The Mural at the Historic Town Center in Historic Nacogdoches
The Mural at the Historic Town Center in Historic Nacogdoches
"If you should go to the spot where the
LaNana and Banita Creeks meet and turn
the clock of your mind back 200 years, you might see
the Holy Fathers...preserving their vows of silence as
they build up the preliminary shelter of twigs and
grass, while the curious Indians crowded about
watching their strange labor and gentle ways.
What are they doing? They are building the
Mission of Our lady of Nacogdoches..."
The Mural in the Historic Town Center is an encyclopedic picture of the history of Nacogdoches
from earliest times to the contemporary period developing from top to bottom and also from left to
right in a series of images that suggest the number nine correlating to the Nine Flags of Nacogdoches.
The Caddo Indian Village, the quotation from the poet, and the Old Nacogdoches University Building
represent the earliest historical period, while the Image of Gil Y'Barbo, and the battle scene around the
Old Stone Fort portray the middle period. The contemporary period of modern transportation, logging,
lumber milling, poultry, commerce and education occur on the bottom plane of the mural. A transformation
sequence develops from top left to bottom right as the underlying cause of these events: In the Caddo ceremony
of burial there is an acknowledgment of the virtue of sacrifice made by Ancients and Ancestors in handing down
the gifts of the past; In the Stone Fort drama of struggle and conflict there is an acknowledgment of the virtue
of courage as the basis of building the structures of the new world ahead; in the University Building there is an
acknowledgment of the virtue of enlightened awareness arising out of education. The quotation at the top of the
Mural is an excerpt from a letter written by Karle Wilson Baker (1878--1960) to the Daily Sentinel sometime before
1907 impressing upon the citizenry the importance of an effort to secure the transfer of the Baptist College in Rusk
The letter of Karle Wilson Baker
......."Sometimes a stranger, coming into a new place, is more sensitive
to the atmosphere of that place than are the residents themselves. They are
accustomed to it; to a stranger it is new and delightful. Genuine lovers of
travel roam over the world not so much to see buildings and monuments,
as to detect and enjoy this spirit, this personality or soul, of the places
Now, Nacogdoches has a soul, a spirit, an atmosphere. She is
no raw product of today or yesterday. There are ghosts on her streets.
Perhaps you have never seen them; but they are there. And what a
wonderfully picturesque, varied pageant they make! Gentle Franciscan
fathers and curious, credulous redmen; lordly Mexican alcaldes and
courtly French adventurers; the hardy, high-hearted followers of Nolan
and the young, ill-fated Magee; the stubborn, spirited, courageous
American Empressarios; and finally that group of ardent strangers who
swarmed through the gateway settlement to help Texas win her
independence----men scholarly and grave like Rusk, picturesque like
Crockett, massive like Houston, or simply young and winning and
gallant like Travis, who at twenty-seven, died at his cannon in the court
of the Alamo.
Have you ever stood at the junction of LaNana and Banita
on a spring afternoon, and turned the clock of your mind backward for
two hundred years, and seemed to see the holy fathers in their coarse
woolen gowns, barefooted, with the knotted rope about their waists,
preserving their vow of silence as they built up the preliminary shelter of
twigs and grasses while the curious Indians crowded about, watching
their strange labor and gentle ways? What were they doing?
They were building the Mission of Our Lady of Nacogdoches for the future.
They were a mere handful of men in a great wilderness with hundreds
of miles between them and they were----our pageant of ghosts?
We are accustomed to thinking of them as rough frontiersmen perhaps.
But the Franciscan friars were scholars, trained in the Spanish colleges at
Zacatecas. Young Nolan, whose followers languished so long in the
Old Stone Fort, finally to be marched out upon the square and driven off to
slavery in Mexico, was an astronomer and geographer, who, it is said,
made the first map of Texas. Rusk, our own particular possession, was
one of the most persuasive orators of his time and country, trained in the
colleges of one of the older Southern States. Even Houston, who was so
close to primitive nature, so rugged and massive, that President
Jackson's praise for him was that he was a "man not made by the tailor,"
knew all of Pope's Iliad by heart.......In his will, a document of singular
impressiveness and dignity, he leaves explicit directions regarding the
education of his children.
Washington Square remains and will remain as a monument to what our
predecessors thought of education. Why, if the projected college goes elsewhere,
through the mere indifference and carelessness of Nacogdoches, there
will be a mass-meeting of the ghosts. I think it will be an indignation meeting
and the present prophet will not undertake to say what dreadful form their
vengeance may take. No one needs to be told what a college can do for the
spirit and atmosphere of a town.
The spirit of Nacogdoches today is a gift from the men of the past;
the spirit of the future will be the gift of the men of today. There is
one form of immortality which nobody disputes; the immortality of
influence and good works. And there is one form of ambition to
which no man is dead; an ambition for his children. As far back as
Cicero's time men were moved by his appeal: "We shall plant trees
for other centuries." I heard it said the other day that it is especially
hard to move an old town to action. But if any town could be moved
by the appeal of the future, I would think it would be an old town----
a town which owes its superiority, its dignity and traditions, to the
fact that long ago somebody planted trees, and built churches, and
gave land for schools; a town with a stirring past to live up to, and
the presence of dead heroes in its streets. That is the town which
should keep the spirit of its forefathers alive; which should cherish
its ghosts, and "plant trees for other centuries."8
(Next Picture: The Nine Flags of Nacogdoches)
(Last Picture: Sunset)