Saturday, February 22, 2020

2018-05-05: Meeting Up With Friends From Florida To Go Geocaching and Exploring Waco Texas

Hello friends, adventurers, history lovers, and fellow geocachers! Welcome back to AwayWeGo's (that's us!) Geocaching Adventure Blog. I really appreciate all the likes and comments that we've been receiving on Facebook, Twitter, and here on this blog. Feel free to share our stories with your family and friends. Also, keep leaving your comments, suggestions, as well as a critique every now and then on how I can improve our blog.

OK, on to the fun stuff. I only worked 5 days this week so I arrived home in Killeen last night. That gave us a rare Saturday to go exploring together! WOHOO!! And doubly fun because we have a couple of our Florida geocaching friends staying nearby on their Spring/Summer RV tour. Well in reality, they're camping north of Dallas about 200 miles away. But for Texas that IS nearby! So we decided to meet up with the YankaBucs about halfway in Waco, Texas.

On the way to our rendezvous point, we passed by this old building. Since YankaBucs were a few minutes behind schedule, we decided to stop for a closer look and photos. A faded sign on the back side said "Water Works." Though it confused me about the train caboose coming out the side of the building.

Further research from a 2015 Waco Tribune-Herald Article, this 7,000 square foot brick building was built before 1902 as a pump station for the private Bell Water Company. They punched wells into the adjacent sands for Brazos alluvium groundwater. Acquired by city of Waco in 1904, it continued as a pump station even after the Riverside treatment plant was built in the late 1910s. Contractor F.M. Young acquired the property for his headquarters in the mid-1950s, then leased it to Geoffrey Michaels from 1975 to 1989 as the popular Water Works restaurant. A variety of less successful restaurants and nightclubs followed until disorderly crowds forced closing in 2009.

Continuing down the road a little ways, we met up with YankaBucs at the Waco Mammoth National Monument and our first geocache for the day. It was an Earthcache (GC5ZKCB). Waco Mammoth National Monument sits within 100 acres of wooded parkland along the Bosque River on the outskirts of town. Surrounded by oak, mesquite and cedar trees, the site offers an escape from the modern world and provides a glimpse into the lives and habitat of Columbian mammoths and other Ice Age animals.

On a spring day in 1978, Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin embarked on a search for arrowheads and fossils near the Bosque River. To their surprise, the men stumbled upon a large bone eroding out of a ravine. Recognizing the unusual nature of the find, they removed the bone and took it to Baylor University's Strecker Museum (predecessor to the Mayborn Museum Complex) for examination. Museum staff identified the find as a femur bone from a Columbian mammoth. This now extinct species lived during the Pleistocene Epoch (more commonly known as the Ice Age) and inhabited North America from southern Canada to as far south as Costa Rica.

Strecker Museum staff quickly organized a team of volunteers and excavation began at the site. Using hand tools such as brushes and bamboo scrapers, crews slowly excavated a lost world. Between 1978 and 1990, the fossil remains of 16 Columbian mammoths were discovered. Their efforts uncovered a nursery herd that appears to have died together in a single natural event. Between 1990 and 1997, six additional mammoths were excavated, including a large male. Crews also uncovered the remains of a Western camel, dwarf antelope, American alligator, giant tortoise, and the tooth of a juvenile saber-toothed cat, which was found next to an unidentified animal.

Getting back into Waco, our next stop was at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. First opening in 1968 on the banks of the Brazos River, a smaller museum preserved the history and heritage of the Texas Rangers. The newer Hall of Fame displays many artifacts, exhibits, artwork and documents relating to this legendary group of law enforcement officers of Texas and the old west. There was even a whole room dedicated to the "Lone Ranger" fictional character full of TV and movie memorabilia, which Mr YankaBucs really appreciated.

Next to the museum is the historic First Street Cemetery dating back to Waco's founding in the 1850's. First Street Cemetery is the oldest public cemetery in Waco and is composed of three distinct cemeteries: City Cemetery, Odd Fellows Cemetery and Masonic Cemetery. In 1852, City Cemetery and Masonic Cemetery were officially established. It is not known when Odd Fellows Cemetery was officially established, but it was acquired by the City of Waco in 1866.

Now it really gets interesting when you combine the cemetery, the museum, and the Fort Fisher Park in the same area. It was discovered during the Hall of Fame expansion during the 2007-2010, that there were human remains underneath. It turns out that during the creation of the Fort Fisher Park and first Ranger museum in the late 1960's, as well as a "relocation" of graves to the larger Oakwood Cemetery to the south years earlier, that ONLY headstones were moved and not the remains of the bodies buried underneath. As you can imagine, that caused a LOT of community outrage and delays during the renovation and expansion plans!

As a surveyor myself, I had to include a photo of the Major George B Wrath statue there. Perhaps they could have used him to relocate the cemetery.

Now it is time for lunch. We saw this place across the highway also on the river called Buzzard Billy's. The decor and location were great and the food was excellent! However, I forgot to take any pictures. After filling up with a delicious lunch, we decided it was time for a walk along the river front to burn off some calories.

We crossed the Waco Suspension Bridge first. This was the Brazos River Crossing of the Chisholm Trail and a virtual geocache (GC2B5A). Imagine all the history that once crossed over this bridge.

In 1866 the Waco Bridge Company was granted a 25 year charter to build a toll bridge here. The charter guaranteed that no other bridge or ferry could be built within five miles. Construction began in 1868 and, after much financial difficulty, was finished in 1870. Bridge traffic included wagons, pedestrians, and cattle herds. Special rates were given to heavy users. From 1875 to 1889 the public agitated for a free bridge, but the company retained its monopoly. Then, in 1889, the bridge was sold to McLennan County which gave it to the city of Waco as a free bridge.

We continued strolling along the riverwalk finding various geocaches along the way and enjoying the day. (GC7ETPC, GC7ETQF, GC7ETQ9, GC7ETPY, GC6D2E, GC7C2NN, GC7C2N7) One of them had this monument. The inscription read: "Shakespeare! Daign to lend thy face, This romantic nook to grace, Where untaught Nature sports alone, Since thou and Nature are but one…1616-1916."

An easily overlooked memorial that pays tribute to William Shakespeare (1564-1616). How and why is it there? In 1916, on the 300th anniversary of his death, the Waco Shakespeare Club had it constructed and designed by Paul G. Silber, Sr. According to the Waco Shakespeare Club record’s at The Texas Collection, Baylor University, the organization began in the late 1890's at the Waco home of Kate Harrison Friend and her mother, Arimenta Harrison Friend, “conducting a private school guaranteeing their pupils thoroughness for higher grades.” Here, Kate Friend “…organized a class in the study of Shakespeare for the single young ladies of the elite of Waco. Here so much profit and enjoyment was experienced, that on request, a class for young matrons was formed.” Thus officially forming the club in 1899.

After making it around the riverwalk, we drove a few blocks over to the Dr Pepper Museum (GC2ATKV). Dr Pepper is a “native Texan,” originating at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store. It is the oldest of the major brand soft drinks in America. Like its flavor, the origin of Dr Pepper is out-of-the-ordinary. Charles Alderton, a young pharmacist working at Morrison’s store, is believed to be the inventor of the now famous drink. Alderton spent most of his time mixing up medicine for the people of Waco, but in his spare time he liked to serve carbonated drinks at the soda fountain. He liked the way the drug store smelled, with all of the fruit syrup flavor smells mixing together in the air. He decided to create a drink that tasted like that smell. He kept a journal, and after numerous experiments he finally hit upon a mixture of fruit syrups that he liked.

Dr Pepper gained such widespread consumer favor that other soda fountain operators in Waco began buying the syrup from Morrison and serving it. This soon presented a problem for Alderton and Morrison. They could no longer produce enough at their fountain to supply the demand. Robert S. Lazenby, a young beverage chemist, had also tasted the new drink and he, too, was impressed. Alderton, the inventor, was primarily interested in pharmacy work and had no designs on the drink. He suggested that Morrison and Lazenby develop it further. Morrison and Lazenby were impressed with the growth of Dr Pepper. In 1891, they formed a new firm, the Artesian Mfg. & Bottling Company, which later became Dr Pepper Company. Lazenby and his son-in-law, J.B. O’Hara moved the company from Waco to Dallas in 1923.

Around the corner from there was the Magnolia Market. Magnolia Market at the Silos, commonly called Magnolia Market, is a shopping complex that encompasses two city blocks in downtown Waco, Texas. It is marked by two 120’ high silos, built in 1950 as part of the Brazos Valley Cotton Oil Company. The grounds opened to the public in October, 2015.

The complex is owned by Chip and Joanna Gaines, TV personalities best known for HGTV's Fixer Upper TV series. The Silos, Waco, TX The grounds include a 12,000 sq. ft. retail store located in the historic grain barn and office building, a food truck park with picnic tables, a garden store, bakery, and lawn area. There was some kinda 5K event in the area today, so the place was just packed! This is the line below just for the bakery!

While the YankaBucs took a peak inside the Market, Candy and I stayed outside in the courtyard / lawn area because it was so crowded.

As we walked around the corner on our way to dinner, we passed by the First Baptist Church which I thought was worthy of a photo.

Then we arrived at Hecho En Waco Mexican Restaurant for another good meal. After an exhausting nut rewarding day, it was time to say our good-byes to our good friends the YankaBucs and head home. I hope you have enjoyed our tour of Waco, Texas. Until next time...

Monday, February 10, 2020

2018-04-22: Geocaching Through a Cemetery, Ghost Towns, and an Old Bridge in West Texas

Here we go again, another Sunday and another 360+ miles of driving from Killeen in Central Texas to Monahans in West Texas. My wife lives and lives in Killeen and I work in West Texas as a Construction Surveyor building wind and solar farms. So after working 5 or 6 days every week, I drive eastbound on Friday or Saturday night. On Sunday's it's time to drive back westbound. That's also a time to find some geocaches along the way and do some exploring. So let's get started and find some smiles!

After a quick stop at Duncan Donuts for a caramel iced coffee and a bagel, I begin the journey. My first geocache is at the Garden on Memories Cemetery (GC480M4) on the south side of Killeen. Connected to the Calvary Baptist Church, this fairly new cemetery dates back to 1983 and only has just over 300 interments here. Being in a military community, there were a few military themed grave sites as well.

Passing through Lampasas every week, I see this old building. But I can't find any information on it online. Responses from the Backroads of Texas Facebook Group say it was definitely a church, but haven't gotten any dates or name of it. If any of you happen to know what it might be, please leave a comment. (Update: thanks to the great group over at "BackRoads of Texas", they have posted this link to a KCEN TV News report on the church which was built in the 1940's.)

Continuing on my way westbound, I took Farm Road 580 instead of the usual US-190 out of Lampasas. Soon I arrive at my next geocache called "Double Smiley Cache" (GC10CCX). A quick roadside geocache that gives you one smiley for the find and one smiley photo opp waaaayy up on the hill. You can barely see it in this photo below, but I zoomed in close for the photo at the top of the page. Looks like it used to be one of those large old fashioned TV satellite dishes you used to see more often before the small ones commonly used now.

Continuing down Farm Road 580, I came to the community of Nix, Texas. I guess it could be considered a ghost town, but the population never really took off. From the historical marker: "Settlers came to this site along Fort Phantom Hill Road in the 1860's and established the Village of Nix. Harvey Wallace opened a general store in 1875, and his wife Elizabeth became the first postmaster. Several springs ran nearby, including Dripping Springs near the Nix Cemetery founded in 1878. By 1885, citizens started a school on the Levi Ringer Place. The town boasted a cotton gin, blacksmiths, and stores, and citizens built a new schoolhouse in 1920. Rock quarries and cedar yards begun in the 1940's supported the local economy. Nix schools absorbed Bend, Lynch Creek, Ogles before consolidating with Lampasas in 1952. The historic Nix Schoolhouse later became a community Center."

The highest population ever recorded was only at 27 in 1896. The post office was discontinued in 1906. The general store with gas pumps have been restored, though it does not function as a store and is located on private property. There are two geocaches in town. One called "Why Not #4" (GC15VTB) and the other called "Deliverance #14" (GC193Y4) located at the Nix Cemetery.

Nix General Store

Nix Cemetery

Low Water Crossing
Who says a Prius isn't an off-road vehicle!

Old House in Nix, Texas

Former Schoolhouse now Nix Community Center
Leaving Nix, I make it back to US-190 for three more quick geocaches: "Our First of Many Firsts" (GC7G49E), "Flying Goose" (GC15VRP), and finally a backroad "Deliverance #7" (GC17NE8) which hadn't been found in two years! I almost passed it up because of that. But it was a very rural road and it didn't have any DNF's logged. That just told me that it was probably still there and nobody has made any attempts to find it. So always nice to find a lonely cache!

After finally making it to and passing through San Saba, I turned north on County Road 208 on my way to my next geocache. Then I saw this building with a historical marker and had to stop and investigate.

"A site once famous for its horses and racetrack. Riley Harkey (1832-1920) and Israel Harkey (1835-1914) were Indian scouts in Texas in 1850-53. In 1855 they led their parents, Mathias and Catherine Harkey, to move here from Arkansas with other adult sons, daughters, in-laws and grandchildren. The families ranched, and Mathias Harkey ran a country store for many years.

"Riley Harkey brought to Texas a fine, fleet footed mare, who with her racing progeny drew crowds of enthusiasts to this site for half a century. Other sons and grandsons of Mathias Harkey also joined in the breeding, training, and racing of horses. Stores, blacksmith shop, and other businesses all faced east on a single street overlooking the flat with its racetrack and baseball diamond. There was no post office, but the village was so well known that mail addressed to Harkeyville promptly arrived here.

"On Nov. 26, 1873, George W. Barnett (1823-1885) gave land for the first school; the schoolhouse was used also for church services and public meetings. The racetrack closed in 1907; the cotton gin burned in 1920, and was not rebuilt; school consolidated in 1929 with San Saba. The last store closed in 1954. A community hall, built 1973, marks site of the town."

From Harkeyville to China! Well not exactly China but the China Creek Cemetery (GC3PC66). With over 700 interments here, this cemetery is still in use today. You'll find many of the Harkey family members buried here. There's also many members of the Ketchum family who were also some of the early settlers of San Saba County.

Green B Ketchum, Sr. relocated with his family to Sangamon County, Illinois from Alabama about 1825. The family then moved to Texas about 1848 with his father Peter Reasor Ketchum, a preacher and rancher, and two brothers and their families. Brother James arrived in Texas in 1846 and uncle Jacob earlier, fighting in the Texas War of Independence from Mexico.

The family went first to Limestone County, Texas for a short stay, then to Caldwell County, Texas where Peter Reasor Ketchum and some others remained, and Green Berry Ketchum moved on to San Saba County about 1855 where they were early pioneers of the County, settling on the San Saba River on the place known later as the Rainey place in China Creek Community.

Now trying to make up time, I drive straight through San Angelo. After a while though and passing caches, it's time to make another stop. On US-87 nearing Sterling City, I turn down a side road for the Sherwood Lane Bridge geocache (GC14VW4). Built in 1920, this 96 foot pony-truss bridge crosses the North Concho River. A single lane bridge that still allows for vehicle traffic or you can use the lower water crossing off to the side. And if hunting for the geocache and you are having a hard time finding it, well somebody has made it obviously clear of its location. And if you still cannot find it, then I think you may need to find a new hobby!

One more quick roadside geocache (GCXRZJ), then straight on towards Monahans. That's all for the day. Just a reminder to Like Us on Facebook or Follow Us on Twitter. Or just Subscribe to my blog directly using the buttons to the right. See you next week.

Friday, February 7, 2020

2018-04-14: Geocaching in Historic Round Rock, Texas

Hello again and thank you for joining us at our Away We Go Geocaching Blog! For today we stuck to one area. We had drove down from Killeen, Texas about 30 miles south to have lunch at our favorite Greek restaurant in Georgetown called Plaka Greek Cafe. If you're ever in the area, you gotta give it a try! Delicious Greek Food Fast!

After lunch we decided to take a short drive down to Round Rock, Texas to grab a couple of virtual geocaches and tour some history. Permanent settlement began in this area in the late 1830s. By 1848, former Austin Mayor Jacob Harrell moved here, selling town lots near the Stagecoach Road crossing at Brushy Creek. A post office named “Brushy Creek” opened in 1851 in Thomas Oatts’ store. Three years later, the name changed to “Round Rock” for a distinctive limestone formation marking a natural ford for wagons. The Round Rock is our first virtual geocache (GCA219) for the day.

With immigration from several states and Sweden, the population doubled during the 1850's, bringing new stores, churches, fraternal lodges and grain mills. The first institution of higher learning, Round Rock Academy, began in 1862. After the Civil War, the former trail and stage road became a prominent cattle drive route. In 1876, the International-Great Northern Railroad developed a new townsite east of the existing Round Rock. A commercial district sprang up along Georgetown Avenue (Main Street) with construction of many limestone buildings. “New Town” quickly eclipsed the established settlement, whose postal name changed again to “Old Round Rock.” For months, the new site was the railroad terminus, bringing lumber and flour mills, cotton gins, blacksmith and wagon shops, banks, hotels, restaurants, stores and schools. Round Rock challenged the state capital for economic control of central Texas, boasting six hotels to Austin’s five and serving as the retail hub for several counties to the west. The railroad also made Round Rock a more cosmopolitan place, bringing new residents from all over the U.S. And all around the world.

Across the street from the rock is the Chisholm Trail Crossing Park. Throughout the park are several statues commemorating heritage. Also located in the park is a micro geocache called Pioneer Muggles (GC7G934) with a 4.5 out of 5 difficulty rating. We didn't have too much time to spend on it and only gave it about 10-15 minutes. So sometimes we have to pass on a cache and walk away with a DNF. This was one of those times.

Well-positioned for growth by its location on major transportation routes, Round Rock became one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities by the late 20th century. Two dozen commercial buildings in Round Rock’s historic downtown were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

A couple of blocks down the road is our next geocache called Travel Bug Motel 6 (GC42HG1). It had a lot of favorite points so we had to stop. A quick find and we're on our way to the next one.

Our last stop for the day was at the Round Rock Cemetery just down the road. One of the first things we noticed were all the blue bonnets blooming. The "complex" is actually three cemeteries in one: the Round Rock Cemetery, Hopewell Cemetery, and an old Slave Cemetery. There were two traditional (GC3Z43M, GC1B09G) and one virtual cache (GC91B5) in this cemetery complex.  

Walking through the cemetery, I noticed a couple of busted and crumbling crypts. Whenever I see these things I usually think "the zombies have escaped!"

Probably the most famous resident here in Round Rock Cemetery is Samuel Bass. Born July 21, 1851 on a farm near Mitchell, Indiana, Sam was orphaned before he was thirteen and spent five years at the home of an uncle. In 1870, he arrived in Denton, Texas and worked for a while in a sheriff's office. In a few years he bought a little sorrel mare, became interested in horse racing, and had the fastest horse in Texas. One his fame spread, he couldn't get any bets against him to make any money.

So Sam helped drive a herd of stolen cattle to Nebraska where he stayed for nearly a year. Sam used his ill-gotten money to buy a saloon but he was soon restless. On a whim he sold the saloon and bought a gold mine that went broke almost immediately. He took up robbing stage coaches and fell in with some men with grander ambitions. On September 17, 1877, Sam and five others held up a Union Pacific train in Fort Bend, Nebraska. On board was $60,000 in newly minted $20 gold pieces plus $1300 in cash. Now $10,000 richer, Sam headed straight back to Texas.

Sam managed to make it back to adopted home of Denton, Texas boasting of a Black Hills gold strike to explain his sudden wealth. He spent lavishly on his friends and those who helped him hide out in the woods eluding the law. From his base near Dallas, Sam and his new gang held up two stagecoaches and robbed four trains within two months. He and the bandits were the object of a chase across North Texas by posses and a special company of Texas Rangers. Sam eluded his pursuers until his band rode into Round Rock, intending to rob a small bank. There on July 19, 1878, the gang became engaged in a gun battle with Texas Rangers led by Major John B. Jones. Wounded in the gun fight, Sam Bass was found lying helpless in a pasture north of town and died two days later on his 27th birthday.

Historical marker: One-half acre of Old Round Rock Cemetery was set aside for slave burials. Enclosed by cedar posts and barbed wire, sites are marked head and foot by large limestone rocks. Some rocks are hand-grooved with names and dates. White graves here are dated as early as 1851. The first marked grave of a freed slave is dated 1880. Although there are 40-50 known burial sites of freedmen and the burial ground is still in use, no interments of former slaves occurred after the turn of the century. (1979)

So that was it to our spontaneous little adventure to see some of Round Rock history. I hope you have enjoyed the stories and photos. Just a reminder to Like Us on Facebook or Follow Us on Twitter. See you next time!