Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Exploring the Ghost Town of Girvin, Texas and Hiding a Few Geocaches

For my blog post for today, I thought I'd do something a little different than usual. Instead of me finding geocaches and seeing interesting places, this is about me finding an interesting place and hiding caches there.

Shortly after arriving in West Texas in early 2016, I started working in construction on a solar farm just south of Girvin, Texas. Passing through here every day going to and from work, I would often stop and explore a little more as I noticed different buildings. I also researched the internet to find it's history. And on one occasion, I had the opportunity to talk to one of the locals there and learned a rather interesting story which I'll reveal in a moment.

Old Store July 2016

Surprisingly there weren't any geocaches here. As a matter of fact, the nearest cache was at a picnic area four miles up the road. Then ten more miles beyond that. As I learned more and found more I began hiding geocaches so that other geocachers could also learn of Girvins' history.

So going back in time; a community, originally named Granada, began there in the 1890's when cattle ranchers moved into the area. In 1912, the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railroad completed track construction from Mertzon after crossing the Pecos River. A post office was established on January 31, 1913 and the town was officially named Girvin, after local rancher John H. Girvin. The original town site was located on both sides of the tracks, near the rail station. You can see in the second photo below where I think that train station was once located by the raise ground and old railroad ties lay where perhaps a separate track once was for loading and unloading.

Some of the remaining buildings can be seen through the mesquite on the right.
August 2016
Was this where once laid tracks for the train depot?
August 2016
Old water tower for the steam engines.
August 2016
Soon after the railroad began stopping, the town grew and had a store (pictured at the top of the page), a hotel, a saloon, and a lumber yard. Stock pens were built nearby while awaiting shipment. You can still see some remnants of those below. Look hard enough in the photo and you can also see the geocache I hid there as well (GC6PCFM).

Stock pens. July 2016
Eventually as more and more automobiles arrived in West Texas, you needed a gas station and garage (GC6P64R). The building in the photo below used to be two stories. The gas pumps and shop below, and storage and perhaps even living quarters above. I've seen photos from as recently as 2000 that still showed walls for the second floor above the fuel island to halfway back. Sometime after that an arsonist set fire to the place and that came down.

Remains of the gas station and garage.
May 2016
The first school was a small wooden building. In 1924 Girvin had an estimated population of only 15. In the late 1920's, with the production of oil in the nearby Yates and Trans-Pecos oilfields, Girvin became a hub for the delivery of equipment, supplies, and workers with families. A larger brick schoolhouse was being constructed and was already proving to be too small as one class had to meet in the lumberyard during the 1930-1931 school year. Oddly enough though, that is the one public building that is still maintained today. It is used by those few remaining residents as a community center and voting place (GC6QRXC).

Former school, now a community center. August 2016
Unfortunately, in 1933 a new highway from Fort Stockton to McCamey bypassed the original townsite about a mile to the south, and Girvin immediately began to decline. The community reported five businesses and a population of seventy-five in 1939. In 1944 the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway, which by then owned the track through Girvin, razed the section of the Girvin depot used for freight; and the passenger station was closed in 1955. By 1963 the estimated population of Girvin had declined to thirty, with only two businesses reported. And by 1967 the original townsite was abandoned all together. A few of the businesses and residents had moved down closer to the highway (now US-67), but even they eventually left. In 2000 the population at the new site was still estimated at thirty.

One of the those businesses which remained open until the very end was the Girvin Social Club (GC6P62F). This small red building was once a popular place. A cafe and saloon, it finally shut it's doors in 2011. The first pic below is a painting of what it looked like in it's peak. The second photo is what I saw back in 2016. Now, I'm back working on another solar project west of Girvin and am happy to say that it's back open again as McKee's Bar.

The Girvin Social Club July 2016
McKee's Bar December 2019

I read another article about a Arno and Mildred Helmer purchased the railroad depot in 1956 after it closed. Then moved it down near the new highway where they opened it as the Girvin Store and Post Office. That was where most of the traffic was passing through now. It was also remodeled so that the Helmer family could live in it as well. It was said to be next to the Social Club and these two buildings are across the street on the next corner. I'm not sure exactly which one it was, but my guess was that it's the white building below. There was also a gas station on the corner and that would fit more of the yellow building with the rail car. I'll need to stop at the bar one day and see if any of them know. I do know that the yellow building below is where some of the remaining residents meet on Tuesday nights, hang out, and play poker.

Maybe former gas station? December 2019

Perhaps the former rail station converted to post office, store, and house.
December 2019

And finally I come to the Girvin Cemetery (GC6QRW8). While there are dozens of graves there, most are unknown and are just iron crosses. Only six still have headstones which have names and dates. And it isn't maintained. The few headstones that are identified range from 1917 through 1941.

Now remember at the beginning I told you that I talked to one of the locals when I first started working nearby in 2016? One of the interesting headstones is a double sided headstone for J. W. Steele and J. P. Ryan who both died on Feb 9, 1927. I Googled the names but came up empty. I heard the story from the resident about 2 boys who were passing through town and killed in a car accident near one of the Pecos River bridges. They were buried as unknowns before the families came looking for them several months later. The families followed the route towards their intended destination asking people if they remembered seeing them. The people of Girvin told them the story of the accident and they matched the description. Could these be the two boys? I don't know. I haven't been able to confirm the names or date. If you have any information to add, please forward it to me.

Girvin Cemetery August 2016

Update 03-19-2020: I found a newspaper story from the Fort Worth Record-Telegram dated March 1, 1927. The first sentence doesn't make sense to me, but I'll post exactly how it's printed:

Two Men Identified as River Recedes
and Discloses Second Victim of Mishap.

"SAN ANGELO, Feb 28, -- The with a wound on his forehead and the Sunday in the Pecos River at the Girvin bridge, according to late advises today from McCamey. Both Ryan and J.W. Steele, pipe line workers for the Southern Crude Oil Purchasing Company, met death when their roadster missed the bridge on a curve in a rain and sleet storm and was hurled into the stream.

"Steele's body was found Friday and a wound on his forehead and the absence of money led to a search for a companion with whom Steele was said to leave McCamey for Pyote. This man's identity was not known until the second body was found. Besides a time check identified as Ryan's, there was about $50 in his pockets. Receding of the water three feet disclosed the submerged car Saturday."

August 2016

August 2016
Well that's about it for my trip through historic Girvin Texas. I'd like to recognize a few websites recommend them to you for even more information: Texas State Historical Association and TexasEscapes.com . Both of these are excellent resources for Texas history. And as always, be sure to Like my https://www.facebook.com/AwayWeGoUS page or follow my blog directly using the buttons on the right column of this blog. Until next time...

Sunday, December 29, 2019

2018-03-25: Geocaching Through Ghost Towns, Old Schoolhouses, Cemeteries, a FTF and More!

So on today's 360+ mile drive from Killeen to West Texas, I visit a few cemeteries, a couple of ghost towns, two old school buildings, I spot an old Jeep rusting away, and I get a First-to-Find! So let's get started...

Driving westbound on US-190 into San Saba County, my first geocache was a quick roadside stop called "Me and My JJ" (GC28F72). Soon after that was a "Westbound Picnic Cache" (GC28RQF) at a roadside picnic area. Comanches used to use the hill location of the picnic area for smoke signals to communicate long distance in the pre-settlement times up until the 1870's.

Entering the town of San Sabo, I turn into the Mill Pond Park and head towards the "Armadillo Travel Bug Hotel" (GC6Y53J). A travel bug hotel is just a geocache big enough to hold travel bugs. Some cachers create very elaborate "hotels" that look like actual hotels inside which are really cool. This particular one was just a larger sized container. Oh, and for those new to geocaching, a travel bug is an item with a trackable number on it. The purpose is to retrieve and place from cache to cache so the sender can follow its travels.

My next geocache is located on the north side of town in the San Saba Cemetery and is called "Edge of Eternity" (GC7284N). From the historical marker: San Saba Cemetery, previously the Odd Fellows Cemetery, is located on 17 acres of land about 800 yards north of old town San Saba. On April 18, 1883, the San Saba Chapter of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) purchased 10 acres of this land from JJ Stockbridge to establish a cemetery, which they maintained for 45 years. On April 3, 1929, the newly incorporated San Saba Cemetery Association purchased the cemetery for $1.00 and an additional 7 acres from Mrs. May Holman also for $1.00. In 1935 burials from San Saba's earliest city cemetery, now Rogan Field, were reinterred here. The cemetery reflects San Saba's earliest times and is a continuing record of the lives and culture of its changing people. (2008)

Continuing westbound on US-190, I entered the town of Richland Springs. Jackson J. Brown and his family settled near the springs on Richland Creek in December 1854. The Brown School was constructed in 1868 and named for the neighborhood's original settler. The area attracted settlers through the 1870's, and in 1877 a Richland Springs post office opened in the store of Samuel E. Hays. By 1890 local production of cotton, grains, and livestock supported a settlement of 150 residents, including a justice of the peace precinct, a constabulary, and several commercial and craft businesses. A local newspaper, the Eye-Witness, began publication in 1905. Not long after, the First State Bank was organized, and in 1911 completion of a trunk line for the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway linked the town with the main line between Galveston and Amarillo. Richland Springs incorporated in 1932. With a population nearing 500 and as many as forty businesses, the town prospered until the onset of the Great Depression. A three-year drought in the mid-1950's crippled the local economy again. The town's only bank failed, and within a decade its residential and business populations had fallen by nearly half.

Anna B. Davenport (9/18/1882 -- 11/24/1882), was the first person buried here at the Richland Springs Cemetery. To help you find her gravesite look for a historical marker by her headstone. There are over 2200 internments here. And there was one that kinda stood out from the rest and the reason I placed the geocache there (GC7M2M5). John Henry Hart (1873-1946) and his wife Katy Abbie Hart (1877-1956) have a rather unique border surrounding their family plots. And I just happened to have a container that blends in perfectly.

The next little town down the road was Rochelle. Even though there wasn't a cache here, I stopped by the cemetery anyway. From the Historical Marker: E. E. Willoughby (1853-1935), a cattleman from Tarrant County, moved to Rochelle (then about 1.5 miles SE) in 1883. He acquired land here in 1886 along the Brady-San Saba Road. In 1889 he donated two acres near this site for the community's school and church building, moved here from its original 1886 site about 1 mile south. When Willoughby's 19-month old son Ernest Eckie died in 1894, he buried the infant near the school. In 1896, Willoughby deeded one acre here as the cemetery. A new school was built here in 1899.

The community and schoolhouse were moved in 1903 about 2 miles northwest to the new Fort Worth & Rio Grande Railroad. This cemetery continued to serve the new community, first named Crothers but soon renamed Rochelle. The tombstones here of Rev. and Mrs C. W. Jones indicate that she died in Crothers (1906) and he died in Rochelle (1910), though they both died at their home in the same town. Willoughby deeded another acre to this cemetery in 1910, but he was ultimately buried in Brady at Live Oak Cemetery. The rock fence here was built in 1935, and four more acres were purchased in 1943. The cemetery contains almost 500 graves, of which 105 are unmarked. An association founded in 1972 cares for the grounds.

Continuing west on US-87 closer to San Angelo, I come to the ghost town of Vick, TX (GC18HAF). Vick is at the junction of Farm Road 381 and U.S. Highway 87, four miles south of Eola in west central Concho County. In 1963 the community had a post office, a motel, and two other businesses. A 1984 map showed a cluster of buildings at the site. In 2000 the population was twenty. Now only a few homes remain and the ruins of numerous buildings. The old gas station has been turned into a private home.

Driving a few miles north to Eola was my next geocaches. The community has had a post office since 1901, when it was known as Jordan. In 1902 the name was changed to Eola, reportedly after a small local creek named for Aeolus, Greek god of the winds. In the middle to late 1890's public school lands in the county were put up for sale at fifty cents an acre. Spurred on by railroad promotion, a land boom resulted in the area of Lipan Flat, a section that stretched east from San Angelo to the Colorado River. Eola was one of the communities created during this boom, which included many immigrants from central and eastern Europe. In 1920 more than 100 people in the vicinity of Eola were reported to be of Czech descent. The first family to settle in the area was that of Asher L. and Lizzie Leona (Hollman) Lollar, who established themselves at a site 3½ miles southeast of Eola in 1898. Both Asher and Lizzie are buried in the Eola Cemetery (GC18H8M).

Scrolling through the Find-A-Grave website to see what the oldest grave may be at the cemetery, I found something odd. There was a listing for a Lydia Lillath White 1806-1807, long before the Lollars arrived. Looking closely at the headstone, it looks like the engraver flipped the number "9" around for the day and year. That confused the person entering it into the website. But based on the history of the community and the other graves listed, I'd say the first buried there in the cemetery was M M Schooler in 1902.

By 1902, when the first local store was built, the community numbered four families. Within the next two years a Baptist church was erected. The first school was conducted in a church on the Will Stephenson ranch. A two-story, two-room schoolhouse was built in 1906. In 1908 the community had a windmill and an Odd Fellows lodge. By 1914 Eola had a drugstore, a general store, and a population of twenty-five. In 1940 the community had a population of 250. A nine-teacher school taught elementary and high school classes. The school has long been closed. There is a geocache there though (GC11BBQ). According to the TexasEscapes website, the school building has been purchased and the new owner is slowly restoring it. The original school is the white building and now contains a restaurant and micro-brewery. The brick section was added in the 1930's along with the gym which is on the backside. You can see the domed top sticking up from behind.

Between Eola and San Angelo I arrive at another old schoolhouse and my next geocache (GC1CHVX). The cache page or any research I've done in preparing for this blog has given me any information on this old school. Some of the possibilities is that the town of Wall, TX, a few miles to the south, used to be called "Lipan School" and then "Little School." Perhaps from that pre-1906 era?

Having passed through San Angelo and still on US-87, I arrived in Sterling City. I remembered a new geocache published there a few days earlier and had yet to be found. So I dropped down Hwy 163 for "overlooking Sterling City" (GC7KR29) to find a nice blank logsheet! WOHOO!! Always good to get those First-to-Finds!

Down the road in Garden City I found a few more caches. The first one wasn't all that exciting except for the finding another cache is always a good thing. But what I found next to it was more interesting. The "Butane4Life" (GC3AJ2N) geocache is a quick roadside cache hidden near a huge butane storage container. But off to the side of where it sits are some old abandoned tanks and other equipment. And then there this old Jeep just rusting away. Oh if I only had the time and money to do something with it, I'd be tracking down the owner to see if they'd sell it!

After a quick stop by the Glasscock County Courthouse cache (GC17W82), I proceeded south of town to the "Graves Graves" cache (GC1PEVW) at the Garden City Cemetery. From the historical marker: The Garden City community has been using this burial ground as early as 1886. That year, a child of county commissioner Sullivan Hill and his wife, Lucy, was buried here. Four years later, a sibling was buried at the same spot; the two graves share a single stone.

The Hill family plot, where Sullivan and Lucy are also buried, is one of many in the cemetery representing the early area settlers. Other early family names found throughout the burial ground are Hanson, Gooch, and Cox. Family plots are typically bordered by concrete curbing. Most gravestones are vertical, especially in the older section of the cemetery, which is indicated by the remaining decorative iron fencing. Some of the individual family plots also include original fencing.

In 1914, John Etheridge and Perneice Gore Lawler formally designated the originated one acre tract as a cemetery. Today, the county maintains the burial ground, to which three acres were later added. As the final resting place of many of the early settlers and their descendants, the cemetery is a significant link to community's history.

Already late in the afternoon, I had to get moving. I've still got an hour and a half drive ahead of me AND also need to stop by Walmart and get some groceries. So that's it for now. I hope you enjoyed todays adventure and learned some history. See you next week for more.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

2018-03-11: Ghost Towns, Cemetery, a Gadget Geocache and More

Well here I go again. Another Sunday and another long drive back to West Texas. With some Geocaching stops along the way to break up the 360+ mile drive. Getting a little bit of a later start, I didn't want to get side tracked and spending a lot of time geocaching close to Killeen. So upon leaving home, I drove non-stop to San Angelo where I make my first stop at Starbucks.

Then heading SW on US-67 a few miles down the road by the Twin Buttes Reservoir, I make my first Geocaching stop at "A Little Bit of Sprinkles in San Angelo" (GC5BPYX). After a little bit of a search I came up empty. This one hadn't been found in nearly two years and had several DNF's. And now I've also added my DNF.

Just down the road was another cache called "Burt's Bees" (GC3XXXE) that previous finders also couldn't find. One of which said there was a damaged container. So I gave it a look because it had a few favorite points. Sure enough, I found what was left of a damaged container and nothing else. So I logged my 2nd DNF of the day and a "Needs Maintenance." Uggh! 0-2 is not a good way to start the day.

Back on US-67 a little ways and I get the smiles again. I guess you could call this one an easy gadget cache or just a very creative geocache. Called "Hickory Dickory Dock" (GC6Q5QC), it's just one of those fun creative caches that someone put some thought into.


Then I found the nearby "Old House Gone" geocache (GC11J8E). I'm not exactly sure about the real history here. I don't think it was once a real house now gone. But it looked more like an urban outdoorsman camp. There was the remains of a mattress (just the metal springs), an old couch, and lots of old rusty tin cans scattered about.

One more quick geocache "To the Ramp and River" (GC1B6RP) around the Twin Buttes Lake area and I'm finally moving westbound again.

The next two geocaches on my list were for the Arden Community ghost town (GC113HK, GCMJ22). Arden, on Rocky Creek was named for John and Katie Arden, who settled a claim at the site by 1885. The community acquired a post office in 1890 with W.P. Moore as postmaster. A local public school was established in 1892. Two short-lived schools had operated before this in Arden district, one on Rocky Creek and the other at Sawyer. In 1915 Arden had a post office, a school, a church, and a population of fourteen. In 1947, when the community had one business and thirty residents, the Arden School was consolidated with the Mertzon. All of the businesses had been abandoned as of 1966, execept for a polling place used to preserve precinct lines. The passing of the school, low cotton prices, drought, and better opportunities in nearby larger towns were the primary causes for the decline of Arden. The 2000 census listed only one resident remaining. Since 1952 an Arden reunion has been held each Labor Day on Rocky Creek.

The photo above is where the school used to sit. The photo below is of the Arden Cemetery which contains just 44 burials and is still in use to this day.

In trying to make my way back to US-67, I passed by "Middle Concho Crossing" (GCMN76). A low water crossing for a creek but it was dry here today. That one was followed by another "Just Over the Hill" (GC11KTE).

Passing through Mertzon for a few miles to the south I arrived at the ghost town of Noelke (GC15Y5N). From the cache page: "Noelke is on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad and a local road ten miles southwest of Mertzon in south central Irion County. The small settlement began as Monument Switch on the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway when the road built through the area in 1910. The community was renamed Noelke in 1933 in honor of a local ranch owner, Walter Montgomery Noelke. The Monument switch continued in service in Noelke for some time after that, but county maps of the 1980s show only the location of the Noelke community. According to a local resident there was never a town here. Locally it was known as Noelke Switch. The Monument name came from a nearby mountain of the same name. The only building he was aware of was the railroad man's home which is gone. Old cattle pens are all that remain as this was the main place in the area for loading cattle for transport. Today trains pass through the area about twice a week on their way to Alpine. The ranch land for miles around is still owned by the Noelke family."

Around the curve a few miles away was my last stop and another ghost town called Pumpkin Center (GC15Y5Q). Again from the cache page: "According to a local resident, Pumpkin Center consisted of a store where area residents could get basic supplies and pick up mail. It was located at the junction of two county roads and along the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. The railroad switch at this spot was known as Suggs Switch. Nothing remains at the location. With the establishment of Mertzon, Pumpkin Center ceased to be."

That's it for me today. Still had 140 miles to go from here. Better get moving cause it's getting late in the afternoon. I hope you enjoyed the ride. See you next week...

Monday, December 16, 2019

2018-03-04: Geocaching in a Historic Cemetery, a Texas Courthouse, and more.

My AwayWeGo Geocaching Adventure for another 360+ Sunday drive from Killeen to Monahans, Texas, has me visiting the Lampasas cemetery, a courthouse, and some other roadside geocaches. Before I get started, a reminder that you can now subscribe to the blog using the buttons on the right side column. Or follow me on my Facebook Page to keep updated with new blogs and other photos not in the blogs.

The first geocache was "A Dollar for a quick fix" (GC3PHKR). A simple urban LPC right there in Killeen to boost my cache distance stats.

Now off to Lampasas and the Oak Hill Cemetery that has three geocaches (GC15HQG, GC17WD6, GC17WGT). From the historical marker: Hartwell Fountain sold ten acres of land to the city of Lampasas in 1872 to establish this cemetery. Originally known as City Cemetery. It was renamed Oak Hill Cemetery in 1908. The Ladies Cemetery Association, A group of concerned Lampasas women, maintained the cemetery from 1891 to 1948, when the city assumed responsibility. Among those buried here are local pioneers, prominent business people, veterans of wars including the Texas Revolution and the Civil War, and their descendants.

It's a huge cemetery with over 7,000 internments making it the largest and one of the oldest in the county. These are just a couple of the beautiful large statues and tombs.

One of the notable buried here is James Jackson Beeman (Dec 21, 1816 - Dec 7, 1888). He was one of the first settlers in Dallas and Weatherford. Born in Madison County, Illinois; came to Texas in 1840. He helped cut the first road in Trinity Bottoms, named Turtle Creek (1841), and plat the city of Dallas in 1842. He guided Texas President Sam Houston to Indian Parley in 1843; Joined California Gold Rush in 1849; pioneered Parker County in 1854; and aided in the rescue of Comanche captive Cynthia Ann Parker in 1860. Returned to Dallas to live in 1864 and died in Lampasas in 1888.

After nearly an hour wondering the cemetery looking at headstones, I was one my way. Stopped briefly at a roadside geocache called "I wish I would have listened" (GC24X6Y).

Then passing through the small town of Rochelle, I went over to the cemetery. However there were some muggles (non-cachers) visiting. There wasn't a geocache there so I just did a quick drive through to look at hiding place possibilities before leaving. Driving by the school getting back to US-190, I saw the sign that clearly explains how rural Texans deal with those who have bad intentions.

Upon arriving in San Angelo, I decided to stop for a Starbucks coffee. Around the corner I figured I'd grab a quick geocache at a Chinese restaurant. The cache was called "Dog" (GC728PN). It is named for a symbol on the Chinese Zodiac, NOT a menu item. I spent about 15 minutes looking in some bushes at the corner of the parking lot near the road. I hate shrub hunts. Probably my least favorite, especially along a busy street. Making it worse was that I couldn't find it. So a DNF for today.

Next up was the town of Mertzon in Irion County. The geocache was located out front of the Irion County Courthouse (GC167F1). Now I think I've read somewhere that this was voted as the ugliest County Courthouse in Texas, but don't hold me to it. Compared to the previous courthouse over in Sherwood, this one is pretty boring. But that's the way it goes when the railroad decides to stop in one town over the other.

One quick final roadside geocache stop at "17thBava3" (GC3M804) for mileage just past Crane and finishing up back in Monahans. That's it for today. Thank you for riding along. Hope to see you back again soon.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

2018-02-25: Geocaching Through Texas Cemeteries and History

Today's another Sunday which means another 360+ mile Sunday drive from Killeen to Monahans, Texas. Not a whole lot today. Just five geocaching finds and one hide. But some interesting history. So have a seat on this cool bench that I saw today and ride along with me.

My first geocache was called "Back At The Barnyard" (GC3FY0R). It was a quick roadside cache on a side street in Kempner. Going beyond that just up the road was the Kempner Cemetery. It didn't have a geocache hidden there, so I hid one myself: GC7JTPF. The town of Kempner moved a number of times during its early years of development. It was first settled in the early 1850’s, when a number of families named Pickett moved to the area, which became known as Pickett Valley. The community was also briefly known as Brummersville during 1865. Around 1854 Dan W. Taylor moved to the area with a large herd of cattle and built a store for his men on Taylor Creek, two miles from the present town site. A post office named Taylor’s Creek was established in his store in 1873.

The area was rowdy and lawless in its early days. There was considerable Indian trouble. Taylor asked Governor F.R. Lubbock for ammunition to help the settlers hold their own against the Comanche, but Lubbock wrote back that he and his neighbors should contact a man named Mr. Foster in Burnet for their gunpowder. As if that wasn’t bad enough, several stagecoach and mail robberies occurred between Taylor’s Creek and Belton. After Taylor’s death, the state sent Texas Rangers to the area. The crimes changed from Indian raids and stagecoach robberies to more common acts of the day: unlawful card playing, dogging hogs, maliciously killing dogs, disturbing the peace by using unbecoming or vulgar language in public places, such as the post office and churches, the unlawful carrying of pistols and fighting.

After Mr. Taylor’s death the community was named after a local landowner named Phillip Slaughter. The Taylor’s Creek post office was discontinued in 1878, and that same year a post office named Slaughtersville was established. In 1882 the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway was built through the area, two miles from the Taylor store, and the community’s center finally became fixed when the post office was moved to a frame building near the railroad tracks and renamed Kempner after Harris Kempner, a Galveston merchant and director of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe. The coming of the railroad caused the population to double. By 1884 Kempner had two steam gristmills and cotton gins, a church, a district school, and telegraph service, and by 1896 a hotel had been built. Telephone service was available by 1914.

The population of Kempner remained at an estimated 103 from 1904 to 1926. It rose briefly to 300 in 1927 but began to drop again in the 1930’s, reaching 125 in 1933 and remaining at that level for a number of years. It began to rise again in the mid-1960’s until it reached 420 in 1974, where it remained through 1990. Nine businesses were reported in 1986. By 2000 the population was 1,004 with fifty-four businesses.

The photo below is the grave site of George Waters who died January 26, 1882, at age 26. He was the first to be buried in the Kempner Cemetery.

Continuing west on US-190, I came to my next geocache and cemetery. "HPHR Senterfitt" (GC1E1FE) is where Reuben S Senterfitt came to this area near Lometa in the 1860's. A town named for him gradually built up and at its peak boasted hotels, mills, stores, saloons, a school, churches, a stage stop, and this cemetery. The town declined after it was bypassed by the railroad in the 1890's. The cemetery contains the graves of many early settlers. The oldest documented burial here is that of Joseph C Howell, who died in 1877 at the age of 3. Also interred here are veterans of the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and Vietnam.

When I saw this headstone in the cemetery, my first thought was "Who is John Galt?"

Before getting into San Saba, there's a bridge crossing the Colorado River. On the eastern edge you'll find my next geocache and a historical marker. Chadwick's Mill (GC17WEN) was a famous pioneer sawmill, flour mill, and cotton gin. Built 1874 by Henry A Chadwick and son Milam. A sturdy oak dam across the river supplied power. A millrace chiseled in sandstone channeled water to millstones. Mill and gin house were also sandstone. A fish trap in Millrace offered food and sport to customers who often had to wait several days for a turn at the mill.

This scenic spot grew to be a popular resort around 1900, with hotel and dance platform, attracted hundreds of campers. Change in course of river in 1915 forced mill to be abandoned.

Now on US-87 almost to San Angello, I stop for two geocaches near the town of Wall. The first cache was at the "Wall Cemetery" (GC18HA4). Wall, Texas, was originally called Lipan School, then Little School, then Murray's Store. The area was a school district covering 326 square miles, which was reduced to 237 square miles in 1889. The first settlers were J. C. and Lou Bell Bunnell in 1886. The town was named for J. M. Wall, a storekeeper who served as first postmaster; the post office opened in 1906. Wall served as the trading center for the fertile Lipan Flat region, where cotton and grain are grown. The town supports several businesses and a school. The population was 250 in 1920, 120 in 1930 and 1947, and 200 in 1980 through 2000.

About a mile or so to the south, is the entrance to what used to be an auxiliary air field for what was then "Goodfellow Field". Goodfellow Air Force Base now. In it's day, Goodfellow Field trained pilots and this was one of the major (paved) aux airfields used in the pilot training. The skies around San Angelo were full of buzzing little blue and yellow trainer aircraft. The planes were slow compared to what they have now. Later this became the entrance to the Wall Drag strip on the old runways. They raced cars here for fifty years. Now only the gates and a geocache are left (GCNRQB).

A quick stop for food and gas in San Angelo, then it was just driving the rest of the way. I hope you enjoyed my Sunday drive. Be sure to subscribe or Follow me using the buttons to the right. Or "Like Me" at the Away We Go Facebook Page! See y'all next Sunday...

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

2018-02-18: Geocaching Through Burnet County Texas Cemeteries, Churches, and an Old Bridge

Ah yes, another Sunday and another long drive back to West Texas. Today's Geocaching Adventure route was 381 miles from Killeen to Monahans. But I spent all my time in Burnet County.

My first geocache was called "Our Favorite Bridge" (GC7G5G8). From the historical marker: "The small ghost town community of Joppa was established for a church and school in the 1880's. With the growing population in Burnet County and business generated from the railroad, the county decided to construct several bridges over waterways throughout the nearby communities. On January 27, 1906, a bond election was held and passed to fund the construction of three truss bridges, including one near the Joppa school and church, the only one still standing of this group.

At 136.2 feet, the Joppa iron truss bridge played an important role in the everyday lives of many families in the Joppa Community. Traveling to neighboring towns to conduct business was simplified. In addition, life on the river and under the bridge was a large form of entertainment and relaxation during the Great Depression and WWII. Access to education also greatly improved with the construction of the Joppa Bridge. Before 1900, young people in rural areas were mostly limited to elementary and/or junior high education. With improved roads and transportation, greater opportunities were available."

I don't know about you, but I like old bridges. I'm glad they didn't tear this one down when the new modern bridge was built next to it.

As mentioned above, the Joppa Church was close by and was the location of my next geocache "Cache Wars: Joppa the Hut" (GC1RX74). From the Handbook of Texas Online:  Joppa was first called Pool Branch, after a nearby pool formed by a waterfall. At that pool in the 1880's were a cotton gin and a mill; just southeast of the gin were a store and a blacksmith shop. On August 31, 1881, J. S. and Jane Danford of Delaware County, Iowa, gave two acres of land on the north bank of the North Gabriel to be held in trust for a school and a church. The school building was constructed at once and used for classes and church services. Worship was held in the schoolhouse until 1913, when a church building was erected.

The local school, the church, and the locality were called Pool Branch until 1891, when the community secured a post office, and the people agreed on the Biblical name Joppa. On May 19, 1904, a telephone line was installed in Joppa. An iron bridge was built across the San Gabriel River in 1907 and was still in use in 1989. The area received electricity in 1939 from the Pedernales Electric Cooperative. The school was consolidated with the Bertram district in 1942. Friday and Saturday night socials and Sunday night singings culminated in an annual picnic as late as the 1930's. The church and school buildings were still used in the 1980's for church and community activities. In 2000 the population was thirty-four.

A couple of turns to the west and I arrive at my next geocache and somewhat of a roadside attraction. "Have Fun Storming the Castle" (GC43FTM) looks almost like a grain silo that has been done up to look like a castle. But you can tell that it's definitely not a silo. It was too far in the distance to get a decent pic with my phone though. If you click on the link to the cache page, there's a photo of it in the gallery.

A short drive down a country road and I arrive in Shady Grove for my next two geocaches. From the historical marker: The community of Shady Grove (GC20TXN) was settled in the 1850's and 60's by families on this farm and ranch land along the middle Gabriel River. The old Austin-Lampasas and Burnet-Belton roads intersected here. At first the community was called "Russell-Gabriel." The Cumberland Presbyterian Church organized and met in the school building in 1878. Soon the name changed to Grove because the schoolhouse was located in a grove of live oak trees.

The settlement boasted a cotton gin and corn mill, a general store and blacksmith shop, a doctor and a masonic lodge. In 1882 the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist congregations built a union arbor for camp meetings and revivals. For a few months in 1902 there was a post office. Since there was another Shady Grove in Texas, the name "Tamega" was used. A general store by that name operated here for 50 years.

The Presbyterian fellowship erected this church structure first and then in 1905 built this tabernacle. The school consolidated with Bertram in 1942. When the Presbyterian congregation merged with Bertram in 1966, this property became a community center and homecoming site.

Over in the Shady Grove Cemetery is my next geocache called "Heartfelt" (GC213F4). A Shady Grove Cemetery Association was established in 1958. In 1968, the association secured title to the land, church, and tabernacle. According to Find-A-Grave.com, the oldest marked grave dates back to 1879. The cache itself is kinda cool. Not near a grave site so not to be confused with decoration.

Just north of Shady Grove was another ghost town by the name of Strickling. There wasn't a geocache there, but I went and checked out the cemetery anyway. From Texas Handbook Online: John Webster received a land grant on the Charles Cavenah survey, but when his party arrived in the area in 1839, they were attacked by Comanches. The men in Webster's group were killed, and his wife and two children were captured and held for several months. In 1852, Webster's daughter Martha claimed his land as his sole heir, and the next year she married Marmaduke Strickling (sometimes spelled Strickland or Stricklinge). The developing settlement took that name.

The community became a regular stage stop on the Austin to Lampasas route, and a post office was established in 1857. A school, a church, and several businesses prospered during the years that the town was on a major transportation route, but in the 1880's a decline began. The Austin and Northwestern Railroad bypassed Strickling in 1882, and when the stage line was discontinued later that decade, the town lost much of its vitality. Its population was reported as sixty in 1884 and in 1890, but by the mid-1890's its post office had been discontinued, and most of its residents had moved away. By 1900 the last store had closed. A cemetery was all that marked the site on county highway maps in the 1980's. The oldest marked grave is that of David Chapman Jones (1830-1869).

Hopefully it's the foot and not the head!

Then I went over to Pleasant Hill Cemetery for my next geocache (GC46WPC). I couldn't find much history other than it was established in 1887. There are about 340+ internment here and is still used by the few locals in the area.

My last geocache for the day was at another cemetery. "Ancient LehteB Grave" (GC22V7B) was at the Bethal Cemetery. From the historical marker: The REV. Richard Howard (1817 - 1882) moved to this area of Burnet County in 1885. The frontier settlement he joined would later be known as the Bethel Community. In 1874 he deeded two acres at this site for the community use. The first recorded burial was that of Howard's Grand-daughter, Harriet Ruthie Howard, in 1875. Since then this site has been used as the Bethel Community Cemetery. Buried here are veterans of the Civil War to World War II and many of the area's early settlers and their descendants. The Bethel Cemetery Association was established in 1930.

The one grave that caught my eye was the Hudgins grave site. Of the hundreds of cemeteries I've been to, and the many different decorations, this is the first time seeing a telephone. I guess that's one way to communicate without seeing a psychic or performing a seance!

Wow, I've spent this whole time caching around Burnet County. I still got over 300 miles to drive. Gotta get moving. No more caches the rest of the way.

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