History

Giddy-up! The World’s Largest Collection of Spurs is on Display in Texas

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Tucked away in Gatesville, Texas, in Coryell County, the world’s largest collection of spurs resides in the Coryell Museum & Historical Center. Some 6,000 are on display, donated by Lloyd Mitchell from his collection of 18,000. Besides the spurs, the museum features two floors of exhibits depicting the life of Coryell County settlers.

A sight to see, at first, we were mesmerized by viewing a wide assortment of spurs, not only from the U.S. but all over the world, with some dating back to the 16th century. Most important was Pancho Villa’s spurs and his western garb exhibit. Included in the collection are novelty spurs, rodeo spurs, and cavalry spurs.  The museum also boasts Jacqueline Kennedy’s riding spurs along with those of Rex Bell, American western movie star.

Giddy-up! The World's Largest Collection of Spurs is on Display in Texas

Photo: Paul Fronczek

The most memorable special exhibit was a set of ladies’ dancing spurs made with a small ball rowel to keep the hem of a woman’s long dress from catching on the heel of her boot when she’s dancing backward.

To the casual observer, viewing the museum collection of spurs might not be of the most vital interest, except for the first impression of seeing so many. However, if one looks closer, there’s more than meets the eye.  Spurs have been in use since man started riding horses. The earliest pair ever found date back to the second century B.C and were used by the Etruscans.  Spur design and use varied widely depending upon the region of the world.  The Romans designed a spur to steer their mount so their hands could be freed to fight on horseback.

Giddy-up! The World's Largest Collection of Spurs is on Display in Texas

Photo: Paul Fronczek

In the collection, one may find mostly American spurs. Those from colonial times were of the English design and later changed into the style we are most familiar, the western spur. Presently, the museum is categorizing and counting its collection to enter the results in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Not to be outdone, there’s also a fossil display of prehistoric animals found in Coryell County and an extensive Native American arrowhead collection.

Giddy-up! The World's Largest Collection of Spurs is on Display in Texas

Photo: Paul Fronczek

Another main attraction was an unusual double-walled log jail built in 1854. It was constructed to replace the practice of chaining prisoners to trees around the courthouse, a necessity since varmints would chew on the prisoners at night. Surprisingly, the inmates were not housed in the jail structure but under the floor in a cellar less than four feet high.  A metal trap door led to the underground dark, gloomy cell with one narrow slot providing fresh air.

This remarkable museum houses the relics donated by families of Coryell County passed down through the ages. The operation of the museum in its entirety is run by volunteers; no paid curator oversees nor categorizes the exhibits.

Giddy-up! The World's Largest Collection of Spurs is on Display in Texas

Photo: Paul Fronczek

The soda fountain is an actual one that was used in a Gatesville, Texas shop.