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Home > Things to Do > Top Things to Do in Cleburne Texas If You Love History

Top Things to Do in Cleburne Texas If You Love History

Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum
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Love all things cowboys and Indians? Well, you’re in for a real treat in Cleburne, Texas, a small city with a rich past. In 1866, the city, a former Civil War training camp known as Camp Henderson, was renamed in honor of General Patrick Cleburne and became the new county seat of Johnson County. That same year, the first railroad tracks in all of Texas were laid, leading to a spate of saloons, shops, businesses, and wagon yards. Visitors can readily explore these early beginnings today in Cleburne, from embarking on a 150-year-old animal migration trail to browsing through Native American artifacts to learning about the railroad industry. Here are some of the top things to do in Cleburne, Texas, if you love history.

Chisholm Trail

Follow the Chisholm Trail, where the first cattle migration began in 1867 until its closure in 1894, and more than 5 million cattle made the journey from Cleburne north to Abilene, Kansas. The trail marks the site of the largest man-made animal migration ever documented.

Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum and Big Bear Native American Museum

When not hiking the trail, history lovers can visit the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum, where a miniature town full of historical buildings gives visitors an idea of what life looked like back in the early pioneer days. Tours are offered, and structures like a blacksmith shop, courthouse, schoolhouse, and more welcome visitors inside. On the grounds of this outdoor museum, you’ll also find the Big Bear Native American Museum which has a large collection of artifacts including hundreds of items like headdresses, spears, and clothing.

Carnegie Library and Layland Museum

  • The Carnegie Library, a magnificent example of Greek Revival architecture, opened in 1905 as the home of the local public library and held that position for more than 70 years. When the library relocated in 1978, the Johnson County Historical Commission secured the building and created the Layland Museum, housing a collection of items, owned by William Joseph Layland, and donated to the city of Cleburne in 1963.
  • Today, this grand old building houses not only the Layland collection but has exhibits from hundreds of other donors, including Native American artifacts, early frontier memorabilia, 20th-century vintage items like furniture and clothing, as well as more than 500 ethnographic items from the early 1900s collected by William J. Layland himself. Plan a full day to explore this museum with artifacts and photographs, and browse through and learn about Texas’ history. The museum also has a gift shop with souvenirs and items highlighting the area’s history.

Johnson County Courthouse and Museum

  • Designed with a combination of architectural details taken from the classic Beaux Arts and the famous architects of the time, by both Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, the Johnson County Courthouse is a monument to commemorate quality, grandeur and forward-thinking design. Though it was built to emulate the look of a typical state capitol building, nothing is ordinary in the use of the highest-grade granite and marble, ornate details finished in ivory and gold, or the stained-glass sides of the dome, resting above a massive and stately clock tower.
  • The interior is equally impressive with an atrium six stories high and a view of the stained-glass dome hovering above. Most impressive is the actual use of the central tower, serving as a natural cooling element; hot air, which naturally rises, would exit through the top of the tower, and create in its wake, a vacuum that would pull fresh air through the open windows below. The Johnson County Courthouse Museum offers history of Johnson County and is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Minor League Baseball

  • In 1906, the Cleburne Railroaders , the local baseball team, earned statewide attention by defeating the Fort Worth Cats and winning the Texas League Championship. However, despite their fame, the team was pulled shortly after from the Texas minor leagues due to financial losses. Now, the Cleburne Railroaders are back!
  • The minor league baseball team recently made its debut, taking the same name, in honor of the previous team and the long railroad history of Cleburne. And with this team, comes a minor league stadium—The Depot—voted ‘Best of the Ballparks’ by Ballpark Digest in 2017. The Depot was completed in May 2017, and the stadium has more than 4,000 seats for baseball-loving spectators. Watch for upcoming games and cheer on Cleburne’s newest stars.

Cleburne Railroad Museum

The city of Cleburne has the railroad industry to thank for its 20th-century growth and prosperity. It was during the 1920s that a railroad was built through town, bringing thousands of jobs to the region and boosting the population. The Cleburne Railroad Museum houses hundreds of photographs and artifacts that highlight the city’s railroad history and the economic boom that came with it. The current exhibits honor the industry that helped shape its economy. The museum is located on Main Street and is open Thursdays through Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Photo Courtesy of Bob Force
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