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Park Pick: Giddy-Up!

Relive the past on a Fanthorp Inn stagecoach ride.

By Tom Scaggs

What a wonderful ride!  A young man of 20, I arrived at Henry Fanthorp’s old place in Anderson. The sun sparkled off the shiny red paint of the massive Concord stagecoach with straw-yellow wheels and undercarriage. Six sleek chestnut bay horses were hitched to the coach. I stopped at the ticket window before finding a seat on the stage. There were five of us.

Atop the coach, the driver pulled the reins gently until he felt the horse’s mouth. Then he loosened the reins and released the brake, shouting “giddy-up!” As the steeds lurched against their collars and the metal fastenings clinked, the Concord coach leapt forward.

That was a long time ago — 40 years, to be exact.

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Little did I realize back then that I was about to embark on a wonderful experiment: restoring an authentic historic inn, one of the most significant stagecoach stops in Texas.

TPWD had just acquired Fanthorp Inn State Historic Site in 1977, and over the next few years, I watched the agency’s historians, architects, archeologists and skilled craftspeople transform the neglected structure, built in 1834, into a magical setting, a place where visitors can experience Texas travel as it was in the middle of the 19th century.

Dressed in clothing of the era, volunteers have guided curious visitors who asked so many questions. “Why is the furniture so small?” “Is there an escape tunnel to the woods out back?” “Did any famous people stay here?”

To provide entertaining answers, interpreters and partner groups created special historical and musical programs: cowboy poetry readings, 19th century games for children and the Star of Texas Dulcimers group with songs that Henry and Rachel Fanthorp might have enjoyed.

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Stagecoach rides on an exact replica of a Concord stagecoach remain the biggest attraction. Is it any wonder?

As I retire, I am turning over the stagecoach reins to my colleagues. I take with me the memory of passengers’ delight as I invited them aboard and shouted “giddy-up!”

Henry and Rachel Fanthorp’s place extends a hospitable welcome with tours every weekend in Anderson, about 30 miles southeast of Bryan/College Station. For more park information and stagecoach schedules, visit tpwd.texas.gov/fanthorpinn or call (936) 873-2633.

 

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