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On Our Heritage

by / 0 Comments / 38 View / August 7, 2016

My dictionary defines the word “heritage” as something passed along from those in our past to us, with the expectation that it will continue to be given to others in the future. I came to reflect on the word while preparing for this column, written in honor of the sesquicentennial of our town’s paper. Heritage shows up in many areas of our lives, including our genetic inheritance, our possessions, our shared culture as Texans, and the many benefits of living in this great nation.
One of our country’s greatest assets is the rule of law, which is sorely missed by countries that do not have it. I spent some time in Egypt following their April 2011 revolution. Amid the chaos there, it was quite apparent that newly-found freedoms by its citizens would require order for them to realize their hopes and dreams. Five years later, they are still dealing with a fractured society. Our country’s history may be fewer in years, but the ideas manifest in its founding are great. That heritage is exemplified by the U.S. Constitution, which for over 200 years has provided us with individual liberty and a framework for shared responsibility.
Other obvious examples of our country’s heritage are the treasures administered by the National Park Service. This is the 100th birthday of the NPS, and I’m extremely grateful to those far-thinking individuals, long gone now, who worked so hard to establish places that reflect our cultural and natural heritage. Here in Texas, the NPS manages 16 sites, including parks and monuments. Relative to other places on Earth, Texas is still young, but we possess a heritage second to none. The rich mix of peoples who settled here is well-captured by the exhibits at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio. Also in San Antonio are the five Spanish missions, which have recently been named as a World Heritage Site.
Here in Belton, I have two favorite spots for appreciating my family’s heritage. One is outdoors at my cousin’s farm on the Lampasas River. Wandering among the ancient, giant cottonwood trees there, I get a sense of the land here in Central Texas when the first pioneers arrived. The second is at Bell County Museum, where there is a section devoted to the cotton farms of the early twentieth century. The large photo on the wall appears to show an extended family of sharecroppers. For me, it indicates how important rural families like mine were to the growth of this area.
My Belton heritage has special meaning to me. I’ve not lived here until recently, but my grandparents arrived in the area a little over 100 years ago. My mother was born on a small farm between Belton and Salado. I’m grateful that my children have grown to appreciate our Texas heritage as well. In the years since I left home, I have carried artifacts of my father’s family heritage along with me. There is quite a bit of furniture that I’ve appreciated through the years, and I often think of how my ancestors must have enjoyed them as well.
The Belton Journal has been published continuously for the past 150 years. Its rich heritage is exemplified by our dear Berneta Peeples, who chronicled the people and times of Bell County for over 60 years. Like Miss Berneta, who is now nearing her own centennial, those of us at the Journal strive weekly to capture our community’s news and heritage. I never expected to write words for an audience. Maybe none of us who do so ever did. Nonetheless, it is truly my honor to have this opportunity to share my thoughts with you, the reader. I hope you enjoy this special edition of the Journal.
Michael Brown is an education consultant and a former teacher. He can be contacted at michael.brown@utexas.edu.