Although people have passed through this area for thousands of years, the first permanent settlement was established in 1882 when the railroad came here. This was a prime spot for the railroad because of the abundance of water from Burgess Springs. At first the town was called Murphyville and when Brewster County was formed it became the county seat. In 1888 the town was renamed Alpine. Pictured here is the Brewster County Courthouse which was built in 1887. No one seems to recall who built it though. Ranching continues to be important to the economy of Alpine although it has declined some from its peak. Currently there are about 6000 people that call Alpine home.
The morning after my stay in Alpine at the Holland Hotel I awoke early and reloaded the car. As I was walking back to the hotel I saw a distinguished looking older man walking in front of me with a cane. I opened the door for him and we started talking. He was Ted Gray a regular fixture and long time resident of the area. He told me a little of his life story. He arrived in the Alpine area 70 years before at the age of 15. He had no formal education and just the clothes on his back and a saddle. He got a job as a $30 a month cowboy and horse wrangler. He taught himself to read and write and do numbers. Eventually, he got a few horses and head of cattle of his own. Through good old-fashioned hard work and honesty he built up a 300,000 acre ranch. He was absolutely fascinating to talk to. He has written a book and had one written about him. I am very glad I met this local.
The museum has been collecting and exhibiting artifacts of the vast Big Bend region for more than 70 years. The exhibits of the museum capture and contrast the history of the various inhabitants of this area and encompass the contributions of the Native Americans, the Spanish, the Mexicans, and the Anglo-Americans.
The book written about Ted Gray is called "The Last Campfire" and it tells the story of his fascinating life. The book he wrote is called "Shades of the West" and is a series of short stories about his life and the people he has met. I recommend both.
The Museum of the Big Bend is located on the campus of Sul Ross State University on the east edge of the town of Alpine. It offers an excellent introduction to the cultural heritage and natural features of the Big Bend through it's permanent displays and temporary installations. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 9 AM to 5 PM and Sunday from 1 PM to 5 PM. It is closed on Monday. Admission is free but donations are welcome.
As always one of my favorite things to do is meet the locals. Ted Gray was not the only local I met during my stay there, I also met a very pretty young redhead named Melissa. She had beautiful eyes too, she just had trouble keeping them open for a photograph.
If you are in Alpine, you should also take the time to visit Fort Davis (see my VT page). It's only 24 miles north of Alpine. Marfa is also a short distance from Alpine (also see my VT page).
This is a picture of the Fort Davis National Historic site.
Hike up Sul Ross mountain behind the university and see if you can figure out where the old "desk" used to be. The trails are pretty well maintained and it is an easy hike. You can also hike up 'A' mountain on the south side of town. You'll probably see some deer and maybe even javelina. They won't attack you if you don't attack them.