BROWNSVILLE, Texas — There is a vanishing species in the Rio Grande Valley. We are not talking about the ocelot or jaguarundi, but the vanishing species is the historian. The RGV is loaded with stories that go back to 1850. Since that time there have been people that have carried that tradition whether it is oral or written.
Historians told their stories on back porches on summer evenings and in places like barbershops. Unfortunately, that particular style of “historian” is just about gone. William Neale was the first real certified historian of this area. He came into this area in 1834, two years before Texas Independence. You can imagine the stories he had and the things he saw during the formative years of South Texas. In addition to William Neale, there was Harbert Davenport. An extremely devout historian, he was the president of the Texas Historical Association and he was based in Brownsville.
Then you had gentlemen such as Eddie Valent and A.A Champion. Eddie Valent was the president of the Texas Historical Association for quite some time and was an amateur artist. He made sketches of the old buildings that he saw off of old photographs he saw during his lifetime. A.A. Champion was a person who devoted his life to history. For Champion history was much more than a hobby. He was of the era that he saw spoke to those people who were out there. A.A. Champion was the very last vestiges of our founding fathers.
In other parts of the Rio Grande Valley there was another group of people that that carried the word of history on beyond. Names like Cleo Dawson, Lucy Wallace, and Marge Johnson. Up until about five or ten years ago, there were actual figures from the old founding dynasties that were on our streets living among us. People like Agnes Browne, Marie Vivier, Frances Wagner, Mary Hicks and they told stories that were so delightful.
Now there is a foundation that is being formed that will help nurture current and future historians. It is called the South Texas Center for Historical and Genealogical Research. In their programs, they have particular elements to build what you would call the certified historians. In other parts of the country, if you try to be a tour guide you can not do it without a license.
The Rio Grande Valley is going to have this training and a junior historian state chapter. It was in Brownsville, for the schools that particular chapter, was in Brownsville for many years but it was let go. Now it will be put back into curriculum. There will also be lectures from people who have bits and pieces of our history. All this information will be pumped back into the history of the Rio Grande Valley and future generations will carry this message forward.