Monday, July 8, 2019

2017-10-29: An Old Spanish Fort, A Ghost Town, and Baby Head Cemetery

Today is Sunday which means our time at the house in Killeen is coming to an end. Gotta make the 360+ mile drive back to West Texas and get ready for work tomorrow. And of course we'll be making a few stops to Geocache along the way. 

Our first stop in the Texas Hill Country of Llano County was because of an unusual name. A Texas ghost town by the name of Babyhead and the Baby Head Cemetery (GC51AGX). From the historical marker: "According to local oral tradition, the name "Babyhead" was given to the mountain in this area in the 1850's, when a small child was killed by Indians and its remains left on the mountain. A local creek also carried the name, and a pioneer community founded in the 1870's became known as Baby Head. The oldest documented grave here is that of another child, Jodie May McKneely, who died on New Year's Day 1884. The cemetery is the last physical reminder of the Baby Head community, which once boasted numerous homes, farms, and businesses."

There are other stories and theories and to this day no one really knows the truth. If you are as curious as I was, you can find out more at The Mystery at Babyhead Mountain by Dale Fry.

Continuing westbound on Highway 29, the next caching county needed was Mason County. We stopped in the historic small town of Art, Texas (GC6KP9A). Not exactly a ghost town but not really much of a town in size. Interestingly though it still has a post office with a population that's always been in the teens and twenties.

Heinrich Conrad Kothmann (1798-1881) and his wife Ilse Katherine Pahlmann (1810-1905) and their family sailed from Germany to Indianola, Texas in 1845. Among the first families to settle in Fredericksburg, the Kothmanns were issued a 640-acre land grant in Mason County in 1848. In 1856 they moved again and were among the first immigrant families in this area called Willow Creek. A trained cabinetmaker and musician, Kothmann began ranching and acquired another 640-acre tract of land. Located on their former homestead, the Kothmann Cemetery is all that remains of the original ranch site. It contains only five graves, all of Kothmann family members.

Along with a few other German families, a log church was built in 1958. In 1875, they raised a stone church which also served as a school. Otto Plehwe purchased a newly established general store from J. A. Hoerster in 1886. Plehwe thought the area needed a post office as well as a store and the government agreed. Postal officials even went with Plehwe’s suggested name, one the new post master thought had a nice ring to it: Plehweville. However, not an easy name to remember or pronounce, many residents were happy with it and many letters would get lost by the postal service.

In 1890, a new larger Methodist Episcopal Church was erected and is still in use to this day. The stone building was still used for school up until 1945 when the rural schools were consolidated to Mason. By 1920, Eli Dechart had taken over as store owner and post master of Plehweville. He recommended the new name for the post office of Plehweville, Texas be Art, Texas – Art being the last three letters of Dechart. The government agreed and Plehweville became Art.

One thing I forgot to do was get a photo.

The next Geocache was in Menard County, the ghost town of Hext (GC5AD72).  It was known as Maringo (Marengo) when the area was settled in the 1870s, but residents changed the name to Hext in the late 1890s in honor of Joseph Robert Hext. A local post office was established in 1897 with Ennis Stark as postmaster. In 1914 the community had a cotton gin, a hotel, two general stores, and 125 residents. A Church of Christ had been organized in 1904, and a Baptist church was established in 1916. By the mid-1920s, population estimates for the community had fallen to forty; they rose to sixty in the late 1940s and remained at that level through the mid-1980s. The community reported sixty-four residents in 1988. In 2000 the population was seventy- three. Today the postmaster stated that the post office serves 49 residents through its boxes and route deliveries. It is one of the smallest in Texas. At one time Hext had a school.

Also in Menard County is the Presidio de San Saba (GC6P54K). Once known as Presidio San Luis de las Amarillas, a fortress constructed in 1757 by a Spanish force led by Captain Don Diego Ortiz Parilla. The presidio, which was subsidized by the Spanish crown, had a threefold purpose: to protect the nearby Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá, to assess the validity of rumors of rich silver deposits in the area, and to guard the Spanish frontier against the threat of Indian encroachment. Both in physical size and number of troops, the Presidio was the largest and most important military installation in Texas for its time.  The fort's companion site of the Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá was built a few miles downstream.
The presidio and its accompanying mission were the first place that Europeans in Texas came into conflict with the Comanche Indians and found that Plains Indians, mounted on Spanish horses and armed with French guns, constituted a fighting force superior to that of the Spanish colonials. The course of history was changed at the Mission and Presidio; eventually, the Spanish withdrew from the frontier creating other lines of defense along the Rio Grande. The Presidio only lasted another decade and a half, abandoned by decree of the Viceroy of New Spain in 1772. Over one hundred and fifty years later, the 1936 Texas Centennial Commission contracted the reconstruction of the Presidio in an effort to recapture the region’s past, and the northwest portion of the Presidio rose once again. Today, Menard is helping to preserve and interpret the archeological remains that surround this community. Travelers may observe the ruins of the Presidio reconstruction where archeologists have spent several years uncovering artifacts pertaining to the site and the Spanish Colonial period in Texas.

Our final stops for the day were in Schleicher County in the town of Eldorado, Texas. One cache was at the Eldorado Cemetery (GC27D82) and by the Courthouse and Old Jail in the town square (GC163MG). County Courthouse marker: Constructed in 1923-24, this courthouse replaced an earlier building on this site which burned in 1917. Designed by noted architect Henry T. Phelps of San Antonio, the 3-story Classical Revival structure features four half-round giant order Doric columns which support a large entablature. Native stone for the building was obtained from nearby quarries. The 1905 Schleicher County Jail was built with limestone by T.S Hodges. Built with a gallows, that was never used, the jail was vacated in the early 1960's.

It was a beautiful day. We got to see some interesting places and learn more about Texas history. Thanks for reading about our adventures.


  1. The first few paragraphs were sure chilling, and then it was interesting to hear history from your next of the game board! We will be sharing your blog post on our Facebook page (The Geocaching Guild) on Thursday (7/18/19)!

    1. Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the stories!