Located a short drive south of Abilene, Texas, Buffalo Gap Historic Village allows visitors to step back in time to the early days of the Lone Star State. Over a dozen historic buildings and an amazing collection of artifacts and displays tell the story of life in Texas between 1875 and 1925.
The area takes its name from the great herds of buffalo who favored this gap in the Callahan Divide. It was a favored camping place for native peoples who came to hunt the buffalo and later for the hide hunters who slaughtered vast numbers of the animals.
Settlers started coming into the region in the 1870s, drawn to its abundant water and good grazing, pushing the Indians out. A town called Buffalo Gap was founded, the first capital of Taylor County. The county courthouse, a two-story limestone structure combining a courtroom and a jail, was completed in 1879.
In the following years the area changed rapidly. The railroads came, followed by automobiles, and the buffalo and Indians disappeared. In 1883, the county seat was moved to the new city of Abilene, and Buffalo Gap became a ghost town.
To preserve the site, local lawyer and historian Ernest Wilson purchased the courthouse building and established a small historical museum of Indian and western artifacts in the 1950s. Wilson eventually brought in two other Taylor County structures, the Hill House and the Knight/Sayles Cabin. More buildings have been added over the years, and today Buffalo Gap Historic Site is operated as a non-profit educational facility.
Besides traditional static displays, Buffalo Gap offers special events and lectures designed to bring the programming to a more personal, interactive level for visitors. Self-guided tours, assisted by sound wands that tell the story of what you are seeing, make for a unique and interesting experience as you wander through the old buildings.
Items on display include everything from collections of Indian arrowheads and frontier weapons in the Courthouse museum, to primitive medical instruments, farming equipment and implements, and an interesting collection of early hand-powered washing machines.
Among the historic buildings at Buffalo Gap are houses and cabins, a barbershop, railroad freight office, blacksmith shop, barn, a two-room school house, dentist office, newspaper print shop, and an early day Texaco gas station.
The old courthouse is quite unique in that old cannonballs were used to help hold the limestone blocks in place, and more than one visitor has claimed to see a ghost lounging in the jail cell on the second floor! We didn’t see any such specter during our visit, but if a soul wanted a place to hang around in the afterlife, Buffalo Gap would certainly fit the bill!
But don’t be in any hurry yourself when you visit Buffalo Gap! There is so much to see here that you can’t do it justice with a quick walk through. We spent several hours exploring the old buildings in the village, and could have lingered even longer if time would have allowed. This is definitely on my list of places to return to!
The small general store is a gift shop, with souvenirs of your visit to Buffalo Gap and an impressive selection of local interest books.
Buffalo Gap is located thirteen miles southwest of Abilene, accessible by either State Route 89 or U.S. Highway 83. Parking is along the street, and the nice lady in the general store/gift shop told us that there is very little traffic, so even large RVs can find a place to park.
Buffalo Gap is open Monday – Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The village is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Because of the nature of the old buildings on display, not all of them are handicapped accessible.
Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, and children under 5 are admitted free. Admission prices include use of a sound wand to assist you in your tour. For more information, call (325) 572-3365.
Congratulations Tony Cirocco, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Blood Honor, the debut novel in my friend Russell Blake’s The Day After Never post-apocalyptic trilogy. We had 55 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.
Thought For The Day – It’s important to realize that you can miss something, but not want it back.