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Houston's Six Best Archeological Sites

Where's Indy when you need him?
Where's Indy when you need him?

We were intrigued by Brittanie Shey's visit to the Camp Logan ruins in Memorial Park last month, so we wondered: Where are the best spots in the Houston area to do some archeological exploring?

We asked Louis Aulbach, one of the best Houston historians, for some help.

"In the Houston area there are a number of significant historic sites," he said. "Some of these sites are currently involved in archeological projects where the archeology helps to verify the known history or, in some cases, the archeology adds new data for the historical record. Other sites, like Camp Logan, exist and have been examined in the past, but more work could be done if and when the resources are available."

His Top Six:

6. The Bernardo Plantation Near Hempstead (and yeah, we have a liberal definition of "the Houston area"), this is where Sam Houston got the Twin Sisters and headed for San Jacinto. (The Twin Sisters, for any non-Texans, were two impressive cannons.)

"This is the first major plantation of the Austin Colony and work here has the potential for bringing to light the real story of the original settlement of Texas," Aulbach says.

5. Frost Town This is an early settlement a little bit east of the conjunction of the White Oak and Buffalo bayous near downtown.

"This neighborhood is the only undeveloped and undisturbed subdivision from the earliest days of Houston," Aulbach says. "The key to what urban life in Houston during the 19th century may be in Frost Town."

4. San Jacinto Battleground An obvious one -- the scene of the second-most famous battle in Texas history. You'd think it would have been picked clean by now, but not so, Aulbach says: "Recent work has uncovered significant new historical details about the famous battle in 1836."

3. Freedmen's Town On the edge of Downtown, for years it was chiefly famous for being the spot every photographer trooped to in order to get the perfect picture of a gleaming modern skyline in the background, with rotting shotgun shacks in the forefront.

"Little effort to understand the ways of life in the community of former slaves was made until recent years," Aulbach says. "Current efforts in the Freedmen's Town area are producing some very interesting details of Houston's post-Civil War African-American community."  

2. Elder Street City Cemetery "This old cemetery holds the potential for some of the most fascinating revisions to the history of Texas," Aulbach says. It's in the area around the old (haunted?) Jefferson Davis Hospital, and is believed to hold pirate graves, among other things.

1. Harrisburg / The Twin Sisters "The holy grail of Texas history is the recovery of the Twin Sisters cannons," Aulbach says.

What the hell happened to them? No one knows. They were used in the Civil War, but after that were apparently regarded more as useless relics than historical artifacts, in an early manifestation of Houston's appreciation of preservation.

One man said he buried the guns near Harrisburg, the old part of Houston near the conjunction of Brays and Buffalo bayous.

"The search for them has occurred at least once every generation since the end of the Civil War," Aulbach says. "Even today, there are several groups that I am aware of who are actively trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together."


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