Brewster County Travel & Relocation Guide 2021-22 | Page 43

Van Horn www . vanhorntexas . org 99 miles west of Alpine on US . 90
Major Jefferson Van Horne discovered the Van Horne Wells in 1849 on his way to take command of Fort Bliss in El Paso , allowing a routine stop for the San Antonio-El Paso Mail Coach to be established . It was heavily used through the 1860s as the stagecoach and mail route became increasingly important as the west drew more and more settlers . The town is not named for Major Van Horne , however ; rather , it is named for Lieutenant James Judson Van Horn , no relation , who commanded a small garrison tasked with protecting the mail coach as it travelled through the area . The Confederate Army seized the wells in 1861 , taking Van Horn prisoner and controlling the best water for many miles .
After the war , the Texas and Pacific Railway came through the settlement , bringing growth and a better connection to the outer world . Around the time that the railroad was completed in 1881 , the last Indian battle was fought in the state of Texas at Victorio Canyon there .
The cemetery was established that same year , and its history includes an ironic local legend . The land for the cemetery had been donated by the Beach family , who lost an infant son that year . The first adult to be buried there was rancher A . S . Goynes , who had been involved in the selection of a town motto . Goynes suggested the motto should be “ A Town So Healthy We Had To Shoot A Man To Start A
Cemetery ,” in reference to the mild , dry climate and healthy lifestyle of Van Horn . Shortly thereafter , Goynes was shot and killed by his brother-in-law in a dispute over a watering hole and became the first adult to be buried in the cemetery .
Van Horn ’ s early days were troubled by violence . Of all the towns of the Trans-Pecos , it had the reputation of being a true ‘ Wild West ’ town , with gunslingers and murders over petty disputes abounding . By 1892 the town ’ s population had shrunk from a high of 450 to a mere 35 souls . It would take several decades for Van Horn to find its feet . By the time Culberson County was established in 1911 , Van Horn had settled down and was the logical choice for the county seat .
Because Van Horn sits at the junction of Interstate 10 and U . S . Highway 90 , close to Guadalupe Mountains National Park , Big Bend National Park and Carlsbad Caverns , tourism began to play an increasingly important role in its economy .
Recently , Van Horn has vaulted onto the international stage . Amazon founder Jeff Bezos purchased 100,000 acres there for his Blue Origin space company , and the company headquarters 25 miles north of the tiny town of 2,400 will be the site of his first launch into space . Blue Origin began testing rockets there in 2012 . Perhaps space tourism will be the next boom for Van Horn , Texas .