On this day in 1861, the 2 1/2-year history of the Butterfield Overland Mail in Texas came to an end. The Butterfield line began operations on September 15, 1858. It carried passengers and mail between St. Louis, Memphis, and San Francisco, a distance of 2,795 miles. A government contract called for the company to carry letter mail twice weekly in both directions in four-horse coaches, or spring wagons suitable for carrying passengers. Each trip was to be completed in twenty-five days. The postage rate was ten cents per half ounce. Passenger fare was $200 each way. Stage service in Texas was terminated in March 1861, when an agreement was made to modify the contract and move the route northward out of the state.
On this day in 1978, the Nature Conservancy, a private concern based in Arlington, Virginia, bought Enchanted Rock for $1.3 million and agreed to act as interim owner until the state could take over, thus guaranteeing that the area would not be opened to private development. Enchanted Rock, a spectacular granite dome near the Gillespie-Llano county line in southern Llano County, rises to 1,825 feet above mean sea level and is the second largest such mountain in the United States. Its name derives from Spanish and Anglo-Texas interpretations of Indian legends and related folklore, which attribute magical properties to the ancient landmark. The first owners of this land were Anavato and María Martínez, to whom a headright certificate was issued in 1838. Over the ensuing 140 years the property changed hands numerous times; eventually Llano rancher Charles H. Moss and his wife Ruth acquired full title to the property but decided to sell it in 1978. Moss first offered it to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; the Nature Conservancy stepped in when the agency could not pay his price and deeded the land to the state six days later. Following eighteen months of renovations, the site reopened as Enchanted Rock State Park in March 1984. Today the 1,643-acre Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a favorite destination of hikers, campers, rock-climbers, hang-gliders, and other outdoor enthusiasts from around the state.
On this day in 1946, Edgar Odell Lovett retired as president of Rice Institute (now Rice University) in Houston. Rice Institute was chartered in 1891 by William Marsh Rice with a $200,000 note payable upon his death. The original charter very generally prescribed an institution "dedicated to the advancement of literature, science, and art." The board of trustees in Houston determined that it would be a university and in 1907 appointed Lovett, a mathematician and astronomer at Princeton University, as president. The institute's opening in 1912 was marked by an elaborate international convocation of scholars. From the beginning Lovett intended Rice to be a university "of the highest grade." Under his direction Rice Institute first developed major strength in the sciences and engineering, though distinguished instruction was offered from the beginning in the humanities and architecture. The curriculum broadened and the faculty increased greatly in size under the administration of Lovett's successor, physicist William V. Houston, and the school's name was changed to Rice University in 1960. After his retirement Lovett continued his association with the university as president emeritus, director, and consultant.