CLEBURNE, Texas — Texas Independence Day is the perfect time to take a step back and see what it was like to live in the wild west.
On the banks of Lake Pat Cleburne, you can take a step back in time and learn what it was like to live as a pioneer, in the early Texas days, on the Chisolm Trail.
"The cattle really saved Texas," said David Murdoch, CEO and chairman of the Chisolm Trail Outdoor Museum.“Well, the cattle that were sold during that time, it really brought Texans out of bankruptcy after the civil war. I mean, everybody was starving. They were broke.”
Murdoch oversees nearly two dozen outdoor exhibits. The first thing to greet you is a massive line of life-size cattle and cowboys.
"It is the largest silhouette cattle drive as far as we know in the nation," said Murdoch.
There are historically significant buildings that have been moved to the site like the state’s oldest walled courthouse – built-in 1854 from logs an expert tells them were originally harvested in 1776.
There’s a replica one-room schoolhouse where the museum offers kids the chance to experience school the way their ancestors did.
"Their last assignment of the day is to write a paragraph on what their experience of the day," said Murdoch. "And this one little fourth grader wrote this was 'funner' than Christmas.”
An authentic dog trot style building dedicated to the lawmen of the day including the Texas Rangers. That’s where 25 News caught up with Carrie Reynolds, on-site director for the museum.
"We have some of their private collection of guns, badges, and everything else," said Reynolds. "But we have one display in particular, that is bill hardens. And I'm sure that name is known around the world now because he's the oldest living law enforcement man ever in the history of law enforcement. And we have the majority of his collection.”
Carrie, herself, is legendary—a member of the national cowgirl museum and hall of fame as a world championship barrel racer.
But now her passion is promoting the Chisolm Trail Outdoor Museum. Her favorite exhibit?
"Hard to choose, but I'm a Native American fanatic, and I love all that history down in Big Bear museum," said Reynolds.
And it is an impressive display of the collection belonging to Big Bear Leonard Beal.
From moccasins that were owned by Quanah Parker to the iconic ghost dance shirt.
“I think the organization and the artifacts that we have to tell the complete story of the Native American," said Reynolds.
Jimmy Smith is a curator of the Big Bear Museum which focuses on Native Americans across the United States, but specifically the Native Americans in Texas, we cover something like 30,000 years’ worth of prehistory.
You’ll see incredibly rare items like ancient spears and arrowheads.
"Well, we just recently got a pair of Comanche dolls that night between 1850 and 1875 that are in excellent condition, and I've never seen another doll like this in any other Native American collection.”