Thursday, March 3, 2016

2016-02-28: Geocaching Through History and Counties in North Texas

Hello again and welcome back to our Geocaching adventure blog. We hope you have been enjoying our travels so far. Today we set out to find caches in some new Texas counties. We're past the halfway point finishing the day with 133 of the 254 Texas counties.

Setting out from Lubbock after breakfast, we headed north on I-27. Our first stop was the Abernathy Cemetery in Hale County. A quick cache find here. The cache was located in some trees behind this headstone. Of all the cemeteries we've been in and the headstones looked at, I think this was the first with a Corvette on top. I'm sure this one cost a pretty penny too. However, after spending so much on this headstone, you would have thought they would have spelled "BELEIVE" correctly!

Continuing north on I-27 and a few more quick caches near an old grain silo, another at the Hale Center Cemetery, and follow by the Kress Cemetery.

Then, a couple miles to the northeast of the town of Kress and sitting out in the middle of farm land lies three very lonely graves. The Wright Cemetery cache page (GC5R9B1) doesn't give much history, but I was able to locate some info at Find A Grave showing 11 burials here. I only found 3 headstones. Looks like headstones have been run over by farm tractors throughout the years.

About a mile down the road from the cemetery looking across the farms and the flat plains, I saw a tiny black silhouette of an old truck and just had to investigate. And this is what we found sitting out on the corner of the dirt road and the end of the driveway to the farm house. It had seen better days and would make a great restoration project.

The next cache on our journey today was at Rose Hill Cemetery (GC31F7A). The history of this community cemetery dates back to October 1890. Just three months after Swisher County was organized and Tulia was named county seat. The first recorded burial here is that of 18 year old Louis Harral who died on October 17, 1890. His parents obtained permission from landowner T. W. Adams to bury their son on this hillside south of the Middle Tule Creek. Twelve days later, 4 year old Robert Alonzo Hutchinson died and was buried on the hill near Louis. In 1906 five acres of land surrounding the graves were officially set aside for a community cemetery.

Also in Tulia on display at the local VFW is our next cache (GC14K6N). This retired North American F-86 SabreJet.

Our next stop located in Briscoe County was built in 1894 of handcut stone hauled here by horse-drawn wagons from Tule Canyon. The Briscoe County Jail (GC2KVTG) stands as the lasting reminder of what courage and dedication mean in preserving law, order and integrity.

Early day sheriff's families rented the lower floor as a residence. It was also used by Red Cross workers for sewing during World War I. Near the old jail is the county courthouse and administration building.

Continuing east from Tulia over to the town of Silverton for our next cemetery cache (GC5N53J). I couldn't find much history about Silverton Cemetery, but while finding the cache I spotted these to headstones belonging to Robert S. Christian (23) and Warner S. Reid (24). They both died on the same day of October 23, 1895. After doing further research, I found newspaper article from from 1995 that had the story of these two. In summary, while moving a very large herd of cattle along with 75 other cowboys; lightning struck killing these two young men, both their horses, and ten cattle. You can see the full story from the newspaper link.

A couple more caches later and we're in the little town of Quitaque and our next  two caches (GC1RVHP). The first settler in the area was the Comanchero trader José Piedad Tafoya, who operated a trading post on the site from 1865 to 1867, trading dry goods and ammunition to the Comanches for rustled livestock. In 1877 George Baker drove a herd of about 2,000 cattle to the Quitaque area, where he headquartered the Lazy F Ranch. Charles Goodnight bought the Lazy F in 1880 and introduced the name Quitaque, which he believed was the Indian word for "end of the trail."

Residents used other area graveyards to bury the deceased until 1922 when brothers Alvin and Edgar Howard donated ten acres for cemetery use. The first person interred in RestHaven Cemetery (GC1QZJV) was Katie Daniel in 1922.

The next town down the road was originally called Turkey Creek, then Turkey Roost by the locals. Eventually it was shortened to just Turkey by the time the Turkey Hotel, now a Bed & Breakfast, opened its doors in 1927. There was supposed to be a cache hidden near the hotel (GC1X8B3), but  we couldn't find it and neither could the last few cachers. It looked as though there may have been some bushes there at one time. And the cache owner hasn't been active since 2010.

Turkey is also known for being the hometown of Bob Wills which is our next virtual cache (GCCDBD). James Robert "Bob" Wills (1905 – 1975) was an American Western swing musician, songwriter, and bandleader. Considered by music authorities as the co-founder of Western swing, he was universally known as the King of Western Swing. Wills formed several bands and played radio stations around the South and West until he formed the Texas Playboys in 1934 with Wills on fiddle, Tommy Duncan on piano and vocals, rhythm guitarist June Whalin, tenor banjoist Johnnie Lee Wills, and Kermit Whalin, who played steel guitar and bass. The band played regularly on a Tulsa, Oklahoma radio station and added Leon McAuliffe on steel guitar, pianist Al Stricklin, drummer Smokey Dacus, and a horn section that expanded the band's sound. Wills favored jazz-like arrangements and the band found national popularity into the 1940s with such hits as "Steel Guitar Rag", "New San Antonio Rose", "Smoke On The Water", "Stars And Stripes On Iwo Jima", and "New Spanish Two Step".

Also in town is this old restored gas station and Bob Wills and the Playboys tour bus.

Moving on to our next county and next cache (GC62PGC). This area of Motley County was first called "White Flat" due to the tall white needlegrass which covered the flat prairie land. A post office, named Whiteflat, was established for the rural settlement in 1890 at the request of W. R. Tilson.

At its height, the community boasted four grocery stores, three service stations, three garages, two cafes, a hardware store, two gins, and three churches. A school first housed in a one room schoolhouse built by volunteers, opened in 1890. It was replaced by a four room school in 1908, and in 1922 a new two story brick structure was erected (see photo). It also served as a community gathering place.

Dependent on an economy based on agriculture and small family farms, the community began to decline during the depression and dust bowl years of the 1930's. The Whiteflat school closed in 1946 when it was consolidated with Matador schools. The local churches disbanded in the 1960's, the post office closed in 1966 following the death of the last postmaster, and the last remaining retail store closed in 1968. A few residence still exist, but it's pretty much a ghost town.

The Whiteflat Cemetery (GC2P34E) dates back to 1894. The hardest thing to see although quite common at that time, are headstones for babies and children. And here the Green family had three. And based on the headstones, they were probably of little means as well.

Our next cache in Motley County was Bob's Oil Well (GC17NTQ) and a piece of American roadside attractions. From the historical marker: "Greenville, Texas native Luther Bedford "Bob" Robertson (1894-1947), a veteran of WWI, came to Matador in the 1920's. He was a gas station attendant in 1932 when he decided to open a service station here. To promote his new business, he built a wooden oil derrick over the station. He patented his design, and in 1939 replaced the wooden derrick with one of steel that reached 84 feet in height and included lights.
Robertson was a gifted businessman and promoter, and he used any opportunity to advertise his operation and attract customers. He kept a cage of live rattlesnakes for the amusement of tourists, and from that initial attraction grew a zoo that included lions, monkeys, coyotes, a white buffalo and other animals. He paid long distance truckers to place advertising signs at strategic points across the nation noting the mileage to Bob's Oil Well in Matador, and they became well known to the motoring public. As a result of his success, Robertson enlarged his operation to include a grocery, cafe and garage.
Bob Robertson dies in 1947, and two weeks later a high wind toppled the steel derrick that had been the trademark of his business. His widow restored it two years later with even larger lights. The business did not continue long after, however, and closed in the 1950's. Later efforts to re-open it were short lived. Today, the site serves as a reminder of a time when such bold roadside architecture was in its infancy and of a man who, through his business, widely promoted his adopted hometown."

The Motley County Jail was next. Similar to the Briscoe County Jail above, this 2-story jail was erected in 1891, the year Motley County was organized. Cells were on the top floor of the structure and the jailer's living quarters on the lower level. The first courthouse, also built in 1891, later burned, but this jail remains as a symbol of Motley County's frontier heritage.

Our last cache to highlight was at the Cottle County Heritage Museum (GC13AA8). I liked the old ambulance and fire truck outside. 

It was a long day and I think we drove over 300 miles. But we learned a lot of history, saw some cool sites, and just had a great day driving through Texas.

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