180 years of Texas Independence celebrated in San Felipe: History comes alive at historical site

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Nearly 400 school children from several districts in the region came to learn and celebrate Texas Independence Day Wednesday at San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site. 

The celebration was in sharp contrast the mood 180 years ago to the day when delegates at Washington-on-the- Brazos signed the Declaration of Texas Independence from Mexico all the while preparing to fight the Mexican army under Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. 

On Wednesday, children greeted Scott McMahon, a reenactor who rode into San Felipe on horseback dressed in period clothes and carrying a replica of the Victory or Death letter that William Travis wrote asking for reinforcements to come to the aid of the men in Alamo.

McMahon has been riding the route that the various letters Travis penned 180 years ago would have taken to reach San Felipe and also Washington-on-the-Brazos.

“I rode in and talked about the letter and gave them information about the ride,” he said.

He repeated the event several times throughout the day for different school groups.

“They’ve asked a lot of good questions and have been really interested in what we’ve been talking about,” he said.

He said that he felt blessed to have good weather for his week-long journey from the Alamo to Washington-on-the-Brazos, where he was due to arrive on Saturday for the annual celebration there.

“I expected to be saddle sore and tired from sleeping on the ground but I haven’t had a problem with any of it,” he said.

Several groups and agencies had stations set up around the site and demonstrated different things such as old fashioned games, a printing press, black powder shooting, blacksmithing, harvesting cotton, colonial life, cooking and more. 

The children rotated stations every 20 minutes. 

McMahon’s father, Jerry McMahon, was dressed in buckskins and demonstrated his flintlock rifle to the amazement of children and teachers. 

Cody Mobley demonstrated tools that would have been used in the early 1800s and Ed Richards of Richmond taught the kids how to march and carry wooden rifles. 

Carolyn Bilski, president of the Friends of San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site, was helping stamp booklets with Stephen F. Austin’s signature.

“This is a great opportunity to share with the next generation and future leaders how important Texas history is,” she said.

Bryan McAuley, site manager for the historic site, said he was very pleased with the way things went with so many people participating in so many ways at the site.

“What a great way to celebrate the history of Texas and to bring visitors to our site,” he said.

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