BY PATRICIA BENOIT
TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER
CAMERON — El Camino Real de los Tejas Rancheria, an archeological site in Milam County, has been awarded a Texas Preservation Trust Fund grant for further studies from the Texas Historical Commission.
The site near Gause was one of four Texas archeology projects given grants.
At its quarterly meeting last month, the Texas Historical Commission selected 23 preservation projects from 36 applicants. Grant awards totaled $530,000. The 23 projects selected are located across the state and fall into three categories — archeology, architecture and heritage education.
El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail was originally established by Congress to connect a series of missions and posts between Mexico City and Los Adaes, the first capital of the province of Texas.
Archaeologist Sergio Iruegas, president of GTI Environmental in San Antonio, is overseeing the work in Gause. He hopes to lead the way to discovering remains or evidence of a fabled 18th-century village and evidence of Native American tribes in Milam County.
The work is a collaborative effort with the National Historic Trail Association, local landowners, the Milam County Historical Society and GTI Environmental.
The trail constituted the only primary overland route from the Rio Grande to the Red River Valley in Louisiana during the Spanish Colonial Period from 1690-1821. The trail came through what is now Milam County. Besides evidence of early Spanish colonization, the site also has evidence of early Native American settlements.
The hunting and gathering people who had established themselves along the San Gabriel River by 4500 B.C. were probably ancestors of the Tonkawa Indians, according to Katherine Bradford Henderson, author of “The Early History of Milam County.”
The Lipan Apaches became neighbors of the Tonkawas sometime after 1300. By the 18th century the Caddo, the Tehuacana and the Waco Indians and a composite group, which the Spanish called the Ranchería Grande, also frequented the area. European exploration of the area began in the early 1700s.
The Spanish in the early 1700s also established several missions along the San Gabriel River, in an effort to Christianize the Indians in the region. Disease and unfriendly Indians caused the Spanish to abandon the sites in the mid-1750s.
Rancheria Grande in Milam is mentioned in early extant 18th-century Spanish Colonial written texts. Iruegas said recent studies reveal segments of the El Camino Real running through the area and that some artifacts indicate human occupation nearly continuously for 10,000 years.