The Centennial Museum’s collections and permanent exhibits highlight the people who have lived in the various habitats – mountain, river valley, desert – of the Chihuahuan desert region. In the El Paso region, evidence of one of the earliest settlements has been recovered at Keystone, near the Rio Grande on the west side of the Franklins.
Native plants were used extensively by these earlier people for food, medicine, clothing and household objects such as baskets. The arrival of the Spanish, and the other settlers that followed, led to one of the major interchanges of plants and animals in recorded history. Chocolate, chiles, corn, avocadoes, beans and other foodstuffs went to Europe. Sheep, cattle, and horses arrived along with many plants – wheat, oats, apricots, melons, apples, to name just a few.
The new arrivals greatly expanded the exploitation of the minerals in the area, and built roads, and later railroads, to move these goods. The 1857 locomotive that was part of this railroad expansion is on permanent exhibit at the El Paso Railroad and Transportation Museum in downtown El Paso.