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How the West Was Won

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By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe, Argyle
National Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductees Mollie Taylor Stevenson Sr. and Mollie Stevenson Jr. tell the lesser-known stories of winning the West at their family ranch and museum in Houston.
History writers sometimes forget that the word “cowboys”—the boys who herded the cows—referred to the slaves, Mollie Stevenson Jr. says. Mollie and her mother, Mollie Taylor Stevenson Sr., were the first living African Americans inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame (see story, on page 20 of the magazine). The organization honored the pair last year for the cowgirl spirit they sustain on their family ranch in Houston. Designated as a Texas Century Ranch by the Texas Department of Agriculture, the Taylor-Stevenson Ranch is among the oldest black-owned ranches in the country. Seven generations of the family have lived on the land since Mollie Sr.’s grandmother was purchased as a slave.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Mollie Sr. and her husband responded to segregation by opening the ranch to the African-American community. “Our children weren’t allowed in city parks,” Stevenson says, “so we had outdoor activities they needed: picnics with good food, walks, horseback rides, even plane rides.”

The ranch is home to the American Cowboy Museum, which chronicles the contributions to the American West of women, African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans. “There’s an importance in the pictures and stories to recalling our Western heritage, but blacks were faceless,” Mollie Jr. says. The museum, which emphasizes hands-on activities, is a small, rustic building filled with cowhorns and hides, old photos, artifacts of the vaqueros, and African-American quilts.

Outdoors, visitors can hold the chickens, ride horses, take hayrides, feed livestock, and make leather crafts. The museum’s traveling exhibits and living historians provide a rich picture of the American West to thousands more. The ranch, at 11822 Almeda (713/433-4441; call ahead), is near Reliant Stadium, in south Houston.

Read 4923 times Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 13:06

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