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State honors Burnet County Historical Commission for efforts to protect and preserve

Members of the Burnet County Historical Commission accept the Distinguished Service Award from the Texas Historical Commission. The local commission is made up of volunteers who work at protecting, preserving and promoting county historical resources. Accepting the award were Carroll McCoy (front, left), Carole Goble, Lela Goar, Caryl Calsyn, Faye Dockery; John Potts (back, left), Burnet County Precinct 2 Commissioner Russell Graeter and Burnet County Precinct 3 Commissioner Ronny Hibler. Courtesy photo

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

BURNET — The members of the Burnet County Historical Commission lead the way when it comes to preserving and conserving local historical resources. They don’t do it for money. They don’t do it for the spotlight. But they do it.

“We just believe in preserving these county treasures for everybody,” said Caryl Calsyn, the county historical commission chairwoman. “I don’t like to see history destroyed. And protecting it is something we’re all very passionate about.”

The Texas State Historical Commission recognized that passion and the hard work the Burnet County organization poured into protecting local history resources. On July 9, the state presented the Burnet County Historical Commission with the Distinguished Service Award for 2012.

“We didn’t set out for an award, but we’re very happy with it,” Calsyn said.

Texas has a unique historical commission set-up. While the Texas State Historical Commission has governor-appointed commissioners setting its policies, the county units operate under the auspices of county commissioners courts.

“The county historic commissions do so much across the state of Texas,” said Amy Hammons of the state commission. “These county commissions are the ones who really protect those local historic resources. And the Burnet County Historic Commission has really done some great work.”

Calsyn said the local commissions really lead the battle to save historical resources.

“We help people get historical markers, learn how to protect a piece of history and just protect those parts of history we can’t afford to lose,” she said.

Calsyn’s introduction into the value of local history started several years ago when she found a home in Marble Falls she wanted to renovate. She purchased the 1890s-era house knowing it had a great deal of history. But it wasn’t until Calysn was approached by Marble Falls historian Madolyn Fraser that she learned the complete story.

That’s all it took to get Calsyn excited about, not just her home’s history, but the county’s history.

In the Burnet County Historical Commission, she found like-minded and dedicated people.

Over the years, the county historical commission has worked hard to protect historic structures, cemeteries, locations and even stories.

“We still have a lot of things we’re working on,” Calsyn said.

One project is the Fuch’s house in the Horseshoe Bay area of Burnet County. The city of Horseshoe Bay has agreed to accept the home, but it still needs plenty of work. The historic commission will work with the city to preserve the home.

Calysn said the organization is working with the owner of the “Bluebonnet house” located on U.S. 281 just north of Marble Falls. The house earned the moniker because of the bluebonnets that erupt each spring around the structure. On particularly good wildflower years, photographers set up along the property line on the highway to capture the beauty of the flowers against the historic building.

The group is also working to preserve the Craddock house in Burnet.

Last year, the state commission recognized the Burnet County Historic Commission’s projects such as assisting in the approval of markers for two cemeteries — Gillum and Stringtown; working to save the Craddock house; hosting a heritage tourism program; participating in several marker-dedication ceremonies; applying for grants for two bridge projects and the old county jail project; and assisting with events and school tours.

With all the local historic commission does, many people might not even be aware it exists.

Hammons said that’s one of the reasons behind the Distinguished Service Award and other honors the state commission bestows on local groups.

“The people on these county commissions are from that quiet generation,” she said. “They do all this work, but they really don’t tell anybody about it. So, we want people to know what this county (historic) commission and the members do. Without them, we would probably lose a tremendous amount of our local and county historical resources.”

The county historical commissions are made up of volunteers appointed by county commissioners courts. The state agency estimated the work local commission members do has a monetary value of about $8.8 million.

As a volunteer, Calsyn doesn’t concern herself too much with the monetary value of the commission’s service. It’s all about the task at hand.

“We want to protect these pieces of history before they’re destroyed,” she said. “Because once they’re gone, we can never get them back.”

Go to www.thc.tx.us for more information on the state and local historic commissions.

daniel@thepicayune.com