Saturday, August 13, 2016

2016-07-24: West Texas Ghost Towns, Cemeteries, an Old Church, and a War Memorial

Hello again. Today's Geocaching Adventure takes us to several cemeteries, ghost towns, a Vietnam war memorial, and some more sights around West Texas. So we're glad you stopped by. So buckle up and let's begin.

After a Starbucks stop in Odessa, we head just north to a small town called Gardendale for our next two caches GC4KKDB and GC34VGJ. The second one brought us to this Mystery Mansion. According to the cache page, a man began building this house in 1950 but never finished it. For a long time he lived in a small travel trailer along side it. Inside the house are stairs that lead up to nowhere, doors that open to brick walls. Kinda reminds me of the Winchester Mansion in California. A mystery for sure.

Heading back down between Odessa and Midland near the airport is a virtual cache. For those of you reading about our adventures who are not familiar with Geocaching, a virtual cache is one that doesn't have an actual container with a log sheet. In order to claim a find you must visit the cache location and find the required answers listed within the cache description.

This particular virtual Geocache (GCE131) brings us to a Vietnam War Memorial honoring the Odessa and Midland residences who gave all for the freedom of others.

Back on the I-20 highway westbound, we make it down the road to Stanton, TX and our next Geocache (GC1MZF0). With the purpose of founding a monastery and a German Catholic Colony, Carmelite Monks, in 1881, began the first catholic church between Fort Worth and El Paso. The adobe and brick monastery was completed in 1884, and St. Joseph's Church in 1885. Sisters of divine providence opened a short-lived school, 1887; reopened, 1894, by Sisters of Mercy. In 1897, Carmelite Monks disbanded and sold property to Sisters of Mercy, who operated a convent and academy until abandonment after a tornado severely damaged the facilities on June 11, 1938. All that remains are a dormitory, ruins of other buildings, and the cemetery.

While passing through the center of Stanton, we passed by what looked like an old Ford dealership. I didn't see a parking lot full of cars for sale, just an old building which appeared to be a showroom and offices. Because of the glare on the plate glass windows it was hard to get any decent photos, but there was an old Model A sedan and a 49 Ford along with a new model.

Driving south out of Stanton, we head to Evergreen Cemetery on the southern end of town for our next couple of caches. (GC2V38B & GC31QVK) I don't know much on the history of this cemetery, but one of the oldest headstones I saw was that of Pvt Julius F Leisering who died on September 14, 1890.

A few more caches later and we're driving south from Big Spring, TX on US-87 to our next Geocache (GC1JHNM). Another cool thing about Geocaching is even though you've found a great spot to hide a cache, you may not know its history. But eventually you may come across another Geocacher who does know the story behind your mystery.

That's the case with our next cache. The CO had driven by this place several times and even stopped to look for clues. But could not find out what this place was. However it was still interesting enough to hide a cache here and called it "History's Mysteries." Well five years later another cacher was here to make the find and had the story from a cousin who grew up and still lives down the road. At one time this road and Overton road were the San Angelo highway. The building was a gas station.

A few miles further south and east we find our next two Geocaches (GC3QB8Z & GC1JHMN) for another Texas ghost town. Hyman was on Farm Road 2183 twenty-seven miles southwest of Colorado City in southwestern Mitchell County. It was the site of the last school district to be organized in the county, in 1923 and was named after Mr. and Mrs. Harry Hyman, who donated the school lot. By 1930 eighty students were enrolled from the district, which covered eighty-four square miles. A post office was established at the community in September 1924 with Sarah M. Hyman as postmistress; it stayed open until around 1947, when the town reported two businesses and fifty residents. In 1945 the local school district was broken up and divided by the Colorado City, Westbrook, and Forsan schools. Hyman was the site of a radio navigation station for military aviation. The station was decommissioned with the closing of Webb Air Force Base in Big Spring. In 2000 three families still lived in the community, and the abandoned navigation station, a cemetery, and the ruins of a church remained at the Hyman townsite.

While the last cemetery may be somewhat forgotten and neglected, this next one has an interesting story behind it. Our next Geocache (GC29137) took us to an unknown cemetery of unknown graves. Not too many feet to the right of this photo is an oil well and many more in the surrounding field. The oil field workers discovered these graves, took some of their piping and created a makeshift fence. They try to keep the site maintained as they come to inspect the oil pumps and pipelines.

The story of the graves is that an old stagecoach trail passed through this area. The two theories are a woman and three children or a woman, two children and a dog. Also unknown is how they died. Could it have been Comanche Indians, stagecoach robbers, or perhaps they tried a homestead but failed. We may never know.

Just some sunflowers along the way.
Our final two Geocaches (GC1J0D5 & GC1H3ZW) for the day brought us to the Coahoma Cemetery. Coahoma, Texas, on I-20 ten miles northeast of Big Spring in east central Howard County, probably took its name from Coahoma County, Mississippi, which in turn derived its name from an Indian word meaning "red panther." Early names for the community included Signal Mountain and Signal Mountain Station, after a nearby hill. 

After the 1881 arrival of the Texas and Pacific Railway in the area, Coahoma grew into a retail trade center and shipping point. Its residents built their first school in 1891, and Gertrude McIntyre was the first teacher. By the time its second school was built in 1904, the town had a post office. Machinery and oilfield supplies became the most important goods distributed from Coahoma after the major oil strike of 1926. In 1928 the town had 600 residents, and its school district served 205 pupils. Between 1936 and 1956 the community's population rose from 620 to 802 and the number of commercially rated businesses went from eighteen to twenty-three. In 1960 the population was reported as 1,239, and in 1970 it was 2,000. In 1980 Coahoma had 1,069 residents. At that time the community also had twenty-four businesses, a bank, and a post office. In the early 1990s it was an incorporated community with a population of 1,157 and forty-eight rated businesses. In 2000 Coahoma had forty-eight businesses and a population of 932.

If you spend time looking through this small cemetary you might run accross one of its notorious residents. Texas outlaw Rube Boyce. He was well known in the region as a rustler and robber and was known to have killed at least three men. The El Paso stage followed the Northern San Antonio to El Paso National Road through Fredericksburg, Mason, Menard, and on to El Paso. The route crossed the San Saba River at Peg Leg Crossing, a few miles north of' London. Rube Boyce was adept, as well as habitual, at stopping and robbing the stage in a gap just west of Peg Leg Crossing. A stage driver on that run suggested that a scheduled stop be established in the gap to allow for Boyce's robberies so that the driver could keep the stage on schedule. As mentioned, stage robbing was not his only vice.

Well that was our Geocaching Adventure for today. Lot's of interesting sites and history learned for today. We hope you're enjoying our stories and will see you back soon.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

2016-07-16: Geocaching Through Stone Artwork, a Cemetery, and a Train Robbery

Hello again and welcome back to our next addition to the AwayWeGo Geocaching Adventure blog. Today we're heading to the southeast Permian Basin of West Texas to find Geocaches in both Terrell and Crockett Counties. This will finally complete our Permian Basin Counties and qualify us to log a find on the PBC Challenge cache (GC2MX53).

But before we get to caching, coffee time. No Starbucks though. That's going east. First we drive south down to Ft Stockton and the Clockwork Coffeehouse. This is Candy's first stop before going into work each day. It's a nice little coffee shop with some delicious scones! It's my first time here and now I know why she likes it. 

From there we drive south on US-285 towards Sanderson, TX and US-90. Our first two caches (GC32891GC293FW) in Sanderson involve artwork on stones. These pieces of art displayed in two parks depict the life and history around Terrell County.

Originally called Strobridge, Sanderson began it's history in 1881 with the construction of the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railroad. With only a few sheep ranchers in the area at the time, it became the midway railroad depot between San Antonio and El Paso. The town began to flourish with the influx of hundreds of railroad workers and the increase in sheep and cattle ranchers as it became a major shipping location for livestock.

When Terrell County was created in 1905, Sanderson became the county seat. Another big boost to the economy came with the invention of he automobile. In 1922, the San Antonio to El Paso Trail became Texas Highway #3 and later US-90, the main route in the south between the east and west. Businesses of all types began to pop up as travelers began to stop here. The community continued to thrive with a maximum population growth of about 3,000 in the 1950's.

On June 11, 1965, Sanderson encountered a devastating flash flood killing 27 people and destroying numerous houses and businesses. Over the years with the boom in automobile travel, passenger railroad travel was on the decline. And in 1970 the Southern Pacific Railroad turned over it's passenger operations to Amtrak and focused on it's freight operations.

And if you're familiar with the animated movie CARS, then you'll understand the next blow to the town came with the creation of Interstate Highway 10 to the north of town. Travelers abandoned the slower pace of US-90 for the express I-10, bypassing the Sanderson.

The final setback came when the railroad moved all it's crew operations further to the west in Alpine which uprooted and relocated many families. Though Amtrak still makes a stop in Sanderson, no passenger facilities were maintained and the old depot was eventually demolished in 2012.

Today only about 900 residence still call Sanderson home. One of the remaining evidence of a past boom town, is the Kerr Mercantile building. Joe Kerr opened his store in 1892 which grew over the years. Also a successful rancher, he eventually built this corner mercantile building in 1927 which sold everything from hardware to groceries to the community. The Kerr family continued to operate this business over the years until the eventual close in January 1999 due to the decline in population.

Heading east on US-90 on the outskirts of Sanderson, we stopped by the cemeteries for our next Geocache (GC638RP) and some more history. There were segregated cemeteries. Cedar Grove Cemetery for the Anglo Americans and the Santa Rita Cemetery for the Hispanic Mexicans. As with the more eastern south having segregated whites and blacks, here the Mexicans were segregated not only in the cemetery but once had to sit in the balcony of the old theater among other establishments in town.

One of the notable burials here are for Ben "Tall Texan" Kilpatrick and Ole Hobek. Once a part of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch Gang, Kilpatrick and Hobek tried holding up a train at Baxter's Curve in Terrell County on March 13, 1912. A Wells-Fargo employee was able to kill Ole with an ice mallet when he put down his gun to check his bag. He then grabbed the gun, shot and killed the Tall Texan when he returned to the same train car. This was the last train robbery attempt in Texas. They were buried in the same unnamed grave for a number of years and eventually the historical society placed this headstone in 1985.

Our next Geocache (GC11C1B) was a quick stop along US-90 in the middle of nowhere. Just a short hike up the hill to get a good view of the area. When we got back to our car and were ready to drive away, a state trooper pulled in behind us to see if we were ok. We said yes, we were just sightseeing and climbed the hill for some pictures. He said it is rare for somebody to stop along this stretch unless they were broke down or needed help. What can I say, we're not ordinary people!

Our next stop didn't have a cache, but it did have a historical sign and a photo opp. The U.S. Government first invested in Terrell County Aviation in 1919, with an airfield built west of Sanderson for the 90th Aero Squadron that flew biplanes for the border patrol. After the squadron relocated, the East Dryden Aerodrome was an active field until 1941. During WWII, American Airlines and the government joined to build a new civilian intermediate and emergency military landing field here. The Civilian Aeronautics Administration supervised construction that ended in October 1943. Later named Terrell County Airport, this facility has also hosted civil air patrol and military training exercises.

Next on the Geocaching list (GC2JKRG) and heading closer towards home is dedicated to Alley Oop. Located in Iraan, TX, this park highlights one of the towns most famous residents. Cartoonist V. T. Hamlin came up with the idea for the comic strip character while working in the oil boom here in the 1920's. Alley Oop, the strip's title character, was a sturdy citizen in the prehistoric kingdom of Moo. He rode his pet dinosaur Dinny, carried a stone war hammer, and wore nothing but a fur loincloth. He would rather fight dinosaurs in the jungle than deal with his fellow countrymen in Moo's capital and sole cave-town. Despite these exotic settings, the stories were often satires of American suburban life.

Along the edge of the park there is a blade on display from one of the many wind turbines in the area. These things look huge when they are standing tall, but even bigger when you're standing along side it! Now imaging that when the windmills are standing and turning, there are THREE of these blades rotating. That's some wingspan!

Well that's our day today. Join us again soon for another one of our Geocaching and Sightseeing Adventures. And remember, feel free to share our stories with your Facebook or Google+ friends, leave your comments below to say hi, and select the "Follow Blog" button to keep updated with our travels. Until next time, happy caching!