It really happened on Valentine’s Day. The town of Valentine, Texas was founded on February 14, 1882, by a construction crew of the Southern Pacific Railroad which was working its way eastward from El Paso. That’s where they stopped for the day. The Handbook of Texas notes that Valentine is “the smaller of two towns” in Jeff Davis County. Fair enough. Valentine’s population has never exceeded 500 souls. The larger town in the County, Fort Davis, has a population of 1,000 or so.
Jeff Davis County is something of an afterthought. It sits by itself there in West Texas, cut off from the major highways. A broad angle of its northeast corner barely reaches Interstate 10. The County’s southwestern tip touches the Rio Grande and holds a brief stretch of US90 (and the Union Pacific Railroad).
The historic town of Fort Davis is off the beaten path today. It grew from a major stagecoach stop on the San Antonio – El Paso road in the 1850s. Fort Davis, an important army post, became a County seat.
But – then came the railroad. It bypassed Fort Davis. Residents of nearby Marfa, Texas thought their town should be the County seat since it did have the railroad. They won the argument.
Furious residents of Fort Davis demanded their own County and they got it – Jeff Davis County. A legislator reportedly said, “At last! Texas has a County named for the President of the Confederacy.”
Jeff Davis County in its isolation is a Texas jewel. It holds the Davis Mountains with mile-high peaks. Historic Limpia Canyon (“clear water”) with its Indian pictographs. Historic Fort Davis, the scene of major battles between Apaches and Texans. Nearby is the McDonald Observatory, now operated by the University of Texas. Its original 82-inch telescope has been joined by others. The Observatory is home to the Texas Star Party, where thousands gather every March to take advantage of clear Texas skies.
The stars at night… Wish I could be there.
February 18, 2017
“There is no pleasure in having nothing to do. The fun is in having lots to do and not doing it.” – Mary Wilson little.