Texas Lakes Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Our Stories

  • Thistle Hill, Fort WorthThistle Hill, Fort Worth
  • Texas Heritage Museum, HillsboroTexas Heritage Museum, Hillsboro
  • Farmer's Market, WeatherfordFarmer's Market, Weatherford
  • Farmersville Onion ShedFarmersville Onion Shed


 The W. T. Waggoner Ranch, located 13 miles south of Vernon in the Lakes Trail Region, is one of the largest ranches in Texas. But it took a lot of sweat and horse sense to achieve the enterprise, today a thriving conglomerate of livestock, oil, and farming covering over half a million acres. The ranch began in 1849 with Dan Waggoner trailing 242 head of cattle and six horses into Wise County with the help of a fourteen year old African American cowboy.


The Lakes Trail Region has now entered its third century as prime transportation hub for people and goods courtesy of its central location in the mid-south of the country, its progressive highway, railway and airway systems, and a healthy dose of savvy business acumen to take advantage of it all. The area’s success comes from relatively humble beginnings although adding “dusty” and “bumpy” to “humble beginnings” may be appropriate.


Not everyone in Texas history has always remained on their best behavior. In fact, some folks have at times been very, very bad. The outlaw Jesse James serves as one good example. Granbury legend has it that Jesse James fell in love with a young woman here in his youth. James was supposed to have been killed by a fellow gang member in 1882 but rumor says that the dead man was actually another member of the gang made to appear like James, enabling the outlaw to escape and then return to Granbury to live out his old age. Some folks are so convinced of the story that James family descendants, claiming the outlaw is buried in Granbury, have placed a headstone honoring his grave in the Granbury Cemetery. James, however, wasn’t the only outlaw hanging around the Lakes Trail Region countryside. 


World War II required a lot of battle-ready forces, including aviators able to handle both wings and weapons, often at the same time. But good pilots are made, not born, so when civilians joined the forces in the run up to the war the military needed to train corps of aviators to arm the air forces. Americans were so good at training young aviators, in fact, that the British sent hundreds of their own for training, filling six civilian training schools in the U.S. The first and largest was located in Terrell, known as No. 1 British Flying Training School. Throughout the war effort, Royal Air Force and American Army Air Force aviators trained together, piloting craft over the North Texas skies between 1941 and 1945. 


“The story of Peters Colony, one of the most successful empressario ventures,” writes Mary Sue Rogers of the Peters Colony Historical Society, “is complicated, with no hero, no villain, no love affair, little drama, and virtually no plot.” With that kind of story pitch, the Lakes Trail Region shouldn’t count on seeing a Hollywood version of the Peters Colony anytime soon. But Rogers has a point. Land granting in the Republic of Texas era was an important, however dense, layering of laws, contracts, obligations, and surveyed boundaries, none of which ever went exactly according to plan. But it never seemed to go completely awry either. The process brought people to Texas and, most importantly, it got them to stay.