Saturday, January 30, 2021

2019-05-04: Moving Day Roadtrip from Texas to North Carolina Day 2 in AL, GA, & SC Historic Cemetery, House, and Gas Station

Well after 16 hours of driving and geocaching yesterday, it's time to hit the road again for day two of my roadtrip from Texas to North Carolina. Todays drive will take me from Alabama, through Georgia, to South Carolina. So jump in and let's see what we can find!

My first stop was for the "Trussville Civitan" Alabama's First Geocache (GC126). This cache was hidden way back on January 2001. The are only 48 geocaches left that were hidden during that month. For geocaching statistics, there's a Jasmer Calendar that lets a cacher know what months their found caches were hidden in. I only had one open spot for 2001 and it was January.

So I arrived near the geocache location in the parking area of a park. At the center of the park was this Veterans War Memorial. Took a quick photo before I went for a walk.

There was a walking and biking paved trail down along the Cahaba River. There were quite a few people out getting their morning exercise along that trail. I'm more interested in what was in the woods and headed for that. Only a few hundred feet in and away from the curious eyes of the muggles, I found the 18 year old prize that has been found nearly 1700 times and added my name to the log. YAY! Now just two more spots for July and August of 2000 to fill in the blanks. Even harder as there are only seven of those in the United States.

Before leaving town I spotted this old gas station and just had to stop for a photo. The building was originally constructed as a Gulf Service station in the late 1950's. In 2013 the building was bought by Rocky Neason who turned it into the Classic Cars and Garage Museum. The station was transformed into a Standard Oil Gas Station replica and filled with many 50's & 60's era antiques collected by Rocky Neason during his 31 years in the industry. There was a 50's 2-seater T-Bird and a 60's mid-year Corvette behind the bay doors during my visit. But I understand the cars get traded out with his collection from time to time.

Moving along for a cache in St. Clair County, Alabama. "Final Resting Place" (GC7ETF0) is a geocache located in the Moody Cemetery. There are over 900 interments here dating back to 1860. With the muggle here mowing the lawn, I just found the cache and moved on.

A few quick park and grab caches for Calhoun County (GC82XM4, GC36J12) and a Dunkin Donuts coffee. Crossing the state line into Georgia, I exit I-20 for two more quick caches in Carroll County (GC7F5J3, GC7F5GY).

Now I'm in downtown Atlanta. Not my favorite place to be. But there are some "must do" geocaches there. Fortunately it is Saturday so traffic isn't too bad. The first is a D5/T5 challenge cache called "The Lower 48 States" (GC5EQQT). Located a couple blocks from the state capital, it is an easy cache to find yet a very difficult cache to claim. It requires you to find at least one cache in each of the lower 48 states. I've managed to find one in 49 states, only missing Hawaii.

Then I take a drive over to the historic Oakland Cemetery. It was established in 1850 as the Atlanta Cemetery on 6 acres of land southeast of the city. It was expanded to 48 acres by 1867 and renamed in 1872 to reflect all the oak and magnolia trees. The magnificent entry gate pictured below was constructed in 1896. From 1936 to 1976, the cemetery is neglected and fall into disrepair. The cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and a restoration began. Eventually the Historic Oakland Foundation was created and maintains the grounds. An average of 105,000 visitors tour this cemetery every year. Today it is my turn.

There are two virtual geocaches there. The first one I found is for "The Master" (GCD42A). The geocache is dedicated to one of golfs greatest players, Robert Tyre "Bobby" Jones, who won multiple Masters Championships in the 1920's. You'll find his headstone at the coordinates.

The other virtual geocache is called "The Lyin' Cache" (GC64DF). Oakland’s most centrally located character area is the final resting place of approximately 7,000 Confederate soldiers, many of whom are unknown. Following Oakland’s acquisition of additional land, this four-acre portion of the cemetery began its transformation in 1866 by the Atlanta Ladies Memorial Association (ALMA). Several hundred of these graves were originally marked by simple painted wooden headboards, then replaced by marble markers with rounded tops in 1890.

Near the center of the Confederate Burial Grounds, Oakland’s tallest monument is a sixty-foot granite obelisk memorial to the Confederate Dead. Erected by the ALMA, the foundation of Stone Mountain granite was laid in 1870, on the day of the funeral of Robert. E. Lee. The monument wasn’t completed and dedicated until Confederate Memorial Day, on April 26, 1874.

Flanking the obelisk to the northeast, the Lion of Atlanta monument commemorates unknown Confederate soldiers who died in the Battle of Atlanta. The large sculpture carved in marble from Tate, Georgia was commissioned by ALMA and unveiled in 1894. With the famous Lion of Lucerne as his model, T.M. Brady depicted a weeping lion, representing courage, dying on a Confederate flag.

(Jumping ahead to 2020... Sadly, political and civil unrest has led to vandalism of this nearly 130 year old memorial. On the nights of May 28, May 31, June 5, and June 6, 2020, members of BLM and Antifa went into Oakland Cemetery and vandalized the Lion statue, the Obelisk, some of the headstones, and one of the historical markers within the Confederate Burial Grounds. The geocache has been archived.)

The monument at the Neal family plot is one of the most beautiful in Oakland Cemetery. Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie) Neal was the daughter of Thomas Neal and Mary (Mollie) Cash. Before moving to Georgia from Louisiana three years earlier, she lost six siblings. She suffered from rheumatism for several months before her death. Her sister, Emma, cancelled a trip to the Arctic to care for her Lizzie in the last days of her life. Created by her father after her and her mother's deaths, Lizzie is thought to be represented by the woman on the right of the monument.

Three more interments here worth mentioning. Joseph Jacobs (1859-1929) was a businessman and pharmacist. While it was John Pemberton who invented Coca-Cola in 1885, it was Joseph Jacobs that introduced it to the public on May 8, 1886.

Also, there's Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949), author of the book "Gone With the Wind." On August 11, 1949, she was hit by a drunk driver while crossing the road at Peachtree and 13th with her husband on the way to see a movie. She died eight days later.

Finally, and jumping again forward to 2020, singer, songwriter, and actor Kenny Rogers was laid to rest in Oakland Cemetery on March 20, 2020.

All in all there are estimated to be about 70,000 interments here. I spent almost two hours exploring this cemetery and didn't get see it all. But I do need to get back on the road. It's late in the afternoon and I still have ground to cover. So let's get moving.

The next six geocaching stops were quick roadside or parking lot caches to get six new counties in Rockdale County (GC5GT56), Newton County (GC84173), Walton County (GC2X92M), Greene County (GC1AFQN), Taliaferro County (GC19WT6), and Warren County (GC1DZ99). Along the way traveling down these backroads, you often see houses or buildings that have long been abandoned and nature is consuming them. If you're anything like me you begin to wonder what they once were and what happened that allowed them to get to this condition.

Continuing over into McDuffie County we stop for some history. "The Rock House" (GC21JD6) is an 18th Century stone dwelling and is the only surviving house associated with the Colonial Wrightsboro Settlement (1768). Its builder, Thomas Ansley, used weathered granite, quarried in its natural form from the nearby geographic fall line, as building material. The granite, along with pine timbers and cypress shingles, gave the house a distinctive Georgia character. The architectural style of the Rock House is similar to stone houses in the Delaware Valley of New Jersey from which Ansley migrated. It is the earliest dwelling in Georgia with its original architectural form intact.

The home is now owned by the Wrightsboro Quaker Foundation and has been rumored to be haunted. The Augusta Paranormal Society visits this location from time to time.

Across the street is a large monument erected in 2002 among many small crosses. "The great tornado (Type 5) entered McDuffie County at RR Mile Post 42. At 12:45 PM, March 20, 1875 the Rock House lost windows, a cook house, corncrib and gin. In the center of the cemetery a giant oak was blown down. This marker was in the center of the tornados path." There are 18 names with dates listed of those who are believed to be buried there. The dates range from 1809 through 1848.

Continuing to research the history of the Ansley Family, the last name was Anne Ansley (born 1801 - died 1848) was the daughter of Abel and Lydia Ansley. Before she died, she married Willey Carter and they had eleven children. One of those eleven children was Littleberry Walker Carter, who eventually became the Great-Grandfather of President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.

Crossing the Savanah River over into South Carolina, I stop at the Welcome Center for a quick geocache for Aiken County (GC1048M). Then take the first exit and drive north a couple miles for another quick roadside geocache to pick off Edgefield County (GC81EPX).

For Lexington County (GC4N3FV) it was "The Duck Inn Travel Bug Motel." A creative geocache container large enough to hold plenty of travel bugs and coins to move up and down the Interstate. And finally the last geocache of the day was in Richland County (GC4GX30).

Another long day of driving and geocaching. I continued to the town of Lugoff, SC where the next geocache is located. But instead of finding the cache, I check into a hotel. It's after 9 PM and I'm tired! Not a bad day though, picking up a lot of new counties and finding some historical places. I appreciate you riding shotgun and hope you enjoyed the roadtrip. We got one more day tomorrow to get to North Carolina. Until then, it's sleep time.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

2019-05-03: Moving Day Roadtrip from Texas to North Carolina Day 1 in TX, LA, & MS Cemeteries, Historical Sites and an Old Church

Well it's that time again. I finished up on the wind farm down in South Texas and have to be in North Carolina on Monday to start a solar project. So another roadtrip is ahead of me. Supposed to be 2-3 months there in NC. Unfortunately the wife will still be here in Texas working. But hopefully the time will pass quickly and the next project will be back in Texas. But for now, lets hit the road and see what kinda cool places we can find.

My first stop, after Duncan Donuts for iced coffee and a bagel of course, was just outside of Waco, Texas. "Sleepy Hollow" (GC3D0BB) was a cemetery and the location of a geocache. Unlike the typical cemeteries I visit, this one is a pet cemetery! I think I've only encountered maybe one or two pet cemeteries before. This one had a doghouse and a fire hydrant as headstones. One thing I didn't see were any zombie cats or dogs that have been resurrected!

Also a little further east outside of Waco was the "Shootout at the Double EE" (GCGM3X) Ranch Road is a virtual geocache. On April 19, 1993, the FBI and ATF raided the compound of the Branch Davidian Church. After 100 canisters of tear gas being deployed over a 6 hour period, a fire broke out and the compound was engulfed in flames. David Koresh and 75 of his followers, including 25 children, perished in the blaze. Only nine managed to escape. The church has since been rebuilt.

My next two geocaches are in Corsicana, Texas at the Oakwood Cemetery (GC3EXG7, GC4G8EJ). There are nearly 14,000 burials dating back to 1833. There are several historical markers throughout the cemetery as well. One of the caches highlights a native of Huntsville, Texas, Samuel R. Frost grew up in Navarro County and in 1863 enlisted in the Confederate army. After the Civil War, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1870. In the years that followed, Frost served as Navarro County attorney, county judge, district judge, and state legislator. He and his wife, Mary (Winkler), were the parents of nine children. The town of Frost (20 mi. W) was named in his honor.

Another interment, and a more recent one, is Aaron Dale Allston (1960-2014). He is the author of 13 Star Wars novels as well as many other science fiction, game based fiction and mystery novels, short stories and technical guides for writers.

But the one historical marker that caught my attention was by the grave of David Reed Mitchell. Like myself, he was also a surveyor. From the historical marker: "Born in 1797 in North Carolina, arrived in Robertson County, Texas in 1845. He was a surveyor by trade, and had surveyed the upper Trinity and Brazos river areas in 1844. He became surveyor of the Robertson County land district, as well as the original land of Navarro County and Corsicana.

Mitchell was also a land speculator of sorts, and by 1847 he owned a large amount of land in Navarro County. With two partners, Thomas I. Smith and James C. Neill, he donated one hundred acres on which the town of Corsicana was founded. For a time he operated an inn in the town, sometimes referred to as the "lower hotel" because of its location in proximity to another hotel run by pioneer Hampton McKinney.

David Reed Mitchell married Mary Ann Higgins, and they were the parents of five children. Mitchell continued to live in Corsicana until his death on Oct. 7, 1853. He was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, and the citizens of Corsicana erected a monument at his grave in 1899. Of the three partners who donated land for the city of Corsicana, Mitchell is the only one buried here."

Before leaving Corsicana, I had to stop and get one more geocache here. "The Fruitcake Factory" (GCF11B) is located at the Collin Street Bakery. Yes, that dreaded fruitcake that usually makes an appearance around the Christmas holidays. The Collin Street Bakery is the largest producer of fruitcake in the world. They have been baking since 1896 and are shipping to almost 200 countries around the globe.

Another goal of this roadtrip is to pickup new geocaching counties. I've already completed my Texas counties. Now that I've crossed over into Louisiana it's time to pick off a few more of those. Bienville Parish was the first one with a quick roadside park and grab geocache (GC5BQVX).

My next geocache and county was in Quachta Parish in the town of Calhoun. "Breaker 19" (GC1V79Q) was a creative cache at a CB shop. I posted a photo below and also my first attempt at bringing you a video. Hopefully it works.

Just up the street in Calhoun was the Mount Zion Cemetery. There wasn't a geocache there, but it's still hard to pass up an old cemetery. There are over 500 interments that date all the way back to 1852 belonging to an eight year old boy named Robert Simmons Gaston who died in 1852 while visiting this country with his mother.

Located in Richland Parish, Holly Ridge was established in the early 1900's as a sawmill town in the middle of a large farming area. The company started with making barrel heads and later changed to the lumber industry. The company that owned all the timber land was Chess and Wymond out of New York state. Mr. Franklin leased all the land and cut all the timber. After the timber was gone it became a large farming area owned by the Franklin family. A quick roadside geocache (GC29MH5) in Holly Ridge off of I-20 to claim that county. Some dark clouds overhead isn't very promising though. I did get some heavy rain along the Louisiana / Mississippi state line.

After the rain and crossing over into the state of Mississippi, I jump off of I-20 and drive up into Madison County and the town of Annandale. There I find my next virtual geocache at the Chapel of the Cross (GC29MH5). After John and Margaret Johnstone arrived in Mississippi from North Carolina in 1840, they lost two of their sons that same year and buried them on their land, which would become the Annandale Plantation. John had the idea to build the chapel but died in 1848 before he accomplished it. The Gothic Revival chapel was erected in the 1850's by his wife Margaret L. Johnstone as a memorial to her husband.

Behind the chapel is the cemetery which now contain over 250 interments, the oldest being the two sons from 1840. The geocache page mentions one grave in particular as a question from which you need to answer in order to claim credit for the virtual geocache. But it doesn't give you the history of the grave. Henry Grey Vick was killed in a duel at age 23, just days before he was to marry Helen Johnstone, the daughter of John and Margaret. Helen was said to have worn her wedding dress to Henry's funeral. And legend has it that the "Bride of Annandale" continued to love Henry the rest of her life, even after marrying George Harris, and that her ghost is often seen sitting on a bench near Henry's grave.

Now that the sun is down and it's dark out, my plan is to keep going as long as I can find the geocaches. If I can't find a cache and need the county, then it's time to find a hotel and wait for daylight.

But next up is another virtual cache in Canton, MS. "Casey's Intended Destination" (GCF5FE) was located at the old train depot, now a museum. Canton was the destination of the famous train engineer John Luther "Casey" Jones when his train derailed after colliding with a stalled freight train 15 miles up track. He was traveling at about 75 MPH when he noticed the broken down train cars still on the track about 300 feet ahead near a side track switch.

While he could have jumped off the engine to save his live, as did the fireman on board, he stayed with the engine pulling on the brake and reversing throttle to protect those on the ground and passengers of the other train. He managed to slow down to approximately 35 MPH before colliding with the caboose and 3 of the freight cars when his train derailed. He died upon impact and time was recorded at 3:52 AM by his cracked watch.

I would liked to have gotten some more photos of the outside and down the side with the tracks in view. It was lit up enough. But there were some shady characters hanging out across the tracks on this Friday night. So a quick photo of what I needed for answers and moved on. (answer covered)

From here to the Alabama state line, I found several quick parking lot geocaches in Leake County (GC3CMVJ), Neshoba County (GCV8ZT), and Kemper County (GC7KCNW). Then I continued over into Alabama where I already had the next  few counties. Getting close to midnight I found a hotel in Birmingham for the night.

A long drive today, but I did get to pick up some new counties and see some great places. I especially like that old chapel in Mississippi and wish I got there just a little earlier to get some better photos.

Anyway, tomorrow is another day and another adventure. Do I make it all the way to NC or stop short. Guess you'll have to come back to find out. See you next time...

Sunday, January 17, 2021

2019-04-21: A Roadtrip from Oklahoma to Texas and Visiting a Petrified Villa, an 1800's Church, and the Historic Chisholm Trail

So after spending the day yesterday in Oklahoma at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, today is the roadtrip back to Killeen, Texas. And of course we can't take a drive that far without any geocaching stops. Anybody want to go for a ride with us? There's always room for virtual passengers. Let's fuel up and hit the road.

After checking out of the hotel this morning, I walked across the street to the grassy area by the I-44 onramp. A quick geocache in a tree so close that I just can't leave without finding (GC2W45H).

There were some other geocaches around Lawton with some high favorite points and we wanted to check those out also. This one was a very creative container (GC47ZEA). The geocacher took some time creating this one. You could almost call it "Me and Mini-Me"! Oh, and the name of the road that this coffee shop is located...: Cache Road! Definitely gets another favorite point from us too. It's too bad that the coffee shop itself wasn't open this early on a Sunday Easter morning because we hadn't found our morning coffee yet.

Another high favorite geocache was a virtual cache at the Great Plains Museum (GC81E5). We like museums. But of course not open at this time. So a quick photo by the "long-horn bison"?

Our last geocache (GC5FDZ7) in Lawton, Oklahoma was at the Elmer Thomas Park. It a large park behind the Great Plains Museum. It was called "Circle the Wagons" and it was at an old covered wagon display. A tricky cache to find because the camo blends in really well. One out of three cachers end up logging a DNF. However, I was fortunate enough to find this one. Though I was so intent on finding this one I forgot to take a photo of the wagon.

Driving over to Duncan, Oklahoma for our next virtual geocache (GC1C59) at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center. The Chisholm Trail was a trail used in the post-Civil War era to drive cattle overland from ranches in Texas to Kansas railheads. The trail was established by Black Beaver, a Delaware Indian scout and his friend Jesse Chisholm, a merchant and part Cherokee. The trail was used from 1867 through 1884. The herds on the trail rides usually numbered around 2500 to 3000 head of cattle each, but have been as many as 10,000 in a single herd. The herds were usually spaced about 10 miles apart for the long journey, which was about a day apart. At this geocache location is a large bronze statue representing such a cattle drive.

Also in the town of Duncan is one that I just couldn't pass up on. Because I work as a construction surveyor, it was a given that I go find a geocache called "The Survey Base Line" (GC6DZZG). "The distinctive checkerboard pattern of land boundaries in Oklahoma and all across the West was conceived by Thomas Jefferson in the early 1780's, long before the rough and rugged character of this vast wilderness had been charted. Jefferson was the grand architect of the distinct western landscape. In the late 1800’s government surveyors were commissioned to survey the public lands for sale or grant to the public."

This cache is located at a historical geographic monument for the Indian Base Line in Oklahoma. The "Initial Point was established by the U.S. Government in 1870. All Oklahoma except the panhandle was then divided into townships North and South and Ranges East and West of the Initial Point. The Indian Base Line is two-tenths of a mile south of this point on Beech Road. Duncan is 41 miles west of the Initial Point. The stones in this monument were taken from the Initial Point."

Our last stop in Addington, Oklahoma is another geocache and historical monument marking the Chisholm Trail Lookout Point (GC5W7H5). The two hills here represented landmarks used by Cattle Drivers on the Chisholm Trail. As they came out of the Red River valley they could see these two hills and used them to drive the cattle north to this location. Originally known as Lookout Point, they became known as Monument Hills. The Chisholm Trail and millions of Longhorns, went just to the east of this hill marked by this monument.

Driving along US-81 now down into Texas, we made a quick roadside picnic area stop to grab two geocaches (GC10MJD, GC431J6).

Arriving in Decatur, Texas, we made a "must-do" geocaching stop for a roadside attraction Americana history. "Petrified" (GC3X4ZF) is located at the Texas Tourist Camp Complex. From the historical marker: Local businessman E.F. Boydston (1888-1945) purchased this site, a former seed lot, in 1927 for $400. Recognizing a potential business opportunity in offering services to the traveling public, he built a wooden shed and gas station in 1927. Travelers were allowed to build campfires during overnight stays, and by 1931 Boydston added three wooden cabins with garages to the camp complex. The buildings were later faced with rock, and more cabins and garages were added in 1935. The original wooden gas station (photo at top of page) was covered with petrified wood in 1935 when the highway was widened and remained in operation by the Boydston family until 1988.

The Texas Lunchroom, a one room frame building, was built in 1929. Renamed The Texas Cafe in 1935 and refaced with stone to match the other buildings in the complex, it was enlarged to provide second floor living quarters. Popular with local high school and college students, as well as families and the traveling public, it was closed in the 1960's after a highway bypass built west of town diverted traffic from this area. The cafe re-opened in 1993. One of the few intact examples of tourist camps built throughout Texas in the mid-20th century. This property is significant for its association with the early development of automobile tourism.

Our last stop, also in Decatur, was for the geocache "Goin' to the Chapel" (GC198AR). The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection is the oldest original church building in Decatur. Consecrated by great missionary Bishop, the Rt. Rev. A.C. Garrett. Erected facing Main Street (2 blocks west of square) in 1889. Known as "the little church with the crosses", by 1912 it had deteriorated, but it was restored and moved facing Walnut Street.

In 1940 the building was sold and used as a mattress factory. Then it was rescued the same year and moved to this location, with the sanctuary placed symbolically to the east towards Jerusalem.

So that's it for today's roadtrip back home from Oklahoma to Texas. Thanks for riding along with us. Feel free to leave your comments and/or share our adventures with your friends. You can find us on most social media platforms:  FacebookMeWeParlerGabTwitterInstagramMAGAbook, and Reddit. Follow us on any or all of these platforms.

See you next time...

Saturday, January 9, 2021

2019-04-20: Geocaching, Hiking, and Exploring the Beautiful Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma

For today's adventure, we are once again Away-WE-Go for this Easter holiday weekend. Most of these blog posts I'm usually by myself on my Sunday drive back to work. Having this long weekend off, we decided to take a drive up to Oklahoma.

If you recall last month on my long roadtrip back from Minnesota, I had stopped at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. I mentioned that they perform a live Passion Play every Easter and have been doing it for nearly 80 years. You can read more about that by revisiting my blog page here. Candy and I thought it would be a great idea to go and see it. So we drove up yesterday.

The granite walls of the Wichita Mountains offered refuge to waves of people over many centuries, beginning with Nomadic Native Americans. In the late 1800's, conservationists made plans to re-establish bison and other imperiled species in the region. Looking for the best habitat, they decided that the sheltered prairie of the Wichita Mountains was the ideal location.

This morning we came here to see more of the natural refuge, do some hiking, and hopefully see some wildlife. For our first stop we drove over to French Lake and parked by the Bison Trail for a hike over to the dam. The many dams located in this refuge which form all the lakes were constructed in the 1930's as park of the Federal Work Projects. We hiked the Elk Trail back to the GeoJeep. It was a pleasant, clear, perfect weather morning. Got some nice views of the lake and the dam. The only wildlife we saw was a bunch of turtles and some fish in the lake.

From there we drove south on Indiahoma Road down to our first geocache. The "Heart Rock Earthcache" (GC3AQ2J) is a large outcrop of lava rock forced up from below the surface. Many, many years of erosion created this heart shaped rock on a pedestal that's about chest high when standing next to it. If it wasn't at such an angle, it'd make a great picnic table. While there is a pull-off parking area for the scenic views, there's no mention of this heart rock formation. Just another reason why I like geocaching to find the unique roadside attractions.

Just as we got back to the GeoJeep, we were just in time to see a parade of more than a dozen old tractors going by. Now I'm not really into tractors but seeing some antique machinery being driven down the road was pretty cool.

Back up on State Road 49 through the middle of the Refuge, we come upon Prairie Dog Town. A field of hundreds of prairie dogs running around and popping up and down from their underground city. I wish I had my Nikon camera with me but I left it back in Texas. So I only have this fuzzy phone photo. Takes good pics normally, but not so good when you zoom in close.

Next we drive over to the southside of Quanah Parker Lake to the Little Baldy Trailhead. Crossing the Quanah Creek Dam which forms the lake, we begin hiking the Little Baldy Trail. Little Baldy is one of the rocky hills within the refuge. We hiked up to the top of for the views and for the Little Baldy virtual geocache (GC1E4D).

Returning to the GeoJeep and continuing down the road a few miles we finally saw some bison. So we pulled over, took some photos, and watched for a while.

It was now mid-afternoon and we didn't plan very well. We're now out of water and hungry because we didn't think about bringing snacks or food. We stopped by the Holy City of the Wichitas for a quick look to see what of the situation. People were already gathering and picking out their spots to watch the Passion Play which was still 10 hours away from starting. Candy got a quick look around at the buildings. They had bottled water but nothing to eat. So we needed to go back into Lawton to eat and return later.

As we were driving out we stopped at this structure. Completed in 1927, Benjamin Ferguson and his family lived in this house until 1942. About a half mile to the east is the Ingram Homestead. They were both built out of the round granite core stones that cover the hillsides of the refuge, and both were acquired during the 1901 land lottery held at Fort Sill. They reflect the hard work, ingenuity, and craftmanship of earlier generations.

In 1942, the U.S. Army used the right of eminent domain to acquire the homesteads to expand the artillery range of the adjacent Fort Sill. Fifteen years later the planned expansion was scrapped and the homesteads became a part of the Refuge. In 1981 they were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

After grabbing some dinner and now back at the hotel to freshen up after all the hiking today, we were too exhausted to drive back to the Refuge to sit and wait for the play to start. But now that we have a better understanding of what it would be like, we're better prepared to come back again. Though next time we'll have folding chairs, a cooler with drinks, and plenty of food.

Still a great day of hiking and exploring the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Come back tomorrow for the roadtrip home. I've got a few interesting places on the agenda for the roadtrip home. See you then...

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Beyond the Alamo, Exploring the Other Four Historic Spanish Missions in San Antonio Texas

Hello friends, travelers, explorers, and geocachers. Welcome back to AwayWeGo's Geocaching Adventures blog. For today's roadtrip, we are going back to San Antonio for a trip back into early Spanish history in North America.

Let's start with a little background. Between 1528 and 1535, Spain sent Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca across the land eventually known as Texas to explore and further claim the region as Spanish Territory. Over the later years, the focus was more to the south. Then in the 1680's with the French starting to intrude from their territory to the east, Spain once again initiated explorers into Texas. In 1686, Alonzo de León led the first land expedition or entrada seeking to expel the French from their colony at Fort St. Louis.

During his fifth expedition in 1690, de León and his chaplain, Fray Damián Mazanet, founded the first Spanish mission in Texas along the Neches River in east Texas. Their successful expedition along the Camino Real Trail created the emergence of San Antonio as a stop for travelers in route from Mexico to East Texas. The first governor of the Province of Tejas, Domingo Terán de los Ríos, undertook another entrada. The Spanish government authorized additional missions among the East Texas Indians. Governor Terán was accompanied by Fray Mazanet and followed the same route as de León before veering further north and passing through the vicinity of present day San Antonio. The two men were the first to visit and name the location.

Under direction of a new governor, Martín de Alarcón in 1718, a new entrada specifically to establish a mission and presidio on the San Antonio River and to deliver supplies to the missions in east Texas began. Because of its location halfway between Spain’s missions and settlements along the Rio Grande River and in East Texas along the French Territory, San Antonio became an important outpost.

The first and most popular of these is the Mission San Antonio de Valero (Alamo) founded in 1718 by Fray Antonio de Olivares. The mission was originally established along the banks of San Pedro Creek but was soon relocated to the east bank of the San Antonio River. After a hurricane destroyed the complex in 1724, it was relocated to its current and final location. Construction began on a stone church in 1744 but it collapsed before it could be finished. Work on a third church, the one that exists today, began around 1756.

Now we all "Remember the Alamo" and its role in the Texas War of Independence. Today it receives more than 2 1/2 million tourists a year visiting from around the world. Many of those also visiting the San Antonio Riverwalk and its many shops and restaurants between The Alamo and the 1730's San Fernando Cathedral Catholic Church. You can read more about our visit to these sites in a previous blog here.

Now we get to the main reason of todays return trip to San Antonio. Most tourists don't even realize that there are a total of five Spanish missions in San Antonio just a few miles apart. There is a walking / biking trail to connect them to the main Riverwalk. However, we decided to drive between them.

Our first stop was at the Mission San Francisco de la Espada. Originally established in 1690 in East Texas, it is one of three missions relocated to San Antonio in 1731. Since water was vital to the mission and survival of the community, the Franciscan Missionaries and their Indian followers built a dam, irrigation ditch, and aqueduct from 1740 to 1745, after laying the foundations of the mission but before the construction of permanent buildings on site.

The vast walled complex consisted of the church building, the two-story priests quarters, workshops, storage facility, a friary, and Indian quarters surrounding an open courtyard. The stone rooms which served as the Indian housing were built along inside the fortified wall. By 1762 three sides were lined with these houses.

Then we drove over to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. Like Mission Espada, it was also relocated to San Antonio in 1731. In addition to its early history, the mission compound itself was constructed in a similar form, including a church and plaza surrounded by a defensive wall formed from stone Indian quarters. By 1756, the mission’s first church was completed in addition to a convent building and a stone granary.

By 1762, a second church building was under construction, though the Native American converts were still living in temporary jacal type housing. Mission San Juan was never as successful as its counterparts. One reason was that the Spanish government did not allot the mission sufficient lands to cultivate food and to engage in ranching activities. The mission was also subject to repeated Apache raids, which reportedly occurred more frequently there than at other missions.

Next up was the Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, founded by Father Antonio Margil de Jesus in 1720. Approval for its construction was granted in order to serve several Native American groups who would not settle at Mission San Antonio de Valero (the Alamo) because they refused to live with other Native American groups already residing there. As with the other missions, the primary goal of the Spanish missionaries at Mission San José was to convert local Native American groups to Christianity and to assimilate them into Spanish society.

Approximately 240 Native individuals were assigned to the mission upon its commission, but a deadly epidemic dramatically reduced the Indian population to 41 by 1739. Many different groups of Native Americans who belonged to different bands and who would have self-identified by different names settled at the mission during the eighteenth century. The Native American residents of the mission were the predominant labor source utilized in the construction of structures in the complex and were also tasked with preparing the land for agriculture and constructing the associated system of irrigation canals known as acequias.

The mission was originally founded on the east bank of the San Antonio River south of the Alamo; however, it was relocated three times. It was moved to its current location on the west side of the river some time prior to 1730. Many of the structures on site prior to the 1760's were temporary in nature.

As seen in the scale model below, which Candy is taking a photo of, you can see how the mission was enclosed behind stone walls to defend the residents from attack by hostile native groups unaffiliated with the mission. Like the others, the mission compound also included a stone friary, a granary, gristmill, and various artisan workshops, including a carpentry shop, blacksmith shop, and weaving workshop. The complex also included Indian quarters that were primarily located along the compound’s walls. These dwellings were simple limestone structures with one main room and a kitchen.

Finally we arrived at Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísma Concepción de Acuña (Mission Concepción). This Mission also had a virtual geocache as well (GC4083). Located approximately three miles south of downtown San Antonio. Another mission relocated from East Texas to San Antonio in 1731. The location was selected based on its proximity to the San Antonio River, which allowed for irrigated agriculture, and for its location near the presidio at San Antonio, which offered military protection to the mission occupants. Upon the mission’s foundation, approximately 300 Native Americans were settled on its grant. Construction of the main church building took around twenty years. It was finished in 1755.

The mission was a self-sufficient, self-contained village surrounded by irrigated agricultural lands. The mission faced challenges from its establishment. Many of the converts died of disease, and the facility was regularly threatened with attack by hostile Native American groups unaffiliated with the mission. Mission records from 1762 indicate that church officials had baptized 792 Native Americans and buried 596 in the same year. Twenty years later, there were only 77 Native Americans residing at the mission. 

Due to the church’s lack of success in achieving their mission and other political factors, the mission was secularized in 1794. At that time, there were only 38 Native Americans residing there, and the Spanish government divided the mission’s agricultural land between them. After secularization, the mission compound was abandoned and quickly fell into a state of disrepair. An 1821 description of the property indicates many of the buildings were in ruins and that the acequia system was no longer functioning. As late as 1854, cattle were housed in the church. By the late nineteenth century, concrete steps to preserve the property had been taken. It was first rededicated as a church in 1861 after restoration by the Brothers of Mary. By 1913, the Catholic Church had initiated a number of restoration projects on the property. Further preservation efforts were under taken in the mid 20th century.

In 1978, the missions became part of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, and the National Park Service in 2002. In addition to the above ground structures, the mission is also significant archeologically. Archeological investigations on the property have uncovered evidence of the original convento as well as the original adobe church from circa 1745 and the location of the former Indian quarters. There is also archeological evidence of an earlier mission-related occupation in the area south of the mission walls. Archival evidence suggests this occupation site could represent the original location of Mission San José or of the elusive and short-lived Mission San Francisco Xavier de Najera.

So I hope you've enjoyed this tour of the San Antonio Missions. If you're ever in San Antonio "Remembering the Alamo," please remember the other four as well. Besides they are WAYYY less crowded!

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