Monday, January 14, 2019

Old Hico


The north-central town of Hico might seem like just another small town that's easy to miss as you drive through it on the way you somewhere else.  But every town has a history and, like many others, this one's history is conveniently summarized on a historical marker:


The marker reads:

"This site on Honey Creek marks the beginning in 1896 of the settlement of Hico. Earliest families to locate here J. G. Barbee, James R. and Henry Fuller, Isaac Steen, Isaac and Thomas Malone. In 1860 John R. Alford, a merchant, became the first postmaster. Rocks from ruins of the mill were used in the erection of this memorial."

I like the extra detail of the old mill rocks being used as a part of the monument.  Most of historical marker are just on the standard pole so when there's more effort put into incorporating the history into the aesthetic, it's definitely appreciated.  But there's more to the town than just it's original settlement...


If you are familiar with the legendary outlaw known as "Billy the Kid" then you probably know that historians claim that he spent the majority (but not all) of his adult life in New Mexico and was killed in 1881 by lawman (and former buffalo hunter) Pat Garrett.  However...


If you've seen the movie Young Guns II you would have seen Emilio Estevez all made up as an old man claiming to be an elderly Billy the Kid who was not killed by Garrett but escaped to live out his days in Hico, TX.

What you may not know is that the film's writers did not make this up.  "Brushy" Bill Roberts was an actual person who did live in Hico and did claim to be Billy the Kid.  And the town has fully embraced his tall tale with no less than a statue and museum:

             

Just south of the town in Hamilton, TX you can pay your respects to the late Mr. Roberts, as many seem to do regularly.  His grave is adorned with mementos from fans:


Beer bottles, whiskey bottles, cigarettes, coins, stones and even bullets were left by travelers who may or may not have believed the legend.  And while we may never know the truth the town of Hico definitely believes.




Thursday, July 19, 2018

Bergfeld Park

Another trip to Tyler means another excuse to track down some more historical markers.
This time we'll stop by Bergfeld Park. 

As you probably guessed, Bergfeld Park was named after someone called "Bergfeld." Rudolph Bergfeld, to be exact...and he not only did he get a park named after him but he got his very own historical marker:

The marker reads:

     "Entrepreneur and property owner Rudolph Berfeld was a significant figure in the development of the city of Tyler. Bergfeld was born in Wisconsin and as a youth apprenticed at his uncle's jewelry business in Germany. He returned to the U.S. in 1874 and worked as a bookkeeper in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1878, Bergfeld moved to Tyler, where he opened a saloon. In 1880, he married Caroline "Lena" Pabst, moving into a house he built for her.
     By the 1880s, Bergfeld opened a second saloon and began to work in real estate and railroad ventures. In 1887, he helped to open the Grande Opera House. By the 1890s, Bergfeld had turned his interest to banking, opening Bergfeld Loan & Trust, which merged with City National Bank to create Citizens National Bank in 1900. That same year, the newly created Tyler Chamber of Commerce appointed him Director. In 1901, he opened a second Bergfeld Loan & Trust, which in 1905 consolidated with Farmers & Merchants National Bank. font-style: italic; text-align: center;"> Bergfeld's real estate activities were also notable. He actively developed property throughout the city, including the historic Azalea District. Bergfeld also sold land to the city for use as a park, which was named in his honor.
     Besides Bergfeld's positions on banking boards, he served as chair or director of several different companies and organizations. He was also a member of the Board of Education of Tyler Public Schools (1906-1924) and of fraternal organizations. Rudolph Bergfeld died in 1930 and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery. Today, he is remembered as a community leader whose business activities contributed greatly to the growth of Tyler."

The park is full of neat stuff like this dolphin statue (that I assume is a fountain during warmer weather), a tennis court, an amphitheater that is frequented by the East Texas Symphony Orchestra and, of course, playground equipment:

And like many stops along the road, this one has a double dose of historical markers:


This one recalls an old Confederate weapons factory that was near this location and reads:

     "Founded 1862 by J.C. Short and WM. S.N. Biscoe (both gunsmiths) and Col. Geo. Yarbrough. In 2-story brick main building, on 125-acre site, contracted to make for state of Texas 5,000 rifles for the arming of troops in the Civil War. After trouble obtaining men and material, plant was sold in October 1863 to the Confederate government. Short and Biscoe stayed on with the plan to continue making guns.
     With machinery and men evacuated from areas under siege in Arkansas operated under command of Lt. Col. G.H. Hill. Plant included leather shop, tin shop, dry kiln, carpenter shop. The 150 to 200 man workforce had (besides gunsmiths and guards) butchers, tanners, blacksmiths, draftsmen, carpenters, harness makers and coal burners. Guns made were .45 calibers long and short hill rifles, long and short Texas rifles, Austrian, Enfield and Tyler rifles with barrels 27 to 37 inches long. Some were equipped with steel tipped bayonets invented by Short during 3 months of 1864. Products made were 394,156 cartridges, 411 rifles and 3, canteens. 160 guns were repaired.
     Many Tyler rifles were sent to troops fighting North and East of Red River to prevent federal invasion of Texas."


Monday, June 18, 2018

J. A. Kemp Wholesale Grocery Building

In Wichita Falls you'll find a small, unassuming building in downtown that's easy to miss.  Near the Farmer's Market and Railroad Museum stands this little beauty:


This was the site of the J. A. Kemp Wholesale Grocery business.  If you step up to the front door you can see old historic pictures of the building and the surrounding area taped up behind the glass.  And, of course, the historic marker is close by as well.


It reads:

"Built in 1892, this structure housed the J. A. Kemp Wholesale Grocery business for 35 years. The building originally measured 50 by 100 feet and contained a full basement. A two-story brick addition was completed by 1901. The Industrial Supply Company occupied the building during the oil boom of the 1930s, and continued to provide petroleum products to the area for 34 years. Another addition was built onto the rear of the structure in the 1940s. The large arched windows and doors exhibit skilled masonry in sandstone. The building contains 18,750 square feet of space. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1997"

Nearby is another another famous Wichita Falls building whose diminutive nature is its biggest trait:


The "World's Littlest Skyscraper," A.K.A. the Newby-McMahon Building, began as a swindle and ended up as an odd roadside curiosity that's been embraced by the town.  The connected building looks like some kind of antiques store but I didn't have time to investigate. 

So the moral of the story is that even the little buildings can have a story behind them.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

CCC at Longhorn Cavern SP

Longhorn Cavern State Park is in Burnet County. When we visited we didn't have time to tour another cave but we did want to check out some of the impressive work done by the CCC:


This handy historical marker reads:

"Longhorn Cavern opened as a state park in 1932. From 1934 to 1942, Company 854 of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worked here to explore and develop the cavern. Using hand labor and native materials, the CCC workers built this structure in a style now known as National Park Service (NPS) Rustic. Completed by 1936, the one-story stone pavilion served as administrative offices for the park until 1967. An outside stairway leads to an observation terrace."


And from the observation tower you can get a glimpse of Falkenstein Castle.  Yes, there is, in fact, a HUGE castle in the middle of the Texas Hill Country:





Saturday, January 6, 2018

World's Richest Acre

Today's entry takes us out to East Texas where they had quite an oil boom awhile back. The HUGE amount of drilling is commemorated by the "World's Richest Acre" Park:


Which also has a State Historical Marker which reads:

      "Part of fabulous East Texas oil field discovered in 1930. This 1.195-acre tract had first production on June 17, 1937, when the Mrs. Bess Johnson-Adams & Hale No. 1 well was brought in.
Developed before well-spacing rules, this block is the most densely drilled tract in the world, with 24 wells on 10 lots owned by six different operators. This acre has produced over two and a half million barrels of crude oil; selling at $1.10 to $3.25 a barrel, it has brought more than five and a half million dollars.
     A forest of steel derricks for many years stood over the more than 1,000 wells in downtown Kilgore, marking the greatest concentration of oil wells in the history of the world. Dozens of these derricks still dot city's internationally famous skyline.
     Since 1930, the East Texas oil field has produced nearly four billion barrels of oil. It now has more than 17,000 producing wells, and geologists predict a future of at least 45 years for this "granddaddy of oil fields." Its development has attracted to the area many diversified industries and a progressive citizenship with a high degree of civic pride"


And as luck would have it we have a video for this one that we shot a few years ago:

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Market Square in Fredericksburg

Next up on our journey through the history of Texas is the town of Fredericksburg which offers some unique history. Downtown's Market Square is at the center of it: 


Their historic marker reads:

     "This Square, originally a two-block area which included what is now called the Courthouse Square, has been at the center of Fredericksburg since the city's founding in 1846. The area was still heavily forested when the town's Vereins Kirche was built in the center of Main street in 1847. The octagonal building served as a community church, meeting place, school, and refuge from possible Indian attacks. 
     A county jail was built on the Square in 1852. In 1856 a public schoolhouse was constructed and the school classes moved out of the Vereins Kirche. In 1911 the schoolhouse was converted to serve as headquarters for the volunteer fire department. 
     The Vereins Kirche, demolished in 1897, was reconstructed in 1934-35 as a pioneer memorial, serving as the county's first museum (1936) and library (1939). As part of its centennial celebration, the State of texas erected a monument on Market Square in honor of Baron Ottfried Hans Freiherr Von Meusebach, whose colonization efforts led to the founding of Fredericksburg. In 1987 the city purchased the property from the school district. The Market Square has served as a gathering place for special community activities and has remained a focal point of the city."

The park contains Pioneer Garden, including this working waterwheel (a great demonstration of good ol' hydro-power):


You can also find the "Lasting Friendship" monument by J. Hester which commemorates the signing of the peace treaty between the German settlers of the town and the Comanche Nation (historians can  feel free to debate how "lasting" the "friendship" was):



Thursday, December 28, 2017

Morris Sheppard Dam

Today we're going to head out to picturesque Possum Kingdom Lake to brush up on our local history with a side dish of geology.  It's a man made lake in Palo Pinto County and is enjoyed by fisherman, campers and outdoor enthusiasts all year round.

Today's historical marker commemorates the impressive Morris Sheppard Dam at Possum Kingdom.  Construction lasted from 1936 to 1941.

The marker reads:


     "Built in response to disastrous Brazos River flooding, Morris Sheppard Dam and Possum Kingdom Reservoir were early attempts at water conservation and flood control in Texas. The U.S. Government funded $4,500,000 of the three-year, $8,500,000 project through the Works Progress Administration, a Depression era recovery agency. Named for U.S. Senator Morris Sheppard and completed in 1941, the dam is 2,740 feet long and 190 feet high. Nine spillway gates allow for the passage of flood waters and drift material. Power generating facilities consist of two 11,250-killowatt units which serve much of the surrounding area. 

     The creation of Possum Kingdom Lake from the impounded waters of Morris Sheppard Dam sent bridges, roads and an entire town underwater. Recovery was initially slow, but quickly picked up after World War II with the establishment of major fishing lodges, camping areas and other recreational facilities. The growth and success of the area is a tribute to the spirit of the surrounding communities which continue to benefit from the project's original purposes of water conservation and supply, and hydroelectric power generation."

And on our last visit we shot some video about the lakes geology. Check it out: