Citizens of the small town of Cuero, near Victoria, undertook a preservation project that was 13 years in the making. Preservationists there wanted to commemorate the area’s residents who in the 1860s helped blaze a path that moved thousands of cattle to Missouri and Kansas: the now-famous Chisholm Trail. Organizers of the modern-day history effort looked at the 1903 Knights of Pythias building on Main Street and envisioned a museum and educational center that would celebrate the ranching and western heritage of south central Texas, which is still alive today.
From the beginning, the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum board was committed to high standards. The group also realized the need to balance those ideals with pragmatism and sound decision-making, ultimately concluding that a slow and steady approach would lead to success. They cultivated community buy-in, organized fundraisers, and sought help from public and private funders. After learning of the project and the group’s professional management approach, the Texas Historical Foundation partnered with the Cuero preservationists on three different occasions.
In 2004, THF funding assisted with the restoration of the main façade to the historic building’s original 1903 appearance. This work included replacing windows and doors, removing paint, and creating a replica of the Knights of Pythias emblem that sits at the roofline. Two years later, THF support was applied to the creation of architectural plans for phases II and III of the restoration. A grant in 2009 was for construction of a new annex that preserved the Pythias building’s historic integrity while ensuring that museum facilities meet current building codes for accessibility.
Though it would take more than a decade to raise funds for the multi-million dollar historic restoration, the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum opened to the public in 2013. In addition to spotlighting ranch artifacts, such as spurs and leather cowboy pieces, the CTHM also houses the world-class Tinker Collection, which represents exemplary samples of North and South American cowboy and horse-related artifacts.
The venue is a testament to the determination of the citizens of this Texas town and their can-do attitude that helped commemorate Cuero’s past and create a historical destination for the present.