In search of Rancheria Grande

Archeologist Sergio Iruegas discusses the proposed research project to establish a Rancheria Grande Archeological District along the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail in Milam County near Gause.


Evidence of native American cultures dating back 10,000 years has prompted archeologists to believe Rancheria Grande was once located in Milam County along the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail.

El Camino Real de los Tejas Trail Director Steven Gonzales and archeologist Dr. Sergio Iruegas recently discussed the proposed Rancheria Grande Archeological project with land owners, local historians, naturalists and others interested in the colorful history of early Texas.

Rancheria Grandes were large, fairly stable collections of Native American villages known to exist before and during the earliest days of Texas exploration and settlement by Europeans. 

Iruegas said Monday that recent archeological fieldwork has identified actual segments of the El Camino Trail running through the Gause area. Artifacts found in the area show that some locations in the area were occupied by Native Americans nearly continuously for over 10,000 years. Mission style arrowheads also demonstrate the native local people were here during the time of Spanish exploration and colonization of Texas. Recent review of historical documents has confirmed the existence of a Rancheria Grande containing remnants of twenty-two nations, which was dominated by the Ervipiame in this area, he said.

Pinpointing the exact location of these historic sites could lead to special designations such as historical markers, listing in the National Register of Historic Places and other special designations. 

Spanish explorers first documented Rancheria Grande in the early 1700s. “The history of the United States begins in early Texas history as much as it does in Massachusetts,” Iruegas said. “The story of Rancheria Grande rivals the narrative of Plymouth Rock, and both are equally responsible for the successful colonization of North America. Rancheria Grande represents the largest conglomeration of Native American and European groups that assisted in the transportation of goods, soldiers, ammunition, funding, and cattle to the American Revolutionary war effort.”

Iruegas’ company, GTI Environmental, LLC, has contracted with certain Milam County landowners and the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association to conduct the archival and archaeological research for the Rancheria Grande Project. The project includes archival research, archaeological investigations, and reporting of archaeological sites. The project will establish that the archaeological sites merit designation in the National Register of Historic Places as a Rancheria Grande Archaeological District and a State Antiquities Landmark. 

GTI submitted a Letter of Interest to the Texas Historical Commission on behalf landowners and the Association for the Texas Preservation Trust Fund Grant. Out of several hundred applications, the association and GTI have been invited to prepare a full TPTF grant proposal. Archaeologists are applying for the full $30,000 TPTF grant, a dollar-to-dollar matching grant. Fund raising efforts are underway to raise the matching funds by July 15, Gonzales said.

Contributions should be made payable to El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association and are tax-deductible. The contributions should note that they are for the Rancheria Grande Project. Donations may be sent to the El Camino Real de losTejas National Historic Trail Association P.O. Box 41286, Austin, TX 78704.

Contacts for more information include Dr. Lucile Estell, Milam County Historical Commission and former president of El Camino Real de los Tejas Trail Association, (512) 446-5372,; Eugene and Elain Bauman, residents and landowners in Gause: (979) 229-7982; and Sergio Iruegas, GTI Environmental, LLC (512) 914-4842,