Sunday, October 23, 2016

2016-10-01/02: Road Trip to Florida; Cowboys Stadium, Cemetery, History, and Duck Dynasty

ROAD TRIP! On today's blog I'll be covering a two day road trip from West Texas to Florida. We hit the road early on the Saturday morning of October 1st. Having 1430 miles to drive in 2 days, add in fuel and food stops, and of course some Geocaching too, we've got a lot of driving ahead of us!

After leaving Monahans around 6:00 AM, a couple of hours later, we pulled into a McDonald's in Sweetwater for some McMuffins. And of course there just happened to be a Geocache (GC38PN6) there too so we had to find it as well. Within a few minutes, we were on the road again. Finally in Abeline we spot a Starbucks near the I-20 exit so we grabbed a couple coffees and another quick Geocache (GCWC1E).

Those first two Geocaches were unplanned and just happened to be nearby when making other stops. Hey, you can't NOT look for them when you're so close right?

But we did have some caches planned. When we got into Ft Worth, TX, we merged over onto I-30 eastbound and into Arlington. There we stopped for our first scheduled virtual Geocache (GC90F2). It was a beautiful statue of three horses surrounded by water fountains at this shopping center. We got the required info needed to claim the find and a few photos with GeoDog Max.

On our way to the next planned virtual cache, we passed by the Dallas Cowboys Stadium as well as the Texas Rangers Field. Well we just had to get a photo there too and grab the cache (GC15RDP) across the street!

Around the corner about a block away was a nice park and another planned virtual cache stop (GC7029). From there we got a good view of Cowboys Stadium. There were also these large Caelum Moor Stones around the park and a multi-stage Geocache (GC30RJB), from which after gathering information from the stones, we were able to find the final stage. The five freestanding granite sculptures weighing a total of 540 tons will enhance the environmental landscape along Johnson Creek in Arlington’s Entertainment District.

The stone monuments range in height from 8 to 30 feet. The Latin name “Caelum” is derived from a constellation in the southern skies known as the sculptor’s tool or chisel. “Moor” refers to the windswept landscapes of Scotland. The celtic names of each of the five groupings reflect the ancestry of the sculptor’s patron. Caelum Moor was commissioned in 1984 by Jane Mathes Kelton, CEO of the Kelton Mathes Development Corporation and heir of the Scottish-American television magnate, Curtis Mathes. According to the sculptor, Kelton wanted the artwork to serve as a centerpiece for a proposed business park development along I-20, reminiscent of the ancient sites of Scotland and England and reflecting of her family’s heritage. From 1986 to 1997, Caelum Moor was located at the headwaters of Johnson Creek along Interstate 20. In 1997, the sculpture was donated to the City and stored to make way for commercial development. Caelum Moor was once listed on the Smithsonian Institution’s National Registry of Art in Public Places. They were relocated to this park in 2009.

Our main reason for stopping here was to get Tombstone (GC62), a multi-cache and the oldest Geocache in Texas! Hidden on September 26, 2000, this cache also fills another empty spot on my Jasmer calendar. It's had over 1500 finds since then. It's placed in Doug Russell Park and is three stages. The last two stages are near the location of the Berachah Home and Cemetery. We walked over to the first stage easy, got the info we needed for the final north coordinates. Then we walked over to stage two and got the needed info for the final west coordinates. That's where my problem began. After frustratingly searching for 30 minutes (Candy and GeoDog Max had long been back to the car with the a/c on) for the supposedly easy final stage, I finally decided to recheck my coordinates. Well the north coordinates didn't save correctly in my phone and therefore I was searching in the wrong place! Once I put the correct coordinates in and began searching the correct location, I found it within minutes. YAY!!

The Berachah Rescue Society was organized at Waco in 1894 by the Rev. J. T. Upchurch for the protection of homeless girls and unwed mothers. Nine years later he opened the Berachah Industrial Home at this site. Ten buildings were located here including a print shop for publication of the "Purity Journal." The cemetery which contains more than eighty graves, was first used in 1904 for the burial of Eunice Williams, one of the residents. The home closed in 1935, but the site was used until 1942 as an orphanage run by Upchurch's daughter Allie Mae and her husband Frank Wiese. Most of the graves here are marked without names or dates. Many more just have a first name and year died.

Finally back to I-20 heading east. We spent a couple of hours in the Arlington area and now we have to make up some time. So no more stops until we needed another gas stop in East Texas. And of course while the gas is pumping I checked my phone and there was a cache there too (GC4EE5P). A quick find and back on the road. It was soon getting dark and we drove over halfway into Louisiana.

As it turned out the hotel we stayed in was located in West Monroe, LA. And just around the corner was the Duck Commander Headquarters! The location of the Duck Dynasty TV show is filmed here. So before heading down the highway, we had to stop by for a few photos.

We didn't stop much on Sunday because we still had over 760 miles to go. But we stop just before the Mississippi River at Grant's Canal for another virtual Geocache (GCGDM2). During the summer of 1862, the Union's first attempt to bypass the Confederate Army at Vicksburg by digging a canal across DeSoto Peninsula failed. By January 1863, the Union had reoccupied the Louisiana shore opposite Vicksburg. Gen Ulysses S. Grant ordered work on the canal resumed. The canal was to be 60 feet wide, 1 1/2 miles long, and deep enough to float any vessel on the river. Ground was broken on January 30, black work gangs assisted by fatigue details from the Union Army began to work. Later, steam pumps and dredge boats were employed. To stop the work, the Confederates placed several big guns on the shore opposite the canal's exit but the work progressed. On March 7, the upper dam gave way, flooding the entire peninsula. Grant's Canal had failed. After gathering the information we needed to qualify for the cache find, we continued eastbound.

After about 3 1/2 hours later on US-98 in South Mississippi, it was time for a break to stretch our legs a bit. I looked up some caches ahead of us and found a cemetery just off the road with three caches (GC445DQGC445DVGC445DP). 

There was a gas and food stop along the way, but nothing to write about. We arrived in St Augustine, FL about 9:30 PM. A long day of driving. Sleep was soon thereafter!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

2016-09-11: What Does an American Hero, Old Cemeteries, and Tarzan Have in Common?

Welcome to our Geocaching Adventures blog. We hope you enjoy our stories and photos. So my question is: What does an American Hero, an Old Cemetery, and Tarzan have in common? Geocaching! Yes, if you are Geocaching in West Texas you'll discover all these things and more. Just follow along...

Today's adventure begins at a new memorial in Odessa, Texas honoring Chris Kyle. Since today is September 11th, we deiced to make our first cache find at this statue for an American Hero (GC6NMK1). Christopher Scott "Chris" Kyle (April 8, 1974 − February 2, 2013) was a United States Navy SEAL veteran and sniper. Kyle served four tours in the Iraq War and was awarded several commendations for acts of heroism and meritorious service in combat. He was awarded one Silver Star Medal, four Bronze Star Medals with "V" devices, a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and numerous other unit and personal awards. Kyle was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 2009 and published his bestselling autobiography, American Sniper, in 2012. An eponymous film adaptation of Kyle's book, directed by Clint Eastwood, was released two years later. On February 2, 2013, Kyle was murdered by Eddie Ray Routh at a shooting range near Chalk Mountain, Texas. A former Marine with PTSD, Routh was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

After paying our respects, we drove on to the northeast of Midland/Odessa along the backroads to try and finish finding the rural Geocaches north of Big Spring. Our first stop was a small unincorporated community called Tarzan (GC6JCBJ). Tarzan is on State Highway 176 in central Martin County. J. B. McNerlin was the first settler in the area. In 1925 a two-room school was built, and soon after, Tant Lindsay built a store which, along with the school, formed the center of the community. In 1927 Lindsay submitted a list of possible town names to the post office department. Postal officials chose Tarzan and made Lindsay the first postmaster. Both Baptist and Church of Christ congregations met in the schoolhouse until they built their own buildings, the Baptists in 1937 and the Church of Christ after World War II. The first gin in Tarzan, built in 1932, burned just four years later.

The turning point for the town came around 1938, when it was learned that a highway was to be built from Big Spring to Andrews and would pass through Tarzan. J. T. Glaze promptly built a combination grocery and gas station. After World War II local farmers organized the Tarzan Marketing Association. The discovery of oil in Martin County in the 1950s led to the establishment of the Tarzan Hot Oil Company; oil production remains a major industry, and oil wells dot the surrounding area. Throughout the postwar years Tarzan has served as an entry point into Martin County for Mexican braceros, seasonal workers usually employed in the cotton fields. In 1976 the Tarzan gin became cooperatively owned. From 1980 through 2000 eighty people lived in Tarzan.

Going east on TX-176, we come to the Grady Independent School District and our next Geocache (GC1V4G7). The Grady Wildcats school serves the nearby surrounding communities in Martin County.

Continuing east and upon reaching Lenorah, we turned south on C3301 to find a lonely Lenorah Cemetery (GCRAKF). Former Martin County Sheriff Dan Saunders of 40 years, wrote a book entitled "Trails and Trials of a Small Town Sheriff". At the beginning of the book he told of his being raised near Lenorah. He told of helping his mother dress a child who had died and about the "Lenorah Cemetery" located south of Lenorah. In 1933, a young boy Raymond "Tommy" Hopper (age 7) and his baby sister Vita Mae Hopper (21 months) were buried there. Later a grown man was buried there but eventually was moved to another cemetery at Big Spring. Sitting in the middle of farmland, it is surrounded by a chain link fence with gate plus railroad cross ties at each corner to protect the fence.

The center of the cemetery! Weeds are 4-5 ft tall!
This next cemetery was probably the MOST neglected I've ever seen! Knott Cemetery (GC11A6B) was so overgrown I could barely get through to the center where the cache was hidden. The cemetery is on 5 acres of land which was originally deeded for a school. At some point a school was never built and began to be used for a cemetery. Once maintained by the surrounding farmers, it has since been overtaken by mesquite, weeds, and blowing sand from the farmland. My research has also found that it was segregated with Mexicans on the west side and Whites on the east. At this point it was so bad that in the little time I had to explore, I only spotted two headstones and a rebar cross for a third grave. Maybe sometime in the future I can setup a Geocaching CITO cleanup event.

Bench near the center of the cemetery.
Mary A Kirk died 1911
This headstone was the first I saw when entering near the edge.
Upon leaving the cemetery going down the dirt road, we encountered this rather large mudhole! Now most folks out here drive trucks and this wouldn't be much of an issue to go through or even up the embankment through the field as you can see some had. But we are in a Toyota Prius which isn't exactly made for off-roading. Though as some of you know I give it my best shot! Well I got out and walked down the left path and the dirt was compacted enough that I didn't think I would get stuck. The angles didn't seem to bad either going up and on the ditch at the far end. So with a slight bottoming out, we made it through without having to backtrack several miles! I still want a Jeep though...

Heading north on US-87 on the way to the next ghost town, we made a quick park and grab Geocache (GC39GT5) at a roadside picnic area. A few miles later and we arrived at an old building and the next cache (GCTGYK). W.P. Soash was a land developer from Iowa who contracted with C. C. Slaughter to develop and sell 300,000 acres of land owned by Slaughter for the purpose of developing a farming community. His ability to market and promote had interested buyers coming by train to Big Spring from the East Coast and the Midwest. He transported them from Big Spring to Soash in 18 new Buick's and put them up in the Lorna Hotel, which was named after his daughter. To further impress potential buyers, Soash erected a reinforced concrete building housing the Bank of Soash, a school building, and electrical generating plant and water works. He put out the money for potential buyers to attend a barbecue in his new town for July 4th, 1909. Over three thousand people attended. By the end of 1909, a post office was established along with the increasing flow of new settlers and all was looking good for W.P. Soash.

But the drought that began in 1909 and continued for three years made it difficult for crops to grow. And combine that with a promised railroad line which never materialized caused the town to begin to grumble and townspeople moving away. And when the Santa Fe Railroad finally laid down its tracks through Lamesa, 22 miles northwest, that pretty much put the nail in the coffin. Soash declared bankruptcy in 1912 and the unsold land went back to Slaughter. The post office closed in first in 1916, reopened again in the early part of 1917, but only for a few months. With another drought during the 1917-1918 months, the town officially died. Only the skeleton of the Bank of Soash remains standing.

Now from what I can gather from the historical information online and some others comments, there seems to be just two families that still live in the area. One of which was just across the street. While we were parked here, I went looking for the Geocache and Candy started taking pictures of the sunflowers alongside the road. When we got a visitor. One of the dogs from across the street came up to inspect what we were doing. This one didn't even bark. The other three little dogs who stayed behind about 300 feet by the house, couldn't stop barking. Fortunately we had some dog treats in the car and gave him a few. The others didn't get any.

Continuing our tour of VERY RURAL West Texas, we come to Vealmoor and our next Geocache (GC1JJXV). It is thought that the town started in 1880 when C.C. Slaughter (same Slaughter as in the Soash story above) established his ranch at German Springs to the east. In the early 1920's, Slaughter's sons Robert Lee Slaughter and Dick Slaughter, his daughter Minnie Slaughter Veal (the towns namesake), and developer William P. Soash founded the new town via their Lone Star Land Company. The town had a post office by 1926 and Mae Zant was postmaster. The 1947 population figure was a mere 20 people which peaked at 190 in the mid 1960's. The post office had closed by 1980 and the population remained at 179 - a figure that's been used ever since. The cemetery has graves dated back to 1936 up to the present day.

Our last Geocache for the day is at the Luther Cemetery (GC1JJXE). There isn't a whole lot of information on the town of Luther, TX. But it received a post office in 1909 which is usually the "official" beginning of a town. The town was giving it name by it's first postmaster, Luther F. Lawrence. Given the date and the fact that it was between Soash and Big Spring, I suspect that Luther was trying to take advantage of the influx of settlers headed to Soash. In the beginning however it didn't take off to well as it still only had a population of FIVE in the 1930's. Though slow and steady does it because official numbers has the current population around 330, whereas Soash has just two families. The post office closed in either 1972 or 1980 depending upon the source. Next to the cemetery was the Christ in the Fellowship Church. It looks like it had recently caught fire and was in the process of being demolished.

Our last stop wasn't a Geocache. But as we headed down into Big Spring to grab a bite to eat before the long drive back home we spotted this old house and had to stop for a closer look. The Joseph Potton home was built in 1901 as an investment by Mr. Potton and was leased until his retirement in 1912. Mr Potton was a Master Mechanic for the Texas & Pacific RR, an early civic leader and proud owner of the first car in Big Spring. Mrs Potton was active in St. Mary's Episcopal Guild and served tea in the English tradition every afternoon in her charming, ornate, quasi-mansion. The house was kept in the family after the Pottons' death as their daughter, Mrs. Henry Hayden and her family occupied the structure in later years. In recent years, the grandchildren have maintained it daily even though it was vacant. It was purchased with a grant from the Dora Roberts Foundation and the Tourist Development Council of the City of Big Spring in 1975.

That's it for today. We hope you have enjoyed another of our Geocaching Adventures and look forward to the next trip out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

2016-09-03: Geocaching Through More Texas Ghost Towns and Cemeteries

Welcome back to another one of our Geocaching Adventures. We got off on a late start this morning because we had a few errands to run around town. Then about 11:00 AM we headed east along I-20 towards Odessa. Our first stop was a new cache (GC6RCF4) and an attempt at being the First-to-Find (FTF). Upon arriving to the cache site, we find the parked car belonging to gaxguy and gaxrose. They had pulled up just moments before us and were signing the logsheet. Congratulations on the FTF. We'll settle for the 2TF. We chatted for a few minutes and then headed off to Starbucks for a much needed coffee.

Now back to I-20 eastbound and in hunt of some more West Texas ghost towns and old cemeteries along the backroads north of Big Spring. Our next Geocache (GC1HK91) brought us to the last remnants of Iatan, TX. The Iatan Cemetery is the only thing that remains of the town of Iatan. The settlement was established in 1881 in Mitchell County when the Texas and Pacific Railway setup a station along the line there and immediately became a shipping point for cattle. Daniel Crowe was granted a post office on March 20, 1890 and it remained until moving six miles east to the town of Westbrook September 10, 1924. A school, which also served as a Methodist church, was established in 1891. In 1930 sixty students were enrolled, but the district was consolidated with the Westbrook school district in 1938. The population of Iatan in 1940 was reported at 125, but by 1950 it had declined to twenty, where it remained for at least the next ten years. By 1972 only a railroad station remained at the site. And today only the cemetery remains.

Just a few miles up the road from Iatan, was the New Hope Cemetery and our next Geocache (GC1MZEW). I couldn't find any history about this small cemetery on the internet. I also forgot to take pictures too. But there were only 8 graves there ranging between 1907 and 1918 including two unknowns and one more recent 1977. The slightly unkept cemetery sat on the outskirts of a farm by the roadside in a fenced in area.

Moving on to the intersection of Farm Road 670 and Farm Road 1229, comes our next Geocache (GC1P58R). This structure is the former Rogers School. The oldest documentation comes from the Mitchell County Commissioner's Court Records dated February 15, 1908. However the school could date back to as early as the 1890's when the county first began establishing community schools. In 1934-1935 the community schools began consolidating into seven district schools. Though I could not find an exact time, it was probably during this period when the school was permanently closed. Across the street appears to be an old farm house.

If you head north on FM1229, you'll find the next Geocache (GC1N468) at the Handley Cemetery. The site was given by John J. Handley (1842-1935), Confederate veteran who settled here in 1892, after living earlier in Georgia and in Smith and Comanche Counties, Texas. A farmer, John Handley lived to see agriculture rival ranching. The Teville (named for "T" Junction in road) post office was opened here in 1906; but closed in 1910. W.B. Berry, along with W.H. Badgett, surveyed the 4-acre cemetery in 1914. Graves were moved from across the road into this ground. Later in 1945, Mr. and Mrs. E.T. Strain gave one acre of land to enlarge the cemetery. There are four generations of Handley's family and neighbors at rest here.

The oldest marker that I saw here was among the McGuire family. Little Baby Ora, daughter of William Thomas and Rosa Lee McGuire, born on February 7, 1896 and died a few short days later on May 18, 1896.

The next Geocache (GC10TB0) was just a few minutes away and the site of another ghost town. The community began in 1890 when D. T. Bozeman, a teacher in a nearby country school, settled in the area and built a wagonyard and a store. A post office was granted to the community in 1891, with Bozeman's wife, Ellen, as postmistress. The post office and town was named for a family friend, Thomas Cuthbertson. A school was started at the community in 1893 but lasted only four years. Bozeman installed a telephone switchboard in his home in 1904, and his wife served as the operator for local subscribers. In 1907 a new county school district was established in Cuthbert.

During the teens and early 1920s Cuthbert grew to include two stores, a church, a blacksmith shop, a gin, a school, and a telephone office. In 1920 the T. and P. Abrams No. 1 oil well, one of the first commercial oil ventures in the Permian Basin, was drilled just over a mile north of the town. A post office, two businesses, and a population of twenty-five were reported at the community in 1936, the year that its school was consolidated with that of Colorado City. After World War II the improvement of rural roads in the area led to Cuthbert's decline as it lost its trade to Colorado City. The Cuthbert post office was discontinued about 1960, when the town reported one business and a population of twenty-five. By 1974 only a cemetery and scattered farms remained in the area.

One of the sad tombstones was for Ruth and Baby Hester Hewett whom they both died during childbirth on February 24, 1928.

Next on the agenda was a tragic place in history. The Marcy Expedition geocache (GC1HA61) was at a historical marker along State Road 350 at the Colorado River. From the marker:
At a grove of mesquite and wild china trees by a creek near here, Captain Randolph Barnes Marcy's expedition camped October 7, 1849 while blazing the famous Marcy Trail. They saw nothing deadlier than quail and wild turkeys in the area. But the next day tragedy struck.
Lt Montgomery Pike Harrison (1826-1849), grandson of President William Henry Harrison and older brother of later President Benjamin Harrison, left camp alone to scout a ravine. When he did not return by dark, the company fired a howitzer to signal him but received no answer. Searchers the next day found signs that Harrison, always friendly to the Indians, had stopped and smoked with two Indians, believed to be Kiowas. 
He was disarmed, however, taken one mile south and then shot with his own rifle. The Indians scalped and stripped the body and threw it into the ravine on Canyon Creek. They were pursued but never captured.
Marcy later reported that when his men heard of Harrison's death, many hid their faces to conceal their tears. The body was packed in charcoal and taken in a coffin made from a wagon bed to Fort Smith for burial. 
Despite this tragedy, Marcy's Trail became a major wagon road, taking gold seekers to California and troops and supplies across the West Texas Frontier.
Driving over to the town of Dunn we found our next Geocache at the Dunn Cemetery (GC27ZJK). On State Highway 208 ten miles south of Snyder in south central Scurry County, Dunn was originally a watering hole for freighters carrying supplies from the Texas and Pacific Railway station at Colorado City north to Snyder and Lubbock. The town was founded by a man named W.J. Richardson and was the ancestor of the Geocacher who hid this one.

The town was named for and began on the land of Alonzo Truesdale Dunn, who's ancestors along with 8 other families came from Ireland to America in 1821, living first in Charleston, SC, then in Boligee, AL. In Dec. 1833 they began trek to colony of Sterling C. Robertson by ox-wagons and carryalls. The Dunn home became a way station and mail drop for mail and passenger hacks, and Dunn became postmaster when a post office was granted to the community in 1890. That same year a school opened. Over the years the town grew into a trade center. A cotton gin opened there in 1930, and eight years later the old Dunn well was filled and covered to make way for State Highway 208. In 1980 and 1990 Dunn had a post office and reported a population of seventy-five.

A few ordinary Geocaches later and we arrive at Ira Cemetery (GC1HHHP). Mr. Ira Green went into business sometime at this location in the early 1890's. His wagon broke down while he was traveling. When Ira unloaded his wagon to make repairs, the merchandise-starved settlers came and bought him out. So Ira Green decided to settle here and built a general store in the area sometime before 1893. The store soon became a popular meeting place and a way station and mail drop for the stagecoaches and mail hacks going north from the Texas and Pacific Railway station at Colorado City. By 1893 Ira had its first school. When the post office was established in 1896, Green became postmaster. In 1899 new lands in the vicinity were put up for sale, and many new settlers moved to Ira. The first producing oil well in Scurry County was drilled near Ira in 1923, but the Sharon Ridge field, where the well was located, was never fully exploited. Though Ira had reached its peak in the early 1900s, it weathered the later period when many small Scurry County towns were disappearing and in 1980 reported a post office, twelve businesses, and an estimated population of 485. In 1990 its population dwindled down to 250 where it is close to that today.

A few miles north of town up Farm Road 1609 is another small cemetery and our next cache (GC1H7RC). A somewhat neglected cemetery, Canyon Cemetery contains 24 graves dating back to 1892 up through 1970. I'm not sure why it was called Canyon as I couldn't find any information about a official town name. It may have just been a small community of settlers.

By now it was time to started heading back. Having gotten a late start and driving around these back roads all afternoon, we were hungry and in need of a bathroom! So we headed south towards I-20 and Big Spring. Just as we entered town and a few blocks north of I-20 there's the Mt Olive Cemetery and two more caches. We just HAD to stop for a quick look! Because it was a quick look, we didn't find the first cache (GC1KBQE). However, we did find the second cache there (GC1R1P5).

Finally, we stopped at McAlister's Deli before heading home. Whew! A busy day today and another great Geocaching Adventure. We also learned some history too. Thanks for stopping by and we hope you have enjoyed our blog. Feel free to share it with your family and friends. Until next time...