Meet William P. Huff
William P. Huff was born in 1811 in Georgia and came to Texas with his family in 1825, at the age of 14. As part of Stephen F. Austin's original colonists, Huff and his family settled in San Felipe, near Houston. In 1835, William married Mary Morton of Richmond, TX. He died in 1886.
But who was William Huff, really? During his long life, Huff was many things to many people. To some, he was the geologist and paleontologist whose landmark discoveries of Pleistocene megafauna, such as mastodons and giant bison, made Central Texas famous in the scientific community in the mid-1800s. To others, he was the editor of his hometown newspaper, the Richmond Recorder. As one of Stephen F. Austin's "old 300" colonists, Huff also participated in key events during the Texas Revolution, burning down his own mercantile store to keep it from enemy hands during the "Runaway Scrape." And to his wife and children, he was one of hundreds of hopeful emigrants who traveled to California in 1849 in search of a fortune during the height of the Gold Rush and came back empty-handed.
But to dozens of staff, volunteers, educators, and students from California and Texas, William P. Huff is the inspiration for an ambitious 23-day wagon trek taking place in Texas this month. The wagon train's path follows the southern Gold Rush route from El Paso to Houston, stopping at the same landmarks Huff noted in his two-volume journal. The journal, filled with Huff's wry humor, keen observations, and colorful descriptions of the landscape and the people he encountered during his quest may not have been what Huff had in mind when he dreamed of returning from California a wealthy man. Today, however, his journal is a rarity--accounts of the southern route are few compared to those known from the northern overland routes such as the Oregon Trail. As such, his writings are especially poignant. William P. Huff, a man who worked the California mines in search of riches and never struck gold, returned with a priceless treasure -- a window to the past that even today brings history alive to young minds and hearts across the nation.
This educational project is a partnership venture of Madera Unified School District, Madera, California; the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; the Texas Historical Commission; and the many generous and gracious communities along the route.