Cuero celebrates opening of $6.2 heritage museum

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

Nov. 23, 2013 at 5:23 a.m.

CUERO - Light drizzle on a cold morning could not dampen the excitement at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum on Saturday.

Clad in their warmest Western wear, hundreds of supporters arrived to help Robert Oliver celebrate the grand opening of his 14-year labor of love.

"It's rewarding," said Oliver, chairman of the museum. "My head has been in the trenches so long that it's hard to believe it's happening."

The museum is the culmination of years of fundraising, planning and acquiring artifacts.

"We started with an idea - no patron, no money through an institution of higher learning," Oliver said.

That did not stop him and hundreds of volunteers from raising $6.2 million for the project.

"You can't raise funds without solid local support," Oliver said.

Federal grants from the Economic Development Administration and Save America's Treasures totaled almost $1.5 million through matched funds.

Built in 1903, the two-story, historic Knights of Pythias Hall was restored through a seven-phase restoration master plan. Artifacts including saddles, spurs and silver showcase the cowboy's life on the ranch and the trail from the late 19th century.

"The story does not just belong to Cuero," Oliver said. "We've taken a regional approach, involving the contiguous counties - Lavaca, Victoria, Gonzales, Goliad and Karnes."

After seven years of negotiation, the University of Texas at Austin permanently loaned the museum the hardware from its "Horsemen of the Americas - Tinker Collection." The collection includes rare cowboy artifacts from North and South America.

On loan from the Kurt House Collection, the Colt Model 1877 revolver once fired by notorious outlaw John Wesley Hardin is on display for six months.

"The museum celebrates our heritage, and the building is restored to absolute beauty," said Jean Nagel, a retired Cuero school teacher who dressed in early Texas pioneer attire for the celebration.

During grand opening festivities, Nagel and other residents served Indian cornmeal cake from an authentic 1830s Republic of Texas recipe, ginger molasses cookies, beans and biscuits, among other chuck wagon offerings.

"Now, I get to invite you to Cuero, home of 6,841 people with four museums and one grocery store," said Cuero Mayor Sara Meyer during the dedication. "We are a cultured group."

The dedication also featured presentations by Bobbie Greene McCarthy, former director of Save America's Treasures from Washington D.C., and former Texas Gov. Mark White.

"Not many towns any size can accomplish this," White said. "And Texas does it better than anyone else."



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