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History of Terlingua, Texas

Last updated  October, 2005

Terlingua, Texas has seen three major  thriving industries in its time.
Farming and Ranching
Mining (primarily mercury)
                              The name  Terlingua
Terlingua has had a continuous population of Anglos and Mexicans since the 1880's, from the Terlingua Creek near the Rio Grande  stretching up to the higher igneous and limestone Mountains above the Terlingua Creek Water Shed.  But it still is a mystery where the name Terlingua came from.   In the late 1800's,  names of the Terlingua Creek were variations of "Latis Lengua, Tas Lengua, Los Lenguas," and other similar names.   It is only one theory that the name came from Spanish words meaning  Three Tongues.   The name may have been a corrupted pronounciation of the original name by the people who inhabited the area before the Mexican and Ango, the people who left their carvings on rocks, their grinding stones, their arrow points.    
The 1880's  Military Maps show the Terlingua Creek as  Latis Lengua  and Tarlinga Creek, exhibiting also Tarlinga Peak.   (see the 1884 map illustrated in  http://terlinguagallery.com/terlinguadistrictsuvery.html ).     In the late 1800's,  in the  SECOND ANNUAL REPORT OF THE Geological Survey OF Texas, 1890  the name, Latis Lengua is  again called  Tarlinga.  Quoted here, in the report:  " Southeast from the Bofecillos towards the extreme southern point of the great bend of the Rio Grande we find located the Tarlinga (Treslinguas) Peak, the Rosillas, Corazones, and Chisos (Specter) mountains"....and...."On the western slope of this divide we find as tributaries to the Rio Grande the Tornillo, draining the valley between the Sierra St. Jago and the Rosillas, Corazones, and Chisos Mountains.West of the three last named mountain groups, the Tarlinga (Treslinguas) takes its course toward the Rio Grande, and some smaller creeks, the names of which I could not ascertain (most of which seem to be only drainage beds for rain water), may be mentioned on this side of the Sierra Bofecillos."
In the above report, the earlier name variations of Lates Lengua and Latis Lenguas are beginning to be shown as Treslinguas (with Tarlinga),  hence the contemporary theory of 'three tongues.
The name Latis Lengua did not just occur in a few maps. Besides the ones that are posted on the Historic map page,  the following maps also shw the name as similar to Latis Lengua, or Lates Lengua, and are available at Tx. State Library:  
1858 Presslers Map of Texas
1870 Texas Pacific Railroad Map of Texas
1873 Map of Texas and Pacific Railway
1873 Colton's Texas
1878 Map of Texas
1880 Roessler's Latest Map of Texas
There is also an original framed map showing this version at the Sul Ross library, in the Archives Library.
There are many more maps with the name similar to Lates Lengua.
The latest theory on the name origin of Lates Lengua which later became Terlingua 
In the Lt. William Echols Camel Expedition Map, 1859-60 map, and diary, (see map page), Echols describes a watering place called LaHita, and lists it on the map.   This location is what appears to be Coltrin's Camp, (as shown on the 1902 Terlingua District map).   Echols refers to Lachita Crossing, and La Hita.    In most of the early (1855 to 1880's) maps that title Terlingua Creek, it is listed as names that are very similar to Lates Lengua.   Lengua is described in Spanish as where a smaller body of water joins a bigger body of water.  Lengua also means tongue in Spanish.   Where Terlingua Creek meets the Rio Grande, the creek often has water at this joining, and is quite large after rains.  And everyone familiar with Terlingua Creek knows that the watershed for this creek extends almost to just South of Alpine, at the O2 Ranch.    Since Echols knew of the name La Hita, or Lachita, the name was probably used in maps that they may have been using, many likely being hand drawn sketches.   But the name La Hita existed prior to Echols expedition.    As time would progress, one can see how the name pronunciation, Lahitas, (for Lajitas) could have been "Anglicized"  into the word Lates.    Just miles from the "Lachitas" crossing,(from Echols' diary, meaning the San Carlos crossing),  the large river of the Rio Grande, at the "Grande Puerta", (Grand Door), or Mouth as we call it today, the Lengua backed up into this larger body of water, at the Mouth of the Santa Elena Canyon.  The early cartographers could have described this body of water as belonging to the Lachitas or La Hita.   
Therefore, here it seems possible that  the name Lajitas Lengua  could easily have been heard or written on paper, and corrupted by the Anglos as "Lates Lengua".   This corruption could have initially occurred with an error in tracing, or copying a poor copy of another map, which is how maps were copied by the early mapmakers.   This is just a theory, my observation from studying the many maps that I have so far seen.   It could change however, should I find evidence indicating otherwise in future finds.   But in the last three years of locating and studying old maps, this theory holds for me at the present time.    Thanks for taking the time to read my version.
How does Lates Lengua evolve into Terlingua.   We  have maps that show how Terlingua  (or Tarlinga) is listed simultaneously with Lates Lengua, (see the military maps of 1883 & also 1884).   County Survey Maps and survey field notes by Gano, the Deputy surveyor for Presidio County in the 1880's, recorded the creek  as TOS LINGUAS and TASA LINGUAS ARROYA.   These copies are hard to scan, but I'll have them on the site in the future.   And I'm still researching for  more clues and  future finds in old maps and documents.
                                 (Bonnie Wunderlich, Terlingua)
Ruins of Terlingua Abaja on The Terlingua Creek near the Santa Elena Canyon can be seen at::   http://www.terlinguagallery.com/tabaja.html

                         Terlingua Post Offices
Currently, and for the past 50 years or more, the Terlingua Post Office has been the primary Post Office for all of  the communites surrounding old mining villages:   Ghost Town (or Chisos mine),  Study Butte mine,   248 mine,  Mariposa mine,  Villa de la Mina,  and all  the encompassing Terlingua Ranch communites.  
The  Post Office  named Terlingua, Texas  has been in 5 different locations.
1.  Mariposa Mine  (1899-1907)
2.  Chisos Mine  (1907-1949)
3.  Fulcher Ranch  (Terlingua Creek at South County Road or
                                    Fulcher Rd.)  (1949-?)
4.  On Fm Rd. 170  between Terlingua Creek & the "Y"  (dates?)
5.  On Hwy 118, North of Study Butte  (1994-present)
The Post Office Bigbend, Texas  was opened at the  Big Bend and Texas Almaden Mine  in 1904-1910
The Study Butte, Texas Post Office,  was opened  at the Study Butte Mine 1917-1921.  
Bigbend, Texas and Study Butte, Texas were at the same geographical locataion: at Study Butte, which adjoins Maverick Mountain), but the names of the mines changed with different owners.
The Study Butte, Tx Post office  was re-opened for a few years in the 1960's, but not in the 1950's.   This same location was previously called Bigbend, Tx Post office.
For detailed dates on Brewster County, Texas  Post Offices and Postmasters see the web site:  http://www.rootsweb.com/~txpost/brewster.html
Photos of past and present post offices of the Terlingua area are here:   http://terlinguagallery.com/terlingua_post_offices.html

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Historic MAPS, 1827 to 1955 of the Terlingua and Big Bend area