Saturday, May 22, 2021

2019-06-30: Geocaching My Way to Munday, Texas via a Couple Cemeteries and a Ghost Town

Hello friends, travelers, geocachers and visitors. Welcome to another one of AwayWeGo's Geocaching Adventure roadtrip blog posts. Today's story is another one of my Sunday drives from Killeen, Texas to my work home of Munday, Texas. Along the way, I'll be finding some geocaches and some history to share with you along the Texas backroads. As always, the passenger seat is open in the GeoJeep. Saddle up, grab you cowboy hat and gun (this is Texas), and let's go!

My first stop wasn't very far down the road. Just a quick roadside geocache (GC1G339) in Kempner to start the day off. Nothing here to see, just one for the numbers.

Up next though was a cemetery geocache down a very rural county road. This one hadn't been found in nearly three years. Center Cemetery (GC1HECB) is located east of Lometa and was established in 1866. C.C. Carter was a Private in the Lampasas County Minute Men Confederate States Army. He survived the war but was killed by Indians a year later. I made it harder than it was because of the previous DNF's, but the cache was there and I found it after all this time.

And then there's the Ivy Family. Imagine this family showing up on Family Feud! Only one guy smiling, top row center. Life was rough back then!

Two more nearby, very rural, very lonely geocaches which hadn't been found in nearly five years. I gave them a shot, but they were indeed gone. (GC1CKQ5, GC19407)

Moving right along and passing plenty until I get to the northside of I-20, I finally make a stop for another geocache off US-183 between the towns of Cisco and Eastland. The Bedford Cemetery (GC1K7YT), according to the Find-A-Grave website contains just 19 burials dating from 1897 to 1966. This is an old forgotten very rural cemetery that most of the time goes unmaintained. That was the condition in which I found it. Many of the headstones barely stuck out above the weeds.

Next up just a little further north were three of my favorite things in a geocache: a cemetery, and old church, and some history. Oh and add in a really cool name too! Gunsight Community (GC1KEEY) had all these. From the historical marker: "Records indicate that Gunsight existed on a wagon road from Fort Griffin to Stephenville in 1858. Settlement of the town, however, did not occur until the 1870's. The first recorded burial here was that of Lewis McCleskey in 1877. Gunsight developed as a stage stop and by 1880 contained a post office, school, two churches, grist mill, general store, and a cotton gin. The local economy, sustained by cotton farming and ranching, was boosted by an area oil boom in the 1920's. The town began a steady decline after World War II and today consists of a few houses, a few buildings, and this cemetery."

Gunsight Church Buildings

You can see from the top of the page that I had to get out my black cowboy hat for a photo at the Gunsight Cemetery sign. Unfortunately my selfies were too goofy to include here so you get to see the TB logo on the GeoJeep. One of the interesting graves at the cemetery was this one of several made from stacked stones. Only this one has a tree growing out of it. Hopefully from the foot of the grave and not the head!

Next up was actually a surprise. In the town of Breckenridge, Texas was the Garden Club Park. Within the park were all these birdhouses of various sizes, shapes, and colors. One of them contained a recently hidden geocache (GC86QB9). It had been there for nearly two months with only one unsuccessful attempt. I can tell you it was a little difficult, but I think I just made it more difficult than it should have been. But I DID find the correct birdhouse and stamped the nice clean logsheet for the FTF!! So excited for being FTF, I forgot to take a photo of some birdhouses. Maybe next time...

Then there was the Woodson Cemetery geocache in Woodson, Texas (GC38N75). Now normally I might give you some history about the cemetery. But in this case it's about the history the cache hider has given us in the geocache description. We all know about the Japanese bombing at Pearl Harbor in World War II. But did you also know that Japan managed to bomb to places on the United States mainland? Woodson, Texas was one of those places and the other not too far away also in Texas. It happened on March 24 & 25, 1945. A very interesting and kinda funny story actually. So I urge you to click the GC# link in this paragraph which will take you to the cache page to read "the rest of the story" as Paul Harvey used to say.

And that was it for this Sunday's little road trip geocaching adventure. I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to any comments you have here or on my social media posts. That lets me know you're out there. See you again next week...

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Exploring the History of Gilliland, Texas and is it a Ghost Town

Hello and welcome back to another edition of AwayWeGo's Geocaching Adventures. This is one of those blog posts that is a little different than my usual roadtrip stories. After leaving North Carolina, my next construction project brought me to this little town of Gilliland, Texas. For the two months I was here, I got to explore some of the area and take a look into Gilliland's past through some of the abandoned buildings. 

I don't know if I would call this a ghost town or not since at best it reached 120 residents at one time. Now it's down to just 25. But with some of the creepy abandoned buildings, I'll let you decide.

An old abandoned farm house.

There were no Geocaches here for me to find, but I did manage to hide a few myself to bring other Geocachers to this small community to discover what I've found.

Gilliland is located on Farm Road 1756 some seventy miles southwest of Wichita Falls in north central Knox County. The first Anglo-Saxon to arrive to this area was probably was a surveyor (like myself) named Captain Randolph B. Marcy who was commissioned to look for a suitable site for a wild Indian reservation. In 1870 Indians were making forays taking food or spoils or just pillaging. In 1871 the first settlers, who began arriving in covered wagons seeking new opportunities, called the community Coyote on the land between the north and south forks of the Wichita River. Wagon trains brought families who lived in tents, two room picket houses, wagons, and half-dugouts. 

Settlement came in waves by men mostly of European culture until the arrival of a nearby railroad which paved the way for a population explosion. Over the years the area gained a mix of settlers from various locations, including several Norwegian families from Bosque County, who arrived in 1890. Stores, homes, churches and schools sprang up to provide the settlers needs.

The Gilliland school district was established on May 1, 1892, and school began in 1895 with Miss Oma Acker as the first teacher. Over the years several schools were consolidated with the Gilliland district after the now abandoned school building (GC8AN63) was erected in the 1930's. Gilliland's new school featured numerous classrooms, a cafeteria, and a gymnasium that doubled as an auditorium for plays and assemblies. In 1948 its high school was transferred to Munday, leaving Gilliland with only a grade school. It continued until finally closing its doors in 1975.

The Abandoned Gilliland School Gymnasium / Auditorium

District judge W. A. Gilliland became the town’s namesake when the opening of a post office in 1907 required an official name. In 1910 Luther Burgess, Jake Cure, and W. A. Cure built a cotton gin just outside of Gilliland. The gin was modernized in 1936 and proved to be highly productive. Leading settlers included O. M. Olson, who operated a post office in his home in 1907; F. B. McGuire, owner of McGuire's General Store; and longtime postmaster J. S. Cook, owner of three businesses between 1926 and 1934.

Gilliland had an estimated population of fifty in 1925. By 1947 it reported 120 residents and four businesses. In 1971 it had three businesses, and from 1971 to 1990 its population was reported as 103. By 2000 the population had dropped to twenty-five.

Today the community consists of the ruins of the 1930 school, grain silos and a few former businesses being reclaimed by nature – although the community center is in good repair and still in use for meetings and a voter polling place.

The Gilliland Cemetery (GC8AN86) is a well kept still in use cemetery with over 330 interments to date. The one grave that stuck out here is for a man named Liberty Justice who died in 1925. I tried researching this man for a few hours but didn't come up with anything but his spouse and children's names.

So while working here in Gilliland, I'll be living about 20 miles south in the town of Munday. Over the next few weeks I'll be bringing you stories about of my weekend roadtrips between here and Killeen and all the places I've discovered in between.

I leave you with a few more photos from Gilliland:

The Abandoned Gilliland School Gymnasium / Auditorium

Swing-set behind the school and abandoned house.

East-West Hallway of Abandoned School

Front Entrance of Abandoned Gilliland School

Front of Abandoned Gilliland School
You can get a look of the walled entrance which prevented cows from wandering inside.

Abandoned gas station with Esso gas pumps.

Abandoned General Store

Abandoned Former Store or Garage?

Side Door of Abandoned Gilliland School

Abandoned Farm House

Abandoned Old Ford Trucks left in field.

Inside Abandoned Farm House

Abandoned Farm House

Abandoned gas station with Esso gas pumps.

Hwy 267 going south to Munday

Saturday, May 1, 2021

2019-06-20: Roadtrip Back to Texas Day 3 Geocaching in Mississippi With Elvis, Finding Abandoned Churches, Historic Theater, And More.

Welcome back to Day 3 of my geocaching roadtrip back to Texas. Today I hope to finish up Alabama and complete my way across Mississippi, perhaps even into Louisiana. But we'll just have to see. I'm still pretty tired after yesterdays long geocaching adventure. The sun is just coming up, we gotta get started. Grab your gear and a cup of coffee, the GeoJeep is waiting!

Checking out of the hotel in Scottsboro, I quickly make my way up to Huntsville and jump on I-565. Breezing through Madison County, since I already had it, I stop for a quick guardrail park and grab geocache for Limestone County (GC1TFEH). Crossing the Tennessee River into Decatur, I quickly exit the highway into a Jack-in-the-Box for breakfast and a parking lot cache to pickup Morgan County (GC81F3J). In Lawrence County I stopped for two more quick finds, one in a parking lot (GC5QYQ5) and the other a puzzle in a cemetery (GC32AXA). I'm in such a hurry mode trying to put miles behind me I forgot to take pictures! Entering Franklyn County I stop at the first roadside geocache along Hwy 24 near this historical marker for the town of Newburg (GC5T9K7).

Crossing the state line into Mississippi, my first county find was in Tishomingo County at the Locust Tree Cemetery (GC8028T). Once again I forgot a photo! Next door in Prentiss County, I stopped at the Marietta Volunteer Fire Department for another quick geocache (GC290WG).

Driving down the Natchez Trace Parkway into Lee County, I stop at the Twentymile Bottom scenic pull-off for a virtual geocache (GC8F1D). The historical marker there reads: "Twentymile Bottom, now cultivated, was typical of the many low areas along streams through which the Natchez Trace passed. In 1812 Rev?? stopped at Old Factors Stand, near this bottom, and wrote this account of bottomland travel:"

"I have this day swam my horse 5 times, bridged one creek, forded several others, besides the swamp we had to wade through. At night we had a shower of rain - took up my usual lodging on the ground in company with several ??."

I replaced the answers to the questions of the virtual cache so as not to give them away. I do leave you with this scenic view photo from atop the bottom!

In the center of Lee County you'll find Tupelo, MS. Whenever I hear of Tupelo I think of two things: 1) the home of wino philosopher Mudbone, a created character and alter-ego of Richard Pryor and 2) the birthplace of Elvis Presley. While you can't pay a visit to Mudbone's home, you can visit Elvis's birthplace. Plus there's also a geocache there (GC2YJEY).

At the Elvis Birthplace, Chapel, Museum and Park, you'll find the small 2-room house built by his father, grandfather, and uncle. The Presley family didn't have much and they had to move out of this house when Elvis was just a few years old for lack of payment. They left Tupelo when Elvis was 13 years old. There's even a replica of a typical outhouse found in a poor southern town. Usually shared by multiple houses along the street and more of a public bathroom.

One of many statues and displays, this one depicts the young Elvis with his guitar along with the older entertainer and showman wearing his famous cape.

The original Assembly of God Church building, moved to this museum site, is where the Presley family attended church. It was here where Elvis learned to play the guitar and cultivate his Southern Gospel heritage.

Continuing westbound along US-278 into Pontotoc County, I made another quick parking lot cache find (GC2Z18N). Then for Lafayette County, I stopped for the Midway Cemetery cache (GCHV91) east of Oxford. A quick look around at the headstones and there was one grave that stood out for a fallen soldier.

Making my way across the state, Panola County was next up. And for a few minutes I became a Panolian as I looked for the geocache hidden at the local newspaper (GC13T4F).

Arriving in Quitman County I stopped for a couple of geocaches that were placed on private property. These homeowners were all too happy to open up their front yard to geocachers (GC478T5) and share their little village they created. There's a couple of cabins that are full size and some not quite sized. Just a whole bunch of fun creative stuff.

Continuing westbound on US-278 and still in Quitman County but on the way to the next, I caught a glimpse of an old abandoned church with a graveyard out the corner of my eye just calling out to me causing me to make a u-turn and explore further. After I parked I checked my phone and there just happened to be a geocache hidden there also! (GC3NGGM) But as luck would have it, there were some DNF's and I didn't have any success in finding it either. But I did walk away happy still because I love finding these old abandoned places.

After spending a couple of hours researching for this blog post, all I was able to come up with is that it was called the Pawpaw Church and Cemetery. There is also a Pawpaw Cemetery to the west in Clarksdale. These were predominately black cemeteries and reading many old newspaper articles, they had fallen into neglect. While the church itself has long been abandoned, it appears as though the graveyard has been taken care of recently.

Sadly I regret now only taking a photo of one headstone. The findagrave website only shows a few listings for this cemetery and no photos at all. The one headstone I did photograph wasn't even listed. So I added the name, dates, and the pic. I think I'm gonna want to go back and take more pictures.

I also found out that the "pawpaw" refers to the pawpaw fruit tree in the area. Similar to an apple or pear, but it has a vanilla taste to it. Supposed to be delicious. You won't find it at your local produce stand because it doesn't stay ripe very long. Therefore it usually just grows in the wild and has to be eaten right off the tree in the fall.

Next up in Coahoma County was another of the Mississippi Blues Trail historical markers and a cache (GC2KDJ6). Rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm & blues pioneer Ike Turner began his career playing blues and boogie-woogie piano in Clarksdale. Turner was born less than a mile southwest of this site, at 304 Washington Avenue in the Riverton neighborhood, on November 5, 1931. In his pre-teen years he got a job here at the Hotel Alcazar, where he operated the elevator and did janitorial work. Turner later rose to fame as a deejay, producer, and leader of the Kings of Rhythm band and the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.

What caught my eye was the old building and the Paramount Theater sign across the street. The original sign above it carved in stone says Theatre Marion. A December 1918 newspaper stated that the "Marion Theatre is one of the largest and most handsome in the state, having only recently been completed." The theater featured vaudeville shows and traveling productions. "Glorious Betsy" was the first talking picture shown there in November 22, 1928. The Paramount Theater, as it became known by then, had closed in the mid-70's. The facade with the sign actually leads to the theater entrance in the alley to either the building on the left or out of frame to the right, which is the actual theater / auditorium and dressing rooms.

Now somebody done left the water running and there's this big river flowing by in my way going westbound. Looks like I'm gonna have to drive south to find a bridge to cross this Mighty Mississippi!

Still following US-278, I enter into Bolivar County and a tiny town called Alligator, MS. A quick roadside guardrail cache (GC4FAC3) for the county and I keep moving. Then I jump over to the backroad of MS Hwy-1 which runs parallel and closer to the river. I spot another old church north of Rosedale and it also has a geocache hidden nearby. The old country church (GC32W1N) is called Saint Paul's Church Complete. And that is about all the information I can find on it!

Down and to the east of Rosedale I go to check out this old cemetery and find another cache (GC34HYD). At New Hope Cemetery there are just over 100 interments dating as far back as 4-year old Willie Johnson in 1903.

From there I continued south on MS-1 for quick roadside park and grab caches in Washington County (GC2VYC1), Issaquena County (GC2TT6V), and Sharkey County (GC3936F) for the last in Mississippi. By now the sun has set but I continue on down to a hotel in Vicksburg for the night. That was it for this Day 3 Thursday.

I'm gonna go ahead and include Day 4 Friday here as the last paragraph. I drove nearly 500 miles in 9 hours through Louisiana all the way to Killeen, Texas. Aside for gas and food, I only made 2 geocaching stops. The first was at the Clear Creek Chapel and Cemetery for Red River Parrish (GC1Z8N1). The other was at the Prude Cemetery for De Soto County (GC2JFKA).

Thank you for joining me. I really do appreciate the company on these long roadtrips. Please feel free to share these stories with your family and friends. You can follow and share me through these links to the various social media platforms:  Facebook,  MeWe,  Parler,  Gab,  Twitter,  Instagram,  MAGAbook,  and  Reddit. Follow us through any or all of these platforms and whichever you choose, please leave your comments. We'd love to hear from you and it encourages us to continue sharing our adventures.