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.
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
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 that has a large collection of artifacts including
hundreds of items like headdresses, spears and clothing.
Carnegie Library and
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
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
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 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through
Minor League Baseball
In 1906, the Cleburne
, 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 loses. 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
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