Join us as we explore the natural and cultural history of early East Texas.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Building History

On October 16, l936, representatives of the Texas State Board of Control presented the Stone Fort Museum building to the Nacogdoches Historical Society. The Society, in turn, gave the building to Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College. Colonel Thomas H. Ball, president of the Board of Regents of Texas State Teachers Colleges, accepted the structure on behalf of the College and we opened our doors to the public at 4:15 p.m. 

The opening of the facility represented the culmination of work by a variety of groups in town, including the Nacogdoches Historical Society and the Cum Concilio Club. The building and museum served as both as a way to commemorate the Texas Centennial and mitigate the 1902 destruction of Antonio Gil Y'Barbo's stone house. On October 16, 2016, the museum will mark 80 years of service to the university and community (almost to the day). 

In our anniversary year, we will celebrate not just our past but look to the future. As Nacogdoches commemorates its 300th anniversary and the university plans for its 100th anniversary, the museum is marking its anniversary with the launch of an institutional planning process that will align our programs more closely with the SFA Envisioned strategic plan. The planning committee, made up of SFA faculty and staff, local heritage resource professionals and community members, is working to advance the mission of museum as a learning laboratory for SFA students and a relevant resource for the community. 

Over the next few months, staff will review past projects and make plans for new adventures. Join us by sharing your memories and your ideas. Send photographs, stories and suggestions to

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hats are like Mushrooms

If you have ever stopped to notice the variety of mushrooms - amazing shapes and crazy textures - in the forest, your backyard, or along the roadside, then you will understand why hats are like mushrooms. What appears to be a straightforward subject, almost simple, becomes increasingly complicated under inspection. The history of hats is a complex story that includes an enormous variety of hat styles and hat-making materials and highlights the importance of hats in shaping our social and cultural behavior. Far from simple, the history of hats, or even the names of hats, will make your head spin.

The current exhibit, Old Hat! 100 Years of Headgear, displays 65 hats, caps and bonnets dating from 1850 to 1950. You’ll find skimmers, a snood, the cartwheel, the platter, the fedora, the half-hat, a pill box, a homburg, a cloche, and a merry widow. There are hats with sideburns, hats made of horsehair, straw, cellophane, felt or beaver fur, and hats with feathers, beads, bands, and buckles. There are hats for work and hats for play. There are hats that were worn to indicate ‘membership’ in a group or class, and hats worn to set a person apart from the crowd. 

Hats are not the social necessity that they once were prior to 1960, or as varied in style, but they remain important indicators of personal and group identity. I see hats everywhere now – mostly ‘gimme’ caps – but sometimes I glimpse a rare mushroom (yes, there’s a hat style called the mushroom), and I smile.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Join us November 8th from 6 - 8 p.m.

Exhibit Opening

George Louis Crocket: Out of the Ordinary

The Stone Fort Museum will host an opening reception for the exhibit, George Louis Crocket: Out of the Ordinary, on November 8th from 6 p.m. to 8p.m.  The newly installed exhibit examines the life and times of Dr. George Crocket.  Born in the mid-nineteenth century, Crocket’s life spans a period of great changes in East Texas.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Scare on the Square - October 28, 2011

Thank you to everyone who visited our booth at the Scare on the Square event this past weekend.  Our Humpty Dumpty bean bag toss was a smash with children large and small - even some teenagers managed to have some fun.  Many visitors stopped by our silhouette screen once the sun went down.   We enjoyed ourselves very much and hope to see you at the museum in the near future.

Are we ready?

We're ready!

The first bean bag tossers of the day.

Alice gives the Great Pumpkin a hand.

Why toss when you can just drop the bean bag in?

Short silhouettes....

Medium silhouettes...
Goofy silhouettes...
and ten gallon silhouettes!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sit for Your Shade Portrait?

Silhouette Studio at Scare on the Square

Silhouettes became popular in the mid-eighteenth century as a fun (and cheap) alternative to the painted portrait. These profile portraits were accessible to almost everyone and became a popular evening pastime. Originally called, 'profile shades' or 'shadows', the French coined the term "à la Silhouette" as a derogatory reference to Louis XV's Minister of Finance, Étienne de Silhouette.  Silhouette not only made a hobby of the inexpensive shadow portrait technique but also instituted austerity measures while in office that earned him a reputation as stingy.  The phrase, "à la Silhouette" came to mean on the cheap.  By the nineteenth century, shade portraits were commonly known as silhouettes, but the work was no longer considered cheap.  As often happens, the craft transformed itself.   In the second quarter of the 19th century, the accomplished paper cutter, Augustin Edouart, proclaimed that the term "shade" was derogatory to his art and began using the term "silhouettist". 

For an example of a regional silhouette portrait, go to the East Texas Research Center’s digital collection.  Follow the link:  ETRC Digital Collections to find a portrait of Sam and Margaret Houston made in 1843.

Visit the Stone Fort Museum and the East Texas Research Center at Scare on the Square to sit for your ‘shade’.  Be sure to bring your camera because we’ve taken portraits to the next level – no cutting or drawing required!  Look for us in downtown Nacogdoches on October 29th from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Exploring natural dyes at Blast From the Past October 08, 2011

This past Saturday, Stone Fort Museum staff joined the Blast From the Past event organized by Nacogdoches Historic Sites.  The event gave us an opportunity to share with the community how natural pigments were used before the advent of synthetic dyes.   To show the dye process, Museum staff used two easily available vegetable dyes - red cabbage and onion skins.  Red cabbage contains the natural pigment, anthocyanin, and will dye paper a deep blue.  Onion skins create a deep yellow or green-yellow color.  
Prior to the 1850’s, natural dyes - grass, seeds, flowers and insects - were used to dye yarn and fabric.  Some of the more common natural dyes in eastern Texas are peach leaves (yellow dye), walnuts shells or pecan shells (brown), red dirt (red-brown) for the iron oxide, and sassafras bark (yellow to yellow-orange).                                      

Red cabbage prepared for boiling.

Two favorite colors for material - red and blue - were made with the imported natural dyes, cochineal and indigo.  A variety of plants have provided blue dye throughout history, including, Indigofera tinctoria (true indigo) and Isatis tinctoria (woad).  Indigo dye is processed from the plant’s leaves that are soaked in water and fermented. The solid material formed from the leaf solution is mixed with a strong base, such as lye, pressed into cakes, and dried.

A jacket dyed with cochineal.

Bookmarks dyed with red cabbage.

 Cochineal is a dye made from the dried bodies of the female cochineal insect.  Cochineal Scale insects (Dactylopius confusus) are tiny insects that suck juices from the Prickly Pear cactus. The insects are crushed and boiled, yielding colors of red, pink, crimson and magenta.

Onion skins create this rich yellow.

Dyes were made permanent by dipping the yarns in a mordant solution prior to the dye bath.  The mordant helped prevent fading due to washing or exposure to light.  Alum was a commonly used mordant on cotton and linen.  Various metallic oxides and salts (chrome, copper, iron and tin) were preferred for wools.  Natural pigments often wash out of the fabric easily without a mordant.  A dye that washes out over time is called a ‘fugitive dye’ – it runs away!

To learn more about textile arts, or to try your hand at using natural dyes, check out online sources such as 

Stone Fort Museum employees getting ready for the day's events.



Sunday, June 12, 2011

Exhibit Opening - June 25, 2011

Cornerstones of the Community:
African American History in Eastern Texas

The Stone Fort Museum, on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University, is putting the finishing touches on its new exhibit, “Cornerstones of the Community: African American History in Eastern Texas.” After five years of research, planning, and collecting, the exhibit will open on Saturday, June 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm. Please join the Stone Fort Museum staff and community partners in celebrating this exciting event and the unveiling of an exhibit that is one of the first of its kind in East Texas.

The Stone Fort Museum has collected artifacts, images, and stories from Nacogdoches to the United Kingdom that span parts of three centuries.  During this time, African Americans lived in Texas as subject of the Spanish crown, the Republic of Mexico, the Texas Republic, and the United States.  Their stories are a part of the story of Texas, and this exhibit is designed to further our understanding of the roles that they played in the development of this region. Each of the men and women featured in this exhibit exemplify the universal desire for freedom, faith, and family.

Over seventeen community partners and fourteen museums, archives, and historical associations have contributed more than 150 items to the exhibit. Items in the collection, such as family heirloom quilts and tools used by blacksmiths, lumberers, and cotton-field laborers, evoke powerful personal stories.  A cast iron bed from the 1870s, passed down for generations in the same family, highlights the large collection of home furnishings that comprises part of the exhibit.

In addition to forging important partnerships between the museum and the local community, the exhibit has created new opportunities to donate artifacts to the museum’s permanent collection. Without the help of our community partners and contributors this exhibit would have been impossible. The staff at the Stone Fort Museum extends its heartfelt thanks.

The exhibit opening will feature comments by Jeri Mills and entertainment by Steve Hartz and the Attoyac Valley String Ensemble. For questions, please contact the Museum at 936.468.2408 or by email at