REFUGIO — Drivers passing through Refugio down U.S. 77 may not have given a second thought to the tall, shadowy live oak trees that separate the north and southbound lanes just south of the town. Those trees, though, highlight a significant and strategic location during the Texas Revolution almost 200 years ago this month.
“General Jose Urrea (of Mexico) used to camp under the oak trees during the war,” said Lori Bellows, a member of the Refugio County Historical Commission, as she stood underneath the thick, winding oak tree branches.
The area between the two lanes is meant to serve as a destination for Texas history buffs to learn more about the historic area. But where a history sign once stood is now just a pole.
“It’s just ... It’s gone now,” she said.
When Hurricane Harvey hit the area, the storm damaged almost every aspect of the county, including historic places and markers. Local groups are taking steps to repair storm damages to markers and historic sites.
There are several historical markers in Refugio, she said, and most markers were fine with the exception of two.
The Urrea Oaks marker that was on U.S. 77 South has been missing since the storm. Bellows said the commission is not sure whether the marker was knocked out and blown away during the hurricane or if someone picked it up and took the sign home.
Another sign, located on Roca Street, pinpoints the area where Yucatan soldiers were buried in 1836. That sign was shattered by storm debris.
Chris Florance, communications director for the Texas Historical Commission, said historical markers are made of aluminum and are subject to damage from severe weather. He could not say whether there was a surge of reported sign damage after Harvey. Florance said historical markers are not funded by the state and are paid for by the county’s historical commission.
The Refugio County Historical Commission voted Tuesday to replace the Urrea Oaks sign and find out whether the Yucatan Burial Site marker can be repaired locally.
If the sign can’t be repaired locally, the commission will have the markers remade. The signs would cost about $1,800 a piece, Bellows said, which the organization cannot afford. The commission, which is working to have several homes added as historic sites, hopes to move forward soon with repairing and replacing the signs.
“There’s nothing that came out unscathed here from Harvey. Everybody has had to rebuild in one way or another,” Bellows said.
In Bayside, a mansion that was built in 1875 has sustained damage to the point where one portion of the building is now leaning.
Tim Delaney, chairman of the Bayside Historical Society, remembers when the John Howland Wood and Nancy Clark Wood house was in better condition.
The 12- or 13-room house has served as a private residence, a hotel and commune, but has been empty for several years after one of the owners of the home died.
The house, located on Copano Bay, is registered in the National Register of Historic Places and has a historical marker in front.
“The house was just magnificent before the hurricane,” Delaney said.
After a few months of seeing the damaged home at a standstill, he decided to spearhead efforts to repair the historic building. He applied for an emergency preservation planning grant through the Texas Historical Commission.
The grants range between $10,000 and $30,000, according to the Texas Historical Commission website. A crew from the commission has already inspected the home and plans to recommend the house for the grant, Delaney said.
If awarded for the Wood house, the grant would help jump-start the cost of repairs, which includes hiring an architect and engineers.
The home need repairs to the roof, windows, doors and the foundation. Delaney is not sure of the total cost but has created an online fundraiser for the home. Several people have volunteered to help Delaney with rebuilding efforts, he said.
“It’s a historic jewel, and for a little town like Bayside, it’s very precious, a precious jewel,” he said. “This kind of structure is representative of the 1800s and is important for the community as a valuable historical treasure.”