Culberson County

Culberson County

Culberson County is situated in the Rio Grande Basin and is the home of the tallest mountain in the State of Texas - Guadalupe Peak (8,751 feet above sea level). Guadalupe Mountains National Park is the best known destination in the entire county. The County Seat is located at Van Horn in the southwestern quadrant of the county. Archeologists believe that humans have lived in the area for at least 12,000 years. The Apache People have lived in the area for at least the last six centuries. The Spanish did not attempt to settle in the area because water was scarce, the land was largely unsuitable for agriculture, and it was home to the hostile Mescalero Apache.

During the middle of the nineteenth century a succession of emigrants moved through the area searching for new and better east-west routes. The discovery of gold in California intensified this activity. Water is scarce in this part of Texas, but reliable water wells were discovered in Van Horn in 1849. The United States Army established a cavalry outpost there in 1859. The commanding officer was Lieutenant James Judson Van Horn, hence the name of the wells and the town that was founded there some years later. Rumors of gold in the mountains continue to circulate, but so far no significant amount has ever been found.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, the U.S. Army drove the remaining Apache people into reservations and made the area safe for ranching and mining. Stagecoach lines were developed through Culberson and, later in the century, a railroad was built connecting San Antonio and El Paso. Culberson County was officially formed in 1911. It was named after David Browning Culberson, a prominent nineteenth century Texas lawyer, state senator, and U.S. Congressman. The automobile came along early in the twentieth century and a system of roads quickly followed. Today, Interstate 10 passes through the county and serves as a major east-west throughfare.