Skip to NavSkip to Content

The University of Texas at Austin


The Winedale Story - The Land and Early Inhabitants

Vegetational Areas of Texas - click for larger imageIllustration adapted from F.W. Gould, G.O. Hoffman, and C.A. Rechenthin, Vegetational Areas of Texas, 1960.

Winedale is situated in a landscape of alternating regions of Post Oak Savannah and Blackland Prairie vegetation. Bounded on the west by the Edwards Plateau and the Cross Timbers and Prairies regions and on the east by the Gulf Prairies and Marshes region, Winedale is located between the Brazos and Colorado Rivers and traversed by spring-fed Cummins Creek. This is an area of fertile soil, mild climate, and abundant wildlife, timber, and water. The region’s early Tonkawa inhabitants represented a transitional culture that featured elements of other native cultures around them. The area became a crossroads of trade among peoples of the Mississippi Valley, the Gulf of Mexico, and western Texas and Mexico.

Oak and Native Grasses near Winedale

Oak and native grasses near Winedale, photograph by Drew Patterson.
Winedale Photograph Collection

  Today the land around Winedale features a combination of woods and prairies. Oaks, hickory, and juniper with an understory of yaupon characterize the woods. The prairies may be remnants of original native tall-grass prairies, imported grasses, or mixtures of the two. Wildlife abounds, including white-tailed deer, raccoon, opossum, coyote, squirrel, gray fox, bobcat, water fowl, and songbirds. Natural resources include sand, gravel, clay, lignite, and oil and gas.   Plant Sample from the Herbarium
Among the native plants of the region is the American Centaury (Sabatia angularis), which flowers at Winedale in the spring. Naturalist Gideon Lincecum brought his knowledge of Choctaw herbal healing from Mississippi to Long Point, just a few miles from Winedale, in 1848. He collected hundreds of plants in central Texas and wrote extensive commentaries on their medicinal qualities. The American Centaury is a bitter herb, about which Lincecum wrote:   Plant Sample from the Herbarium. Gideon Lincecum Papers
image of a bird

“Every part of this beautiful little plant is a pure and strong bitter, devoid of astringency…It is one among the best of our tonics, promoting digestion. It may be profitably employed in any form of fever. In yellow fever it has been very useful in the hand of the skillful. It is used in tincture, or in infusion, taken 3 or 4 times a day on an empty stomach in such doses as the stomach will bear.”

Archaeological investigations along nearby Cummins Creek have turned up many artifacts. Projectile points, pottery, and food and plant remains reveal significant details of early Tonkawa culture. The evidence suggests that early groups inhabiting the area were marginal to ascendant Comanche and Caddoan cultural complexes. The Tonkawas were positioned on the southern periphery of the bison range, as well as on major east-west and north-south trade routes. This population was open to many and varied cultural influences, including both nomadic hunting and sedentary agriculture. The result was a culture displaying a conglomeration of lifestyles.

Watercolor of Tonkawa IndiansWatercolor of Tonkawa Indians, by Lino Sánchez y Tapia, in Jean Louis Berlendier, The Indians of Texas in 1830 (1969).
Texas Collection Library

The Tonkawa population of central Texas suffered a steady decline over the centuries, accelerated after European contact by disease, Comanche pressure, and environmental hardships. Following his expedition to Texas in 1828, French naturalist Jean Louis Berlandier published a book on the Indians of Texas that included watercolors based on firsthand observations.

Portraits of Tonkawa chief Grant Richards and his wife Winnie Richards Portrait of Tonkawa chief Grant Richards Portrait of Tonkawa chief Grant Richards wife Winnie Richards The Tonkawas befriended the Spanish and Mexicans, and later the Anglo settlers of Texas, as allies against their common Comanche foes. Nonetheless, their days in Texas were fast drawing to a close. In the mid-1800s the Tonkawas were removed to reservations farther north. Only from this later period of their decline do we have photographs that show the true face of the Tonkawa people who once roamed the Post Oak Savannah around Winedale.

Portraits of Tonkawa chief Grant Richards and his wife Winnie Richards, 1898, in W. W. Newcomb, Jr., The Indians of Texas (1961).
Texas Collection Library

previous page Introduction and Index ~ The Spanish and Mexican Eras next page