Beyond those basics, however, few were aware of the details of the program’s origin. What motivated Governor Connally to pursue the idea to begin with in the 1960s? Where did the money come from? How were the regions and routes and names determined? How did the THC decide, thirty years later, to take over the trails and transform them into regions including all 254 counties? THC staffers and program volunteers could provide some of the answers, but it as vital to discover and record more.
Perhaps the most obvious place to hunt for information was Austin, at the THC itself. Although the agency’s archives and records yielded a great deal of recent data and lots of clues, explorations there didn’t reveal much about the Trails’ beginnings.
After a couple of days in the THC library I trudged back home to Lubbock with my notes and photocopies. And there, in a visit to Texas Tech University’s Southwest Collection, I bemoaned to a librarian friend the gulf I’d encountered in my searches for background on the Texas Heritage Trails, a.k.a. Texas Travel Trails. That phrase rang a bell to him, and he phoned the university archivist. In short order she brought me three fat boxes of seldom-consulted papers. The faculty member whose vision had guided the original 1960s study was deceased, as it happened; the records of his project had been filed under an earlier version of its name; and the academic department that housed it had ceased to exist. Thus, hidden away in an apparently unrelated archive in an apparently unrelated institution was the key that would unlock the entire story.