Bankhead Highway MVPA Convoy map
The Fall 2015 Military Vehicle Preservation Association convoy will travel 3,300 miles of the historic Bankhead Highway - right through the heart of Big Spring and Howard County.
Texas Fifty-Two-Step Tour

THE 52-COUNTY TEXAS PLAINS TRAIL is the largest of the ten Heritage Trails Regions of Texas, an award-winning heritage tourism initiative of the Texas Historical Commission. We help you discover the real places that tell the real stories of Texas--places you'll want to explore on vacations, road trips, hikes, weekend excursions with your family and friends.

We invite you to join us throughout 2015 for our Texas Fifty-Two-Step Tour--once a week online, and in person whenever you're ready to hit the road! Follow along with a different county each week, from Armstrong to Yoakum. Visit us at to plan your adventure by city, site, theme, or event. Watch your e-mail newsletter weekly for fun facts, games, prizes, and travel ideas.

Download our THC regional travel guide here (pdf).
And we'll see you along the trail!  
Bankhead Cafe, Big Spring
Third Street on the historic Bankhead Highway in Big Spring -
the cafe today serves as the Big Spring Visitor Center.
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Howard County
Howard County, Texas 
Click to download a map of the Texas Plains Trail Region (pdf) 
in Indian times gave the Howard County seat its name years later, in the late 1800s. The original big spring, now dry (the flowing water in Comanche Trail Park is a replica), made this scenic flatland between high mesas a popular gathering point for indigenous people. Europeans -- Spanish explorers, then the U.S military, then cattle and sheep ranchers -- also found the picturesque landscape inviting. But it was the Texas & Pacific Railroad, which arrived in 1881, that brought rapid growth to the area. The Earl of Aylesford bought 37,000 acres of land in Howard County in 1883 and built the first permanent structure in Big Spring. 
"The town became an important shipping point for livestock and produce," explains the Handbook of Texas Online, "and a supply point for an area extending from Lovington, New Mexico, to the Big Lake country in Reagan County and northward to ranches in the Post and Lubbock area. Initially ranchers were the chief beneficiaries from rail transport, which gave them markets for cattle and sheep, but the railroad also brought in large number of new farmers. In 1881 the railroad commissioned J. B. D. Boydstun to establish an agricultural experiment farm. He planted fruit trees, tomatoes, and melons and tried cotton in 1883. His first modest cotton crop had to be shipped to Sweetwater for ginning. Encouraged by Boydstun's successes and offers of inexpensive land, numerous new settlers moved to Howard County to try farming. During the 1880s and 1890s the population grew rapidly. In 1880 the entire county had a population of only fifty; by 1900 the number of residents had increased to 2,525. Among the county's notable residents in its early years was Harvey Wallace Caylor, who in 1893 moved to Big Spring, where he painted portraits and western scenes and wrote for western magazines."
In the 1920s, major oil discoveries and the routing of the transcontinental Bankhead Highway drastically changed the region's economy and spurred a boom in business and residential construction, though the Great Depression bankrupted numerous farmers and ranchers. The nation's entry into World War II brought prosperity in the form of the Big Spring Army Air Force Bombardier School, later Webb Air Force Base, today recalled through exhibits at the Hangar 25 Museum. Big Spring today honors its heritage as a crossroads of commerce and culture with numerous museums and restored downtown buildings.
(Information from and Wikipedia)

Texas Historical Commission HISTORICAL MARKERS AND SITES   The Texas Historical Commission's online Texas Historical Sites Atlas  guides you to locations and information on museums, cemeteries, military sites, historical markers, national register properties, and more--including 34 listings in Howard County. Click and explore for history on your desktop!
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Founded  1882 
County seat  Big Spring
Population  35,012

Communities    Big Spring  Coahoma   Elbow   Forsan   Knot   Sand Springs

Mascots   Big Spring Steers   Coahoma Bulldogs   Forsan Buffalos   Sands Mustangs    

The opening scenes of 1969's Midnight Cowboy - still the only X-rated film ever to win an Oscar for Best Picture - were filmed along the Bankhead Highway in Big Spring.

Big Spring Visitor Center
at the epicenter of Big Spring's  
ongoing downtown restoration, with a stop at the Big Spring Visitors Center at 113 E. Third St. for a warm welcome and lots of great information about the area. You'll already find yourself within walking distance of boutiques and restaurants, as well as right across the street from the elegantly restored Hotel Settles and its Pharmacy Bar and Settles Grill, which are open to the public. The hotel's soaring lobby, grand staircase, and richly detailed woodwork recall an era of opulence when the railroad and the Bankhead Highway still brought passengers from presidents to Elvis Presley to enjoy its hospitality. The hotel's founders, an oil-lucky ranching couple who wanted to build something memorable for their city, never spent a night in their namesake structure -- the hotel opened at the onset of the Great Depression, and W. R. and Lillie Settles lost their fortune and the building. For decades bright red rooftop sign of the Settles blazed like a beacon across the plain, as the hotel attracted top-name entertainers and served as the social hub of the region. The hotel fell into a sad state of disrepair and neglect but was brought back to its former glory in 2012, when the sign -- this time, rebuilt with energy-efficient LED lights -- was turned on once again.
Hotel Settles
Crowds cheer on the night of Dec. 30, 2012, when the sign atop the historic Hotel Settles was lighted again for the first time in forty years.
Hotel Settles ballroom
The glamorous ballroom of the Hotel Settles, restored to its original appearance

Hotel Settles swimming pool
Today the Hotel Settles boasts a swimming pool, a day spa, a restaurant, a bar and lounge, and enlarged suite-style rooms, among other amenities.

For a trip through Howard County's fascinating past, your visit should include a stop at the Heritage Museum of Big Spring, where you'll learn about the city's ranching, oil, and railroading origins, its artists and writers, educators, business leaders, and society -- and a famous female bullfighter who hailed from here. Continue your exploration of the turn-of-the-twentieth-century lifestyle at the Potton House, a railroad manager's house and a fine example of late Victorian architecture and furnishings.
Memorial stained glass window, Hangar 25 Musuem
Memorial stained glass window, Hangar 25 Musuem

Military history comes alive at the Hangar 25 Museum, a collection of WWII-era aircraft and defense technology, including the once-top-secret Norden Bomb Sight and a B-52 cockpit you can climb into.
Inside the b_52, Hangar 25 Museum
Inside the B-52, Hangar 25 Museum

Big Spring has plenty to do outdoors as well. The vistas from the top of Scenic Mountain make it worth a drive on a clear day through Big Spring State Park, along its road built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Take a picnic -- admission is free! In summer you might even catch a glimpse of hang gliders that come here to compete. At Comanche Trail Park, walk down to the restored spring (also the site of Howard County's giant arrow marker on the Quanah Parker Trail) or enjoy fishing or feeding ducks in the lake. Each December the park is home to the world's largest lighted poinsettia display, with the drive-through Festival of Lights. Nearby Moss Lake, built in 1938, also offers opportunities for camping, fishing, picnicking and other outdoor recreation.
Visitors marvel at the 1901 Potton House, a Texas recorded landmark.
Visitors marvel at the 1901 Potton House, a Texas recorded landmark.

MVPA Bankhead Highway Convoy 2015
Photo by Jill Campbell
On September 19, 2015, a convoy of historic military vehicles set out from Washington, D.C. for a 3,300-mile journey along the old Bankhead Highway, the nation's first all-weather transcontinental route. The procession will reach San Diego on October 17, having crossed 11 states, including Texas, in 29 days. Officially known as the MVPA 2015 Bankhead Highway Convoy (BH15), it's organized by the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) and billed as the nation's longest veterans' parade.

Help Howard County welcome the convoy on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 8, from Coahoma at the Mitchell County line, along Third Street in Big Spring (about 9:30 a.m.), and at their rest stop at the Hangar 25 Museum. For more on this once-in-a-lifetime event, read more at the Bankhead Highway Facebook page and contact the Big Spring Convention and Visitor Bureau at 432-263-8235.

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  Howard County card
Our Texas Fifty-Two-Step Deck of Cards is a sweet deal to help plan your trip. Pre-order yours now--each face summarizes a different county's travel highlights. $5.95 per deck (plus tax & shipping), in custom tuck box. Keep a deck in the glove compartment. Or use them in your favorite game of Texas Hold 'Em or Fifty-Two-Card Pickup!

Retailers and Texas Plains Trail partners, please contact us at 806.747.1997 or for bulk sales and shipping.

Flat 52 Car Cutout As you travel the 52 counties of the Texas Plains Trail Region, take our Plains Trail kids and dog along with you -- in our #C52NTX 1952 DeSoto Ragtop (pdf). Download and print the graphic on heavy paper on your own color printer. Cut along the dashed line. Then glue a stir stick or popsicle stick to the back -- and feature it in your photos of destinations all around the region. Along the way, share your pix to
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TX Highway 52 "52" TRIVIA TIME 52 Offbeat Texas Stops

Years ago a young reporter for a Dallas television station began to make his mark traveling the state of Texas, visiting interesting places and interviewing interesting people. In addition to filming more than 1,400 episodes, speaking to community groups (like ours, in 2013) and hosting a popular annual festival, Texas Country Reporter Bob Phillips has published many books about Texas during his career. For a chance to win this vintage signed copy of 52 Offbeat Texas Stops (right), email us with the name of Bob's new co-host who has just joined him for the 2015-16 season!


Like us on Facebook for regular event and travel updates. "See 52 in Texas" and discover great destinations by following our #C52NTX hashtag on Twitter, and statewide travel info on #TexasToDo. For driving and weather conditions, visit And please with your Texas traveling friends!
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Texas Time Travel posters
It's quiz time!
We've got great prizes to share.

To win a full set of these attractive 24 x 30 Texas Heritage Trails posters, suitable for framing, be the first to email us with the correct identification of this place, located in next week's featured county.

Congratulations to all our weekly winners so far. We have only a few of these collectible poster sets remaining to give away!

Our next county was the site of the first oil strike in the Texas Panhandle. What's its name?
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Partners, do take this opportunity to review your community, site, and event information on our Texas Plains Trail website as well as your own sites. We'll want to add your photos, update any obsolete contact info, add your events, and enhance your text content before your week comes up.  Consult the Texas Fifty-Two-Step schedule (pdf), and email with me with updates or questions.

Did you know you can add your own events to the website? You'll need event name, date and time, location and address, and contact info -- and for best results, a photo. Post your festivals and heritage events now!

Like those Texas Fifty-Two-Step county license plate graphics? They are available free to partners for promotional use. Click and scroll down to select, then download your desired images. Please credit Texas Plains Trail/Tomato Graphics.

Our campaign has been designed by a team of creative minds. Our thanks go to Rock Langston of Tomato Graphics, Amarillo, for the design of campaign components and to Stephanie Price of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, for the #C52NTX concept. Barbara Brannon is responsible for copywriting and the weekly newsletter. Photo credits: 1952 blue Chevy Styleline, Hemmings Motor News; 1952 red DeSoto, Daniel Schmitt & Co.; 1952 blue Chevy rear 3/4 view, Walt Pinkston.

Every week's issue is archived on our website.  Click here and scroll to search and download your county!
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Texas Plains Trail Region | 806.747.1997 | E-mail | Website
Barbara A. Brannon, Executive Director

Copyright 2015 Texas Plains Trail Region. All Rights Reserved.