"Such a library as ours would not only contain books and current periodicals,
but there would be...articles of historic, scientific, and artistic interest."
~ Frank C. Patten, Head Librarian of Rosenberg Library, 1904 - 1934
The Library accepted its first museum piece shortly after it opened in 1904. Since then, thousands of rare and interesting objects from around the world have been added to the collection. Displayed in these pages are the Library's "Treasures of the Month."
June 2007 "Treasure of the Month"
Archaeological evidence shows that the Karankawas were nomadic hunter-gatherers who lived in round thatch huts, or wigwams. They traveled in bands of thirty to forty people led by a chief, and their principal mode of transportation was the dugout canoe.
Karankawa men were reported to have been unusually tall and heavily tattooed. They pierced various parts of their faces and bodies. Karankawa women also tattooed their skin and wore body paint. Their clothing was fashioned from animal skins or Spanish moss.
While many accounts allege that the Karankawas held elaborate cannibalistic ceremonies, this claim has been disputed by some scholars. While ritual flesh-eating of one’s enemies was not uncommon among Indian tribes in Texas and Louisiana, there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that the Karankawas were among those groups which practiced cannibalism.
In 1685, Rene Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle, led a French expedition along the Texas Coast. Near Matagorda Bay, he established a colony for France and named it Fort St. Louis. Soon after, the Karankawas attacked the settlers, killing all but several children whom they took captive. These children were later rescued by Spanish explorers in the early 1690s, and their accounts of life among the Karankawas provide a great deal of insight into the customs and culture of these people.
France and Spain continued sending explorers along the Texas Coast, and by the early 18th century, the Spanish had organized a number of missions to Christianize the native tribes and to make them loyal subjects. The missionary system created hostility between Spaniards and Indians, and conflicts often erupted. By the early 1800s, however, epidemic diseases introduced by the Europeans had greatly reduced the population of native peoples in the New World. The Karankawas also suffered from settlers invading their lands and competing for resources.
After Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, Anglo-Americans were encouraged to immigrate to Texas, then a sparsely populated province. Colonists were frequently attacked by the Karankawas, and efforts were made to “exterminate” the native peoples. During the 1840s, only a few scattered tribes of Karankawa Indians remained along the Texas coast. Disease, colonization, and genocidal warfare proved to be a lethal combination. By 1858, the Karankawas were considered an extinct group of people.
The Treasure of the Month is located on the library’s historic second floor near the East Entrance. It can be viewed during regular library hours, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, please contact the Museum Office at 409-763-8854 x 125.