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Celebrating 150 Years of the Chisholm Trail in Cleburne, Texas: 2 Exhibitions in 1 Hearty Town

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Cleburne, Texas is home to the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum. Accessible by the public, it’s an open area where visitors can learn about how the cattle drives along the trail impacted life and the history of the first county seat of Johnson County, which was, in fact, Wardville. It includes the original courthouse, a stagecoach station, a blacksmith shop, and additional appurtenances that mimic life and times back in the day, and during the sesquicentennial of the Chisholm Trail, that’s 150 years of history well worth witnessing.

Celebrating 150 Years of the Chisholm Trail in Cleburne, Texas: Two Exhibitions in One Hearty Town

Photo: Facebook/Chisholm Trail Museum

No longer in existence, the town of Wardville was situated approximately five miles west of Cleburne. Named after a hero of the Texas Revolution (Thomas William Ward), the town which was chosen as the first county seat of Johnson County in 1855 had a post office and a tiny population. Within a matter of a year’s time, however, that all came to an end. Texas state law dictated that county seats were required to be as near to the geographic center of a county as was physically possible (for ease of voting purposes). Wardville was determined to be slightly off the mark, and by 1856, an election was held determining the fledgling town of Buchanan to be the actual county seat. The citizens relocated to the new county seat, the post office closed, and eventually, Wardville was no more.

Celebrating 150 Years of the Chisholm Trail in Cleburne, Texas: Two Exhibitions in One Hearty Town

Photo: Facebook/Chisholm Trail Museum

But adding to the great history and melodrama of the area, the Chisholm Trail experience in Cleburne added to its cache of amazing artifacts, depth, and perspective with the opening of the Big Bear Native American Museum in 2015. With exhibits of artifacts dating back to 15,000 B.C., the new museum takes its patrons through a historical journey from the perspective of the first Native Americans in the area, up through to present-day Texas, focusing on the state’s prehistory and archaeology. Prior to his death in 2012, Leonard J. “Big Bear” Beal, a Texarkana native and Cherokee descendant, donated all of the Native American artifacts which he and his children had collected for 50 years previous to the Johnson County Heritage Foundation.

Celebrating 150 Years of the Chisholm Trail in Cleburne, Texas: Two Exhibitions in One Hearty Town

Photo: Facebook/Chisholm Trail Museum

A 2,000-square-foot building constructed in the shape of a Hogan (a traditional Navajo home) was established on the property of the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum and had its official grand opening in November 2015, after two years of planning and fundraising by the foundation. Big Bear himself was a museum curator who had previously had his own Big Bear & Sons Museum in California after a life of various professions including policeman, pro wrestler, actor/musician, soldier, sailor, and artist/jeweler to name a few. After moving to Grandview, Texas, he maintained his collection in a museum close to his home, and after original talks with the Smithsonian, awarded it to the Johnson County Heritage Foundation (and subsequently the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum) upon his death, for posterity and public viewing.

Celebrating 150 Years of the Chisholm Trail in Cleburne, Texas: Two Exhibitions in One Hearty Town

Photo: Facebook/Chisholm Trail Museum

The Big Bear Native American Museum houses a collection of arrowheads and pottery, tools, and additional artifacts depicting Native American life throughout what was later considered the United States. At a blessing ceremony on opening day, Larry Liles explained, “We say ‘thank you.’ We want to share this with all people and for all generations and future generations that come in with open minds and open hearts so that when they leave, they will have a better knowledge of indigenous people and that we are all human.” Liles also helped bless the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum grounds two years prior to this, and the two, together, continue to attract and welcome visitors from across the state and throughout the country.

Sources:

Star-Telegram

Texas Highways

Texas Escapes

Cowboys & Indians