Thursday, December 5, 2019

2018-01-21: Geocaching Counties in South Texas

Hello and welcome back to my Geocaching Adventures blog. If you've been following regularly, you may recall that my wife had flown out to Philadelphia on a business trip. So It's just me for the weekend and I decided to go chasing counties in South Texas. Originally from Florida, I completed finding a Geocache in every Florida County several years ago. We were working on Georgia and had passed the halfway mark when we moved out here to Texas. So been working on the 254 Texas counties since November 2015. Well as a goal anyway. I already had some finds in Texas since my very FIRST Geocache was in Texas while on vacation way back in 2006. Then picked up a few more during my truck driving days from 2007-2010.

So far I've got most of the state covered with a few scattered here and there. But this weekend I'm hoping to finish up the southern tip in the Rio Grand Valley of Texas. So having charted a course already and had my bags packed, after work on Friday I hit the road to the south.

My first stop wasn't for a new county but for a virtual geocache called "Davy Who?" (GCE612). Located in Ozona, Texas, which is the county seat for Crockett County, was this statue of Davy Crockett (1786-1836, died at the Alamo) whom it was named for. Formed from the Bexar Territory, the county was created on January 22, 1875. After several reconfigurations, on March 15, 1887 it was reduced to its current size and finally organized on July 7, 1891. I also stopped for another geocache at a native plant interpretative trail called "What's the Interpretation?" (GC5EVXE).

After grabbing a bite to eat, I continued my driving down to Three Rivers, Texas where I found a hotel in my first caching county on the list, Live Oak. But for now it's late, it's dark, and after working all day and driving another 372 miles 6 hours after that, I'm tired!

Saturday morning first thing, I drive over to the Three Rivers Cemetery (GC4GE3G) for my first cache in Live Oak County. The community was first named Hamiltonburg when Annie T. Hamilton paid the San Antonio, Uvalde, and Gulf Railroad to build a depot there on her land in 1913. Since mail for the town was often mistakenly sent to Hamilton, TX, the local residences asked for a name change. Charles R. Tips, who'd be called a realtor today, suggested naming the town for the location near the rivers. Three Rivers was approved by the Post Office department on May 1st, 1914.

From there I headed west on TX-72 into McMullen County to the town of Tilden. Boot Hill Cemetery (GC26GM0), one of the only two authentic cemeteries of its kind in the southwest, was named Boothill because so many of those who were interred there died violently, "with their boots on." Many of the early graves were those of people killed in accidents, murdered, died of cholera during the cholera epidemic in 1869, but some were known to have died of natural causes.

The cemetery was established sometime after Frio Rio came into existence in 1858. Frio Rio has gone through several name changes; Dogtown, Colfax and finally Tilden when it was established the county seat in 1877. The cemetery is located behind the bank 1/2 a block north of the courthouse plaza on highway 72 and 1/2 block east of State Highway 16. Tilden was on the caravan route between San Antonio, Dogtown, Fort Ewell, Laredo and Mexico. Some time during the Civil War a stage route was also added and saloons began to spring up in Dogtown. These all brought many undesirable characters to the town as well as men who were on the run from the law that used the surrounding area and brush to hide. Some of these undesirables provided quite a few occupants for Boothill.

In 1877 Boot Hill Cemetery was abandoned in favor of the present Hill Top Cemetery. Hill Top Cemetery was originally called Graveyard Hill and many early setters as well as several generations of their descendants have been buried in Hill Top. Hill Top Cemetery still serves the community today. Boot Hill Cemetery was neglected for more than half a century. During this time the "old timers past away, the markers deteriorated, fell down, became lost and more and more of the Boothill lore and history went with them. In 1955 when the Cenizo Garden Club was organized they began at once to clean up and restore the cemetery. They cleaned the plots, cleared out the brush, and located as many graves as possible. The grounds were enclosed by a low border of native stone and the Boothill Cemetery Sign with a large boot made of masonry mounted on a huge slab of a petrified palm stump was added to the cemetery grounds. They were also instrumental in obtaining a Historical Marker, which stands at the entrance of the cemetery.

Some of those buried here are: Dick Gosset killed in Ft Ewell gunfight Feb 1869; E. M. Crain a Confederate veteran and one of 4 cholera victims of 1869; John Smithwick murdered 1870; Jim ? assassinated in from door of Old Rock Store (2nd photo below) in 1872; Unknown killed in gun battle while standing in front of Old Rock Store 1873; Unknown killed unintentionally by Clabe Young while playing a prank; S. Glenn Greer thrown from a horse 1874; Unknown Negro drowned in the Nueces in 1875; Unknown murderer of James Minter, presumed to have been a Dalton Gang member; Lige Harrison Jr killed at age 17 in a hunting accident 1876; Samuel Wm. McCreery murdered at his sheep ranch 1877; Pemanio Palacios and Phelix Wheeler (infant) both died of natural causes.

Going south on Hwy 16, I arrive in Duval County and the town of Freer, Texas. To claim the county, I grab the geocache in Hahl Cemetery (GC21AYW) and see the most unusual headstone / marker. This person must have been a bird lover.

One more cache before leaving town at the Rattlesnake Roundup (GC4XR84) to see the world's largest rattlesnake. The Freer Rattlesnake Roundup attracts more than 35,000 visitors who gather at the Freer Cactus Corral for the biggest party in Texas celebrating the area's most popular resident. Don't worry about getting the photo opp, this one don't bite!

Next up down in Hebbronville and Jim Hogg County was a quick roadside cache called "RJ's txrancher Cache" (GC367D8).

Staying on TX-16 into Zapata County were my next two quick roadside caches: "Zapata County Helper TX-16 #1, #2" (GC3N21V, GC3N24W). A few miles down the road was a small community called Escobas and there was a cemetery and a few old long abandoned houses. There wasn't a cache there but I had to check it out anyway. 

Settled by Mexican ranchers as early as the mid-1700s, it later became part of the colony of Nuevo Santander. Settlement began in the late 1800s and by 1897 the area was populated enough to support a school of thirty students. The town had been known as Laguna de Escobas but when oil was discovered, it was renamed Escobas. The Texaco oil company provided a primary school (to 5th grade) and a post office was opened. Escobas had a single business in operation in 1940 and a population of just 25. The population remained at that level through the 1990's. In recent years it has declined to only 10 residents.

Once in the town of Zapata, I stopped by the cemetery for another geocache (GC6786A). Settlements began in the area in the 1750's. Soon after 1767, the first settlement on the north bank of the Rio Grand River was established here and called Habitación. The name was changed to Carrizo sometime later, after a local Indian group that lived in huts made of cane. Then in 1858 the named was changed to Bellville in honor of Governor Peter Hansborough Bell, who signed the bill officially making Zapata County separate from Webb and Starr Counties. Finally in 1898, the town name was permanently changed to Zapata, in honor of Col. Antonio Zapata, a local rancher who became one of the leaders of the federalist movement and founded the Republic of the Rio Grande back in 1839.

The population of Zapata made a sudden jump in 1913 during the Mexican Revolution when many residents of Guerrero fled across the river. The townsite relocated to higher ground at its present location when the Falcon Dam and Reservoir was created, putting the original townsite under water. Below is a photo of the 1901 Zapata Courthouse from 1939 which now sits submerged under water.

photo from
Moving on down to the south along US-83, I enter Starr County and my next cache called "Roma: Bluffs, Landmark, Rio, Ford" (GC4ZD6Z). It is an earthcache on the Roma Bluffs, a high point along the banks of the Rio Grande River. Also a great bird watching spot, in more recent years a good viewing spot for border patrol agents. Roma and Los Saenz are two adjoining settlements that have incorporated jointly. And they sit directly across the river from Ciudad Miguel Alemán, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Corrales de Saenz was founded in the 1760's by local ranchers. Later the area became known as Buena Vista and the Garcia Ranch. It is also possible that what came to be known as Roma-Los Saenz and Ciudad Miguel Alemán were originally part of the same city, San Pedro de Roma, Tamaulipas. In 1848, when it became a part of the United States, the name was changed to Roma, suggested by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who founded a mission there in the mid-1850s.

Roma is regarded as one of the best remaining Spanish colonial townsites in the lower Rio Grande Valley. In 1971 it was designated as a Historic District and many of the buildings are adorned with the Texas Historical Markers.

Before I could leave Roma and continue my quest to pickup new counties, I passed by one of several cemeteries. They did not contain a cache but it was still hard to pass up. I've noticed that the Hispanic cemeteries are more colorful and festive. Most gravesites have large headstones and/or statues. Like this next photo for example. This sitting angle was "life-size" for a woman. I've not seen an angelic being before so I'm not sure how tall they really are. But if this statue was standing, she would have been 6 or 7 feet tall.

One more quick cache behind the Chili's restaurant called "Red and Hot" (GC67R7V), just in case my answers for the earthcache were incorrect, so I could get a Starr County find.

Getting late in the afternoon now, I'm trying not to spend much time now enjoying the sites but focusing on getting the counties. A quick "Shop Til You Drop" (GC5M5ZG) geocache in a parking lot got me Hidalgo County.

Going north on US-281, with a quick drive east towards Raymondville over the Willacy County line gets me to a quick "Guardrail on West Side" geocache (GC5JTN6).

Then back into Hidalgo County on TX-186 towards US-281, I passed by and grabbed "Rio Grande Virtual Salt Cache" (GC40A0) and "La Noria Cardeneña" (GC4366). Both were old virtual geocaches from back in 2002. It's hard to pass up on the old virtual caches when you're so close.

I had to skip Brooks County as it was dark now and did not consider it easy nor safe getting the roadside caches along the highway.

I did stop at the "Royal Rest Stop" (GC17BDQ) geocache in Jim Wells County along US-281. That was my last cache for yesterday before heading back to the hotel in Three Rivers. A total of 445 miles, 12 hours, and 9 new counties.

Today is all about the drive back home to Monahans. Reaching the north-west side of San Antonio, I saw an exit with a Starbucks and decided to grab a coffee. Across the parking lot was a quick cache called "Whiskerfish" (GC5RX36), so of course I had to find it also.

Continuing westbound on I-10 for a little while is just what you need after drinking a large cup of coffee, a rest area! Plus there are THREE geocaches here as well for a bonus. "Poppy's Pit Stop" (GC10A6X) and "Rest Stop Nature Walk" (GC380JX) were traditional caches. The nature walk gave cachers a nice birds eye view of the highway. There was also an earthcache located at the rest area. "Plateaus, Mesas, or Buttes" (GC77VYH) gave you a lesson on the types of hills you are able to see from the parking area. (not in photo below)

Making it back to Ozona, Texas, I stop again to find a couple of the remaining caches that I didn't get on Friday. One of them was called "Well Water" (GCZ7DQ) by a historical marker. The other was "A Look 2 The Past" (GC1ZTZV) located at the cemetery.

Another rest area further west on I-10 and another quick cache called "Republic of Texas" (GC2KF2Q).

I exit I-10 in Bakersfield going north on Hwy 11, through Girvin and almost to Imperial getting closer to home. I stop for "Shine Bright Like a Diamond" (GC7H4GB) geocache which was a sneaky little hide out in the middle of nowhere.

One final stop for the "Butterfield Overland Stage Line" (GC7H6EY) historical marker: One of the longest stage routes ever established, the Southern Overland Mail Line (Butterfield Route) which provided semi-weekly service from St Louis to San Francisco, 1858-1861. Followed substantially the route of this highway (Hwy 18) through Ward County.

Several miles later and I finally made it back home in Monahans. Add 430 miles today for a total of 1247 miles on this weekends adventure. I hope you enjoyed the ride while I did all the driving. Until next time...

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