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Happy Birthday, Fort Sam!

Some of the stuff we looked into while you were reading last month’s issue

We dig deep into the annals for a pair of anniversaries this month. Fort Sam Houston acquired its name 125 years ago, though the Army post dates to 1845. Near Luckenbach in 1865, a Texan reportedly flew an airplane. This was 38 years before the Wright brothers are credited with making aviation history.

Texas Map Collection Benefits Archives

Texas’ collection of 45,000 historic maps, such as Stephen F. Austin’s 1840 map of the state, at left, are available for purchase as replicas from the General Land Office.

Sales of the maps, priced $20–$40, help fund the Save Texas History program, which seeks to conserve the documents for future generations and educate Texans about the rich heritage found in them. The collection includes historic maps of all 254 counties.

Texas has been gathering maps and land records since Sam Houston, president of the newly formed nation, created the General Land Office in 1836. Much of the collection—35.5 million documents in all, housed in sophisticated temperature- and access-controlled vaults at the Land Office headquarters in Austin—has been digitized and is accessible online.

Fort Sam Houston Turns 125

On September 11, 1890, the military post at San Antonio officially was named Fort Sam Houston. Fort Sam, as it’s colloquially known, has since grown to include more than 900 buildings—the largest collection of historic buildings in the Department of Defense—and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1975.

The Army post dates back to 1845.

Today, Fort Sam Houston, Lackland Air Force Base and Randolph Air Force Base comprise Joint Base San Antonio.

First in Flight Not a Wright?

North Carolina and Ohio bicker about who deserves credit for human aviation. North Carolinians point to the Wright brothers’ first flight in 1903 at Kitty Hawk. Yes, Ohioans say, but Orville and Wilbur Wright dreamed up their airplane at their bicycle factory in Dayton.

Texans might say the whole argument is pointless because Jacob Friedrich Brodbeck supposedly made the first flight September 20, 1865, near Luckenbach. Brodbeck, a German immigrant who lived in Fredericksburg and then San Antonio, was an educator and county commissioner. He also loved mechanics and worked for 20 years on what he called an airship. He was said to have risen 12 feet off the ground and traveled about 100 feet before his spring-loaded propeller unwound, and the machine crashed.

There were witnesses 150 years ago but very limited press coverage and no photos. Because no drawings or blueprints of Brodbeck’s craft remain, his aviation achievement is unconfirmed.

Use Caution on Rural Roads

National Farm Safety and Health Week is September 20–26. More farm equipment than usual will be sharing rural roads with motorists during the harvest. Rural roads carry less than half of America’s traffic but account for more than half of the nation’s vehicular deaths, according to the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety.

Roads engineered decades ago can be narrow and winding, constructed of gravel, and have unguarded intersections and railroad crossings. Drivers may encounter large farm equipment moving slowly and taking up a large portion of roadway.

Motorists must be aware that farm machinery will turn left into fields or farmsteads. Drivers may only pass farm equipment in designated passing zones, and they should drive defensively when attempting to overtake. Farmers making a left turn may have difficulty seeing vehicles in their rear-view mirrors if vehicles follow too closely.

Farm equipment needs to be checked on a regular basis to ensure that all lighting and markings are in working order and visible to motorists. Operators must take heed when making left turns. Use turn signals or hand signals and be aware of vehicles approaching the equipment.