Western Trips

Monday, March 4, 2019

Visit the Magoffin Home State Historic Site in El Paso, Texas

If you're traveling to or through El Paso, Texas, there is a very interesting stop you'll surly want to make. It is the Magoffin Home State Historic Site and it will tell you a great deal about the settlement of El Paso. It will offer you a unique opportunity to learn of one family's significant role during our country's western expansion.

magoffin house el paso
Magoffin Home State Historic Site explores the stories of a multicultural family who actively participated in U.S. expansion and settlement, military service, trade on the Santa Fe–Chihuahua Trail, Civil War turmoil and U.S.–Mexico relations.

The 1875 home is an excellent example of Territorial style architecture. Territorial style architecture began around 1846 and was used until New Mexico stopped being a territory and became a state in 1912. The Territorial style is considered to be a blend of Pueblo and Victorian styles.

The Magoffin home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. In 1985, the surrounding area was declared the Magoffin Historic District

Guided Tours

Guided tours by volunteers are given to visitors. The tours are very informative while you walk to all areas of this historic adobe mansion. Authentic art and antique furnishings are on display and help transport visitors back in time.

el paso attractions
During your tour you'll learn about the history and heritage of the Southwest borderlands through the lives and experiences of a prominent El Paso family. Most tours last about one hour. Spanish tours are offered Thursday through Saturday. Be sure to call ahead for tour availability.

The Magoffin Family

The story begins with Joseph Magoffin (1837–1923) who was born in Chihuahua, Mexico but was educated in Kentucky and Missouri. He then arrived in the El Paso area in 1856 to work in his father’s mercantile shop at Magoffinsville. Magoffinsville was a site established in 1849 by James Wiley Magoffin about a half mile north of the Rio Grande inside today's city of El Paso.

Not too long after Joseph's arrival in Magoffinsville the American Civil War began. Joseph and his brother Samuel joined the Confederate army as part of General H.H. Sibley’s brigade.

When the Civil War ended, Joseph Magoffin returned to Magoffinsville and worked long and hard for the development of El Paso and the region. He was in a unique position to advocate for El Paso's settlement with his extensive landholdings. This helped him bring the all important railroad to El Paso along with businesses and utilities. Magoffin obviously became quite wealthy during this period.

magoffin history
Ultimately, Joseph Magoffin was a co-founder of the State National Bank as well as serving as county judge, four terms as mayor, collector of customs and in several other public offices. His wife Octavia became a social leader of the developing community.

When Joseph and Octavia moved into their new home in 1877, on property willed to him from his late father, El Paso was a small frontier town. There were actually large complications involved to take back ownership of the property since it was seized by Unionists during the Civil War. The settlement itself was destroyed a few years after the Civil War from flooding of the Rio Grande.

When Joseph completed what was required to legally retake the property, a new adobe  home was constructed in typical Spanish and Territorial architecture found in the Southwest borderlands.  The El Paso Times in 1887 wrote a story describing the home and it's surroundings. They wrote,  “The grounds surrounding it comprise twenty acres, embraced in lawns, flower gardens, fruit orchards, vegetable beds, grass plats and small grain divisions.” The Magoffin's entertained often at their beautiful home which you'll learn more about on the guided tour.

history el paso texas
There is much more to the story of the Magoffin family and their contributions in developing the El Paso area. During your guided tour you'll learn why the Magoffin's were true pioneers who used their vast resources to not just help their own family but also to help the city he came to love.

If you want to learn about the early days of the area and of El Paso, this is a travel stop you'll want to make.

You also may wish to inquire about the hour long walking tour of the Magoffin Historic District.

See additional Western Trips articles found on the links below...

Historic Mesilla, New Mexico

Historic Fort Stockton, Texas 

magoffin historic district photos
Visiting the Magoffin Home State Historic Site

The Magoffin home is located at 1120 Magoffin Ave, El Paso, TX. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday 9a-5p. The site is closed on Mondays. 

For additional information see...www.thc.texas.gov

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

Monday, January 28, 2019

Sonora Texas / Old West Outlaws and Texas History

A visit to the town of Sonora, Texas offers an opportunity to tour it's downtown area that is rich in history and heritage. Sonora is the county seat of Sutton County Texas and is located about 170 miles northwest of San Antonio along Interstate 10 (about a 2 1/2 hour drive) 

sonora texas history
Sonora, Texas 1898
Sonora is recognized as being located on the western end of Texas' scenic Hill Country. To the west and northwest of Sonora lie
the flat expanses of the Chihuahuan Desert.

There are lots of history to see in Sonora involving ranching, old west outlaws and the transition of a west Texas town moving into the twentieth century. 

Annual events held in Sonora, Texas include the Annual Cinco De Mayo Celebration held on May 5th... The Sonora Outlaw Pro Rodeo is held every third weekend in August...The Sutton County Game Dinner is the oldest and largest game dinner celebrated in the area held in November...,span>The Dry Devils River Music Flood held for a day each October...Sonora’s annual one-day Christmas Market in December.

Visit the sites where history comes alive...

Old West Shootout on Main Street 

On the night of April 2, 1901, William Carver, a member of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch, was shot and killed in Jack Owen's Bakery by Sheriff E.S. Briant and his deputies.
Some accounts say the gunfight occurred outside of the store. With guns drawn on entry, they attempted to arrest Carver and George Kilpatrick on suspicion of the murder of Oliver Thornton in Concho County Texas. One account says that Kilpatrick made a fumbling motion and Carver's gun never cleared the holster before he was shot six times. 

Will Carver was buried in the Sonora Cemetery. There is a gravestone marker that simply shows the date of his death, April 2, 1901. 

 Old Ice House Ranch Museum

ice house ranch museum sonora texas
Old Ice House Ranch Museum
This is a must stop. A the  Old Ice House Ranch Museum which is housed inside an old ice house is a collection of one of a kind memorabilia pertaining to the history of Sonora and Sutton County Texas. 

Exhibits include an array of old artifacts to educate and entertain visitors about ranching in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Sutton County. Included with the relics of Sonora is information about the 1901 shootout by sheriff deputies with Will Carver, a member of Butch Cassidy's "Wild Bunch" gang.  Carver was on the losing end of the gunfight on the streets of Sonora. 

You'll leave this unique museum with a new appreciation of the pioneers that developed this rugged area when the discovery of a deep water well drilling technique opened this parched prairie to sheep, cattle and goats after the bustle of the West had passed it by. 

Sutton County Courthouse

The 1891 Sutton County Courthouse was designed by Oscar Ruffini, a prominent architect from San Angelo, in the Second Empire style. Much handwork is evident in the limestone and dressed stone. 

sonora texas courthouse history
Sutton County Texas Courthouse
Restorations of the courthouse took place where all windows were restored and missing roof dormers and roof cresting were reconstructed using historic photographs. 

The interior restoration brought all new mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems including fire protection and accessibility improvements All of these enhancement followed the original design. A non-original tile floor at the first floor corridors and offices was removed and replaced with salvaged wood. Original wood windows, doors, stairways, and wainscot were refinished to match the original stain, and wood shutters were reconstructed at all window openings. Wall colors were restored and a decorative wall stenciling of gold and copper leaf was recreated. All vault door decorative finishes were painstakingly restored. 

The courthouse was rededicated on June 11, 2002.

Old Sutton County Jail 

old sutton county texas jail
Old jail in Sonora, Texas
When Sutton County Texas was organized in 1890, a jail was obviously needed. At the time there were several jail construction companies, mostly located back east. 

The Pauley Jail Building and Manufacturing Co. of St. Louis was hired to build this jail. The project begans begun in Feb. 1891 under the supervision of Judge J. L. Dunagan. The new jail was completed in Sept. 1891. The native stone jail structure was two story and had a jailer's residence in addition to cells for prisoners. Of special historic note, the first prisoner in the new jail was gambler and gunman John Denson, a cousin of outlaw John Wesley Hardin. 

The old Sutton County jail in downtown Sonora stands on Oak Street near the Sutton County Courthouse. 

Additional Western Trips articles found on the links below... 

Fort Stockton Texas

San Angelo Texas

The Caverns of Sonora

Another must stop while in the area is The Caverns of Sonora. Many believe these are one of the most beautiful caverns in the world.
The Caverns of Sonora contains unusual formations, such as bladed helictites and coralloid growths, and is of exceptional beauty. 

This National Natural Landmark is located eight miles west of Sonora. Because of its calcite crystal formations and rarity of helictites, the cavern is considered to be a world-class cave.
The formation of the cave is said to have occurred between 1.5 to five million years ago. The cave is a constant 71°F, but feels like 85°F due to the humidity. During a tour, you can go 150 feet below the Earth’s surface and be mesmerized by all the formations underground.

For detailed information about the caverns and available tours see...http://www.cavernsofsonora.com/tours    Tours of the cave leave the caverns gift shop constantly, with usually never more than a 30-minute wait.

Additiomal photos of Sonora, Texas...

Gun used to kill outlaw Will Carver in 1901     

Another view of the old county jail structure
sonora texas old photos
Sonora during the early automobile years
old west texas town photo
Downtown Sonora during horse and wagon days