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Media Contact: Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov [TH]

TPWD Website: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us

TPWD News Release — Jan. 3, 2005

Webcast To Follow School Wagon Train History Project

Follow the progress of the wagon train.AUSTIN, Texas — Students and history buffs of all ages can follow along Jan. 4-27 via the Internet as dozens of school students from California and Texas board horse-drawn wagons to retrace the route of gold rush adventurer William P. Huff.

Huff's 300,000-word diary shares a detailed account of his mid-1800s trip from near Houston to near Fresno, California. The students' journey this month will retrace Huff's route in reverse, starting near El Paso tomorrow and heading back across Texas. They will stop for a ceremony at the capitol building in Austin on Jan. 25 and end on Jan. 27 at the Houston area grave of William Huff, where they will return the borrowed diary to his descendants.

Fourteen California schoolchildren will make the entire journey. Dozens of Texas schoolchildren from the Dallas/Fort Worth, Waco, Houston, El Paso and West Texas regions will join the wagon train temporarily at various points.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will post the progress of the student adventure on its Web site, including student comments and video diaries of their journey. Other schoolchildren may email questions of the traveling students, which TPWD employees will relay on to the children during their trip.

History has paid little attention to the trials and experiences of the "southern Argonauts" as they trekked across difficult terrain to seek their fortunes in the Gold Rush of 1849. Huff did not strike it rich in the Gold Rush, but he left a rich trove for historians in the details of his diary.

California teacher Bill Coate created the school wagon train adventure to bring the historic journey of pioneers such as William Huff to life for today’s young people. His students and Texas students will learn to harness mules, sleep in tents, cook over fires and otherwise experience life during the pioneer era. Along the way, they will read Huff’s diary along the way and keep their own journals. The students will share their experiences at the end of the trail by publishing a book.

The educational project is a partnership venture of Madera Unified School District, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Texas Historical Commission.

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