Sunday, June 14, 2020

2018-06-10: Geocaching Through History From Central to West Texas

Welcome back to another of my 360+ mile Sunday drives from Killeen in Central Texas to Fort Stockton in West Texas. Along this weekly drive, I explore the backroads and small towns, cemeteries and ghost towns, and anything of interest along the way. Most of the places I discover are thanks to the game of Geocaching. We got a long way to go, so let's get started.

Now most of the time during this drive, I start finding geocaches early along a route. Then I get side tracked, start heading to this cache and that cache, and next thing I know it's the middle of the afternoon and I still have 300 miles to drive. Today I was determined to make it past Llano before making my first stop. And that I did.

To encourage settlement of the new frontier in the 1830's and 40's, the Republic of Texas granted large portions of land to prospective impresarios. Among the more notable was the one issued to Francis Fisher, Buchard Miller, and Joseph Baker. Comprising some three million acres of land between the Llano and Colorado Rivers, it became known as the Fisher and Miller Colony.

Going westbound on Highway 29, I turned south towards Castell. In 1847 on Fisher-Miller land grants, 3 settlements were begun by German emigration company under commissioner general John O. Meusebach. There was Bettina, the first communal settlement in Texas. It was abandoned in less than a year when supplies ran out. Leiningen three miles to the east, but non-existent today. Castell was the first and only permanent Llano County settlement. It was led by Count Emil von Kriewitz. The towns namesake was Count Carl Frederick Castell-Castell, business manager of the Adelsverein.

The German Lutherans in this area were served by circuit-riding lay minister Dietrich Rode as early as 1870. A congregation was organized in 1893 on the north side of the Llano River in the Leiningen settlement about three miles east. A second church, known as Leiningen Two or Zion, was built on the south side of the river in 1907. The two congregations merged as St Johannes Evangelische Gemeinde in 1926, and a new sanctuary was built. Worship services were conducted in German until the 1950's, and the name was changed to St. Johns Lutheran Church.

Next to the church is the Cemetery and geocache (GC1NVGG). The congregation of St John Lutheren Church had been meeting in its new sanctuary for some four years when the death of one of its members, Anna Charlotte Lillie (Kowierschke) Bauer (1905-1930), led to the purchase of this half acre for use as the church cemetery. Her in-laws J. W. Bauer (1874-1932) and Bertha (Flint) Bauer (1872-1956) are buried nearby in the same plot. The older grave of Christian Schneider (1838-1920) was moved here from an endangered location near the Llano River.

There was a second geocache in town closer to the river, but I didn't find it (GC1NVGB).

Arriving in the town of Mason, Texas, there were two geocaches there that I still hadn't looked for yet. The first was at a historical marker entering the town (GC6E7PP). Created January 22, 1858 and organized August 2, 1858, Mason County was named for its most important settlement, Fort Mason. Garrisoned intermittently from July 6, 1851, to March 23, 1869, Fort Mason was named for Lt. G.T. Mason of the United States 2nd Dragoons, killed in Mexican War action on April 25, 1846 near Brownsville. Fort Mason was one of a chain of posts situated a day's horseback ride apart, from Red River to the Rio Grande, for protecting frontier from Apaches, Comanches, and other Indians.

Exiting the west end of town I stopped for another historical marker and another geocache (GC6E82Z). A native of Kentucky, Thomas S. Milligan (1810-1860) moved to this area in 1855 and operated a change station for the stage line. He was also a rancher and supplied beef to the soldiers at Fort Mason. Shortly after Mason County was organized in 1858 he became the first elected sheriff. Two years later he was killed by hostile indians near his home 1.6 miles NW. His grandson Allen Thomas Murray (1880-1929) became county sheriff in 1924 and like his grandfather, also died in the line of fire. He was killed by a bootlegger in 1929.

When arriving in the ghost town of Grit, Texas, I turned south onto US-377 to head down towards Junction and I-10. I then made a quick roadside geocache stop (GC3PV6R).

A couple of more miles down the road and I arrived at the Long Mountain Cemetery and two more geocaches (GC6EVX0, GC3PV5Q). Long Mountain probably gets its name from a nearby summit, also called Long Mountain. The area, which had been settled for some time by scattered ranchers, began to develop into a community in 1915. There are 240 burials here dating back to a Samuel Silas Jackson in January 1867. The second photo below is that of Dan (d.1900) and Sarah (d.1928) Martin's headstone which has their portraits on it. I'm sure it was placed by a more recent family member.

The next few miles provided just some ordinary roadside geocaches for some quick stops (GC3PV4T, GC58AJJ, and a DNF at GCKNF4). There was another roadside cache that had some history in the location, but nothing left there to see. The ghost town of Erna (GC1JR4C) is said to have been settled shortly after the Civil War, in part by German immigrants. J. N. Andrews operated the only store in the community in 1890. A post office was established there in 1915 with Amos Brewer as postmaster. The office was discontinued in 1919, and mail for the community was sent to Streeter in Mason County. Only a few scattered houses marked Erna on county highway maps in the 1940's. From the mid-1940's through the mid-1960's the population was reported at fifty. By the 1980's only the place name appeared on county maps.

An old farmhouse along one of the rural dirt roads.
The next geocache and ghost town down the road at the Saline and Little Saline Cemetery (GC1M4JK). A few settlers arrived in the area in the 1860's, but the threat of Indian raids kept many people away until the 1870's or 1880's. Shortly after 1900 the Saline school had eighty-four students and two teachers. The school and a church marked the community on county highway maps in the late 1930's. The school closed in 1947, and students were sent to the London school in Kimble County.

The family of Henry Parks settled here in the early 1860's, having found abundant grazing for their cattle. A band of Comanche Indians descended upon the pioneer family. Henry and Nancy Parks and their young grandson, Billy, were slain, their home burned and the cattle driven away. The Parks family were laid to rest where they had been slain. The three bodies, all in one grave, became the first burial in Little Saline cemetery.

The photo below is on the headstone of Marvin Harrison Hight who died December 1917 at age 22. I couldn't find any specific information on him, but I suspect he may have died in battle during World War I.

Continuing south on to my next cache (GC11951), I arrived in London. No not in England, but in Texas. London, aka London Town materialized sometime in the late 1870's or early 1880's when former Union Army officer Len L. Lewis moved into the area to trade horses. Lewis married locally and with holdings of a half-section of land, he planned the future town. Ed, Tom, and Robert Stevenson opened a store there in 1881 and the town was platted to include a square and forty town lots. A post office opened in the Stevenson store in 1892 under the name London and it was used to denote the town as well. London is famous locally for its dance hall located on the main street. The London Cemetery (GC6EG0K) has just over 400 burials dating back to 1908.

Jumping on to I-10 westbound, I continue on down to Copperas Cemetery (GC1M4H9). A deed for this cemetery was executed by D.P. Cowsert to E.S. Alley, County Judge, on May 30, 1890, donating one acre of land out of E.S. Haines Survey #55. First grave was that of William A. Cowsert on February 1, 1888. Residents of the Copperas community tend to cemetery. David Cowsert, who died during World War I, was returned home and buried here in the land of his ancestors. At least eight Civil War veterans , including Colonel John Griffith, were interred in the Copperas Cemetery. Veterans from other wars are among the dead in this beautiful little cemetery in the Copperas and Bois d" Arc valleys. An official historical law officers's marker denotes the burial spot of Ranger Captain Gully Cowsert.

Next door to the cemetery is what remains of the Copperas Methodist Church (GC1M4HA). Organized in 1881 by circuit rider, Andrew Jackson Potter, who helped firmly establish the Methodist church in West Texas. Before construction of church on this site in 1917, services were held in schoolhouse or under brush arbor 3/4 mi. SW on west bank, Copperas Creek. Building site was donated by J. A. Cowsert. Lumber was hauled here by wagon from Menard. Labor was donated by members and other local residents.

Five miles further down I-10 westbound is Roosevelt, Texas. Exiting off the Interstate, I first arrive at a historical marker and my next geocache (GC1M4GR). "From nearby Fort Terrett, this road in 1852 led south to Fort Clark and north to Fort McKavett. Selected mainly because it had water available, it served as the route for freight and mail in 1868, when the forts were reactivated. Over this route went troops, supplies, immigrants and pioneers. It was noted also for the passage of forays of Col. Ranald MacKenzie against hostile Indians to the northwest. After the forts were abandoned in 1883, ranchers drove cattle to market over parts of the road.

Near the historical marker was this old church. It was the Roosevelt Presbyterian Church. A plaque on the wall says the church was organized in 1933 and the building erected in 1947. The building looked to be in decent shape although the sign out by the road was pretty faded. With a population of about 150, I imagine it is still in use today.

Roosevelt, Texas was established with a post office in 1898 and was named by its founder, W. B. Wagoner, for Theodore Roosevelt, who reportedly visited the area with the First United States Volunteer Cavalry (the Rough Riders). It served as a shipping point for feed and supplies for local sheep and goat ranchers. The Patterson and Riek Ranch, established in 1897, imported Angora goats from South Africa in 1925.

In the 1920's the community hosted polo matches, as local ranchers bred polo ponies for national markets as well as horses for the United States Cavalry. Hill Country tourism also added to the local economy in that decade with the establishment of several businesses, including the Luthringer Hotel.

The population of Roosevelt, estimated at twenty-five in 1925, averaged 100 from 1941 through the middle 1980's. In 1990 it was ninety-eight. The population dropped to fourteen in 2000.

The old general store (GC1M4GB) in Roosevelt known as Simon Bros Mercantile opened in the early 1900's and is still in operation. The Back Door Cafe is located behind the store and contains a beautiful mahogany bar that languished for many years in a local barn. The remains of the school and the memorial church are located east of town.The post office is located inside the store and is one of the two smallest still operating in Texas (the other is at Telegraph).

Well it has been a busy day with 18 geocaches and a lot to see. From Roosevelt I still had 180 miles to go and was planning to drive all the way through to Fort Stockton. But after about an hour, I-10 was getting pretty boring! About halfway I was approaching a rest area. I opened up the app and saw that there was a cache there (GC2K4XW). Well that's a no-brainer. I quickly pull in, stretch my legs and grab a cache.

Now on to Fort Stockton to relax for the night and get rested for work tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by. If you've enjoyed my stories, please send me a note in the comments, or through Facebook and Twitter.

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