Greater Big Bend Coalition

Letters to Castolon

Ruins of the Albert W. Dorgan house near Santa Elena Canyon in present day Big Bend National Park.   Photo copyright Clark Crenshaw.


Albert W. Dorgan and the Big Bend International Peace Park 1933–1943

 by Jason Abrams

This research explores the background of Albert William Dorgan (1887–1985) and his designs for developing an International Peace Park along the Rio Grande in the Big Bend, Texas. Dorgan was the only person in the twentieth century to codify the economic, political, and social arguments supporting establishment of an international park in the Big Bend.  He also introduced the concept of “peace” as a guiding principal for the international park project. Dorgan’s private correspondence, received at his home in Castolon, Texas, between 1934 and 1940, reveals that influential state and federal officials gave serious consideration to his maps and plans for development of an International Peace Park in the Big Bend.


November 2015 marked the eightieth anniversary of the U.S.-Mexican international parks conference in El Paso and signing of the first binational agreement to study Big Bend and the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila for an international park.  Yet the original architect of the international park—A.W. Dorgan of Castolon, Texas—is virtually unknown to Texas history.[1]
In 1933, Dorgan began developing plans for a “Friendly Nations Park” including the Chisos Basin and Santa Helena Canyon.   He embraced the idea that shared ecosystems—divided only by political boundaries—should be conserved as a single, unified nature preserve.   Over eight decades, the international park campaign evolved to surmount obstacles created by war and politics, but the campaign endures today to create a proposed Big Bend-Rio Bravo International Park.

Archival records extensively document that officials at every level of state and federal government considered Dorgan’s maps and plans seriously, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes, Texas Senators Morris Sheppard and Tom Connally, and Congressman R.E. Thomason of El Paso (who wrote and introduced the enabling legislation for Big Bend National Park).  Letters received by Dorgan from these political figures between 1934 and 1940 reveal the personal and confidential opinions of those in power regarding the viability of Dorgan’s plan and, by extension, the overall concept of establishing an international park in Big Bend.  Fortunately for historians, Dorgan’s original correspondence file survived to document the forgotten origins of the Big Bend International Park movement.

Castolon, Texas: Ghost Town on the Rio Grande

Who was Albert W. Dorgan, of Castolon, Texas? The ruins of the Dorgan House are considered one of the most significant architectural features of Big Bend National Park, yet the crumbling walls of this unique 1200 square foot adobe home reveal little about their designer beyond his ingenuity and exceptional attention to detail. A two-way central fireplace—constructed of petrified wood, and a flue made from 55-gallon steel drums—served as a structural pier supporting four cottonwood beams that extended to the corners of the building. In a region where tree trunks longer than 3.7 m (12 ft) were rare, this chimney allowed the architect to double the interior space of a typical adobe home. Several rooms surrounded a large parlor leading to a covered terrace that once offered a commanding view of verdant cotton fields and floodplains along the Rio Grande. Today the Dorgan House overlooks little more than an expanse of mesquite bushes.  Only the fireplace and entranceway remain intact, with hand-hewn window lentils, mortised joints, and a segmental arch doorway as unique and out of place in the Big Bend as the man who designed them.

Established in 1901, the ghost town of Castolon (originally named Santa Helena) occupies an isolated stretch of the Rio Grande in the Texas Big Bend. This tiny border community offered sanctuary to refugees fleeing the Mexican Revolution of 1910, and the U.S. army stationed cavalry troops here to protect local ranchers and miners from border raids. In 1920, the cavalry withdrew, and Castolon enjoyed a brief moment of prosperity. The general store opened a post office in 1926, establishing Castolon as an official Texas border town, but declining cotton prices and increased enforcement of immigration laws forced many subsistence farmers to abandon Castolon or risk deportation. By the late 1930s, only 25 residents remained. The National Park Service established Big Bend National Park in 1944, and within a decade the town post office closed.[2]

For decades, Dorgan’s near-complete absence from local or national records mystified Big Bend residents and visitors.[3] Current Big Bend histories portray Albert W. Dorgan (1887–1985) as a German-born landscape architect and city planner “of considerable ability,” who moved from Detroit to Castolon in 1918 to form a partnership with local farmer James Sublett.[4] Some suggest Dorgan moved to Castolon for his wife’s health, hoping the arid climate might help with her respiratory issues.[5] Others claim Dorgan left Castolon in 1938 after his wife became mentally ill and began wandering the countryside.[6] Historian John Jameson described Dorgan as a “World War I aviator and unemployed landscape architect” seeking a position with the National Park Service to assist in planning Big Bend National Park.[7] Dorgan revealed his WWI naval aviator background to Secretary Ickes in a letter dated October 8, 1934, but not the full extent of his training, military service, or current employment in Big Bend. Dorgan was not seeking a job with the National Park Service; he was already employed as a station chief of the Johnson Ranch Army Air Corps field 19 km (16 mi) downriver from Castolon.[8]

Readers must evaluate Dorgan’s plans—as they evolved from 1933 to 1940—within the context of an era marked by the Great Depression, unprecedented federal public works initiatives, a seemingly endless flow of New Deal relief dollars from Washington, and, ultimately, World War II.  To maintain the political viability of establishing an international peace park, Dorgan adapted his plan to keep pace with relief programs, Congressional appropriations for public works, and evolving U.S.-Mexican relations.

A.W. Dorgan: Landscape Architect and Regional Planner

When Dorgan arrived at the newly established Johnson Ranch Army Air Corps field in 1929, he was familiar not only with naval aviation and military intelligence, but also real estate development and horticulture. [9] In 1914, he graduated from the Michigan Agricultural College with a degree in horticulture, and by 1916, Dorgan and two partners established the prophetically named “River Road Realty Company” and began “building homes and grounds” in Toledo, Ohio.[10]  When Europe finally pulled the United States into the ‘Great War’, Dorgan volunteered to train as a naval aviator.

On March 30, 1918, Dorgan enlisted in Cincinnati, Ohio and began his career in the United States Navy. [11] Dorgan reported to the Naval Aviation Detachment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in July 1918, he transferred to the Miami Naval Air Station in South Florida for ground school to receive instruction in subjects including “theory of Flight, Motors, Navigation, Seamanship, Aerography, Rigging, Gunnery, Electricity, Bombs and bomb dropping.” An additional elective offered specialized training in the new art of “photography by Aerial Obs. [observation].” Elementary flight training required maneuvers including “climb 6,000 feet, spiral down to 3,000 feet, level off and resume flight, maneuver for position, glide down, making at least one complete spiral, and make normal landing within 300 feet of mark.”[12]

In October 1918, Dorgan transferred to the Pensacola Naval Air Station to complete flight school and receive additional training in bombing, gunnery, navigation, signaling, and advanced aerial work. His gunnery training report noted he was “above the average” and his instructor concluded: “HS-1 Pilot. Good officer material. Alert. Good pilot. Observer OK.”[13] On November 9, he completed flight school and on November 13, Seaman 2nd Class Albert William Dorgan was “discharged to be appointed Ensign in USNRF [United States Naval Reserve Force]”—the recruitment pool for the Office of Naval Intelligence.[14] Two days following his discharge, the Navy certified Ensign A.W. Dorgan as Naval Aviator No. 1642 and he began an unusual career in wartime naval service.[15] On January 11, 1919, Dorgan departed New Orleans under Navy orders and sailed to Cristobal in the recently-established Panama Canal Zone. The USNRF assigned him to the strategic Coco Solo Naval Air Station and submarine base—a port for the five C-class submarines vital for protecting shipping lanes and entrances to the Panama Canal.[16]

By 1922, Dorgan and his wife Avis owned a “general landscape gardening nursery business and florist” in Detroit and, by his own estimation, Dorgan had “at the peak of the business cycle around three hundred thousand dollars’ worth of contracts . . . for the Subdivision Architectural service I was specializing in.”[17] In 1926, Dorgan assisted in planning and developing the “Bloomfield Downs” subdivision within the newly incorporated village of Bloomfield Hills outside Detroit.  Unfortunately, the Crash of 1929 ended the development after the construction of only three homes.[18]

Dorgan returned to Michigan via New Orleans in April 1919 but did not end his affiliation with the naval aviation community. In 1928, he designed and patented a gyroscope for stabilizing biplanes in flight, and in March 1935, FDR’s personal secretary Louis McHenry Howe advised Dorgan from The White House that “I have received your letter of March first, with the enclosed design of dirigible, and have placed it before the President. He has asked me to thank you for your kindness in writing and to forward your communication to the Secretary of the Navy for consideration.”[19] In 1938, Dorgan submitted plans to the Secretary of the Navy for a device “aiding in landing large bombers and clipper ships” identical to those arriving at the Johnson Ranch under his command.[20] By 1941, the Secretary reviewed at least three designs from Dorgan, including an idea he also submitted to the National Inventors Council.[21]

A Proposed “Friendly Nations Park” in Big Bend: 1933

For Dorgan, the Big Bend district of Texas represented a real estate developer’s dream.  Dorgan simply employed his skills as a real estate developer, landscape architect, and regional planner to conceive a development plan for the Chisos Basin.   The Rio Grande and its deep canyons promised unlimited potential for the creation of hydroelectric dams, reservoirs, and artificial lakes for recreation.

A 1933 convention between the United States and Mexico ended decades of conflict over the international boundary created by the meandering and ever-changing flow of the Rio Grande.[22] The establishment of a permanent boundary line along the river was precedent for creating a U.S.-Mexican park uniting the shared ecosystems of Big Bend and Mexico.

Dorgan began developing plans for a “Friendly Nations Park” in the area of the Chisos Basin and Santa Helena Canyon just a few months after Austin legislators established the Texas Canyons State Park on March 2, 1933—Texas Independence Day.[23] By mid-1933, he completed designs for a “Friendly Nations Park . . . to be located with its center at the entrance to Grand Canyon (Santa Elena)” forming “a rectangle fourteen miles by sixteen, its boundaries to reach the border.” He designated “a small square four miles on each side . . . which includes lands on both the American and Mexican sides, to which was given the name of the Parque de las Naciones Amigas.”[24] Dorgan selected the Chisos Basin as the epicenter of his proposed international park, including a massive hacienda resort offering visitors the ultimate Tex-Mex experience and cooler temperatures compared to the riverfront.  This hacienda would not be the first tourist destination featuring a “grand canyon” outside of Arizona. Dorgan drew inspiration from the Esmeralda Inn overlooking Hickory Nut Gap in North Carolina—billed as the “Grand Canyon of Eastern America.” The inn was “built in bungalow style in keeping with the surroundings” and Dorgan proposed an adobe lodge in keeping with existing Tex-Mex architecture.[25]

Dorgan considered the location of his proposed park as “the most strategic and ideal that could be found in the Americas” due to its proximity “along the border where the English speaking Countries meet those speaking Spanish and Portuguese.” The park was also located along what Dorgan predicted “will be one of the World’s greatest highways”—a “Highway Americana” extending “from Alaska through North, Central, and South America to the Argentine Republic.” Dorgan concluded that “just as New York and Pennsylvania are the gateway States between our Country and Europe, Texas will be the Gateway State between the Americas.”[26]   In 1933, the Pan American (or Inter American) Highway was already under construction, including a section linking Laredo, Texas.  Future border crossings were still undetermined.

Agriculture was a key component of Dorgan’s plan and supported federal efforts to promote subsistence homesteads. Dorgan informed Ickes that “if the section is to function for thousands of people … cheap food and a means of self-support must be developed.” As a trained horticulturalist, Dorgan noted that “the rich alluvial soil would provide an ideal location for the Experimental Farms” and sections with the “most modern equipment for irrigation, and for doing all kinds of farm work economically.” These farms would produce “bountiful supplies of food . . . throughout the year” to supply “Hotels, Restaurants, and campers ample supplies of fresh, inexpensive food in great variety.”[27]

Model communities constructed by Biltmore Industries, Inc. of North Carolina provided inspiration for Dorgan’s designs. He noted the success of these communities and suggested that the Big Bend area might be developed via “the same general idea, only on a freer and larger scale.” He described model homes featuring “the best features of modern home development” similar to homes under construction at Dalworthington Gardens near Dallas-Ft. Worth or the Biltmore Estate. Dorgan intended to create “a series of ideal recreation and health resorts and agricultural and small business communities” to create a district “more self-supporting than most communities.[28]

Dorgan summarized his plan as incorporating “an abundance of cheap electric power, with irrigated all-year gardening, giving forth bountiful quantities of delicious food, with recreation and health resorts ideally planned in the high mountains or along the artificial lakes, and small industries . . . all fitting into a general plan.”[29]  Unlimited free electrical power offered Dorgan a myriad of development opportunities supported by unlimited free electrical power, including a proposed 2,787 m2 (30,000 ft2) air-conditioned exhibition hall featuring displays by all countries of the Americas. In 1937, Texas constructed a 2,480 m2 (26,700 ft2) “Pan American Palace” for the Pan American Exposition in Dallas with exhibits nearly identical to those proposed by Dorgan in 1935 for his International Peace Park.[30]

Dams, Hydroelectricity and Artificial Lakes: A Big Bend Recreation Area

Dams and reservoirs were integral to Dorgan’s designs and he noted that the Rio Grande “has formed large and beautiful canyons, which may in part be utilized for the construction of small fifty to one hundred foot dams.” His proposal included construction of three hydroelectric dams in the Mariscal, Boquillas, and Santa Helena canyons. Small dams would ensure the “beauty of the Canyons would not be marred, yet used for storage of water and the making of electricity.” The “small lakes formed by the dams would create many beautiful locations for Hotels, Tourist Camps, and Camping Sites, while the high mountains would provide ideal locations for Mountain Hotels and Lodges.”[31] Dorgan asserted that “the year-round mild, semi-tropical climate aided by ample electric current for air conditioning and irrigation, fountain pools, furnished by several small dams along the Rio Grande, would make of the area a virtual Paradise on Earth.”[32]

The first phase of park development required building one 15.2 m (50 ft) dam in Santa Helena Canyon. Dorgan noted that the Santa Helena dam would “help greatly in getting the whole project under way” and “the power generated could be used to help build the roads, especially cuts and fills in the Mts.” This power would assist in constructing the two remaining dams and also create a self-sufficient work camp, while the reservoir would “irrigate land to produce food for those working on the various projects.”[33] Regarding construction expenses, Dorgan noted that the dams created “large amounts of current to be sold which would go a long way toward paying for the whole project” and that “the electric energy developed would be very useful in developing the Park.”[34] Dorgan claimed that “all the excess power of such a dam could be contracted for now with people wishing to irrigate and with owners of producing mines in the vicinity of the dam site.”[35]

Evaporation was a serious concern. Large reservoirs might suffice for hydroelectricity and recreation, but not agriculture, as “the ordinary flow of water in the River” would “take care of the evaporation only from so large a body of impounded water.” Dorgan noted the arid climate in the Big Bend, and proposed small dams not merely for aesthetic purposes. He wrote that “the annual evaporation is very high, being around seven to ten feet.” He cautioned that construction of larger dams would “cause the water to be spread over large areas,” and “the effect would be to waste the water thru evaporation rather than conserving it for agricultural use in the lower Rio Grande Valley.”[36]

The Highway Americana, Super-Scenic Highway and National Park-Ways

The International Peace Park depended on the construction of three highway routes, to provide access for visitors and a park infrastructure. Dorgan proposed three roadways: a “National Park-Way” connecting western national parks, a “Highway Americana” synonymous with the Pan American Highway, and a “Super-Scenic Highway” connecting El Paso and Big Bend.    The “National Park-Way” connected a series of western national parks by creating a north-south loop originating (and terminating) in El Paso, and featuring a northern turnaround at Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park on the Montana-Canada border.  Locally, the two routes directed traffic from Carlsbad, New Mexico, to Alpine, Texas, and from White Sands, New Mexico to El Paso.

Dorgan claimed that “this National Park-Way is practically complete today” and needed only “to be properly identified throughout its length, properly landscaped, and . . . connecting links constructed.” He also suggested that “SEE THE WEST THE NATIONAL PARK-WAY would be an effective slogan!”[37] He noted that the International Peace Park would be “open all the year” and thus “the roads will have heavy use.” Additionally, the park presented “enormous gasoline tax possibilities” and Dorgan calculated both the average “dollar’s worth of gasoline to reach the Park” and money “spent by the occupants of each car for accommodations” to determine the total “spent all along the roads leading from the State borders to the International Peace Park.”[38]

Dorgan’s “Highway Americana served as a proposed extension of the Pan American Highway, connecting Monterrey to Big Bend via Quatro Cienegas.  The Pan American Highway—an intercontinental roadway connecting Alaska with the tip of South America—enjoyed international support and by 1933, an extension of the Pan American Highway connected Laredo, Texas and Monterrey, Mexico. Dorgan’s proposed highway route funneled southbound domestic and Canadian traffic through El Paso, and then onward to Mexico via Big Bend and the “Super-Scenic Highway.” A Pacific route enjoyed support from the Automobile Club of Southern California and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, who advised Dorgan, in 1937, that Mexico was “putting in some real efforts on roads” and that “we have done a good deal of work with regard to the Alaskan end.”[39]

A key component of Dorgan’s roadway system was a “Super-Scenic Highway” paralleling the Rio Grande from El Paso to Big Bend.  The “Highway Americana” and “National Park-Way” merged to create an El Paso-Big Bend corridor along the Rio Grande, before entering Mexico near Castolon.   Dorgan recommended an “unusually beautiful Scenic Highway passing through immensely interesting country should be constructed along the Rio Grande River” to connect with roads between Del Rio and El Paso and “form part of the ‘Highway Americana’.”[40] A federal right-of-way paralleling the river, and reserved under eminent domain, offered a route for this multi-use border highway that would be suitable for commerce, tourism, and military deployment, in the event of future conflicts with Mexican rebels.

A Federal Park for Big Bend:  Fall 1934

Federal records document that on October 8, 1934, Albert William Dorgan became the first person to submit a comprehensive development plan to Washington regarding federal development of the Big Bend district.  Dorgan sent Harold L. Ickes, Secretary of the Interior “a general plan of the Southern part of the ‘Big Bend District’ of Southwest Texas” and “a brief setting forth some of the conditions to be found here and some general ideas for its orderly development.”[41]

In an unsigned draft reply of October 1934, Secretary Ickes confirmed receipt of Dorgan’s plans for “development of the Big Bend area adjacent to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas” and stated that “the scenic interest of the Big Bend region cannot be questioned.”[42] A revised draft by Acting Secretary of the Interior, T.A. Walters, reiterated Ickes’ observation that the project was a state project and that “the Big Bend area is being developed as a State park under the jurisdiction of the conservation authorities of Texas” and suggested that Dorgan “communicate with D.E. Colp of Austin, Chairman of the State Parks Board, if you care to go further into the question.”[43]   Dorgan cared to “go further into the question” of developing Big Bend—but not with the Texas State Parks Board.

Records suggest that Dorgan acted as a proxy for the Texas Congressional Delegation when submitting his plan to Secretary Ickes in October 1934. After nearly 18 months of intense planning—and with disregard for Ickes’ personal recommendation—Dorgan avoided the Texas State Parks Board.  However, in December 1934, Senator Tom Connally approached Chairman Colp with a proposal to “establish a 2,000,000 acre International Park in the Big Bend section…by us furnishing 1,000,000 acres.”  Colp was not amused, though NPS Director Arno B. Cammerer felt that Big Bend offered “a good possibility for an international park on the southern boundary to match the one on the northern boundary.”[44] By December 1934, an inspection flight covering the Mexican portion of the park was scheduled for Governor-elect James V, Allred and “one of two of the Mexican governors.”  Yet on January 28, 1935, El Paso Congressman R. Ewing Thomason cautioned Big Bend project manager Everett Townsend in Alpine that an international park project would involve the State Department and thus might “bring about complications and interminable delay.”[45]

On February 16, 1935, Senator Morris Sheppard informed both President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull that “it has occurred to me that it would be a splendid thing to take up with Mexico the matter of an international park.”[46]  Thus an idea Dorgan proposed to Secretary Ickes in October 1934 suddenly “occurred” to Senator Sheppard in February 1935. Congressman Thomason submitted the enabling legislation to Congress to create Big Bend National Park on March 4, 1935, and within a month, Dorgan received a letter in Castolon from the El Paso Chamber of Commerce. Executive Vice-President E.H. Simons wrote: “you may rest assured that I shall do everything possible to help put over the Big Bend National Park” and that “I certainly will appreciate your calling in on your next trip to El Paso—with any new ideas you may have on this program.”[47]

The Department of State and a Big Bend International Park

By February 1935, Texas approached establishment of an international park in Big Bend as a matter of ongoing foreign relations and not simply a land acquisition project. Ostensibly, a Big Bend dam and reservoir project promised to minimize flood damage on the Lower Rio Grande and ensure reliable, year-round irrigation of small floodplain and citrus farms. For President Roosevelt, establishing an international park might initiate binational conservation projects along the Rio Grande, and serve as a tangible demonstration of his Good Neighbor Policy toward Latin America. For recently-appointed Ambassador to Mexico, Josephus Daniels, the project offered both a means to improve relations with newly-elected Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas and a way to ensure State Department compliance with recent international boundary water treaty obligations.

If Congress viewed the international park and related public works as an ongoing foreign relations project, the State Department, not Texas, would be charged with perpetual maintenance, and the State of Texas would not be obligated to repay federal funds under the Reclamation Act of 1902. An IBC project would not require repayment of construction funds, while public works financed by the USBR required mandatory repayment of project construction funds via taxes levied on the beneficiaries of the project. Additionally, Texans (and Dorgan) who purchased lands in Big Bend near the Rio Grande at submarginal prices, would enjoy a substantial financial return on property in Brewster County, if and when the State Department purchased the canyons.

Rumors of hydroelectric development in Big Bend were dismissed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) due to the region’s isolation from any significant power market. However, the USBR failed to consider two emerging power markets: Mexico, and the proposed Big Bend international park. The USBR also underestimated the influence of their counterpart on the Lower Rio Grande—the State Department’s International Boundary Commission (IBC).  By fall of 1935,   Mexican officials supported “the matter of the proposed dams along the Rio Grande, at the three main canyons” and NPS officials noted that “the International Boundary Commission is looking with favor on the installation of these power and irrigation projects.”  Yet the NPS dismissed the viability of a joint Mexican-IBC project because “anything of this nature would have to be international in its conception and administration.”[48]  The NPS failed to realize that a park project “international in its conception and administration” was a near-perfect description of the strategy behind establishing the U.S.-Mexican International Peace Park.

Senator Morris Sheppard was no stranger to the idea of providing Mexico with electricity along the Lower Rio Grande.[49] In July 1936, as Sheppard continued efforts to persuade Secretary Hull to establish an international park in Big Bend, he suggested that “the international transmission of electric energy from the United States to Mexico . . . could be made the subject of international negotiation along with the water question.”[50] Downriver from Big Bend, at Eagle Pass, Frank R. McNinch of the Federal Power Commission asked the State Department for “permission to transmit annually less than 1,000,000 kilowatt-hours of electric energy from a substation . . . near the city of Eagle Pass, Texas, to Piedras Negras, Mexico and vicinity.”[51]

The U.S. and Mexican International Peace Park: 1935

In 1932, the NPS and Canada established the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park on the border between Montana-Canada and set a precedent by creating the first and, to date, the only international park in North America.[52] While the word “peace” was already included in the name of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Dorgan did not include the term in his proposed park name until 1935 when he suggested “The U.S. and Mexican International Peace Park” for the proposed park in the Big bend.

By August 1935, Dorgan submitted briefs containing “new ideas” to Senators Morris Sheppard and Tom Connally, Secretary of Commerce Daniel C. Roper, the National Geographic Society, Fort Worth Star-Telegram publisher Amon Carter, and President Roosevelt—who forwarded his copy to the Secretary of State. The brief outlined development plans and arguments supporting creation of “The U.S. and Mexican International Peace Park” in Big Bend:[53] Dorgan noted that “the Texas Delegation to the American Legion Convention at St. Louis may have an opportunity to present this matter at its convention” and “the political possibilities for the dedication of such a project sometime next year when President Roosevelt comes to Texas are well worth reckoning.”[54]

Dorgan proposed that the international park “would be of tremendous value to the whole of the United States [and] would make the spending of Federal money for its development logical.” He concluded that “the ideas I have gained of President Roosevelt’s policies from carefully reading most of this session’s Congressional Records, lead me to believe that this endeavor is entirely in alignment with his basic ideas.”[55] On September 5, 1935, Sheppard replied on behalf of himself and Senator Connally, with the salutation “Dear Sir and Friend.” Sheppard informed Dorgan that “I am in receipt of your letter of August 28, enclosing copy of [the] brief and colored blue line, regarding the development of the Big Bend National Park. This brief and drawing are having my interested attention, and I thank you very much for sending them to me.”[56]

On September 12, 1935, Dorgan mailed President Roosevelt a letter of introduction, memoranda, a copy of his August 22 brief, and two hand-drawn colored maps. Dorgan informed FDR that “I have spent considerable time during the last two years evolving the Plan for an “International Peace Park” as per the enclosed brief . . . and a colored plan showing its relation to the “Highway Americana” and the “National Park-Way” to demonstrate “how this super-development will affect Texas.”[57] In sum, Dorgan wrote that establishing the park would be “a fitting triumph in the history of the State of Texas, if at the opening of her Centennial Celebration, such an endeavor could be dedicated, courageously carrying out the destiny of this great people.”[58]

In a memorandum to FDR dated September 10, Dorgan outlined the political and economic arguments supporting creation of an International Peace Park in the Big Bend. Dorgan informed FDR that “the developing of the International Peace Park, the Highway Americana and the National Park-Way makes a three-way proposition.” He also outlined the perpetual benefits and exponential financial return regarding the New Deal funds “the Federal Government would spend in developing these three great projects, or in reality, one super-project.” He again capitalized on the Texas Centennial theme by suggesting that “it would be fitting and proper if our President meet with President Cardenas of Mexico at the time of the opening of the Centennial Celebration and dedicate to the use of the people of the Americas, for all time to come, this great ALL AMERICAN PEACE ACTIVITY!”[59]

Louis Howe, Personal Secretary to the President, acknowledged receipt of Dorgan’s letter, memoranda, maps, and brief for President Roosevelt, and forwarded this material to the Department of State. On September 25, 1935, Edward L. Reed, Chief of the Division of Mexican Affairs within the State Department, wrote Dorgan to acknowledge receipt of the “memoranda and maps” provided to President Roosevelt “concerning the international park project to be established on the Texas-Mexico border.” Reed informed Dorgan that the Department was not in a position to furnish information related to the proposed international park” and added that “as you are probably aware, the whole matter is still in a formative stage.”[60]

In a second letter, dated September 12, 1935, Dorgan sent a cover letter, hand drawn color pencil map, and copy of the August 22 brief to Secretary of Commerce, Daniel C. Roper, “setting forth its [the international park’s] main activities in relation to each other, together with a colored plan showing its relation to the ‘Americas’ and the ‘Highway Americana’.” Dorgan informed Secretary Roper that “the Alpine Chamber of Commerce is inviting forty of the key legislators to visit and inspect the Park area soon” and requested “any information that is available and that you would think would be of use in presenting to our Legislature, in order that they may gain a better understanding of its possibilities.”[61]  In November 1935, Texas Governor James V. Allred and a handful of legislators attended ceremonies at the Sul Ross Teacher’s College and toured the Big Bend State Park.  However, the only sizable group to visit Alpine included “about 40 educators and teachers of northern Mexico.”[62]  The proposed visit proved irrelevant, as Department of Commerce Chief Clerk, E.W. Libbey, informed Dorgan on September 25 that “since this matter comes under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, I have taken the liberty of referring your letter to that Department for consideration.”[63]

Dorgan submitted a fourth copy of his international park brief to the National Geographic Society as a proposed manuscript for an article on the Big Bend. On September 26, Leo A. Borah, a member of the editorial staff at the National Geographic Magazine wrote: “Your offer of the article ‘The U.S. and Mexican International Peace Park’ is indeed appreciated. However, your material cannot be adapted to the needs of The National Geographic Magazine, and for this reason we are obliged to return it to you, thanking you for the privilege of examining it.” Borah added that “Your manuscript is well written and we appreciate the time and effort you have put forth in the preparation of your material.”[64]

Dorgan did not confine his public campaign to the National Geographic Magazine, and provided a fifth copy of “maps and plans for an International Peace Park” to Amon Carter, publishing mogul, and owner of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. On September 18, Carter’s personal secretary K. Deakins confirmed Dorgan’s materials were “received during Mr. Carter’s absence from the city and shall be brought to his attention when he returns in about ten days.”[65] Thus by the close of 1935, Dorgan’s maps and plans were reviewed by Amon Carter, the National Geographic Society, President Roosevelt, Senators Morris Sheppard and Tom Connally, the Secretaries of Interior and State, and the Department of Commerce—who forwarded his map and plans to the National Park Service for consideration.[66]

The Texas Centennial Exposition: Summer 1936

On June 6, 1936, the Texas Centennial Exposition opened at Fair Park in Dallas to commemorate the 100th anniversary of independence from Mexico.  Texas constructed over 50 buildings for this World’s Fair, including exhibits similar to projects proposed by Dorgan the previous year. President Roosevelt visited the exposition on June 12—six months before the presidential election—and brought national attention to the massive celebration scheduled to run through November 29.

In February 1936, representatives of the International Boundary Commission, the National Park Service, and Mexican officials in charge of natural resources met in El Paso to renew discussion of the international park. Both NPS and Mexican park officials agreed the binational project was of significant value to both nations. On February 27, Thomason wrote to Dorgan in Castolon: “in further reply to your recent inquiry, I am enclosing you a letter that I have this morning received from the Secretary of State . . . I hope you will find the information it contains of value . . . if I may be of further service, please do not hesitate to contact me.”[67] While the contents of the letter from the Secretary of State are unknown—as is the nature of Dorgan’s “recent inquiry”—it is reasonable to conclude that this correspondence related to the recent international park conference in El Paso.

With the failure of FDR and Texas Democrats to publicly endorse the international park at the Centennial Exposition, Dorgan adopted a bipartisan approach to park advocacy. In a letter of July 29, 1936, Brownsville resident R.B. Creager (the Republican National Committee member for Texas) expressed condemnation of the Roosevelt Administration but confirmed bipartisan support for establishing the International Peace Park. This correspondence documents the only known expression of opinion from Texas Republicans regarding the international park concept. Creager informed Dorgan that “you undoubtedly have a great idea and it would be a great thing if the International Peace Park, planned by you, could become a reality.” However, Creager’s grim outlook for establishing the park is clear. Dorgan’s plan required “international action and agreement and I am afraid you will find it utterly impossible to raise the money by public subscription.” His opinion of the Democratic Party was blunt: “Since money is being thrown away by the present Administration in Washington for so many useless purposes it looks as though he [Roosevelt] might appropriate enough to do this work which would be useful and for a lasting purpose.”[68]

Negotiations in El Paso concluded on November 9, 1936, and the commission submitted a report on proposed boundaries for an international park. The following month, on December 1, the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace in Buenos Aires opened with an address by FDR.[69] On December 9, Thomason informed Dorgan that “the proposal for establishment of the Peace Park is not on the program of the Inter-American Peace Conference.” Thomason expressed his opinion that “I am very much in hope the plan will fully materialize and will continue to bend my efforts to that end.”

To close the year, on December 24, Dorgan submitted a “proposed series of peace programs” to the National Broadcasting Company, Inc., at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. He received a reply from radio personality Phillips Carlin, who served as the Eastern Program Manager and Vice President in charge of programs. Carlin informed Dorgan that “we appreciate your outlining for us the proposed series of peace programs, but we regret that we do not know any sponsor who would be interested in undertaking the series at this time.”[70] Yet Dorgan continued to pursue national radio. On January 19, 1937, Daniel P. Wolley, Vice President of Standard Brands Incorporated wrote to Dorgan regarding his “idea for a Chase & Sanborn program built around the thought of Peace.” He informed Dorgan that “as our commitments have been made for some time to come, we are not in a position to make use of your suggestion.”[71]

The American Legion and Alpine Chamber of Commerce: March 1937

In March 1937, Dorgan released the largest array of international park media propaganda ever created and distributed nationwide by a private individual. With roughly 90 days remaining until the Greater Texas and Pan American Exposition opening ceremonies in Dallas, Dorgan unleashed a media blitzkrieg to promote the Big Bend International Peace Park. He reached out to the syndicated press and received replies from The Associated Press, United Press Associations, and The American Newspaper Publishers Association.[72] Dorgan even ventured into film, becoming the only known resident of Castolon to receive mail from Warner Brothers Pictures. Story editor David Matthews replied from Burbank that “our production plans for the coming year are very well set, and for this reason we are buying very little material.”[73]

As a WWI veteran, Dorgan expressed interest in The American Legion and their nationwide campaign to establish park accommodations for disabled veterans. On March 10, Executive Committeeman M.L. Hopson of The American Legion, Alpine District, met with Sul Ross State University President, Dr. Horace Morelock, to discuss the international park and Dorgan’s plans. Hopson advised that “I had a long conference with Dr. Morelock today with reference to the International Peace Park” and that Morelock “regrets very much that he was unable to see you.” He expressed that Morelock “thinks that it is one of the most wonderful ideas advanced in connection with the park” and suggested that Dorgan “communicate with him by mail or better still, come to see him with the letters and articles you have.” Per Hopson, “Dr. Morelock has ways of getting things before the public and has more funds than the Chamber of Commerce.” He reminded Dorgan of the upcoming legislative caucus in Alpine and suggested Dorgan “meet with this Legislative group in Alpine and go to the park with them” and that “you have your data ready for inspection.” Regarding the international park campaign, Hopson stated that “I am trying to tie the Peace Park idea with the American Legion Program.”[74]

The same day (March 10), Morelock wrote to NPS Director Cammerer regarding “a matter which was suggested to me by a local member of the American Legion.”[75] It is uncertain whether the “local member” referred to by Morelock is Dorgan, Hopkins, or another Legion member, but the fact that Morelock wrote to Cammerer the same day he discussed Dorgan’s “wonderful idea advanced in connection with the park” is notable. On April 7, Dorgan submitted several articles to The American Legion Monthly, only to learn the magazine was “unable to make use of the manuscripts” because “the Monthly is loaded to the guards with material and it is taking nothing at the present time.”[76]

In preparation for the legislative group visiting Big Bend, Dorgan contacted R.G. Baldwin at the Dallas News building on March 19, to offer material that “will be of interest to the whole country but of particular interest to Texas now.” Dorgan informed Baldwin that “the Texas State Senate is sending about thirty of its members to inspect the proposed Big Bend National Park site, this week end, arriving in Alpine,” and that he planned to arrive “at the Park site early Sat. morning and [stay] until the Legislators leave.” He hoped to talk to Baldwin “or to an able representative should he be present at the Park . . . or to gain an appointment at some other time and place.”[77]

The Pan American Exposition: Dallas, 1937

Much like the Centennial Exposition the previous year, Texas dedicated the 1937 Pan American Exposition to peace in the Americas, and promoting a feeling of international goodwill between the 21 independent nations of the Western Hemisphere.  Texas billed the Exposition as a celebration of President Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor” ideas expressed at the December 1936 Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace. Promoters believed the Exposition embodied “the concept of international peace” and hoped that for exposition visitors, international peace “may become an integral part of their daily thinking.” Cultivating this mindset was crucial to Dorgan’s park campaign.

Texas legislators pursued the international park aggressively in the summer of 1937. On May 12, State Representative Delmar King (103rd District) informed Dorgan that “your Representative, Mr. Cauthorn, offered an amendment to an Appropriation Bill appropriating $750,000.00 to buy the land in the Big Bend Area.” King advised Dorgan that “after talking things over with several members of the House, I decided that it would not be best to make an effort to name the proposed park at this time.” He concurred with “the general opinion of those who have done a lot of work toward getting this appropriation that we should first be sure of the deal going through before we attempted to name it.”[78] Thus in May 1937, Texan legislators remained undecided regarding a name for this “proposed park” otherwise assumed to be named “Big Bend National Park.”

King and his compatriots in the House were not alone in viewing national and international park establishment as separate initiatives. On November 5, Director E.A. Wood of The Texas Planning Board in Austin expressed support for Dorgan’s international park plan. He informed Dorgan that “I presented your proposal for a Pan-America Peace Park in the Big Bend area to the members of The Texas Planning Board at their regular meeting which was held on October 20.” The board viewed Dorgan’s map and directed Wood to give Dorgan a hearing “at your convenience,” and then make a report to the Board. Wood invited Dorgan “to discuss the matter further with me” and indicated that “I will be very glad to see you at your convenience.”[79]

On March 18, 1938, Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas ordered the expropriation of foreign-owned oil interests following a strike by underpaid oil workers and failed labor negotiations. Park supporters—including President Roosevelt and Secretary Hull—could not pursue a U.S.-Mexican International Peace Park while simultaneously enacting embargos on Mexican oil that led Cardenas to divert exports to Nazi Germany.[80] Grassroots public support for an international park endured, but the concept was largely abandoned in Washington. The Texas Congressional Delegation temporarily remanded the fate of the Big Bend area to state legislators in Austin—but not the Texas State Parks Board or National Park Service.

In a 1938 letter to Dorgan, longtime park advocate and State Senator H.L. Winfield confirmed receipt of a letter and manuscript from Dorgan that he read “with a good deal of interest.” Regarding Dorgan’s ideas, Winfield advised that “I did not get a chance to talk with Governor O’Daniel about the Peace Park as I was with him such a short while, but I am sure he will be receptive to this suggestion.” While Dorgan’s suggestion remains unknown, Governor W. Lee O’Daniel wrote to Acting NPS Director Demaray on December 20 and informed him that “I shall do everything possible to bring about the international park, because I believe it will be of invaluable service – not only to the citizens of our State, but to the citizens of the entire United States.”[81]

The 50th Pan American Congress: 1940

Dorgan probably left Castolon in 1938.[82] There is no record of letters sent to Dorgan in Castolon in 1939, nor does he appear in federal records during that year. By February 17, 1940, he was back in Castolon, receiving a letter from New York advertising executive Adrian Wychgel representing the Texas Big Bend Park Association (TBBPA). The Association hired Wychgel to promote the public subscription campaign to acquire land in the Big Bend. Wychgel advised Dorgan that “our first move should be the establishment of this area as a National Park.”[83] However, within three months, the Pan American Congress offered Dorgan a promotional opportunity eclipsing both the 1936 Centennial and 1937 Exposition, and promised a better advertising platform than Wychgel and the TBBPA could ever hope to provide.

On May 10, 1940, President Roosevelt addressed the Pan American Scientific Congress in Washington, D.C., and a nationwide radio audience. He stated that “at the Pan American Conference at Buenos Aires [the previous year] . . . we discussed a dim and unpleasant possibility . . . that other Continents might become so involved in wars brought on by the school of destruction that the Americans might have to become the guardian of Western culture, the protector of Christian civilization.”[84] In his revised proposal for establishing a Pan-American Peace Park, Dorgan noted that “recent and seemingly continuous and ever spreading wars in the Eastern Hemisphere makes this Peace Endeavor more necessary every day.” With the 50th Pan American Congress in session, and war spreading throughout Europe, Dorgan argued that no better opportunity existed for the United States to demonstrate her commitment to peace and solidarity in the Americas than by inviting all nations of the Pan American Union to join in creating a new International Peace Park.

On May 12, 1940, Dorgan submitted a brief and sketch plan regarding a proposed Pan-American Peace Park to Secretary Hull and inquired if there was “any possible chance of the main ideas of the Peace Park being submitted to the Pan-American Congress at this time?”[85] On the same day, Dorgan suggested to Thomason that “it might be well if you call at the State Department and look over the plan sent, and offer to assist in presenting the idea to the Pan-American Congress if Mr. Hull thinks it feasible or possible.” Dorgan felt that “in view of the exceptionally favorable reception of President Roosevelt’s recent speech before the Pan-American Congress, the ground work is already largely prepared for its reception.”[86]

With the “Good Neighbor” era deteriorating in the face of WWII, Dorgan crafted a proposal catering to the political exigencies of a wartime Congress. He argued that with “Congress ready to spend several billions of dollar for defense arms” it was logical that a fraction of this amount be spent to create a peace park “knitting into a closer unit all the countries of this Hemisphere.” A Pan-American Peace Park offered a means to “break down prejudices, build goodwill, friendships and a rejuvenated spirit of cooperation.”[87]

On May 16, Thomason provided Hull with a copy of Dorgan’s letter and noted that “I shall be pleased to receive any comment or suggestions you would care to make in reference to my constituent’s recommendations.[88] He then replied to his “Dear Friend” in Castolon, thanking Dorgan for “submitting to me your views on this subject and have also asked the Secretary of State to give your letter careful consideration.”[89] Six days later, on May 22, Secretary Hull wrote to Secretary Ickes regarding the feasibility of presenting Dorgan’s proposals to the Pan American Congress.”[90] Hull then informed Thomason that “since the area concerning which Mr. Dorgan writes falls within the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, I am today communicating with the Secretary of Interior on the subject.”[91] The State Department sent a nearly identical letter to Dorgan in Castolon.[92]

In his reply of June 1, Acting Secretary of Interior E.K. Burlew advised Hull that “it is anticipated that, when the Big Bend National Park is established, the Government of Mexico will dedicate to park purposes a complimentary area just south of the Rio Grande. The contiguous park areas will then be eligible for appropriate measures to form an international park.” He noted that “specific plans for the development of this prospective international park have not yet been formulated” and that “the immediate problem is that of land acquisition.” Once the land in the Big Bend was donated to the federal government, “consideration can be more profitably be given to the development plan. In the meantime, I am glad to have Mr. Dorgan’s plan.”[93] On June 8, Secretary Hull replied to Thomason by quoting excerpts from Acting Secretary Burlew’s letter and the State Department likewise informed Dorgan that the Department of Interior was “glad to have Mr. Dorgan’s plan.”[94]

Just as Thomason wrote the enabling legislation for Big Bend National Park in March 1935, his correspondence of June 28, 1940 to Dorgan is perhaps the eulogy for Dorgan’s International Peace Park campaign. He informed Dorgan that “there is nothing in the way of the establishment of the Big Bend Park except acquisition of the area and turning it over to the Federal Government.” Thomason provided hope in that “once the land in the Big Bend is acquired, the park will be established promptly, as all necessary legislation has been passed and all surveys made.” As an afterthought, Thomason added that “the National Park Service is very much interested in the project.”[95]

Regarding a border highway, Thomason “I have tried for many years to get such a project authorized and efforts along this line were made before I came to Congress [in 1931]. All have failed for the reason that the War Department is opposed to the idea and no bill has had favorable consideration in Congress, for though such a bill should be passed, it would face a Presidential veto so long as the Secretary of War is unfavorable disposed toward it.”[96]

World War II and “A Formula for Permanent World Peace”: 1941–1943

Dorgan returned to Howell, Michigan, in the fall of 1940, and on January 9, 1941, he submitted a memorandum titled “A Formula for Permanent World Peace” to both the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations via Thomason and fellow Michigan resident, Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg. He also provided copies to President Roosevelt, Secretary Hull, Dr. William Murray Butler of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the editorial rooms of the New York Times and The Detroit News.

As in 1940, Dorgan proposed that a Pan American Peace Park would engender Western solidarity and allow the Americas to “stand as an example to the Nations of the old World.” Senator Vandenberg confirmed receipt of the memorandum and advised that “I shall be very glad to hand this to Senator (Walter) George, who is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.” With reference to the Lend-Lease hearings underway, Vandenberg added that “under the pressure of the moment I cannot respond in the detail which your communication deserves” but “I have wanted you to have this immediate acknowledgment.”[97]

Thomason confirmed receipt of the memorandum on January10, 1941, and informed Dorgan that “when the House convenes again on next Monday, I will file this memorandum in the House and it will thereafter be referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, as you request.”[98] The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace confirmed receipt of the plan on January 10, and by January 16, the State Department advised that “the Department appreciates your courtesy in submitting this plan and you may be assured that all possible consideration is given to the views expressed therein.”[99] Unfortunately for Dorgan, Hull addressed Congress on January 15—one day prior to the Department’s acknowledgment of his plan.[100] Ironically, on February 17, NBC radio broadcast Senator Connally’s speech on Lend-Lease; Connally, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, did not mention the park.[101]

Dorgan’s campaign for peace continued through 1942 and beyond. At 10:30 AM on July 31, 1942, Dorgan met with NPS Director, Newton Drury, in Washington, D.C., to discuss his “plan for developing Big Bend.” The NPS concluded that it was their “responsibility to administer the area for national park purposes” and that “any other plan, such as Mr. Dorgan’s, is a matter for the consideration of Congress.”[102] Unfortunately for Dorgan, WWII was an insurmountable obstacle and the international park—as a public works project—was no longer viable. By November 1943, both Dorgan and Elmo Johnson were gone. On November 22, 1943, the International Boundary Commission inquired of the NPS if “Mr. Johnson will be required to leave his ranch in the near future, and…how long before Mr. A.W. Durgan [sic] may be required to leave his ranch” below Santa Helena canyon.[103]

By the summer of 1942, the dream was over. The Pan American Highway systems materialized, but not as Dorgan envisioned. Texas abandoned plans for a new border highway for the reasons stated by Thomason in June 1940. Yet Thomason’s tenacity was undiminished, and as late as December 1944 he pursued a paved highway “directly to Boquillas,” similar to the new highway connecting Eagle Pass to Saltillo, Mexico.[104] Without highways and hydroelectric dams providing key assets for park infrastructure and development it was impossible to create the International Peace Park envisioned by Dorgan.

From Castolon to Congress: The Big Bend-Rio Bravo International Park

The campaign for public works projects in Big Bend ended by 1943, but the ideological aspects of the International Peace Park—as codified by Dorgan—continued to interest both officials in the State of Texas and the NPS. As part of the celebration of signing of the U.S.-Mexico Wildlife Protection Agreement, and the second anniversary of the reopening of the Boquillas Port of Entry at Big Bend National Park on April 10, 2015, Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, informed attendees that “the United States and Mexico share a continued commitment toward fulfilling a conservation vision President Roosevelt and President Camacho proposed over 60 years ago.”[105] Regarding the creation of an international park in the twenty-first century, Jewell said, “We are on the cusp of making that happen.”[106] Secretary Jewell’s Mexican counterpart, Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Juan José Guerra Abud, noted that “the Big Bend-Río Bravo Conservation Initiative is a model envisioned by our Presidents; it is a dream shared by many past generations.”[107]

One name rarely mentioned in connection with the peace park is that of Albert W. Dorgan. By 1945, Dorgan had relocated to Miami, where he established a landscape business and joined the Coral Gables Rotary Club. Yet what is known of his post-Big Bend life in Florida demonstrates that his dedication to world peace, and his interest in engineering sources of clean energy to combat unemployment, were not mere propaganda. He employed the same mixture of economics and humanitarianism in later years, turning to energy-related inventions to fight unemployment in lieu of constructing hydroelectric dams. His designs for storing and utilizing solar energy and water power in the 1980s also addressed employment. Dorgan stated that “With millions of people now unemployed and all kinds of energy so expensive, what better combination could we have than to put people to work taking advantage of free sun and water to make useful energy?”[108] Dorgan passed away in 1985, in Coral Gables, only miles from the Dorgan Solar Energy Laboratory at the University of Miami campus.

For Big Bend historians, Dorgan remains an unemployed landscape architect and local farmer, yet records in private collection, and in the National Archives, tell the story of an inventor, writer, military pilot, landscape architect, and humanitarian. Perhaps future park visitors walking the Dorgan-Sublett trail in Castolon will pause—if only for a moment—outside the single remaining wall of his ruined home and contemplate the story of the first member of Rotary International to ever have a scholarship named in his honor.[109]



[1]. Albert William Dorgan b. June 4, 1887, Byron Center, Michigan; d. September 3, 1985, Miami, Florida.


  1. Martin Donell Kohout, “Castolon, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association,; Internet; accessed July 14, 2014.

[3]. Louis F. Aulbach, The Great Unknown of the Rio Grande. (Houston: 2007), 16–19. Aulbach is the only author to address the “mysteries” surrounding the Dorgan House and personal background of Albert W. Dorgan.

  1. Clifford B. Casey, Soldiers, Ranchers and Miners in the Big Bend. (National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, September 1969), 72.

[5]. A.W. Dorgan to Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes, October 8, 1934; Big Bend National Park (BBNP), File 0-32, Part 1, Central Classified Files (CCF), Records of the National Park Service (NPS), Record Group 79 (RG 79), National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD (NACP). Dorgan himself claimed that he moved to Castolon for his wife’s health, as she (allegedly) contracted the flu while a student in the Army during WWI.

[6]. Correspondence with Tom Alex, Archaeologist, Big Bend National Park, August 26, 2014. In an interview, Dorgan’s neighbor, Eunice Sublett Newman, stated that Dorgan’s wife Avis Anna “had dementia” and that she “was just a little off because she wandered all over the hills at times.” For images of the Dorgan-Sublett complex, see “Big Bend National Park–Floodplain Farms–Then and Now” available from; Internet; accessed

[7]. John Jameson, “From Dude Ranches to Haciendas: Master Planning at Big Bend National Park, Texas.” Forest and Conservation History, Vol. 38, No. 2 (July 1994):108.

[8]. A 1985 interview of Eunice Sublett Newman by Arthur Gomez documents that Dorgan arrived at the Johnson Ranch before moving to nearby Castolon. Interview transcript on file at Big Bend National Park.

[9]. Albert Wm. Dorgan, Michigan Securities Commission, Department of Real Estate, #R-4117. Issued Lansing, MI, January 2, 1928. Dorgan-Abrams Collection (DAC). In 1916, Dorgan was “building homes and grounds in Toledo (Ohio).” M.A.C. Record, May 30, 1916, Michigan Agricultural College Association, East Lansing, MI. Vol. XXI; 7.

 [10]. Michigan Agricultural College, Class of 1914. Department Reports of the State of Ohio, Containing the Decisions, Opinions, Rulings of the Supreme Court, Attorney General, Public Utilities Commission, State Treasurer . . . and Several Other State Departments. Vol. IV, 1916. (Columbus: The Nemar Publishing Company).

[11] Compiled service record, Dorgan, Albert William, Ensign, USNRF; Official Military Personnel Files, compiled 1885–1998; Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1798–2007; Record Group 24, National Archives and Records Administration—National Personnel Records Center (St. Louis).

[12] Completing School Reports: U.S. Naval Air Station, Miami, Florida; Form NAV. AIR 32 (ground school), AIR 33 (elementary flight), Elementary Training Station, September 13, 1918. Signed H.C. Van Valzah, Commanding Officer. U.S. Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida; Form NAV. AIR 35 (bombing), NAV. AIR 36 (signaling-aerial work). Signed Charles Vogell, Acting Officer in Charge. Accession: Formerly DAC, auctioned July15, 2007. Auction description accessible from; Internet; accessed

[13] Ibid.

[14] Wyman H. Packard, A Century of U.S. Naval Intelligence. (Washington: Department of the Navy, 1996).

[15] Flight certificate, issued November 15, 1918; received 14 December, and transfer orders to Cristobal, Panama, via New Orleans, January 11, 1919. Accession: Formerly DAC, auctioned July 15, 2007. Auction description accessible from; Internet; accessed

[16] Navy directory, officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, also including officers of the United States Naval Reserve, active, Marine Corps Reserve, active, and foreign officers serving with the Navy. United States: Navy Department, Bureau of Navigation, 1919; 102.

[17]. Michigan Manufacturer and Financial Record, Vol. 30; 1922. Dorgan to Ickes, October 8, 1934. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 1, CCF, NPS, RG 79, NACP.

[18]   Katie Kiyo. “Bloomfield Downs” in Legacy: A newsletter of the Bloomfield Historical Society.  Spring 2011, Vol. 6, Issue 1.

[19] Albert W. Dorgan, 1930. “Aeroplane.” U.S. Patent 1,749,572, filed February 11, 1928, and issued March 4, 1930. Louis McHenry Howe, Presidential Secretary to Dorgan, March 11, 1935. DAC.

[20] A.W. Dorgan, “Invention device siding in landing large bombers & clipper ships,” dated October 3, 1938; “Ideas for testing s/ms at different depths & for raising sunken crafts—encs. sketch plan,” dated June 24, 1941; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1067, Entry 22, PC-31); Name and Subject Index to the General Correspondence of the Office of the Secretary of the Navy, 1930–1942; General Correspondences of the Secretary of the Navy, 1926–1940, Record Group 80; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

[21] W.J. Tate, Assistant to the Chairman, National Inventors Council, Department of Commerce, to Dorgan, October 4, 1941. DAC.

[22]. U.S. Department of State. Rectification of the Rio Grande: Convention Between the United States of America and Mexico. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1933. Treaty Series No. 864. Signed in Mexico City, February 1, 1933, and ratified by the U.S. Senate, April 25, 1933.

[23]. House Bill No. 771, introduced March 2, 1933; signed May 27, 1933. “Texas Canyons State Park” was the original name of Big Bend State Park.

[24]. Memorandum, U.S. Department of State to the Director General, Directorate General of Forestry and Hunting, Mexico, June 12, 1945. 711.1215-Parks/11–645, Central Files (CF), Records of the Department of State (DOS), Record Group 59 (RG 59); National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD (NACP). In 1934, the federal government regarded Dorgan’s plan to be the prevailing (and only) development plan for Big Bend, based on a map dated April 20, 1934 from “Gastolon [sic], Texas.”   Note on Record Group 59 citations: Documents in the Central Files of the Department of State (1910–1949) are arranged by decimal code. For example, Central Files decimal code 711.1215 indicates a subject file for political relations (7) between the United States (11) and Mexico (12) about boundary questions (15).

[25] Brochure for The Esmeralda Inn, Hickory Nut Gap, Esmeralda, North Carolina, circa 1925. DAC.

[26] Dorgan to President Roosevelt, Memoranda Regarding International and National Highways as Pertain to Texas and the International Peace Park, September 10, 1935. 711.1215-Park/18, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP.

[27] A.W. Dorgan, 1935 brief.

[28] Ibid.

[29]. Dorgan to Ickes, October 8, 1934. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 1, CCF, NPS, RG 79, NACP.

[30] Post card set (anonymous), 1937 Greater Texas and Pan American Exposition, Dallas, TX.

[31]A.W. Dorgan, “The U.S. and Mexican International Peace Park”, August 22, 1935. 711.1215-Parks/18, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP. As copies of this August 22, 1935 document are filed in both NPS and DOS records, all citations hereafter read: “A.W. Dorgan, 1935 brief.”

[32] A.W. Dorgan, “Pan-American Peace Park”, May 12, 1940. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 6, CCF, NPS, RG 79, NACP. A.W. Dorgan, “Pan-American Peace Park”, May 12, 1940. 711.1215-Parks/49, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP. As copies of this May 12, 1940 document are filed in both NPS and DOS records, all citations hereafter read: “A.W. Dorgan, 1940 brief.”

[33] Dorgan to Ickes, October 8, 1934. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 1, CCF, NPS, RG 79, NACP.

[34] A.W. Dorgan, 1935 brief.

[35] Dorgan to Ickes, October 8, 1934. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 1, CCF, NPS, RG 79, NACP.

[36] A.W. Dorgan, 1935 brief.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Dorgan to President Roosevelt, Memoranda Regarding International and National Highways. September 10, 1935. 711.1215-Park/18, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP.

[39] Arthur G. Arnoll, Secretary and General Manager, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce to Dorgan, February 12, 1937. DAC.

[40] A.W. Dorgan, 1935 brief.

[41] Dorgan to Ickes, October 8, 1934; BBNP, File 0-32, Part 1, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP.

[42] Secretary Ickes to Dorgan, unsigned draft, October 24, 1934. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 1, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP.

[43] T.A. Walters, Acting Secretary of the Interior to Dorgan, October 24, 1934. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 1, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP.

[44] D.E. Colp, Chairman, Texas State Parks Board to Senator Tom Connally, December 28, 1934. Texas R-2 (Entire): Recreational Demonstration Projects, Land Program Division, Preliminary Proposal-Big Bend State Park Extension, Brewster and Presidio Counties, Texas, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP.

[45] Herbert Maier to Conrad L. Worth, Director, Emergency Conservation Work, December 22, 1934. Representative R.E. Thomason to E.E. Townsend, January 28, 1935. Texas R-2 (Entire): Preliminary Proposal-Big Bend State Park Extension, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP.

[46] M.C. Huppuch, Supervisor of Recreation Demonstration Projects to Herbert Maier, February 9, 1935. Texas R-2 (Entire): Preliminary Proposal-Big Bend State Park Extension, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP. Senator Morris Sheppard to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, February 16, 1935. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 1, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP. Sheppard to Secretary of State Cordell Hull, February 16, 1935. 711.1215-Park/1, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP.

[47] E.H. Simons, Executive Vice President, El Paso Chamber of Commerce to Dorgan, April 8, 1935. DAC.

[48] Herbert Maier to Conrad L. Wirth, NPS State Park Division, October 21, 1935.  BBNP, File 0-32, Part 2, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP.

[49] Senator Sheppard to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, February 16, 1935. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 1, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP. Sheppard to Secretary of State Cordell Hull, February 16, 1935. 711.1215-Park/1, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP.

[50] Senator Sheppard to Secretary Hull, July 30, 1936. 711.1215/Electric Power/10, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP.

[51] Frank R. McNinch, Chairman, Federal Power Commission to Secretary Hull, May 1, 1937. 711.1215-Electric Power/14, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP.

[52] H.R. 4752, 72nd Congress, 1st session, December 8, 1931. “A Bill for establishment of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.”

[53] Dorgan, “The U.S. and Mexican International Peace Park,” August 22, 1935. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 1, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP.

[54] Dorgan to Senators Morris Sheppard and Tom Connally, August 28, 1935. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 1, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Senator Morris Sheppard to Dorgan, September 5, 1935. DAC.

[57] Dorgan to President Roosevelt, Memoranda Regarding International and National Highways as Pertain to Texas and the International Peace Park, September 10, 1935. 711.1215-Park/18, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Edward L. Reed, Chief, Division of Mexican Affairs, to Dorgan, September 25, 1935. 711.1215-Park/18, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP.

[61] Dorgan to Secretary of Commerce Daniel C. Roper, September 12, 1935. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 1, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP.

[62] Memorandum of Raymond Higgins to Herbert Maier, “Trip to Austin and Alpine, Texas, Regarding Big Bend National Park.”  November 20, 1935.  BBNP, File 0-32, Part 2, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP.

[63] E.W. Libbey, Chief Clerk, Department of Commerce, to Dorgan, September 25, 1935. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 1, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP.

[64] Leo A. Borah, Editorial Staff, National Geographic Magazine to Dorgan, September 26, 1935; DAC.

[65] K. Deakins, Secretary to Amon Carter to Dorgan, September 18, 1935. DAC.

[66] Libbey to Dorgan, September 25, 1935. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 1, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP.

[67] Thomason to Dorgan, February 27, 1936. DAC.

[68] R.B. Creager, Republican National Committee, Member for Texas, to Dorgan, July 29, 1936; DAC.

[69] FDR speech “Address before the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace, Buenos Aires, Argentina” December 1, 1936,; Internet; accessed March 11, 2015.

[70] Phillips Carlin, Vice President, National Broadcasting Company, Inc., to Dorgan, December 29, 1936. DAC.

[71] Daniel P. Wolley, Vice President, Standard Brands Incorporated, to Dorgan, January 19, 1937. DAC.

[72] L.B. Palmer, General Manager, American Newspaper Publishers Association, to Dorgan, March 6, 1937; Lloyd Stratton, Assistant General Manager, The Associated Press, to Dorgan, March 6, 1937; L.B. Mickel, Superintendent of Bureaus, United Press Associations, March 8, 1937. All in DAC.

[73] David Matthews, Story Editor, Warner Brothers Pictures, to Dorgan, March 5, 1937. DAC.

[74] M.L. Hopson, Executive Committeeman, The American Legion, District 16, Alpine, TX, to Dorgan, March 10, 1937. DAC.

[75] Dr. Horace Morelock, President, Sul Ross College, to Director Arno B. Cammerer, NPS, March 10, 1937. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 4, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP.

[76] Alexander Gardiner, Associate Editor, The American Legion Monthly, to Dorgan, April 7, 1937. DAC.

[77] Dorgan to R.G. Baldwin, Dallas News Building, March 19, 1937. DAC.

[78] State Representative Delmar King, 103rd District to Dorgan, May 12, 1937. DAC.

[79] E.A. Wood, Director, The Texas Planning Board, to Dorgan, November 5, 1937. DAC.

[80] For discussion of U.S.-Mexican conflict over oil in 1938 and activities of the Department of State, see–1945/mexican-oil; Internet; accessed

[81] Governor W. Lee O’Daniel to Acting Director A.E. Demaray, December 20, 1938. RG79, 0-32 part xxxx

[82] NPS signage at the Dorgan House ruins in the Castolon Historic District, Big Bend National Park.

[83] Adrian Wychgel, Advertising Director, Texas Big Bend Park Association, to Dorgan, February 17, 1940. DAC.

[84] Radio address before the Eighth Pan American Scientific Congress. Washington, D.C., May 10, 1940,; Internet; accessed July 27, 2014.

[85] Dorgan to Secretary of State Cordell Hull, May 12, 1940. 711.1215-Parks/49, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP.

[86] Dorgan to Thomason, May 12, 1940. 711.1215-Parks/49, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP.

[87] A.W. Dorgan, 1940 brief.

[88] Thomason to Secretary Hull, May 16, 1940. 711.1215-Parks/50, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP.

[89] Thomason to Dorgan, May 16, 1940. DAC.

[90] Secretary Hull to Secretary Ickes, May 22, 1940. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 8, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP. Duplicate on file in 711.1215-Parks/49, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP.

[91] Secretary Hull to Thomason, May 22, 1940. 711.1215-Parks/50, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP.

[92] Herbert S. Bursley, Assistant Chief, Division of the American Republics, to Dorgan, May 27, 1940. DAC.

[93] Acting Secretary of Interior E.K. Burlew, to Secretary Hull, June 1, 1940. 711.1215-Parks/51, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP.

[94] Secretary Hull to Thomason, June 8, 1940. 711.1215-Parks/51, CF, DOS, RG 59; NACP. Bursley to Dorgan, June 8, 1940. DAC.

[95] Thomason to Dorgan, June 28, 1940. DAC.

[96] Ibid.

[97] Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, to Dorgan, January 11, 1941. DAC.

[98] Thomason to Dorgan, January 10, 1941. DAC.

[99] Henry S. Haskell, Assistant to the Director, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, to Dorgan, January 10, 1941. DAC. Robert T. Pell, Assistant Chief, Division of European Affairs, to Dorgan, January 16, 1941. DAC.

[100] Speech of Secretary of State Cordell Hull, “The Defense of the United States: Speed is Our Greatest Need Today”, January 15, 1941.

[101] Speech of Senator Tom Connally, “Pass the Lend-Lease Bill: We Must Aid Great Britain.” Broadcast live by NBC radio on February 17, 1941.

[102] Handwritten office memorandum, July 31, 1942. BBNP, File 0-32, Part 9, CCF, NPS; RG 79; NACP.

[103] C.M. Ainsworth, Consulting Engineer, International Boundary Commission, to J.A. Tillotson, District Supervisor, NPS (New Mexico), November 22, 1943. Correspondence Relating to National Parks, Monuments, and Recreation Areas, 1927–1953, Folder 660.5.4 Reservoirs (NPS). Record Group 79, National Archives at Denver, Colorado.

[104] “New Highway Proposed” Alpine Avalanche, December 22, 1944.

[105] Melissa Aguilar, Houston Chronicle, April 10, 2015. “Re-opened border crossing, Big Bend supporters boost fortunes in Boquillas,”; Internet; accessed April 14, 2015

[106] Department of Interior press release, April 10, 2015 press release;; Internet; accessed April 14, 2015.

[107] April 16 article in Big Bend Now by Sasha von Oldershausen. “Environment takes precedence at Boquillas anniversary ceremony,”; Internet; accessed April 18, 2015.

[108] The Rotarian, September 1983; 49.

[109]Cholly Capps, “A Little History of Your Rotary Club.” Coral Gables RotaryGram, September 30, 2010,; Internet; accessed June 14, 2014.