Saturday, May 28, 2022

2020-11-14: Visiting the Kreische Brewery Monument Hill and the German Pioneers of Texas History

Todays little road trip took us up to the Kreische Brewery Monument Hill state historical sites in La Grange, Texas. Not only the site of a German immigrant's home and business, but the final resting place of 53 Texans who were killed in the continued skirmishes with Mexico after the Texas Independence. So let's go for a ride and take a walk through history. 

Kinda hard to drive straight there without stopping for a few other geocaches along the way. Our first stop was for an old geocache that has been around since February 2001 (GC29B). The geocache container was a second mailbox a half mile up along a geocachers driveway painted in the colors of the Texas state flag.

The next three geocaches were quick cemetery caches. The Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery (GC4GW6K) has over 1400 interments dating back to 1899. The Lissie Community Cemetery (GC4773G) is a small but well kept community cemetery with less than 150 interments dating back to the early 1890's. And the Lakeside Cemetery (GC47W3A) in Eagle Lake which has over 2600 interments which begin all the way back to the 1860's.

And then there's those unexpected crazy roadside things that make you do a u-turn and snap a quick photo! So here's this giant metal skeleton, probably left over from Halloween, now decorating a Christmas tree. The business is Fusion by Chris Vaughn. I checked out their website and he's a fabricator / designer of some really cool and unique home décor pieces.

Arriving at the Kreische Brewery Monument Hill state historical sites in La Grange, Texas, we stop first at the Monument Hill Tomb as seen at the top of this page. Even after the Republic of Texas won its independence from Mexico, Texans continued to battle in skirmishes with Mexico in continuing border disputes.

Meeting at great oak tree in downtown La Grange, Captain Nicholas Dawson gathered a company of 54 volunteers to help as Texas fought Mexico in and around San Antonio. On September 18, 1842, Dawson and his men made their way to join other Texas forces at the battle of Salado Creek near San Antonio. Along the way they were intercepted by Mexican troops and fighting ensued. Later known as the Dawson massacre, the conflict leaving 36 Texans dead -- including Dawson. Their remains are entombed in a granite crypt on a bluff overlooking the town. (GC3XF1C)

To prevent other attacks, President Sam Houston ordered General Somervell to march about 750 men towards the border. Upon reaching the Rio Grande, the general stopped the men from going forward due to a shortage of supplies. However Colonel Fisher and a group of 300 men continued on down towards the Mexican city of Mier to look for supplies. Fighting started but Fisher's men were outnumbered and eventually surrendered. The remaining men were then marched to prisons in southern Mexico.

During the forced march, the captured Texans managed to escape into the mountains at Hacienda Salado. There, many died without food, water, and shelter. While five managed to returned to the Republic, the remaining 176 men were recaptured. It was decided that every 10th man would be executed. To determine this, each prisoner would draw a bean. If they drew a white bean they live. If they drew a black bean they die. After writing letters home, the condemned men were lined up, blindfolded, and executed as depicted in the mural below. Known as the Black Bean Episode, the event cost 17 men their lives.

To ensure that these men were properly honored and interred, the La Grange community selected this hill for their final resting place in 1848 in a sandstone vault. The Kreische family did its best to care for the grave during their ownership of the property, but it suffered from a lack of formal oversight. In 1905, the state authorized acquisition of .36 acres here and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas raised funds for a new cover for the tomb in 1933. During the 1936 Centennial celebration, the 48-foot shellstone shaft with a stylized art-deco influenced mural was erected to mark the mass grave more prominently.

As for the Kreische family, German immigrant Heinrich Kreische (1821-1882) purchased nearly 175 acres of property in Fayette County in 1849. A stonemason by trade, he built a house, a barn, and smokehouse here on the high south bluff above the Colorado River.

In the 1860's, Kreische began brewing bluff beer near his homesite. Situated on the spring-fed creek, the brewery (GC1D2BQ) included an elaborate tunnel system to provide temperature control for the brewing process. Bluff Beer was sold throughout central Texas and was produced until 1884, two years after Kreische died in a work related accident. The Kreische complex stands as a reminder of German heritage and culture in this region of the state.

Our last stop of the day was a virtual geocache of European settlement history in Texas (GCGG9Q). The Wendish migration to Texas was impelled, in part, by the Prussian insistence that the Wends (or Sorbs, as they called themselves) speak and use the German language, even to the extent of Germanizing their names. The oppression of the Wendish minority extended to working conditions, with Wends being denied the right to do the skilled labor for which they were trained. If they were hired at all, they received less pay than their German counterparts. Prussian agrarian reform laws of 1832 dispossessed the Wends of their real property so they were, in effect, vassals to their Prussian lords.

But most intolerable was the requirement that the Lutheran Wends join the Evangelical Reform churches in one state-regulated Protestant body. The Wends believed this action would dilute their pure Lutheran faith and, rather than accept this decree, they made plans to immigrate to the New World.

In December of 1854, an English sailing vessel, the Ben Nevis, docked in Galveston harbor loaded with some 500 immigrants from Lusatia, an area in eastern Germany comprising parts of Saxony and Prussia. These Slavic pioneers who were to settle in Lee County made the journey from their homeland, not in search of prosperity, but rather in search of religious liberty and the right to speak their Wendish tongue.

On the 150th anniversary of Serbin, Texas, this monument was erected by the church and cemetery. The historical marker states: "Dedicated to the loving memory of those lost during the 1854 Wendish migration from Germany to Serbin. From September 10, 1854, until the dedication of the church cemetery on March 17, 1855, eighty-three men, women, and children perished in route to this place. Most were buried at sea."

Well that was it for this little road trip through Texas history. Better than sitting in a classroom reading from a book, getting out and visiting the small rural towns along America's backroads is very interesting to me and hopefully to you too. Thank you for riding along.

To follow along on our travels and keep up with my latest blogs, you may do so here of course. But also by using your favorite of these social media platforms: FacebookMeWeGabRedditParlorTwitterRVillageGETTR and Instagram. These all link directly to my profile. Again, please feel free to comment and / or share.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

2020-11-01: Visiting Some History, Geocaching and a Pirate on Galveston Island, Texas

After our first week in West Columbia, Texas, we had gotten settled in at the Plantation Oaks Resort RV Park. And we had a week at the new jobsite up in Guy, Texas to begin our next solar construction project. Today, however, was a fun day! We drove over to Galveston Island for some history, some geocaching, and to find a pirate. So who's up for an adventure? Let's go see what we can find!

Our first stop down along the Gulf of Mexico coastline was in Freeport at the mouth of the Brazos River. There was a geocache there called Bryan Beach 4x4 (GCEA24). And when in the GeoJeep, it just calls out to go and find it! Well we did check out the beach but the geocache was nowhere to be found. First hidden way back it 2003 and I guess it frequently washed out to sea. It is now archived since the cache owner has gotten tired of replacing it.

We did spot something sticking up out of the water though. Looks to be a mast from a sailboat. I wonder what happened there. Hmmm, could be an interesting hiding spot for a geocache of the Difficulty 5 / Terrain 5 category!

From the northeast end of Galveston Island at the Fort San Jacinto Historic Point, you can see some of the many cargo ships that come and go through the port.

Also at the Fort San Jacinto Historical Point was our next geocache (GC8V700). There were a lot of muggles (non-cachers) walking by and huge rocks making for many hiding places. I didn't spend much time looking because of those things and ended up DNF'ing that one too.

This part of Galveston Island has had many forts since the early 1800's. Basic Spanish and French forts were established from 1816-1818. Those were replaced by small sand forts and batteries by the Republic of Texas from 1836 to 1844. After Texas statehood and the start of the Civil War, the Confederate Army built sandbag breastworks and an earthen battery named Fort Point in 1863. All traces of these early fortifications were destroyed by the strong winds and tides which regularly reshaped the sandy tip of the island.

A more substantial fortification called Fort San Jacinto was built here by the U.S. Army in 1897. After the fort was destroyed in the hurricane of 1900, the seawall was extended northward in 1921 to protect this area. The fort was rebuilt and new gun emplacements were added for the defense of Galveston during World War II. The fort was decommissioned in 1956 and only one concrete base of the 90-mm guns remains today.

Moving in a few blocks away from the coastline to find some of the historical buildings on Galveston Island, there's the Sacred Heart Church. The earliest Catholic services in the Galveston area were conducted in 1838. The Sacred Heart Church was established as the fourth church on the island in 1884. The original building was destroyed in 1900 Hurricane. This current building was constructed in 1903-04.

Next door to the church is the Bishop's Palace and a virtual geocache (GCH1CG). The Bishop's Palace matched the architecture of the original Sacred Heart Church which was swept away in the Great Storm. Construction lasted from 1886 to 1893 and was built as a private residence for Walter Gresham, a politician-turned-lobbyist during the mansion-building boom of the late-1800's. He had it made of Texas limestone accented with gray granite, pink granite, and red sandstone. This, combined with steel framing, helped it weather the Storm when so many thousands of other buildings were swept into the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1923 it was purchased by the Catholic Diocese of Galveston to become the official residence of the bishop. But only one ever lived there. Reverend Christopher Byrne stayed there until his death in 1950. In 1963, the Catholic Church opened it to the public, making it the first of the Galveston mansions to be turned into a museum.

The St Paul United Methodist Church was founded in the late 1860's and can trace it's history through two earlier Methodist congregations in Galveston. A second larger church building replaced the smaller first structure. This third and current sanctuary was constructed in 1902 to replace the previous which was also lost to the 1900 Hurricane.

The Isaac H. and Henrietta Kempner House. Isaac Herbert Kempner, at age 21 and the eldest of Harris Kempner's eight children, took over his fathers many businesses after his death in 1894. Isaac became an important businessman in his own right and after the 1900 Hurricane demonstrated exceptional civic leadership in his efforts to rebuilt Galveston's entire infrastructure. From 1917 to 1919 he served as Galveston city mayor.

In 1904, the Kempner's purchased three lots and in 1906 their two-story neoclassical style home was completed. In 1924 additional lots became available and a concrete and stucco wing was added. The house remained in the Kempner family until 1970.

The Carl and Hilda Biehl House. Carl Christian Biehl immigrated from Germany in 1905 and founded a shipping company on Galveston. In 1915, Biehl purchased one of the damaged homes and cleared the site to build a new structure for his family. Designed by Anton F. Korn Jr and completed in 1916. The construction consisted of brick and concrete to stand up to the hurricanes and strong winds common to Galveston. The house remained in the Biehl family until 2008.

The William and Adele Skinner House. In 1895, local banker William Skinner and his wife Adele bought this parcel for a home for their young family. The two-story Queen Anne style house was completed in 1896 and remains as one of the more ornate residential designs. This structure was one of the few survivors of the 1900 Hurricane.

This next house didn't have a historical marker and I couldn't find any history other than it was built in 1965. But it does fit in well with the other homes.

The last house I want to share with you is of the notorious pirate Jean Lafitte who settled here in 1817 with his buccaneers and ships, under Mexican flags, continued his assault against Spanish shipping in the Gulf.

Here he built his home, Maison Rouge (Red House), which was part of his fort, and upper story was pierced for cannon. It was luxuriously furnished with booty from captured ships. Leaving Galveston in 1821, upon demand of the United States, he burned his home, fort, and whole village, then sailed to Yucatan.

The walls that remain were built in 1870 over the old cellars and foundations of Maison Rouge. I'm curious as to what remains below the foundations and in the cellar. It would be cool to go down there and have a look around. This is also a virtual geocache.

That was it for our quick little return trip to Galveston Island. We visited here a few years ago in November of 2015 when it was a winter ghost town and most everything was closed.

Back on the mainland and headed to the RV Park in West Columbia, we made a short detour for another historical virtual geocache (GC2E13) in the town of Hitchcock, Texas. In an effort to defend U. S. coasts and shipping lanes against German submarine activity during World War II, the U. S. Navy established bases to house huge lighter-than-air (LTA) craft, also known as blimps were uniquely qualified for coastal defense and observation.

Because of its site on the flat Texas coastal plain, Hitchcock was chosen as the location for one of the nine new blimp bases. Construction began in 1942, and the facility was commissioned on May 22, 1943. The resulting military personnel build-up caused an economic boom in the community.

The Hitchcock base consisted of forty-seven buildings, including a massive hangar to house six blimps, administration buildings, warehouses, living quarters, and recreational facilities. Aircraft from the base, in addition to their regular patrolling duties, were also used to assist with hurricane relief efforts and war bond drives.

In 1944, after the blimps were no longer needed, the Hitchcock base was redesignated for other purposes. Following the war some of the buildings were used by private interests, and after hurricane damage in 1961 the blimp hangar was razed. All that remain are the towering hanger door supports.

Thanks for riding along today. Remember if you happen to find yourself on Galveston Island, there's more to see than the boardwalk on the beach.

To follow along on our travels and keep up with my latest blogs, you may do so here of course. But also by using your favorite of these social media platforms: FacebookMeWeGabRedditParlorTwitterRVillageGETTR and Instagram. These all link directly to my profile. Again, please feel free to comment and / or share.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

2020-10-21: Geocaching Through History in Northeast Texas and an International Border

On this last day of our NC-TX roadtrip, I only had one goal for today, a bucket list item! That was to finally make it to the last surviving border marker between the United States and the newly formed COUNTRY of the Republic of Texas. We did stop to see a few other historical sites along the way also. This would finally wrap up our fourth state in four days. So without hesitation, climb aboard the GeoJeep and let's go for a drive! 

So we ended day 3 yesterday in SW Arkansas taking the backroads to pickup some new counties. The last caching county needed along our route was Lafayette County which we added first thing this morning by stopping at the Buckner Memorial Cemetery (GC38VDQ). And again resisting the urge to spend a lot of time looking around, I quickly found the geocache, signed the log, and continued into Texas.

Passing through Texarkana, we picked up US-59 and drove south towards the International Border Marker. After about an hour we stopped in historic Jefferson, Texas for a couple of virtual geocaches and a look around (GCC0AA, GCGAT8). Named in honor of President Thomas Jefferson, this town was loaded with history and had a lot to see.

The first stop around town was at the Jay Gould Railroad car. From the historical marker: "Built in 1888 by the American Car & Foundry Company of St Charles, MO, this was the private railroad car of Jay Gould (1836-1892). A native of New York, Gould was a noted financier and owner the of numerous railroad companies, including the Union Pacific, the Missouri Pacific, the International & Great Northern, and the Texas Pacific. This car, named the "Atalanta," remained in the Gould family ownership until the 1930's.

"Elaborately designed and elegantly furnished, the Atalanta features two observation rooms, two bath's, a butlers pantry, kitchen, dining room, and office. Interior materials include mahogany and curly maple woodwork, silver bathroom accessories, and crystal light fixtures.

"Following Jay Gould's death in 1892, the car was used by his son, George Jay Gould (President of the Texas and Pacific Railroad), and his wife, actress Edith Kingston. The car later was brought to Texas from St Louis and used as a family residence during the 1930's east Texas oil boom. Purchased in 1953 by the Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club, it was moved to this site in 1954."

Captain William Perry was among the first settlers of Jefferson, arriving in 1840. Through his shipping business, he played an early part of the growth and establishment of Jefferson as an inland port. He bought and developed tracts of land in the area, becoming quite wealthy in the process. One of his developments was the Excelsior House. The oldest hotel in East Texas, the wood frame part was built in 1850's and the brick wing was added in 1864. Among its famous guests were Presidents Ulysses S Grant and Rutherford B Hayes, and poet Oscar Wilde. Added into the National Register of Historic Places, it was restored in 1963-64 by the Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club..

Below is the Kahn Saloon. Built during the early 1860's, this structure served as a boarding house and as a mercantile before opening as the Kahn Saloon in 1900. Temperance movement leader Carrie Nation was denied entrance here during one of her campaigns through Texas. The popular gathering place was closed after local prohibitionists won a 1907 election.

Jefferson native Marion Try Slaughter launched his career as country music singer Vernon Dalhart at the Kahn Saloon. Starred later for operas in New York, and recorded for Edison's talking machine. His rendition of "The Prisoner's Song" (1924) was the first folk ballad to sell over a million records, and led to rise of country music as an American art form. Within ten years he earned and lost a fortune, later living in obscurity.

One last item of interest in the history of Jefferson, Texas. Established by Boyle and Scott about 1875, Jefferson became home to the first ice factory in Texas. They sold ice at ten cents per pound. B. J. Benefield delivered the ice to their customers. The plant was later moved to Harrisburg.

Back on the road down to my bucket list geocache (GCTBR8). "In the early 1700's, France and Spain began disputing their New World international boundary that included this area; each nation claimed what is now Texas. When the U.S. purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, the boundary was still in dispute. Leaders agreed to a neutral area between the Arroyo Hondo and the Sabine River, and the 1819 Adams-Onís Treaty formally defined the border. When Texas became a Republic in 1836, it appointed a joint commission with the United States to survey and mark the established boundary from the Gulf of Mexico up the Sabine River and on to the Red River. John Forsyth represented the U.S., and Memucan Hunt represented Texas in the work, which proved to be long and difficult.

"The survey crew began the demarcation process on May 20, 1840 at the Gulf, placing a 36-foot pole in the middle of a large earthen mound. Proceeding north, they placed eight-foot posts denoting the number of miles from the 32nd parallel. Upon reaching the parallel, they placed a granite marker on the west bank of the Sabine River. From that point, they traveled due north to the Red River, completing their work in late June 1841.

"As a result of erosion, the first granite marker on the Sabine fell into the river long ago, but a second granite marker on the northward path of the surveyors had been placed here to mark the north-south meridian. This is the only known marker remaining, and it is believed to be the only original international boundary marker within the contiguous U.S. Today, the border between Texas and Louisiana follows the Sabine River to the 32nd parallel, at which point it connects to the boundary established by Hunt and Forsyth. The Texas Historical Foundation purchased this site to provide public access to the early boundary marker."

So if you're like me and one that stops to read historical markers, this one should be on your bucket list. And as a surveyor, I thought this was especially cool that it being the ONLY one like it in the U.S.

That was all the stops for today. We continued the rest of the way to Killeen for a couple of days before heading to West Columbia. There we start our next project and will be in that area for a few months. Soon I'll be bringing you our adventures from SE Texas. See you back again soon...

To follow along on our travels and keep up with my latest blogs, you may do so here of course. But also by using your favorite of these social media platforms: FacebookMeWeGabRedditParlorTwitterRVillageGETTR and Instagram. These all link directly to my profile. Again, please feel free to comment and / or share.