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
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
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)
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
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.
Back to About Terlingua
Historic MAPS, 1827 to 1955 of the Terlingua and Big Bend area
BACK TO EDUCATIONAL ENTERTAINMENT