide for the establishment of the Big Bend National Park, in the State of Texas, and for other purposes." Morris Sheppard and Tom Connally, like Thomason members of the majority political party, asked their Senate colleagues to do the same. Cognizant of disputes in Austin and Brewster County about the purchase of private lands with public monies, Thomason declared that Big Bend would open only "when title to such lands as may be determined by the Secretary of the Interior as necessary for recreational park purposes within boundaries to be determined by him within the area of approximately one million five hundred thousand acres, in the counties of Brewster and Presidio, . . . shall have been vested in the United States." No federal funds would be expended on private property. In addition, stated Thomason, "no land for said park shall be accepted until exclusive jurisdiction over the entire area, in form satisfactory to the Secretary of the Interior, shall have been ceded by the State of Texas to the United States." Then in a reference to the issue of water resource development in arid west Texas, Thomason stipulated that "the provisions of the Act of June 10, 1920, known as the 'Federal Water Power Act,' shall not apply to this park." Congress had authorized creation of the Federal Power Commission (FPC) to study construction of hydroelectric power sites in the nation's rivers and streams. Exclusion of Big Bend's stretch of the Rio Grande from the purview of the FPC would have implications soon thereafter, as in 1935 the International Boundary Commission (IBC) would study the potential for hydropower facilities in the canyons of the upper and lower Rio Grande. [12]

Where Thomason's bill emphasized the financial and political realities of Texas and the Big Bend country, Senator Sheppard furthered the cause of the international park concept by soliciting the support of President Roosevelt. The president, eager for venues to pursue better relations with Mexico, asked Interior Secretary Harold Ickes to respond quickly to Sheppard's request. Ickes, known for his incorporation of employment and economic development features in national parks, submitted to FDR a proposal for a park unit at Big Bend. He concurred in the judgment of Herbert Maier, Conrad Wirth, et al., "that the area referred to in Texas be established as the Big Bend National Park." He added that "the possibility of an international park in this region meets with my approval." If Congress concurred, said Ickes, "the Mexican Government [should] be invited to cooperate with the United States in the establishment of such an international park." [13]

Once the White House and the powerful Interior secretary went public with their endorsement of the Thomason and Shepard initiatives, planning for Big Bend accelerated. Four days after the introduction of HR 6373, Texas attorney general Allred agreed to vacate his decision on the mineral rights issue. Allred's earlier opinion unfortunately had blocked NPS approval of Big Bend's submarginal-land project. "This [the school lands controversy] was a rather unhappy discovery," Maier informed Wirth, which forced the NPS to exert "considerable pressure" on Allred to "bring about a reversal of this opinion." After "a long session with the Attorney General," said Maier, Douglas Lauderdale received a telegram from Allred declaring that "the School Fund can turn over its land in fee simple to the State Park Board and the State Park Board is the only one that already has the right to turn the land over to the Federal Government for National Park purposes." Maier contended that "the main stumbling block as regards the land acquisition program has been removed," and he hoped that "the State of Texas will now be in a very strategic position to accumulate the necessary area for a National Park." [14]

From his vantage point in Oklahoma City, Lauderdale could be optimistic about the future of Big Bend. Less enthusiastic was Everett Townsend, a landowner in his own right and the manager of the land acquisition project terminated by Allred's earlier restrictions on school land sales. Townsend knew the ranchers of Brewster County well, and warned Maier "that if the responsibility for the acquisition of lands . . . is placed with the State, it will be a very slow process." The harsh realities of the Lone Star economy meant that "any procurements made will have to be wrung from an empty treasury - a difficult problem." In addition, said the former U.S. Customs officer and Brewster County sheriff, "donations from those owning lands within the area can hardly be expected, except on a very small scale because they are now laden with debts from which they can never emerge." When one considered the drought and the deplorable economic condition of the inhabitants of the region, said Townsend, "there is much merit in giving it serious consideration under the [sub-marginal] Land Program." Committed as ever to his dream of a national park, Townsend told Maier: "I shall keep right on with the work I am doing and hope to completely cover the Chisos Mountains area and the most important sections of the River front by the end of the month." "My heart is in this 'project,'" he confided to Maier, "and I am ready to do my best no matter whether I am off or on the pay-roll." [15]

When Townsend completed his report on March 31, he had produced no fewer than 56 pages of names, property valuations, and land status for the NPS to consider. Working non-stop through the months of February and March, Townsend had not had time to identify all property owners with delinquent taxes on their lands. In addition, he found in the Brewster County clerk's office a disturbing pattern of recordkeeping. "The addresses of many of the non-resident owners are missing," he told Maier, as "few of these are correctly given on the Tax Rolls." A correct list could "be obtained only by the examination of hundreds of letters received in the remittance of taxes for all parts of the County, all of which are thrown indiscriminately into a large drawer without any semblance of order." Such carelessness in official documentation led Townsend to discover another feature of Brewster County's lax procedures: "In my work I have found two valuable surveys, one in the Chisos Mountains Basin and the other on the Boquillas Canyon, which are claimed by individuals." Townsend believed instead that "the Texas State Parks Board [has] valid title." One example was the claim of A.M. Gilmer, whose land the state legislature had included in the Big Bend State Park Act because of nonpayment of property taxes. "It is the only survey we can claim that lies immediately on the Boquillas Canyon," Townsend told D.E. Colp, "and is very valuable for park purposes as it [is] within the bend of that canyon and the River flows on two sides of it." The Gilmer claim, while "almost unknown," constituted what Townsend called "scenically one of the grandest regions in the Park area." In like manner, Townsend uncovered a deed for 640 acres of land in the Chisos Basin once claimed by the Gulf Coast and San Francisco Railway. This included "the greater part of the 'Window:'" the spectacular notch in the Chisos Basin that looked out onto the Rio Grande and Mexico below. [ 16]

NPS officials in April then learned that the CCC camp wished to implement an aggressive predator-control program in the Chisos Basin. George Nason informed Maier that "panther, or mountain lion, are causing considerable trouble in preying on young deer in the mountains." James O. Stevenson, regional wildlife technician for the NPS, noted that camp officials sought permission "to establish trap lines to catch these animals." The issue of predator removal echoed a debate at the highest levels of the park service, where in 1931 then-director Horace Albright had, in the words of Richard Sellars, "announced the policy of limiting predator control to what was absolutely necessary." By that time, said Sellars, "wolves and cougars had been virtually eradicated from all national parks in the forty-eight states," leaving only the coyote "in substantial numbers." [17]

As with land acquisition matters, predator control in the Big Bend area forced the NPS to reassess newly drafted regulations concerning issues of wildlife and ecosystem management. Stevenson told Maier that, "according to the policy of the National Park Service and the State Park Division, as explained in the ECW Handbook, predators are definitely protected." The rules did allow "in extreme cases" for control, "but they should never be exterminated." NPS guidelines held that "no predator, such as the panther, should be destroyed on account of its normal use of any other park animal unless that animal, such as the deer, is in danger of extinction." Stevenson, however, hinted at his desire to accede to the wishes of CCC camp officials and local ranchers. "If action on this emergency situation is authorized by the Washington office," he told Maier, "I will write the Biological Survey for the best and most practical means of control." In his opinion, "if trapping is the most feasible way, a man experienced in predatory animal control must be obtained to superintend this work." [18]

By June 1935, the NPS had completed enough survey work on land issues and natural resources to submit a formal application for Big Bend National Park; a prerequisite to congressional and executive action. Herbert Maier noted in his letter to the NPS's State Park ECW office that little had changed since he had filed his report in January on Big Bend. The NPS should seek a land base of some 1.5 million acres (or 2,343 square miles, nearly double the size of the state of Rhode Island). "From personal knowledge of the area," wrote Maier, "I would say that the caliber of such an area would rank favorably with that of Zion National Park, although different in physical aspects." The nation also would gain a cultural resource unlike any other in the NPS system, as "the general atmosphere of the Big Bend area is Spanish-Mexican in feeling and would add an entirely new flavor to the chain of national parks." Maier further encouraged NPS officials to focus upon the Chisos Mountains, which "themselves might be considered as a preliminary acquisition area, comprising approximately 65,000 acres." He also reminded his Washington superiors that Roger Toll had praised Big Bend's national benefits, even as he noted its land-purchase issues, when he recommended following the procedure of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, where a portion of the future park entered the NPS system prior to final acquisition. [19]

Coincident with Maier's application for park status for Big Bend was completion in July of a report by H.P.K. Agersborg, chief biologist for the NPS, entitled, "Certain State Parks and Other Areas in Texas." Agersborg had gone to Big Bend in the spring with James O. Stevenson and J.T. Roberts of the Oklahoma City NPS office. Conceding that his first impression of the area "was not favorable," the NPS biologist nonetheless offered a balanced perspective of Big Bend's strengths and weaknesses as a new park unit. "While the distance from civilization over 112 miles of 'corduroy' road," said Agersborg, "makes it rather expensive to reach the interior of the area," it was "necessary to go to this trouble in order to save this area for the future." Echoing the thoughts of George Nason and Herbert Maier, Agersborg admitted that "to build a good road will be very costly," yet "it will pay" in the long run. The park service biologist then offered the most critical assessment of the drought of the 1930s on the Big Bend ecosystem. "After one reaches the more scenic parts of the park area," said Agersborg, "one is met face to face with problems vital to the State [of Texas]." In Big Bend, "one sees the badly eroded, denuded soil, closely cropped flowering desert shrubs--which otherwise should be beautiful--and the presence of hungry and thirsty herds of sheep, goats, beef-cattle and horses." Beyond this, "continuous grazing over a long period has left the land desolate," a condition that Agersborg believed "the State wants to change." "It is somewhat paradoxical," he noted, "to witness domesticated cattle graze side by side with the park officials as the latter are trying to build a park in a desert for the public to enjoy." Adding to the future park's ecological burden were the practices of the CCC workers to strip the bark from the century plants, and visitors who "in the past have been allowed to kill and carry off valuable and rare birds." During the previous year (1934), hunters had bagged 5,000 deer in the park area. All of this, Agersborg hoped, would cease once Big Bend entered the NPS system, with tourism replacing the current destructive uses of the landscape. [20]

A step in that direction occurred on June 20, 1935, when Congress enacted and President Roosevelt signed Public Law No. 157. This measure authorized the creation of Big Bend National Park. FDR and the nation's lawmakers accepted the NPS's request to set aside 1.5 million acres of land for "recreational park purposes." Other suggestions for purchase of the lands made by Herbert Maier and his staff became part of the act, as did the proscription against inclusion of the park's portion of the Rio Grande in any FPC project development. This permitted Everett Townsend to return to the field as "senior foreman" at the Chisos CCC camp, with the authority to continue his surveys of property ownership. Among his more daunting tasks was convincing J.J. Willis to deed his holdings to the State Parks Board. Townsend had discovered that "much of [Willis's land] he had bought at tax sales in 1929 and has paid no taxes on any of it since that year." Townsend also learned that the Houston and Texas Coast Railway had subdivided two sections of the Chisos Basin adjacent to the CCC camp into 40-acre tracts. He hoped to convince the Brewster County court to declare this land delinquent in tax payments, and include them in the early design of the park. [21]

Throughout the summer of 1935, CCC work moved forward in anticipation of the land-acquisition program. J.T. Haile of the ECW Procurement Office in Austin went to the new park area to review the distinctive conditions of work. He noted the need for an extensive fleet of trucks, and the heavy use they received in driving from the railheads in Alpine and Marathon through the desert and up the north face of the Chisos Mountains. "In this rough area," Haile wrote to his superiors in Oklahoma City, "there is no choice of roads over which to transport men and material." One must "build as you go, and there is no opportunity of detouring to avoid a rough spot or an excessive grade." The Chisos camp (renumbered as SP-33-T), had a crew of 247 men who had to be driven some three miles daily to and from their work sites. "When these trucks have delivered their men to the work sites over road conditions prevailing at this camp," said Haile, "there is very little time left for their use in the transportation of construction materials before they are required to return for the workers." Among the items transported were "stones weighing from 6,000 to 8,000 pounds" to be used in the construction of head walls and culverts. Haile asked the ECW to provide additional equipment for the Chisos camp, "in order that the work program, as outlined for this park, be carried out properly and effectively, and in view of the large number of enrollees now stationed at this camp." [22]

Another sign of the permanence of the CCC program, and of the distinctive cultural features of the region, came in July when Maier asked L.W. Rogers, educational advisor for the Army's Eighth Corps Area at Fort Sam Houston, to provide Big Bend with an educational specialist. Robert Morgan and his staff were "exceedingly anxious to have such a man," wrote Maier, "not only because of the good it will do the enrollees," but because they were "off in the mountains where they very seldom have the opportunity of going into town, and so the work is bound to aid the general tone of the camp." An earlier educational advisor had proven "of very little value," and had not remained in camp long. The CCC staff also believed, in the words of Maier, that "the educational adviser must know Spanish in order to get along advantageously with the Mexican enrollees who comprise more than fifty per cent of the personnel." [23]

Commitment of resources to Big Bend's park planning also led the ECW to prepare a thorough report in July on the status of land title searches. Everett Townsend had completed his survey of all state and privately owned parcels within the park, and had drawn a map outlining them for use by the NPS. Raymond Higgins, assistant regional projects manager for the Oklahoma City ECW district, told Herbert Maier that "any discussion of Texas land titles must commence with an explanation of the historical origin of the railroad grants and public school lands." In addition, the NPS needed to know "the constitutional and statutory provisions relating to Texas lands." Higgins characterized this story as one where "the pioneers of the Republic, and later State, of Texas were early concerned with three major problems." These Higgins identified as "encouraging immigration; encouraging the construction of railroads; and, provisions for education." In this the Texas lawmakers mimicked the practices of the U.S. Congress, which had enacted similar legislation for the expanding United States through the Land Ordinance of 1785, and subsequent grants to railroad companies to accelerate the pace of national growth and absorb the risks normally encountered in the free market. [24]


<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>


https://www.nps.gov/bibe/adhi/adhi3.htm
Last Updated: 03-Mar-2003