EDITED DANIEL CLIFTON
LLANO — Rancher James Stotts watched as Robert Marshall tapped a new star into a metal wreath on an 1936 Texas Centennial marker commemorating the last recorded battle between Native Americans and settlers in what is now Llano County.
“I’m glad they’re doing this,” Stotts said.
His great-grandfather William B. Moss was one of eight men who pursued a group of Indians that was believed to have raided several ranches. This led to a battle on Packsaddle Mountain on Aug. 4, 1873, which the granite structure marks.
In February, someone spray-painted the words “white history celebrates genocide” on the marker, located on Texas 71 near the CR 309 intersection in Llano County. A metal marker not far from the Packsaddle Mountain monument as well as a couple of state highway signs bore similar graffiti.
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“It makes you wonder about the people who spray-painted this in the first place,” Stotts added.
Those weren’t the only markers damaged in that time period.
“There were seven highway markers damaged between Sterling City and here,” said Bob Brinkman of the Texas Historical Commission. “A lot were one week in February, but two in San Angelo were damaged around March 1.”
“Now, about two weeks ago, two in Lampasas County were also damaged,” he added.
Officials believe it’s the work of the same person due to the graffiti’s style and wording.
While the Texas Historical Commission could handle the cleanup of the metal roadside markers, Brinkman said they turned to Marshall, an art conservator, for the Packsaddle Mountain restoration. The project cost about $4,000 with the funds coming from donations and the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission.
Marshall, director and senior conservator for R. Alden Marshall & Associates, crisscrosses the country restoring art, sculptures, historic structures, and more. He has tackled large projects such as Fair Park Tower in Dallas and the old gold-domed Buffalo Savings Bank in Buffalo, New York, as well as two of the so-called “Painted Churches of Texas.” Each project presents its own challenges.
Along with the graffiti, weather and past vandalism have also damaged the Packsaddle Mountain marker. Several divots in the granite show where people attempted to remove the bronze wreath and star that make up the Texas state seal. The original star was missing, and vandals damaged part of the wreath.
The marker also showed damage possibly from trimmers or mowers cutting grass and weeds around the public right of way.
“So we decided it would be best to get the marker completely restored,” Brinkman added.
Marshall said one of the problems when dealing with paint on granite is that paint seeps into the pores and fissures, making it tough to remove by scrubbing with soap and water. He used a product called Elephant Snot that, when allowed to set overnight, loosens and liquifies the paint so a power washer can remove it.
Along with removing the graffiti, Marshall cleaned up the monument and replaced the missing star and damaged wreath.
“It’s sad to see people damage these markers,” Marshall said. “There are ways to share your message, but damaging markers like these, that’s not one.”
Marshall wrapped up the restoration May 22-23. Looking at the work, Stotts was pleased.
“It looks good,” he said. “I’m thankful for them doing it.”
The Packsaddle Mountain marker was erected during the Texas Centennial in 1936. Brinkman said the state placed about 1,100 markers for the year-long celebration.
“Part of the idea was to get public history in all of Texas,” he said. “It was a way of sharing the state’s history and story.”
Today, Brinkman said, Texas has about 16,000 historical markers. Some are on roadsides, while others are associated with buildings and cemeteries or placed on private property.
Keeping up with all those markers is challenging enough when battling nature, but throw in vandalism and theft, and it’s even more daunting. Brinkman said county historical commissions really help as does the general public.
People interested in supporting upkeep and restoration of historical markers may make donations through the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission. Go to thcfriends.org for more information. Go to thc.texas.gov for more on the state’s historical markers and the Texas Historical Commission.
Anyone with information regarding damage to historical markers may contact the Hill Country Area Crime Stoppers at 1-866-756-8477 or hillcountryareacrimestoppers.com. All tips are anonymous, and you could receive a cash reward.