Heritage Tourism and Nacogdoches Today

 Heritage Tourism and Nacogdoches Today According to the 2012 Nacogdoches Visitor Profile and Tourism Impact Study, of the 434 individuals surveyed, approximately 66.7% of visitors had visited or planned to visit an historic site while in Nacogdoches and approximately 15.9% visited or planned to visit a museum.32 Of the 738 of the visits reported, their destinations included: 31.4% the Bricks in Historic Downtown. 

13.4% Old Stone Fort, 13% Millard’s Crossing, 10% Old University Building, 8.8% Nacogdoches Train Depot, 8.1% Sterne-Hoya House Museum, 6.9% Durst-Taylor House, and 4.2% Zion Hill Baptist Church. 33 When asked what the visitors enjoyed most about Nacogdoches, history ranked the highest at 28%.34 This survey shows that visitors who come to Nacogdoches are very interested in the history of the town. Tourists may choose to visit sites such as the Stone Fort Museum and the Sterne-Hoya House to feel a connection to those who fought in the Texas Revolution and to relive what many consider to be the glory days of the Republic of Texas. This connection fulfills Texans’ inexplicable, and sometimes insufferable, need to feel that Texas has a unique and great history, created by brave men, and thanks to all of this, Texas is an exceptional state. This is not the only thing that Nacogdoches has to offer as the town has been shaped by so many other events and years beyond 1845 such as the construction of Stephen F. Austin State Normal College, the arrival of the railroad in East Texas, and the timber, gas, oil, and broiler industries.

 The majority of sites that visitors to Nacogdoches planned to visit as listed in the impact study, represent history since 1845 including Millard’s Crossing, the Nacogdoches Railroad Depot Museum, the Old University Building, and Zion Hill Baptist Church. In order to incorporate Oak Grove Cemetery into Nacogdoches’s heritage tourism, the brochures and website created for this thesis connect individuals buried in the cemetery with objects and sites associated with their lives, some of which tourists are already visiting. Another survey result is that of the 434 individuals surveyed, 37.6% of them used the internet to research the town and plan their activities.35 This thesis’s website offers a starting point for tourists to plan their activities and will be linked to the websites of Millard’s Crossing Historic Village, the City of Nacogdoches Historic Sites Department, and the Nacogdoches Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. The tourist may begin by searching the thesis site for information about the Stone Fort Museum and will be linked to the museum’s website and able to view a brochure. In addition to this basic information, the site also mentions that Adolphus Sterne was imprisoned in the Stone Fort, which may lead them to his webpage, to visit his home, and let them know that only a few blocks away, they can also visit his gravesite. 

By connecting tourists to these locations and the individuals associated with them, this thesis will introduce tourists to sites and resources in town that they may be unfamiliar with, such as Oak Grove Cemetery and the East Texas Research Center. To provide the best possible interpretation of these individuals and the resources they are associated with, it is necessary to utilize current literature within interpretation. The modern heritage tourist travels not only to see historical sites but also to experience the culture in order to understand local heritage.36 Heritage is defined differently by each individual, definitions include “the inherited past,” “the condition of one’s birth,” or “anything transmitted from ancestors or past ages.”37 Cultural heritage researcher David Uzzell states that history and heritage are intertwined; history is not a single point in time, each historical event was caused by a previous event and will cause future events, 

essentially, what happened in the past continues to affect us today.38 Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen conducted a survey about individuals’ interpretations of history and found that participants are interested in history as it applies to them.39 Each individual views history differently because they use their own knowledge and past experiences when interpreting an historical event.40 Some of the ways that the survey participants took part in history include looking at old family photographs, taking photographs to preserve memories, attending family reunions, participating in holiday traditions, or genealogy, but they also found connections to history through visiting museums and historic sites or watching television programs about history.41 All tourists also expect some degree of authenticity in their experience. 42 Authenticity is not the same for everyone; each person has their own idea of what lends authenticity to an experience, including genuineness, originality, and authority. 43 Historic site interpreters struggle with authenticity because the recreation of history can never be exact, the objects used may not be original,

the way that tasks are carried out is sometimes different, and reenactors bring their own methods to the job. 44 Others argue that tourists do not care about whether an experience is authentic, as long as the historic site is staged in an authentic way and they can grasp what life may have been like. Tourists may experience this staged authenticity through direct contact with the host culture by visiting historic sites, hearing the local language, witnessing traditional events, and being able to take part in routine local activities. Visitors to Oak Grove Cemetery will have an authentic experience because the gravemarkers appear much as they did when they were first placed. One example of a site that strives to create an authentic experience is Colonial Williamsburg. Prior to the 1980s, interpreters were instructed to forget their ideas of what the South was truly like prior to the Civil War and present a more politically correct version of history, including referring to slaves as servants, despite the fact that segregation still existed.45 Another way that Colonial Williamsburg differed from the original was in décor, as rooms were decorated in the taste of the creators rather than how they actually would have been. In the 1980s, the interpreters decided that Colonial Williamsburg was too neat in appearance to be an authentic representation. Since that time, tours and buildings have been altered to represent a more authentic version of the site’s history. In order to make its site appear as it did in the 1700s, Colonial Williamsburg allows natural processes to happen, such as allowing the paint on the buildings to be weathered or allowing horses to defecate in the streets, though to avoid unsanitary conditions, they clean up after hours. 46 Another way that Colonial Williamsburg strives for authenticity is through its cast of interpreters who participate in typical colonial jobs and represent all classes in colonial society, men, women, children, and slaves. 

Williamsburg also takes the initiative to admit its shortcomings with visitors by admitting updates, changes, and inaccuracies on the property.47 Though the change over from the original representation and interpretation were difficult and at times hard for the public to accept, new historical finds and evolving ideas of authenticity have shaped Colonial Williamsburg to its current interpretation.48 This thesis includes three Nacogdoches sites, Millard’s Crossing Historic Village, the Sterne-Hoya House Museum, and the Durst-Taylor House Museum, which have some similarities to Colonial Williamsburg. Millard’s Crossing is a collection of buildings that were moved from throughout the East Texas region to the outskirts of Nacogdoches to create an historic village. Though a two-person staff usually runs Millard’s Crossing, during special events, volunteers utilize first person interpretation and speak to tourists about what life was like for their character from the 1830s to the 1930s in East Texas. Whether done purposely to create an authentic experience or due to lack of budget, the buildings at Millard’s Crossing look lived in, they are not freshly painted, the structures are filled with a jumble of objects that and often times clearly show their age. 

While the buildings at Millard’s Crossing represent a rural village, the Sterne-Hoya House and the Durst-Taylor House are both located in their original locations in the city. The Sterne-Hoya House is furnished with many original pieces and the two main rooms are set up to represent different families in the house’s history. Tour guides offer information about each family. Although the men of the families are better known in Nacogdoches history, the interpreters also discuss the roles of the women, the children, and the slaves in the households. While there is currently no signage or objects associated with Sterne’s slaves, interpreters tell all that they know, and an exhibit is planned for the future upon completion of research. The Durst-Taylor House interpretation chronicles each family and the changes they made to the house during their occupancy. While it is easy to imagine the use of the Sterne-Hoya parlors due to all of the original objects, it is difficult to imagine the use of some of the rooms in the Durst-Taylor house because they are so sparsely furnished. The Durst-Taylor house makes up for the lack of objects inside the house with its blacksmith shop syrup mill, and working gardens.49 All of these sites to strive to offer visitors an authentic experience through interpretation and use of material culture.50 Another place that visitors seek heritage is at memorial sites. 

Cemetery tourism falls under what Philip R. Stone calls “dark tourism,” or “the act of travel to sites of death, disaster, or the seemingly macabre,” such as battlefields, massacre sites or acts of terrorism. 51 Stone states that: travel to places associated with death, disaster, and destruction has occurred as long as people have been able to travel. In other words, it has always been an identifiable form of tourism. Early dark tourism may be identified as places of pilgrimage…visiting sites associated with (dead) religious figures. However, sites of contemporary death and of the “significant other dead” have often become places of secular pilgrimage.52 One such site is Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. The battle took place on July 1-3, 1863 and within months, the battlefield became a site of pilgrimage for individuals to witness the damage and see the dead bodies.53 Soon locals began to use the site to make a profit: selling souvenirs, renting out rooms in their homes, and organizing tours. Other cities such as New Orleans, 

Boston, and Savannah have multiple companies who offer historical or haunted tours of their cemeteries throughout the day. While interpreters are not required to have a background in history, many do their own research in order to give a more interesting and detailed tour. Though Oak Grove Cemetery of Nacogdoches does not have permanent interpreters, it has been a site of heritage tourism and interpretation since the mid-1880s. Oak Grove is often a stop on a tour of Nacogdoches because it is the final resting place for veterans of the Texas Revolution, signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence, politicians, authors, and businessmen from Nacogdoches. For the centennial of Texas’s Independence in 1936, the State of Texas erected granite memorials for the men who served in the Texas Revolution or signed its Declaration of Independence. These memorials give information about the individual as well as their contributions to the Republic of Texas. In 1962 the City of Nacogdoches provided further interpretation by erecting brown metal signs at the graves of other notable Nacogdoches citizens.54 In 1966 the Nacogdoches Historical Society printed a pamphlet with a map, grave locations, and descriptions of the lives of those individuals.55 While Oak Grove Cemetery does not have a dedicated tour, the Nacogdoches Convention and Visitors Bureau offers tours throughout the historic districts of town and Oak Grove.

 A local organization, the Friends of Historic Nacogdoches, Inc., recently hosted a living history tour with reenactors playing the roles of notable citizens.56 The City of Nacogdoches received the Preserve America Grant in 2008 to create a cemetery based interpretive program.57 Through the grant, the city and Stephen F. Austin State University began creating maps of Nacogdoches cemeteries, held cemetery preservation workshops, and created a website to provide information about the preservation and interpretation of cemeteries. Through its historic house museums, living history museums, and cemetery interpretation, Nacogdoches strives to give tourists a glimpse into the town’s history. By allowing tourists to visit these sites, see original artifacts, and participate in historical interpretation, the visitors can experience a little bit of what it was like to live in Nacogdoches in the past. This thesis, while based solely upon those buried at Oak Grove Cemetery rather than all cemeteries in town, expands the usual narrative to include women, businessmen and professors. By including individuals and events not included in previous tourism materials, this thesis not only broadens the scope of Nacogdoches’s history but also introduces new individuals and subjects that may interest tourists. In addition, this thesis serves as a model for future cemetery based heritage tourism projects because it is based on current interpretation principles while reflecting recent historical scholarship. Both of these fields of inquiry have changed dramatically in the past half-century.

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