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Brownsville’s recognition as the city with the second most important history in Texas is cause for considerable pride. However, it should be noted that the designation does not take into consideration an equally significant pre-history. While much of Brownsville’s history lies unknown to her own people, by comparison, her pre-history is completely unknown. It is time that this lamentable fact is reversed. This may be accomplished by digging into Brownsville’s history to discover her prehistory.
Historians are unanimous in their recognition of the significant role that the Lower Rio Grande Valley and Brownsville have played in Texas and American history. (1) Throughout the 20th century, countless observers have drawn similar conclusions regarding the importance of Brownsville’s history as being pivotal in the understanding of the dynamics of International and Regional relations along the border. First, there was the relationship between Spain and Mexico, followed by the relationship between Mexico and Texas, and most recently, the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. Few believe that these dynamic relationships have played themselves out. (2) As we observe the development of the North American Free Trade Agreement, we literally observe the unfolding of Brownsville’s future. Brownsville’s unrecognized pre-history is equally significant as her history. However, it lies buried in the sands of the Rio Grande in the mud along the banks of our Resacas and Bancos, and in the clay and sand dunes of our coastal lowlands and seashores. (3)
At present, the full significance of the Valley’s coastal archaeology is unknown outside of academic circles. While there have been significant contributions made in our knowledge of prehistory in recent years, most of this information has been either forgotten or overlooked when Brownsville history is taught in local schools. (4) The result is that most of the people in Brownsville and the Valley, and especially our schoolchildren, are not aware of a substantial part of our history and cultural heritage. Year after year, as Jr. High School teachers embark upon their discussion of Texas Indians, there is a general lack of information available to them, plus the fact that little mention is made in textbooks about the geo-cultural significance of the lower Texas Gulf coast Indians. (5)
Our students often have their questions left unanswered:
1- Did Indians live in our area?
2- What were they like?
3- Were they important in Texas history?
- Are there any Indian sites in our area?
- Do we have any of their artifacts?
- What did they look like?
- What language did they speak?
- To what tribe did they belong?
- What happened to them?
Our Brownsville and Valley students have had to settle for sparse answers to these important questions, thus perpetuating a massive cultural and historical void in their education.
Extensive answers abound for each of these questions, supported by an archaeological record, which is unique to the area from Port Mansfield in Willacy County, and as far south as the Rio San Fernando in the Mexican State of Tamaulipas. (6)
The fact that Brownsville’s archaeological record is all but unknown to local people is the major topic and purpose of this article. This treatise is not intended to be an exhaustive examination of Brownsville’s pre-history, but rather, it is intended to educate by accomplishing the following tasks:
- To introduce the reader to Mr. A.E. Anderson, the “Father of Valley Archaeology.”
- To introduce the reader to the existence of the Anderson Collection.
3- To survey academic literature pertaining to the Anderson Collection.
4- To briefly summarize the archaeological theories pertaining to the Brownsville culture, 1932-1991.
Who was A.E. Anderson?
Andrew Elliott “AE” Anderson was born on April 2, 1886, in Stephenville, Texas, in Erath County. He was the eldest son of Andrew Anderson and Bettie Morrow, of the Williamson County Morrows. Andrew’s mother died when he was eight years old, leaving the care of her two young sons and a daughter to her husband who worked as a teacher and Methodist minister. The elder Mr. Anderson rode the circuit around Central Texas preaching. Andrew’s and his younger brother and sister, Allie and Mary’s adolescent years were most likely spent in the Texas hill country around Georgetown, Austin and San Marcos. (7)
Little detail is known about the early and formative years of young Anderson; although it may be assured that, he quietly endured life as the eldest son of a widowed preacher whose responsibility became the raising of three small children. Young Andrew was expected to accept considerable responsibility at a young age. He had instilled in him strict principles of conservative Christian doctrine, and he quietly endured his childhood, which prepared him for his life in Brownsville.
It is known from family records that the elder Anderson was a teacher and that at least during some years of their lives, the Rev. Anderson was also his son’s teacher. Rev. Anderson was born in Denmark and along with his family immigrated to the area of Denmark, Kansas in the middle 19th century. The Rev. Anderson left Kansas as a trail boy with a cattle drive returning to Texas. The elder Anderson was educated in Central Texas where he married and settled. (8)
The young A.E. Anderson studied civil Engineering and Surveying at the University of Texas at Austin graduating around 1907. After completing his education at U.T., Anderson decided to seek his fortune in the rapidly developing area of Texas, south of Corpus Christi, and thus he arrived in the Lower Rio Grande Valley around 1908. While it is not known how Anderson made the decision to come to the Valley upon completing his education, it may be safely assumed that he was either recruited to work with the Valley surveying firm of Amthor and Vann, while still at U.T., or it is speculation that news of the rapid development of south Texas in 1908-1909, led him to seek his fortune in the Valley. Anderson family records romanticize his decision by stating, “He wished to help the comparatively new state of Texas to develop, and decided on the lower Rio Grande Valley as an ideal location.” (9) This theory is completely plausible given the land development “boom” that was occurring in the Valley early in the 20th century.
In any event, A.E. Anderson first appears in Valley records as a young engineer and a student in an evening Spanish class of Miss Ida Petite O’Dell, the daughter of William J. O’Dell and Josephine Johnston of Hidalgo County. Family lore suggests that Anderson found learning Spanish more difficult a task than falling in love with his teacher. Anderson and O’Dell were married at Pharr-San Juan on Christmas Day, 1909. The young couple established their home in Brownsville where they raised their seven children. (10)
In 1921-22, with his surveying and engineering business thriving and the family growing, Anderson with the help of his father, built the family homestead on four acres in a beautiful rural area east of urban Brownsville. Located in the El Jardin section and fronting on Resaca de la Palma, this prime farmland had water readily accessible. Their rich land was planted in citrus, a popular; crop for small estates in the early part of this century. Small country estates were an ideal place to bring ^P the kids in the best tradition of South Texas values. The Anderson family house still stands where it was built on Fruitdale in Brownsville. The 1920’s were a very prosperous time for the Anderson engineering business. The Valley was booming. Anderson, a very personable sort of fellow, was liked and admired all who knew him and was elected to serve on the Brownsville School Board in the late 1920’s. Anderson’s oldest daughter, Margaret, married the son of Oscar Dancy; Cameron County’s respected County Judge Anderson was personally acquainted with some of the most famous men of his time. However, 1933 was to be a year that shattered the happy lives of the Anderson family. The family grove thrived until it was devastated by successive hurricanes that year. (11)
Tragedy struck the Anderson family a severe blow with the premature death of his wife, Ida Anderson. Like that of his father, history appeared to be repeating itself. He was now the sole parent of his seven children. The great depression, successive hurricanes, and the loss of his wife were catastrophes sufficient to devastate the average person, but A.E. Anderson was a person accustomed to self-reliance and responsibility. Bolstered by strong pioneer Texas values, this man who participated in carving the Valley out of “monte,” circled the wagons, keeping his family together and his business going in the face of overwhelming odds. However, those who knew him agree that A.E. Anderson was never the same after the loss of his wife.
A.E. Anderson survived his wife by 11 years, and with failing health and a weakened heart, followed his wife in death on March 10, 1944, in Brownsville, Texas. He was 58 years old. (12) Mr. Anderson spent 35 years of his life laying out property lines, filing deeds, building roads and bridges, working on irrigation projects, and literally walking through the most inhospitable virgin brush country in south Texas.
A.E. Anderson was truly a remarkable man. His life and work in the Valley guaranteed his place in Brownsville history. Any meander through the property records and deeds at the Cameron County Courthouse reveals an endless trail of his work. Today engineers and planners agree that Anderson’s “metes and bounds” surveys provide the most accurate and reliable descriptions of Cameron County property available. Anderson’s fame as a surveyor developed into tremendous proportions during his lifetime and into folklore status in the decades after his death. Both Mr. Kermit Cromack and Mr. Matt Claunch of Brownsville indicate that Anderson was responsible for the survey of virtually every major farm plat in the lower portion of Cameron County. (13) Most of the subdivisions developed in Brownsville from the period 1910 to 1940 were Anderson’s. Among the most notable were the Los Ebanos development built around Palm Blvd., as well as the West Brownsville area. The Los Ebanos area continues to this day to be a favorite location for families wishing to combine natural beauty with maximum land use. (14) The El Jardin and the Barreda tracks were among Anderson’s larger and more complex surveys. Mr. Cromack recalls Anderson being employed by his father, Mr. Bertham Cromack, who had come to Brownsville in the early 1900’s from Oklahoma to develop the area around “four corners.” The elder Cromack regarded Mr. Anderson as “one of the most capable persons he had ever met,” referring to him as “The Valley’s” surveyor. (15)
Anderson was often called upon to testify in land title cases that were common in the early part of the 20th century “When Anderson would testify about a land survey, his word was always final. There was no cross-examination.” Years later, Mr. Cromack recalls being present in a court-of-law in Cameron County in which a surveyor who was testifying claimed, “I got within 6 inches of Anderson’s point and at that moment everyone smiled,” indicating that the testifying surveyor had done almost as good a job resurveying the property in question as Mr. Anderson had originally done. (16) Arriving in Brownsville in 1908, Anderson was reported to have been the only person to know the “exact” locations of downtown Brownsville’s property lines.
Mr. Matt Claunch was himself, an active surveyor in Brownsville from 1952 to the middle 1980’s. While he never knew Mr. Anderson personally, he is uniquely qualified to substantiate the significance and quality of A.E. Anderson’s work, as well as the importance of his work in Cameron County and Brownsville. Mr. Claunch, a highly regarded surveyor, was recruited from the International Boundary Commission in the early 1950’s to work for the firm of Archie Ruff and Theodore Settles, after the retirement of W.O. Washington. W.O. Washington had previously been Cameron County Engineer. All of the concrete roads in Cameron County were built during Washington’s tenure. The partnership of Ruff and Washington had purchased Anderson’s engineering and surveying business after his death, including the extensive Anderson files covering all of the development in the lower portion of Cameron County from 1908 to 1944. Ruff and Washington then became Ruff and Settles. Upon the death of Archie Ruff in 1955, the firm became Settles and Claunch. (17) This highly respected firm was the descendant of Anderson Engineering and was active in the Brownsville area though 1970. The partnership was dissolved in 1971. Theodore Settles died in 1973, and his firm eventually evolved into what is now the Gonzales Engineering Co. Upon the dissolution of the partnership, Matt Claunch retained possession of the “Anderson Piles,” referring to them as “the most complete set of plats, maps, and surveys on Brownsville in existence.” For example, a letter from Anderson to Miss Lula Champion dated July 28, 1931, discussing the changes in her acreage northwest of Brownsville as a result of the “cutout” of bancos during flood stages of the Rio Grande River. (18) It is Matt Claunch’s thirty years of surveying “over the footsteps of Anderson,” that most qualifies him to attest to the historical importance of Anderson’s work. Mr. Claunch recounts that of all the early surveyors in Cameron County, Anderson is the only one that can still be “followed” accurately. “He set ground markers that are there today, and are still recoverable.” Most surveys today are “retracement surveys.” Today all land is privately owned. Therefore, surveys today are retracements of “original” surveys. Most of the “original” surveys in the lower portions of Cameron County are A.E. Anderson’s. For example, Mr. Claunch recalled his being able to locate the old resort and clubhouse on Brazos Island (Boca Chica beach) by tracing backward from an Anderson monument. (19)
Probably the most significant statement that could be made about Anderson’s work was made by Mr. Claunch. “Anderson seemed to be aware, more than any of the other early surveyors down here, of what he was doing and its importance on the historical development of this country (Cameron County), and he left excellent tracks. He was so good; most people just took him for survey. In the early days, we’d have a project come into the office and if it was located in an old Anderson survey area, it got immediate attention, otherwise it sat around awhile.” (20)
It is because of Anderson’s meticulousness, his training in professional drawing, surveying, and note taking, that one of the most significant and archaeological collections in Texas come from Cameron and Willacy Counties. The “Anderson Collection,” is testimony to his lifetime of work.
Anderson’s penchant for detail was reflected in every aspect of his life. His youngest daughter, Katherine Celaya Reed, fondly recollects that her father was an impeccably and conservatively dressed man who, “always dressed the same.” Anderson dressed in a conservative suit with a thin black monogrammed necktie and a monogramed dress shirt. He always sported a hat appropriate for the season and Brownsville’s weather. His daughters recall, “He never wore boots in the house, because gentlemen just didn’t do that in those days,” (21) A.E. Anderson was respected and admired by all who knew him, and he was acquainted with the true legends. Anderson counted among his personal friends the great Texas author and folklorist, J. Frank Dobie, as well as other famous early 20th century naturalists. Anderson’s daughters tell of their father’s collection of Dobie’s books, each personalized by the author, including “little notes,” to Anderson on Mexican culture. Dobie apparently had a great respect for his friend’s intimate knowledge of the Mexican people of the south Texas “monte,” and their customs. Two of Dobie’s most popular works are entitled, “Tongues of the Monte,” and “Puro Mexicano.” We may surmise that Brownsville’s A.E. Anderson had personal input in shaping Dobie’s immortal lines in these famous books. (22)
My conversation with Mr. Kermit Cromack revealed still more fascinating information about this remarkable man. As a young boy, Kermit recalls paddling up the Resaca de la Palma in his dory to the Anderson place. Anderson’s oldest son Peter was a contemporary of Cromack’s and Kermit remembers Mr. Anderson showing him cuttings, grafts, and hybrids he had just received from Luther Burbank out in California. While the Anderson daughters, Mrs. Weich and Mrs. Celaya Reed, vaguely remember daddy’s “cactus garden,” it appears that Mr. Anderson’s interest in horticulture and native plants was much greater than recreational. As an amateur horticulturist in touch with Burbank at the time, he was making history out in California. Anderson once again demonstrated that he was himself on the cutting edge of science from his home in Brownsville, Texas. Cromack recalls Mr. Anderson explaining the Burbank experiments to him. Anderson had a large group of plants and trees that Burbank had sent him. (23)
Anderson’s interest in botany and native plants led him to be the first person in the Valley to experiment with spineless cactus, which he had growing in his garden on Fruitdale. Mr. Cromack recalls a strange event, which occurred after Anderson’s death: “the spineless cactus began to grow spines.” (24).
Remembered as the “perfect combination of the physical and Pleasant, quiet sort of man, with a real sense of humor and with an engaging group of children.” (25) As a true naturalist, Anderson rounded out his interests with the geology of the coastal river delta area. Conversation with Matt Claunch revealed the existence of a set of letters in the Anderson files from noted Texas geologist W. Armstrong Price, written to Anderson during the years 1937-1939. (26) This correspondence clearly indicates that Anderson had a sophisticated knowledge of local geology including river delta and alluvial deposits.
A.E. Anderson was also a close personal friend of Mr. R.D. Camp the first Audubon ornithologist in the Cameron County area and the warden on Green Island for many years in the early part of the 20th century. (27) The Anderson daughters remarked, “Daddy felt that the coastal flat lands should remain public lands and not be sold to private concerns.” (28) When one considers Anderson’s wide variety of interests in nature and natural forms, it is clear to see that he was truly visionary in his desire to preserve our coastal wetlands.
This remarkable man made an even greater contribution to Brownsville history, one that is not fully appreciated outside of a handful of historians and anthropologists. Anderson’s boyhood hobby of collecting “arrowheads” began in the hill country of central Texas and developed into a lifetime of collecting Indian artifacts in the Valley. For 35 years, Anderson collected artifacts in the coastal areas of south Texas and northeastern Mexico. It is because of his precision, his training in professional drawing, surveying, and note taking that one of the most important archaeological collections in Texas comes from Cameron and Willacy Counties. (29)
Without a doubt, Anderson is most significant and long lasting contribution to Brownsville’s history is his “Indian Relic Collection.” Anderson family history depicts Anderson at the age of seven collecting arrowheads in the area around Georgetown, Texas. (30) His passion for arrowhead collecting would never wane throughout his life, and in fact, it sustained him during the dark days of 1933 and beyond by occupying his mind for hours in his den after the tragic loss of his wife. In fact, Anderson’s daughters speak lovingly of their father as a man whose life was consumed by his love for his family, his work, and his “Indian Relic Collection.” (31)
From 1908 until his death in 1944, Anderson sighted a surveying instrument, pounded stakes, and clawed his way through the relentless south Texas “monte” where no man since coastal Indians had trekked. In this regard, Anderson was truly a Valley pioneer. It is said that A.E. Anderson had an uncanny ability to locate the remains of Indian campsites, hearths, shell middens, and burial sites. In many instances these sites were intact and in “perfect undisturbed condition.” Always true to his training, Anderson recorded every site location, drew maps, took notes, made drawings, and numbered specimens to correspond with each site location. He kept all the materials he found no matter how insignificant they may have appeared. It is completely due to this discipline and dedication to his profession and “hobby” that the Anderson Collection lives on. Although Anderson did not leave a will, he obviously realized the importance of his collection. Anderson let it be known that it was his wish that the collection along with the notes and maps would be “loaned” to the archaeological laboratories (TARL) at the University of Texas. (32)
Anderson’s death resulted in his youngest children being sent away either to school or to live with their older siblings. With his children scattered across the nation and the world at war in 1944, we are fortunate that the Anderson collection actually found its way to the University of Texas in 1945. Almost all other Anderson family possessions, which were left in the home, including his collection of Dobie books, remain unaccounted for to this day. (33) It is clear that the men from the Texas Archaeological Research Laboratories knew the value of Anderson’s collection because they promptly arrived to claim it.
During the years between 1908 and 1944, Anderson spent much of his professional and recreational time in the “out back” of Cameron County, Texas. His years of keen observation resulted in the documentation of nearly 400 Indian site locations. (34) While Anderson sites stretch from Willacy County to as far south at San Fernando in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, the majority of Anderson sites are located in Cameron County and in the Municipio of Matamoros to the south. Within these two counties, the majority of Anderson sites are located either along the coast or along the banks of fresh waterways such as resacas, bancos, and the Rio Grande River. (35)
The man and his collection were so renown along the lower border that Mexican “rancheros” would bring “piedras” that they found in the “monte” to “El Senor Anderson.” Mr. J.D. Weich, Anderson’s son-in-law, remembers that unless Anderson found an artifact himself and could attest to its location, he always referred to those pieces brought to him as, “said to have been found at a certain location.” (36) Anderson’s constant attention to scientific detail contributed to the significance of his collection to Texas Archaeology. Anderson’s eldest son Peter was a contemporary of Mr. Kermit Cromack, who remembers Mr. Anderson taking the boys out in his Model “T” to scour Indian sites. “We’d go out and he’d have us. scratch around looking for things.” (37)
Anderson stored the bulk of the collection in the family den, which numbered in the thousands of individual pieces. The den also served as his “inner sanctum,” and was off limits to all others except by special invitation. During the Great Depression, several of Anderson’s married daughters and their families temporarily returned to the family home in Brownsville. Mr. Anderson’s den was off-limits at all times except during special occasions. It was these times that under his watchful eye, family and friends could venture a peek at daddy’s Indian relic collection. Remembered for the rows and rows of cigar boxes filled with stone, pottery, and shell, the daughters recollect that the boxes came from Mrs. Saunder’s Cigar and Magazine Shop on Elizabeth St., located on the first floor of the Merchants National Bank in downtown Brownsville. In his later years, A.E. Anderson maintained his office upstairs in the historic building, which still stands in Brownsville. The daughters remember the wide eyed amazement with which they eagerly waited to be rewarded with a peek inside the handsome felt-lined box Anderson kept in his office. It contained his most highly treasured prizes, including finely carved and decorated, polished mother-of-pearl gorgets, and Indian relics, which had been crafted into jewelry for his wife. (38) These special treasures were most probably excavated from coastal burial sites. These rare and beautiful pieces were once the proud possessions of the nobility of Cameron County’s pre-historic populations.
Some of the Anderson children’s happiest memories include accompanying “daddy” on a family outing to a “dig,” in which an Indian burial was to be excavated. The daughters proudly recall their tasks of carefully sifting soil. They slept under the stars on the coastal salt-flats, or near Mexican “jacales,” while the smell of beans cooking over an open fire filled the night air. (39) Anderson is also reported to have played a role in the surveying and layout of the Port of Brownsville ship channel. Built in the 1930’s, it traversed 15 miles of the most archaeologically rich coastal lands in Texas. Fortunately, for us, Anderson was there to collect the artifacts, which fell out of the spoil and dredge as it was piled up on the banks of the ship channel. Anderson documented the location of each site as the channel cut across the clay dunes and salt-flats to the Gulf of Mexico.
It was from this same area along the newly excavated Brownsville ship channel that Anderson collected fossilized fragments of Pleistocene mammals. These enormous animals roamed our area tens of thousands of years ago. Anderson sent his findings to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. for identification. Mr. Anderson also communicated his discoveries and interests in Texas’ geology to his friend Dr. W. Armstrong Price of Corpus Christi. He was also known to correspond with paleontologists at the University of California. During the years, 1937-1939, Anderson and Price corresponded often. Commonly their letters reflected their theories on coastal geology and archaeology. In a letter dated December 13, 1937, Price remarks that the rare Folsom point Anderson found near the mouth of the Rio Grande indicates an ancient occupation.
Price wrote, “Mr. Jackson from the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Texas, went into the field with Benedict and me Saturday to see Benedict’s locality where he dug out a bright red pot. Inside were the cremated bones of a child.” (40) As a result of his efforts, Anderson provided us with one of the earliest records of the paleontological material from the southern Texas coast, and the first records from the area of Brownsville and Cameron County. In another letter from Price to Anderson, dated June 20, 1938, Price notes, “your elephant teeth on Padre Island and the fossil crab might tie in with Richard’s tooth.” (41) In a final example of correspondence from Price to Anderson dated August 5, 1938, Price wonders, “Does the occurrence of the larger points at 18 inches to 2 feet to 6 feet–in clay dunes mean that the users of them delta of the Rio Grande might have covered up everything older than 1,000 years.” (42) Anderson’s daughter, Mrs. Virginia Weich, was with her father the day he found a major fossil, which was eventually sent to the Smithsonian. She recalls the story of proudly taking the fossil home and scrubbing the bones in front of the family hearth in a pan of soapy water. (43)
A.E. Anderson was Brownsville’s first naturalist and environmentalist who left us his outstanding surveys and his geological maps. He was an avid botanist, but most of all, Anderson made a lasting contribution to our knowledge of Brownsville’s pre-historic populations by leaving us his “Indian relic” collection. Many of his artifacts are still in their original cigar boxes just as he left them.
THE ANDERSON COLLECTION
The Anderson Collection is presently on loan from the Anderson family to the University of Texas. The collection is stored at the Texas Archaeological Research Laboratories at the Balcones Research Laboratories in Austin, Texas. The Anderson collection is accessible to any serious student who wishes to examine it. This author has made numerous visits over the years to view, photograph, and document the Anderson Collection. (44)
The Anderson Collection consists of approximately 5,000 individual artifacts and artifact debris collected by him between 1908 and 1944. The collection represents materials collected from both the U.S. and Mexican sides of the Rio Grande River. The material in the collection is evenly divided between the U.S. and Mexican sides of the river. There is no significant difference between the materials from the U.S. and the materials from the Mexican sides of the border. Unless site locations are consulted, the materials are homogeneous, representing a “single” culture complex. (45)
The “Brownsville Complex,” as it has been called, was bounded on the east by the Gulf of Mexico, to the south by the San Fernando River, and extended northward into Willacy County, but not beyond the northern limit of Willacy County. The Brownsville Complex did extend to the west, but at no point along its length did it intrude more than 32km (approximately 19 miles) inland (west toward Hidalgo County). (46)
The majority of the material from the U.S. side of the river comes from Cameron County, with some material collected from the southeastern area of Willacy County. Anderson identified approximately 200 sites in Cameron County. The majority of these sites were located in the eastern coastal sections of the county. A good number of sites were located along resacas in the central and southern parts of the county (San Benito, Los Fresnos, Olmito, and Brownsville). While the majority of sites were coastal, there is no significant difference between the material collected near the coast and material collected from sites in the central and southern expanses of Cameron County, from the work of Hall, describes an area along the Brownsville ship channel eastward to the Laguna Madre. Along this route no fewer than 11 Anderson sites are identifiable. (47) cut-out from the East Brownsville quadrant of the U.S.G.S. map series and the Indian artifacts found in the Anderson Collection include the following: Flint projectile points, knives, scrapers, drills, tubes, hammer stones, pumice-stone pipes, rubbing stones, pottery, and potsherds of Mexican origin. Both human and animal bone material is represented in the form of tools and ornaments. Split bone awls and tubes decorated with incised lines are represented. Marine shell artifacts are generously represented in the forms of tools and ornaments, including hand axes, scrapers, tinklers, beads, disks, sockets, plugs for drills, fish hooks, projectile points, pendants, gorgets, gouges, gaming disks, and band ornaments. (49) Representing typical lithic artifacts found in the collection. in addition, describe “Huastecan” type painted pottery, which is typical of the Brownsville complex. Pottery cutouts and potsherds also plentiful in the Brownsville area. Representative types of shell and bone artifacts in the collection common to the Brownsville culture. The wide variety of shell artifacts found in this coastal culture is named above.
The more unusual artifacts represented in the Anderson Collection include freshwater shell artifacts, and glass artifacts obviously fashioned from material from an early historic origin (after 1519). While the majority of the material in the Anderson Collection represents surface collection, it has been determined, that A.E. Anderson excavated sites he considered to be the most significant including occupation sites and burial sites. (50)
Working first with the Anderson Collection materials and subsequently by relocating Anderson sites, several investigators have characterized the “Brownsville Complex” by describing it as follows:
“The most distinctive characteristic of the Brownsville complex is the abundance of shell artifacts, in particular, projectile points fashioned from conch- shell columella. Other commonly occurring shell ornaments and tools include chipped-shell disks, centrally pierced ground-shell disks, and carved pendants. They vary in presence or in absence of design and shape.
They range from square or triangular (conch) to rectangular, oval, or natural (Mollusca). Also included are Oliva shell beads and tinklers, columella beads and plugs, mussel-shell scrapers, and shell fish hooks.” (51)
The “Brownsville Complex” is generally accepted in Texas
archaeology as not being older than 1,000 A.D. and continuing to the early
historic period. While the overwhelming
majority of materials in the Anderson Collection are representative of the
“Brownsville Complex” (1,000 A.D. to 1,800 A.D.), a few isolated
Paleo-lndian (5,000 B.C.) artifacts (dart points) are found in the collection. In 1933, A.E. Anderson collected a Clovis
(Folsom) Point from a location near the mouth of the Rio Grande. Years
Later Dr. W.A. Price observed mammoth bones eroding from approximately the same area. Thus, evidence of occupation in the Brownsville coastal area can be documented as far back as 5,000 B.C. (52)
Bifaces and Projectile Points
a-Abasolo: a large unstemmed triangular point with a well-rounded base.
Similar to Catan but larger in size.
b-Almagre: a large, broad, and comparatively thick point with an irregular body.
c-Angostura: A long slender, leaf-shaped point.
d-Cameron: A tiny, equilateral, triangular point.
e-Catan: A triangular, unstemmed point, rounded base.
f-Cliffton: A roughly triangular, crudely chipped form.
g-Clovis: A lanceolate outlined point with a short wide flute on one side and a narrower flute on the back.
h-Ensor: A highly variable point with broad stems, and shallow side notches.
i-Fairland: A large broad triangular point with narrow shoulders and an expanding stem formed by a long shallow notch that produces a strong flaring base,
j-Folsom: A lanceolate point recognized by excellent chipping, thinness, and distinctive flutes.
k-Fresno: A stemless, triangular point that has straight to slightly convex or concave lateral edges, and a convex or slightly concave base.
1-Frio: A point with a triangular body, short and broad with wide side
m-Langtry: A thin well-made point with straight to concave or recurved lateral edges and strong shoulders.
n-Lerma: A slender, bipointed outline, usually thinned on one end.
o-Martindale: A point with prominent shoulders and short barbs formed by corner notching. The base is formed by two convex curves. –
p-Matamoros: A small thick triangular or subtriangular unstemmed point similar to Tortugas. .
q-Perdiz: A triangular point usually well barbed at the shoulders and a contracted stem, often sharply pointed.
r-Refugio: No stem, elongated triangular point.
s-Scallorn: A triangular, corner notched point with straight to convex lateral edges and barbed shoulders
t-Starr: A triangular point with slightly concave lateral edges and a pronounced base concavity.
u-Tortugas: A large unstemmed triangular point,
v- Toyah: A small triangular point with two side notches. (53) gouges, gravers, and abraders. Lithic debitage include cores, flakes, chips, and blades. Lithic artifacts are knapped, knapped and pecked, or ground types. The knapped and pecked types include hammer stones and anvils, while the ground type includes “manos.” Lithic resource material in the collection includes Aphanitic chert, Quartzite, Chalcedony, Ogallala chert, Rhyolite, Siltstone, Limestone, and Petrified wood.
A SUMMARY OF 25 ARCHEOLOGICAL THEORIES PERTAINING TO THE PREHISTORIC “BROWNSVILLE CULTURE”
- In the years after the first contact with the Spanish, 1500’s numerous small bands of nomadic Indians were pushed northward into the area of the Rio Grande River Delta.
- In his book on the Indians of Texas, Newcomb described the “Western Gulf Culture” area, which extended from Galveston in Texas to the Rio Panuco in southern Tamaulipas.
- Most of the groups in this area can be grouped linguistically into a category called Coahuiltecan.
- A related group, the Karankawas was entirely a coastal living group unlike the Coahuiltecans who ventured to the west. The Karankawas existed on Padre Island from Corpus Christi to as late at 1843. After this time the remaining members were probably pushed southward into Mexico.
- By the middle 1700’s most Coahuiltecan bands had been relocated to Spanish missions and were living peacefully.
- In the 1700’s North American settlement in Texas pushed the
Lipan Apache and Comanche groups into south Texas and the Valley. These warlike people scared the remaining Coahuiltecans deeper into Mexico.
- Mr. A.E. Anderson was the first person to take interest in Brownsville and Valley pre-history. He theorized that there was only one culture, which existed in the lower river delta.
- In the 1930’s and 1940’s the first professional reconnaissance began in the area based upon Anderson’s work. Initial survey was with the purpose of the preliminary delineation of the area’s cultural complexes and their interrelationships.
- Early surveys encountered abundant painted ceramic from the Huastecan area of southern Tamaulipas. This pottery along with shell artifacts would come to distinguish the Brownsville complex from other cultures.
- ln his early work in the 1940’s, MacNeish, recognized adjacent but different cultures to the south in Mexico. The Barril complex is the most important.
- MacNeish supported the possibility of a cultural relationship between prehistoric Mexican cultures to the south and those to the north in the southeastern U.S. Passing through Brownsville.
- MacNeish characterized the Brownsville, Abasolo, and Repelo complexes as important to south Texas and northeast Mexico.
- in 1946, MacNeish revisited 14 Anderson sites and examined the material from 58 others.
- McNeish identified the Abasolo complex, as a neighbor to the Brownsville complex. The Abasolo complex extends from the Rio de las Palmas in Tamaulipas, northward along the coast to the San Fernando River. Then concentrated inland to Reynosa and into southern Texas.
- In the 1940’s, Kelley called the same culture the “Monte” culture. The Coahuiltecan, Abasolo, and Monte cultures were basically the same.
- In the 1950’s extensive study in the area of the Falcon Dam construction site led to the discovery of Brownsville complex materials in Falcon sites indicating some trade.
- Paleo-Indian sites were definitely found to the West in the Falcon area.
- Brownsville area has not produced a Paleo-Indian culture although Paleo-Indian materials have been found. Paleo- Indian cultures represent peoples who lived before 5,000 B.C.
- The Falcon Dam area had an Archaic culture beginning around 5,000 B.C. and continuing right up to the earliest contact with the Spanish. In the Falcon focus the dominant projectile points, are, Tortugas, Abasolo, and Refugio.
20-The Mier focus was a transitional phase between the Archaic and Neo-American Indians. The Mier focus is represented by Matamoros, Catan, Fresno, Perdiz, and Starr projectile points.
21-The Brownsville focus was clearly recent, falling into the Neo-American Indian period. That is, 2,000 A.D. to the time of contact, 1,500 A.D.
- It is now believed to have had two unique cultures living at the same time. The Brownsville culture on the coast, and the Barril or Abasolo to the west.
- During the 1960’s and 1970’s, Thomas R. Hester, conducted extensive archaeological study in south Texas and is regarded as the leading expert on the topic.
- As recently as 1974, Elton Prewitt revisited 60 Anderson sites, Cameron County, locating 38 new sites.
- Prewitt identified five types of sites in the Brownsville complex: Clay dune-laguna, Resaca-laguna, Clay dune-lake, Resaca, and Barrier Island sites.(54)
A HISTORIC CHRONOLOGY OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDIES PERTAINING TO THE BROWNSVILLE CULTURE
1932: A.E. Anderson, Brownsville surveyor and naturalist publishes an article, which describes the artifacts that he had collected along the Rio Grande Delta over a 35-year period.
1935: E.B. Sayles is the first professional archaeologist to take interest in the Anderson collection, which is discussed, in an archaeological survey of Texas.
1940: A.T. Jackson compared stone tubes from the Anderson Collection to similar specimens from other areas of Texas.
1943: T.N. Cambell, studied stone tolls from cue Aransas focus and attempted to draw a relationship between early horizons along the Gulf coast of the southern U.S. and northeastern Mexico.
1944: A.E. Anderson died in Brownsville, Texas
1947: R. MacNeish publishes preliminary results of his archaeological survey of the Sierra de Tamaulipas, and coastal Tamaulipas north of the Soto is Marina River as well as a small portion of south Texas including Anderson sites.
1947: J. Hughes, at about the same time as McNeish surveys a lengthy stretch along the Matamoros-Victoria highway. Hughes examined the banks of and basins for sites as Anderson had.
1947: J. Charles Kelley, publishes an article on the “Monte Aspect of the Balcones Phase,” and draws conclusions to the cultures of the Gulf Coastal Plain southward.
1949: T.N. Campbell and Frizzell furthered the concept of the “Monte Aspect,” including Repels arid Abasolo complexes.
1950: Krieger and Hughes, publish initial reports of their fieldwork from Zapata and Starr counties and the Falcon reservoir area.
1951: Aveleyra, a Mexican archaeologist who worked on the Mexican side of the Falcon project.
1951: Hartle and Stephenson published their investigations at the Falcon Reservoir construction project.
1952: J.F. Cason reported on pre-historic sites at the Falcon Reservoir construction site.
1952: E.B. Jelks reports on the river basin archaeological survey in Texas.
1953: E.B. Jelks, more reports on the river basin survey.
1953: Argued as and Aveleyra, McNeish archaeologists publish a brief report on the discovery of a Plainview point on the Mexican side of the Falcon Dam project.
1953: F. Ruecking, publishes article on the economic systems of the Coahuiltecan Indians of southern Texas.
1954: Suhm, Krieger, and Jelks, produce the first edition of the Introductory Handbook Of Texas Archaeology, which includes material for eight south Texas counties.
1956: F. Weir, reports on an important pre historic site in Starr County.
1958: R. MacNeish publishes a major publication based on 21 months of fieldwork in Tamaulipas and northern Mexico. MacNeish’s work studied the Anderson Collection and resurveyed Anderson Sites.
1958: W. A. Price, Anderson friend, Corpus Christi geologist publishes a major work on Gulf Coast geology.
1960: Tom N. Campbell, publishes a major article on the archaeology of the central and southern sections of the Texas coast.
1961: W.W. Newcomb, publishes the Indians of Texas.
1962: R. Troike, publishes notes on Coahuiltecan ethnography.
1964: T.N. Campbell works on Padre Island reporting on 15 sites.
1967: Curtis Tunnell and J.E. Corbin, establish the Cameron County file at the TARL at U.T. Austin.
1968: M.B. Newton, reports on the La Perdida site in Starr County. ,
1969: M.B. Collins, T.R. Hester, and F. Weir, report on the very important Floyd Morris cemetery site in Cameron County.
1969: T.R. Hester, continues his work in south Texas with a Kleberg and Kenedy County sites.
1971: T.R. Hester and R.W. Rodgers, gain additional information concerning burial patterns in the Brownsville complex.
1971: J.P. Nunley, finishes his dissertation on Archaic sites in the Falcon Reservoir area.
1972: D.R. Brown, assess the archaeological resources affected by the construction of the Retamal Dam.in Hidalgo County.
1973: T.R. Hester, publishes his paper on Hunters and Gatherers of the Rio Grande Plain and the Lower Texas Coast.
1974: E. Prewitt, a student of Campbell spends three months locating Anderson sites in Cameron County for a student paper.
1974: Scurlock, Lynn, and Ray, assess the archaeological resources of Padre Island.
1974: G. Doran, completes a Master’s Thesis on the Long Bones of Texas Indians.
1974: G.D. Hall and K.A. Grombacher, conduct an archaeological assessment of the Brazos Island area.
1975: T.R. Hester and H.J. Shafer, discuss the importance of flint resources and blade technology along the Texas coast.
1975: Nunley and Hester, conduct a systematic survey of sites along the Arroyo los 0linos in Starr County, a total of 52 sites are identified.
1975: Archaeologist Dr. Gene J. Paul arrives at Texas Southmost College.
1976: E.P. Baxter and K.L. Killen perform an archaeological survey of the Palo Alto Battlefield near Brownsville.
1976: Anthropologist Dr. A.N. Zavaleta arrives at Texas Southmost College, Paul and Zavaleta become the first professional anthropologists and archaeologists in the Valley.
1977: R. Mallouf, B. Baskin, and Killen, publish a major survey of the cultural resources of Hidalgo and Willacy Counties.
1978: T.R. Hester, publishes an article entitled, Archaeology of the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
1979: R. Mallouf and A.N. Zavaleta, publish a report on the skeletal remains found at the Unland site in Cameron County.
1979: G.J. Paul and A.N. Zavaleta are contracted to survey the Boscaje de Palmas in the Southmost area of Brownsville. Photograph the Anderson Collection in Austin.
1980: L. Highley and T.R. Hester, publish papers on The Archaeology of the Texas Coast.
1980: T.R. Hester, publishes Digging into South Texas Pre-History
1980: L.F. Brown and others, publish a major work on the
Environment and geology of the Texas coast, Brownsville and Harlingen area.
1983: G.J. Paul and A.N. Zavaleta publish a report on the Boscaje de Palmas in the Borderlands Journal.
1985: E.S. Turner and T.R. Hester, publish a Field Guide to the, Stone Artifacts of Texas Indians. Importance of resacas and bancos. Includes photographs from the Anderson Collection.
1990: M. Salinas publishes a major work on the Indians of south Texas and northern Mexico.
- Milo Kearney and Anthony Knopp, Boom or Bust: The Historical Cycles of Matamoros and Brownsville, 1991, Eakin Press, Austin
- Niles Hansen, The Border Economy: Regional Development in the Southwest, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1981.
3- Antonio N. Zavaleta, Resacas and Bancos in Brownsville History, In, More Studies in Brownsville History, Edited by Milo Kearney, Pan American University at Brownsville, pp.3 30.
Personal communication with numerous area Middle School
- Thomas R. Hester, The Archaeology of the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, In, Proceedings of An Exploration of a Common Legacy: A Conference on Border Architecture, Texas Historical Commission, 1978, pp.66-79.
- Robert Mallouf, and others, A Predictive Assessment of Cultural Resources in Hidalgo and Willacy Counties, Texas, Office of the State Archaeologist Survey Report 23, Texas Historical Commission, 1979, pp.51-88.
- Anderson family history single photocopied sheets.
- Anderson family history, Ibid.
- Anderson family history, Ibid.
- Anderson family history, Ibid.
- Anderson family history, Ibid.
- The Brownsville Herald, March 11, 1944
- Personal conversations with Mr. Kermit Cromack and Mr. Matt Claunch, Tape Recorded in Brownsville, Texas, June 1991.
- Matt Claunch, Ibid.
- Kermit Cromack, Ibid.
- Kermit Cromack, Ibid.
- Matt Claunch, Op. Cit.
- A letter from Mr. A.E. Anderson to Miss Lula Champion dated July 28, 1931, discussing a property survey on the Rio Grande River and including Bancos. Letter is the personal property of the author.
- Matt Claunch, Op. Cit.
- Matt Claunch, Ibid.
- Personal conversations with Mrs. Virginia Anderson Weich and Mrs. Katherine Anderson Celaya Reed, tape-recorded in Brownsville, Texas, in June of 1991.
- Weich and Reed, Ibid.
- Kermit Cromack, Op. Cit.
- Kermit Cromack, Ibid.
- Kermit Cromack, Ibid. are the property of Mr. Matt Claunch, from the Anderson Files.
24-Personal Communication with Mrs. Rose Farmer curator of the Sabal Palm Audubon sanctuary in Southmost, Texas.
- Weich and Reed, Op. Cit.
- Mallouf, Op. Cit.
- Anderson family records, Op. Cit.
- Weich and Reed, Op. Cit.
- Mallouf, Op. Cit.
- Welch and Reed, Op. Cit.
- MacNeish, R. S. A Preliminary Report on Coastal Tamaulipas, Mexico, American Antiquity, 13(1):1947 pp.1-15.
- MacNeish, Ibid.
- Personal communication with Mr. J.D. Weich in Brownsville, Texas in June of 1991.
- Kermit Cromack, Op. Cit.
- Weich and Reed, Op. Cit.
- Weich and Reed, Ibid.
- Letter from W.A. Price to A.E. Anderson, dated December 13, 1937, property of Mr. Matt Claunch.
- Letter from W.A. Price to A.E. Anderson, dated June 20, 1938, property of Mr. Matt Claunch.
- Letter from W.A. Price to A.E. Anderson, dated August 5, 1938, property of Mr. Matt Claunch.
- Weich and Reed, Op. Cit.
- Personal communication with Dr. Thomas R. Hester, Director of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratories, Austin, Texas.
- MacNeish, Op. Cit.
- MacNeish, Ibid.
- Grant D. Hall and K. A. Grombacher, An Assessment of the Archeological and Historical Resources to be Affected by the Brazos Island Harbor Waterway Project, Texas, Research Report No. 30, Texas Archeological Survey, The University of Texas at Austin, 1979, p.2.
- U.S.G.S. 1970 series, East Brownsville Quadrangle.
- A.E. Anderson, Artifacts of the Rio Grande Delta Region,
Texas Archeological and Paleontological Society, 4:29-31.
- Weich and Reed, Op. Cit.
- A.E. Anderson, Op.Cit.
- Mallouf, Op. Cit.
- E.S. Turner and T.R. Hester, A Field Guide to Stone Artifacts of Texas Indians, 1985 Texas Monthly Press, Austin.
- Mallouf, Op. Cit.
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