Friday, January 25, 2013

New Exhibit at BVMNH to Highlight the Astin Family

The Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History (BVMNH) is pleased to present its new exhibition:  Legacy – The Astin  Family – Culture and Couture in Early 20th Century Bryan.  The exhibit opening reception, free to the public, will begin at 6:00 pm, Thursday, January 31, 2013, with a fascinating presentation by Fran Lamb about the Astin Family and early 20th century Bryan.  A reception and gallery viewing will follow.  Fran Lamb, a local KAMU radio personality, is best known for writing and narrating more than 400 episodes of Heritage Highlights, stories of Brazos Valley history.  Fran brings her unique homespun style and extensive research efforts to all of her programs. 

The exhibition tells the Astin family story, charting the rise of the family and its business enterprises in the Brazos Valley region.  James Hugh Astin, pioneer planter, first came to Texas in 1854, and after a brief stint as a gold miner in California, but he returned in 1861, serving in the Confederate Army’s famed Hood’s Brigade.  Ultimately, Astin married, settling in Bryan in 1865.  Gradually, through hard work and native business sense, he accumulated extensive holdings in the Brazos Bottom, becoming one of the most successful cotton farmers in the region. His descendants constructed Rivermist, an extensive cotton plantation near Bryan, and went on to become one of the most prominent families in Brazos County.

The Astin’s are one of a few key families who helped build this region into what it has become today.  Their story provides a point of access to their milieu, one of privilege on the frontier in the 19th century, and the gradual transformation that social, economic and political realities imposed through the first half of the 20th century.  The exhibit incorporates fashion, graphic design, and art from the period to highlight the popular culture and couture of the first three decades of the 20th century.

Nina Heard Astin and her daughter, Nina Bess, well known for generosity and community involvement, bequeathed much of their inherited wealth to the Bryan/College Station community through the Nina Heard Astin and Nina Bess Astin Charitable Trusts.  The two trusts continue to support community projects, scholarships, and charitable organizations including the Museum.  Legacy will be held in the Museum’s main gallery – named for the Astin family.

Materials on loan from the Heard-Craig House Museum in McKinney, Texas, including photographs and family china, will augment an extensive collection of historical clothing once belonging to members of the Astin family, on loan from the Brazos Heritage Society.  Supplementing couture on display are stunning examples of period jewelry, purses, and hats.  A selection of decorative items, including Steuben glass and Tiffany reproductions, art from the period on loan from the J. Wayne Stark University Center Galleries, and other Art Nouveau and Art Deco pieces will give the visitor a sense of the prevailing art and design movements of the period.  Collaborators include historian John P. Blair and genealogical researcher Bill Page, along with members of the Brazos Heritage Society and coordinating curator, Elisabeth Manning of the BVMNH.

The Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History is open to visitors Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm. The admission fees: adults $5; seniors/students/children $4; children 3 and under are free.

Members of the Brazos Heritage Society are encouraged to attend this opening reception.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Heritage Highlights

Every Monday morning people in the listening area of KAMU-FM radio tune in to hear Heritage Highlights, a brief radio show that provides historical highlights of the Brazos Valley.  This program has been in existence since September 2004, and until recently was sponsored by the Brazos Heritage Society.  It is now sponsored by Mark B. Lindsay, M.D.

All these programs – more than 400 episodes written and narrated by Fran Lamb – are archived on the KAMU website and may be accessed at:

Persons interested in the history of the Brazos Valley – its people, places, and events – would do well to visit this site and listen to some of the fascinating podcasts.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Texas Insights

The Texas State Historical Association, in cooperation with its partners, is proud to offer Texas Insights, an electronic newsletter designed to share opportunities for Texas teachers and students while promoting effective instructional practices. The newsletter is distributed via email in August, October, January, March, and May.  

The January 2013 (Volume III, Issue 3) edition of this electronic publication may be read by visiting:

Friday, January 4, 2013

College Station Exploring History Lunch Series

The College Station Historic Preservation Committee and the Senior Advisory Committee have developed an outstanding Exploring History Lunch Lectures Series for 2013.  Please join them on January 16, 2013, at the Aldersgate United Methodist Church, as they present:

Me & Fish Jones 
Featuring author Dennis Davenport

Dennis will talk about personal experiences from his 17-year career overseeing the dorms of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, including the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band. These stories reflect the full gamut of the Aggie experience and feature a number of incredible twists, timings, and closures.  

The luncheon is $5.00 per person, payable at the door, and begins at 11:30 AM in the Aldersgate United Methodist Church at 2201 Earl Rudder Freeway in College Station. 

Parking is available in the main lot to the south of the building.  Enter through the main double doors, take a left, and you will be directed to the meeting room.   In case you are not familiar with this facility, it is located just north of Academy, Gander Mountain, and Dickey’s, on the frontage road between Southwest Parkway and Harvey Road. 

Reservations are required and must be made with Marci Rodgers, Senior Services Coordinator, College Station Parks & Recreation Department, at or by calling 979-764-6371.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Electronic Newsletter Year-End Report

Heritage Brazos, the electronic newsletter of the Brazos Heritage Society, had its inception in May 2011.  At year end 2012, the Society’s newsletter has had 7,114 online visits from 50 different countries. 

While the vast majority of those visits were from within the United States, the newsletter’s website was also viewed by people in the following countries (listed in alphabetical order): Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, Namibia, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Togo, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Venezuela, and Vietnam.

In decreasing order, the ten countries with the most visits are: United States – 6,015; Russia – 407; China – 87; United Kingdom – 71; Germany – 58; France – 56; United Arab Emirates – 50; Canada – 36; Israel – 22; and Thailand – 22.

The Society’s online newsletter contains all the information as the one presently being mailed to members, and much more.