|What is the Buffalo Gap Historic Village and where did it come from?
Hundreds of years ago, great herds of buffalo favored this gap in the Callahan
Divide, a few miles south of present-day Abilene, and it soon became a
favored camping place for native peoples. As Anglo settlement approached, U.S.
soldiers patrolled and skirmished in the area. Hide hunters and cattlemen
arrived in the 1870s.
Downtown Buffalo Gap, facing north, in 1910
After the Indians and the buffalo passed into history, settlers came to
the gap, drawn to its abundant water and good grazing. A new town called
Buffalo Gap arose, the first capital of Taylor County. A county courthouse,
a two-story limestone structure combining a courtroom and a jail, was completed
in 1879. In the following years, the face of the area changed rapidly.
Soon, steel rails criss-crossed the once-wild land, horsepower no longer
meant horse-drawn wagons, and motor cars churned up dust once trod by shaggy
bison and Indian ponies. The county seat was moved to the new city of Abilene
in 1883. Buffalo Gap’s history is described in detail in the Handbook of Texas.
Buffalo Gap Historic Village originated as a historical site in 1956. Ernest
Walter (Ernie) Wilson purchased the courthouse building and established
a small historical museum of Indian and Western artifacts. Wilson, a well
known lawyer, historian, churchman, and rancher, brought in
two other Taylor County structures, the Hill House and the Knight/Sayles
Wilson passed away in 1970, and eventually the site was purchased by Dr.
R. Lee Rode and his wife, Ann. After taking ownership in 1977, the Rodes
continued to expand the site by acquiring more historic structures from
the area. When Rode retired from the medical profession in 1999, the Village
was offered for sale. Thanks to the assistance of the Taylor County Historical
Foundation, the Village was kept intact and acquired by the McWhiney History Education Group (formerly the Grady McWhiney Research Foundation) to be operated as a non-profit educational facility. It is now part of the Texas Frontier Heritage and Cultural Center™.
Since 1999, the McWhiney Group has worked to develop an interpretive
theme for the site. Visitors can learn the history of the last fifty years
of the Texas frontier starting in 1875 and ending in 1925. They can also
gain an understanding of the forces that brought change to the region,
from settled communities to the automobile. Besides traditional static
displays, the site continues to offer special events and lectures designed
to bring the programming to a more personal, interactive level for visitors.
For more detailed information about the Village, you can read a short book,
The Texas You Expect: The Story of Buffalo Gap Historic Village, online here in Adobe PDF format.