Friday, October 21, 2016

Audie Murphy Memorial Park

Awhile back we visited the Audie Murphy Museum in Greenville but that's not the only tribute in East Texas to the World's Most Decorated Soldier.  He made a big impression in the area and there are roads named after him and statues erected in his honor.  Not to mention, Audie Murphy Memorial Park in Celeste, TX which we stumbled across recently:


It's a small park maintained locally with a nice garden, a few flags, and, of course, a historical marker.


The marker reads:

     "Most decorated soldier in World War II. Born 4.5 miles south, June 20, 1924, sixth of nine children of tenant farmers Emmett and Josie Killian Murphy. Living on various farms, Audie Murphy went to school through the 8th grade in Celeste -- considered the family's home town. He had to quit school to help support the family, acquiring marksmanship skills by hunting to provide food. On his 18th birthday, after being rejected by the Marines because of his size (5 feet, 7 inches; 130 pounds), he enlisted in the Army while working in Greenville.
     For unusual courage and bravery, he received 24 decorations, including the U. S. Congressional Medal of Honor; the French Legion of Honor, Chevalier: the Distinguished Service Cross; and a Silver Star.
     After the war he became a successful actor, his most prominent role portraying himself in the film "To Hell and Back," his war career autobiography.
     Following his untimely death in a plane crash in Virginia, May 28, 1971, and burial in Arlington National Cemetery, the U. S. Congress paid him a final tribute, dedicating a new veterans' hospital in San Antonio to the memory of this American hero.
     Survived by widow Pamela, sons Terry and James."

We also noticed this mysterious handled receptacle of a sort: 


And like so many museum exhibits with handles, we had to lift it up.  And here's what we found:


A small notebook in a plastic baggie?!?  Oh, yeah!  This could ONLY be instructions for a dangerous and sexy spy mission!  Let's crack it open:


Ok, so it's not a Mission Impossible type of impossible mission but rather a a geocache!  Right here in our own backyard!  If you are not familiar with here is a quick definition from Geocaching.com:


And HERE is the link to the actual thread on the Geocaching website about this specific geocache.  So look around on you next road trip or even your next trip to the market.  You'll never know what you'll stumble across.

 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Cowtown Coliseum

If you live in North Texas and have guests from out of state who might not necessarily want the "Authentic Texas" experience but perhaps the "Touristy Texas" experience then odds are that you will take them out to the Fort Worth Stockyards.  Once there, your guests will be surrounded by all the trappings of Texas: cowboys, horses, cattle and rodeos!  And when it comes to rodeo, the number 1 spot is Cowtown Coliseum:


Not only does the Coliseum continue to host world class rodeos but it was also the site of the world's first indoor rodeo in 1918.  Over the years, the event space has hosted famous faces ranging from Theodore Roosevelt to Elvis Presley.  The historical marker out front has the historical rundown:


The marker reads:

     "Until 1908, The Annual Fort Worth Fat Stock Show was held in a variety of locations. As interest increased in the event and its educational and promotional values were realized, livestock exhibitors sought a permanent home for the show. The coliseum was constructed in 1907-08 to provide such an exhibition hall. Construction costs were borne by the Swift and Armour Packing Companies, and by the Fort Worth Stock Yards Company, which owned the property. The stock show was held here annually for 34 years. 
     This site has been within three separate cities: North Fort Worth until 1909; Niles City, 1911-23; and in Fort Worth since 1923. It is the birthplace of the indoor rodeo, and the first live radio broadcast of a rodeo was transmitted here on WBAP Radio in 1923. 
     The Coliseum also has served as a place for cultural, educational, religious, social, and civic events. In 1911, former President Theodore Roosevelt spoke here. Numerous Texas Governors, performing artists, grand operas, entertainers and evangelists have appeared here. The great Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso, performed here in 1920. 
     In 1936, the Stock Yards Company sold the coliseum to the City of Fort Worth. Historically it has been an important part of the city and the livestock industry."

Also outside the Coliseum is a monument to a cowboy who pioneered one of the most difficult rodeo events:


Bill Pickett was a lifetime cowboy and inventor of the technique of "bulldogging" which is essentially the act of jumping off a moving horse on to a moving steer and wrestling it to the ground with your bare hands.  So, yeah, he had guts.

Another little piece of history can be found near the entrance:


This Spanish canon was found in a river in San Antonio near the Alamo and now sits right outside the Coliseum warning visitors that this is a place where explosive things happen.

FUN FACT:  The Coliseum stood in for a Mexican Hotel in the (sadly short lived) TNT continuation of the legendary CBS soap opera "Dallas".  And as an added bit of melancholy trivia, it played the part of the hotel where J.R. Ewing was murdered (shortly after the real life death of  Larry Hagman):

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Monday, July 4, 2016

Smoke Signal

When driving out to west Texas there's not a lot to see.  It's flat, desolate and there are very few roadside markers that you can use to track your journey.  So when you come across something out of the ordinary it tends to get your attention.  For example, you know you've made it to Thurber, TX when you see this:


The Thurber Smokestack is the last remnant of a former thriving coal town.  The town was owned by the Texas Pacific Coal Company and the residents were made up of primarily of the company's employees.  As the oil boom grew, Texas Pacific transitioned more toward the petroleum industry.   And with rise of the railroad, most of the residents had to leave to find work elsewhere thus creating a good old fashioned ghost town with the stack and a historical marker left behind:


The marker reads:

     "Most important mine site in Texas for 30 years. Coal here, probably known to Indians, was "discovered" in 1886 by W. W. Johnson, who with his brother Harvey sold out to Texas and Pacific Coal Company in 1888. (T. and P. Coal Company provided fuel for the Texas and Pacific Railroad, but was independently owned.) 
     Town was named for H. K. Thurber, friend of T. and P. Coal Company founders. Most dynamic firm member was Robert D. Hunter (1833-1902), developer of 7 of 15 mines. Next president was E. L. Marston, Hunter's son-in-law, who left mining largely to William K. Gordon (1862-1949), an engineer who brought daily output to 3,000 tons. 
     Then in 1917, Gordon (backed by management of coal company) was primarily responsible for discovery of Ranger oil field, 20 miles west. Adoption of oil- burning railway locomotives cut demand for coal. Last mine here closed in 1921, and the 10,000 or more inhabitants of Thurber began to move away. 
     The coal firm changed its name to Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company and was sold in 1963 to Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, Inc., for $277,000,000.00. Renamed Texas Pacific Oil Company, it is now one of largest independent domestic energy suppliers. Much coal (by estimate 127,000,000 tons) remains underground. (1969)"



A lot of interesting roadside stops like these can be somewhat secluded which which makes people hesitant to stop.  But the good news here is that the smokestack is accompanied by the Smokestack Restaurant so you can grab a slice of buttermilk pie when you investigate some history:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

History in the Making


A recent trip along the back roads of East Texas led us to a quick stop at the Rusk County Depot Museum which had tons of history on display in the form of documents, antique equipment and restored buildings.  There is way too much to cover in one blog entry.

I also didn't have a lot of time for this stop so I spent most of it strolling the grounds to check out the old buildings.  One thing I learned was that I was genuinely interested in knowing how brooms were made.  I honestly didn't know this until I came here.

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All right, so brooms don't grow in the wild...we've learned that today but there's an even bigger lesson to take away here.  In my opinion the most memorable building on the location is the "Arnold Outhouse":


Sure, it may not be as exciting as the See-Thru Bathroom in downtown Sulphur Springs but it is historically significant.  So much so that it has its own Historical Marker:


The marker reads:

     "Prominent Henderson businessman and civic leader John R. Arnold moved his family to this property in 1908. He added a second story to the home (razed in 1966) that already existed at the site. He also built a number of structures around the property, including this outhouse. It was larger than most standard outhouses of its day, and the milled pattern on the door and window facings matched that of the large Arnold house. The Arnold Outhouse is preserved to illustrate part of the lifestyle of 19th and early 20th-century Texans."

But that information is no substitute for witnessing an outhouse firsthand:


Yes kids, that's how it used to be.  This was the best case scenario for getting your "thinking done."  Ask your grandparents why there are catalogues and corncobs in there.

And when you start thinking about how bad the world is now, I would encourage you to always look on the bright side.  Despite political, economical and environmental turmoil...at the very least...we get to poop inside.  And sometimes that makes all the difference.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Tragedy in New London

Tragedy struck the small East Texas town of New London when a freak accident caused a massive explosion that destroyed the New London School and took the lives of over 300 students and staff.  Today, in the center of town, visitors can see a monument to the 1937 catastrophe:


The giant cenotaph was constructed two years after the explosion.  Composed of granite, it stands 30 feet tall and sits across from the current New London school.  There is also an official Texas Historical Marker commemorating the event:

The Marker reads:

     "On March 18, 1937, a massive explosion destroyed the New London Junior-Senior High School, instantly killing an estimated 296 students and teachers. The subsequent deaths of victims from injuries sustained that day brought the final death count to 311. The explosion was blamed on a natural gas leak beneath the school building. Within weeks of the disaster the Texas Legislature passed a law requiring an odor to be added to natural gas, which previously was odorless and therefore undetectable. This memorial to victims of the explosion was erected in 1939."

Across the road is the London Museum Cafe & Soda Fountain that serves old fashioned breakfast and lunch:

I got there little after lunch so the kitchen was closed.  Thankfully though, the Museum portion was open.  It contains an exhaustive collection of antiques and memorabilia about the explosion, the school and the town itself:

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Two of my personal favorites were personal keepsakes of the students.  On the left is a text book and pocket knife belonging to student Perry Lee Cox.  On the right is a bar of soap carved into the shape of the Alamo belonging to sixth grader Glendell Sutherlin:

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The explosion was covered on a news reel at the time which you can watch below:






Monday, April 18, 2016

Mount Bonnell

Not too long ago we got a different perspective of the Austin area as we checked out the view from atop Mount Bonnell.


We're always on the lookout for historical markers and this area didn't disappoint.  The Mount Bonnel marker reads:

     "Rising 775 feet above sea level, this limestone height was named for George W. Bonnell, who came to Texas with others to fight for Texas independence, 1836. Was commissioner of Indian Affairs in Republic of Texas under president Sam Houston. Moved in 1839 to Austin; there published the "Texas Sentinel", 1840. Member Texan-Santa Fe expedition, 1841. Was captured but released in time to join Mier expedition, 1842. Was killed in camp on Rio Grande, Dec, 26, 1842. 
     Frontiersman W.A.A. "Bigfoot" Wallace killed an indian he met face to face while crossing a narrow ledge 50 feet above river, 1839. He also took refuge in a Mount Bonnell cave to recover from "flux", but was missing so long his sweetheart eloped. 
     In the mid-1800s Mormons built a mill on the Colorado river at foot of Mount Bonnell. Mill was destroyed by flood and the Mormons moved on west. 
     Mount Bonnell was site of picnics and outings in 1850s and 1860s. As it is today. Legend has it that an excursion to the place in the1850s inspired the popular song "Wait for the Wagon and We'll All Take a Ride". As a stunt in 1898, Miss Hazel Keyes slid down a cable stretched from the top of Mount Bonnell to south bank of then Lake McDonald below."


From the top you can get a good look at Lake Austin.  There's also this old school marker:


There's also a great view of the Austin skyline.







Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Ende-Gaillard House

The Greenville area is known for its history of cotton production and war hero/movie star Audie Murphy.  In fact, the town is home to a museum that celebrates both those things.  But before you head inside to see the exhibits, you can get a good look at a little history:


The Ende-Gaillard House was moved to the area in the 90's and came with its own historical marker.  


 The marker reads:

     "German native Charles Frederick von Ende (b. 1832) came to Greenville in 1857 and established a mercantile business on the town square. He became one of the community's most active civic leaders, serving on the school board and city council, and helping to establish the local Odd Fellows lodge. In 1857-1859, Ende built this home for his bride, Amelia Reinecker. Their daughter, Louise, and her husband, Dr. David l. Gaillard, bought the home in 1883. After Louise's death in 1945, the house became part of a lumberyard and was threatened with demolition. Originally located just north of the courthouse square, the Ende-Gaillard House was moved to a city park in 1957 and then to the American Cotton Museum in 1996.


Once past the house, you reach the parking lot for the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum.  Check out a tour of the museum in this video we shot for an episode of East Texas Explorer:


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Aurora Cemetery

There's very interesting cemetery in Aurora, TX.  You're probably thinking, "So what?  Lot's of cool cemeteries in Texas."  True, but this one has quite a bit going on.  Let's start with this tombstone:


I've searched for information on "Loreta" but can't seem to find anything other than listings of her grave.  Basing my information strictly on what I learned from her tombstone: She was a bird.  She talked.  She was the "world's."

Odd bird graves notwithstanding, it's the historical marker at the cemetery entrance that gets most people's attention.


It reads:

     "The oldest known graves here, dating from as early as the 1860's, are those of the Randall and Rowlett families. Finis Dudley Beauchamp (1825-1893), a Confederate veteran from Mississippi, donated the 3-acre site to the newly formed Aurora Lodge No. 479, A.F. & A.M., in 1877. For many years, this community burial ground was known as Masonic Cemetery. Beauchamp, his wife Caroline (1829-1915), and others in their family are buried here. An epidemic which struck the village in 1891 added hundreds of graves to the plot. Called "spotted fever" by the settlers, the disease is now though to have been a form of meningitis. 
     Located in Aurora Cemetery is the gravestone of the infant Nellie Burris (1891-1893) with its often-quoted epitaph: "As I was so soon done, I don't know why I was begun." This site is also well known because of the legend that a spaceship crashed nearby in 1897 and the pilot, killed in the crash, was buried here. 
     Struck by epidemic and crop failure and bypassed by the railroad, the original town of Aurora almost disappeared, but the cemetery remains in use with over 800 graves. Veterans of the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts are interred here."

Yep, there's a legend that not only did a spaceship crash her in the 19th but also that the alien pilot is buried somewhere in the cemetery.  So of course we had to look for his tombstone.  Want to know if we found it?  You'll have to watch the video we shot to find out: 





Sunday, March 20, 2016

Bruhl's Drugstore

The Llano County Historical Museum is housed in the former location of Bruhl's Drugstore along the Llano River and contains antiques and local area historical artifacts.  


And they've also got their own historical marker:


The marker reads:

"Louis Herman Bruhl (1849-1931) immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1867.  He became an American citizen in 1870, the same year he married Leonie Julia Hammale.  A merchant and a pharmacist, Bruhl lived in Waco and Rockport, and served as U.S. consul in Italy (1894-1899) before moving to Llano to open a drugstore in 1900.  His son Adolph (1876-1937), also a pharmacist, joined him in business.  The drugstore building they erected here in 1922 was donated by the Bruhl family to the County Historical Society in 1965 and was later remodeled for a museum."


You can see lots of antique drugstore related paraphernalia inside and was as a variety of historical exhibits.


The area is also home to "llanite", a rhyolite which is on display at the museum:


It's a great place to stop on your next road trip!



Friday, March 11, 2016

Jim Reeves

When you think about monuments to Texas music legends, the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue or the Willie Nelson statue, both in Austin, might first spring to mind.  But let me introduce you to another Lone Star performer whose memorial is worth a stop on your next east Texas road trip:


Jim Reeves started his career as a minor league baseball player but an injury led to his pursuit of fortune and fame in the music industry.  And it worked.  So much so that his hometown of Carthage, TX (also the former home to country music legend Tex Ritter) has created an impressive memorial to his memory:



The marker reads:

"Born in Galloway, James Travis Reeves played professional baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals' minor league team until an injury forced him to abandon that career. He became a radio disc jockey and formed a country western band. Joining the Grand Ole Opry in 1955, he became a world famous singer. Known fondly as Gentleman Jim, Reeves was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967, three years after he died in a plane crash."


Check it out the next time you are in the area.  If you aren't familiar with Reeves' work then sit back and enjoy his effortless performance of "I Love You Because" on a Norwegian TV show in 1964:



Thursday, March 10, 2016

Fort Worth Stock Yards Entrance

Strap on your boots because today's entry takes us to the Fort Worth Stock Yards. There is a ton of history at the stock yards so we won't even try to cover it all at once. In fact, we'll start at the beginning...or the entrance:


Ok, so this one is an Historical Medallion as opposed to an Historic Marker but just go with it:


The text reads:

Spanning Exchange Avenue, this gateway to the Fort Worth Stock Yards was completed in 1910. Constructed by the Topeka Bridge & Land Co. for the Fort Worth Stock Yards Co., it was a significant feat of concrete work for that era. The columns are 22 feet high and 13 feet in circumference. The sign is 36 feet long and 4 feet high. The entrance is a significant landmark in this historic area of Fort Worth. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark-1985.

We've also got some video at the Stock Yards that we shot a few years back for your viewing pleasure:


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Salt Palace

This time our history has some legitimate geology to go along with it. Welcome to the Salt Palace Museum in Grand Saline, TX.

Grand Saline is what you would call a "salt town." It is home to a major salt mining operation and honor's the world's tastiest rock by hosting a yearly Salt Festival in addition to being the home of the Salt Palace Museum seen above. The museum was closed when I stopped by but when it is open it is packed with salt memorabilia and free salt samples. And it's here where we find today's historical marker, which seems to have nothing to do with salt.

The marker reads:

      "Pioneer aviator Wiley Hardeman Post was born on November 22, 1898, in the community of Corinth in Van Zandt County, to William Francis and Mae Laine Post, who moved to Oklahoma when Wiley was a boy. Wiley was inspired as a youth to learn to fly.
In the late 1920s he obtained flight training, made his first solo flight, and acquired an air transport license. Despite the loss of one eye in an oil field accident, Post worked as a barnstormer, commercial pilot and flight instructor.
      Post set many flight records and won the national air races in 1930. He and Harold Gatty circled the world, flying 15,474 miles in less than 9 days in 1931. Post soloed around the world in less than 8 days in 1933.
      Post invented and developed the first pressurized flight suit, explored stratospheric flight, and used an early Sperry autopilot mechanism. He worked with the U. S. Army Air Corps on an experimental automatic direction finding (ADF) radio compass, and was a pioneer in the use of liquid oxygen for high altitude flight. Post and humorist Will Rogers died in a plane crash on a trip to Alaska in 1935. His plane the "Winnie Mae" is in the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C."

Post seems like a fascinating and accomplished guy and I'm genuinely surprised that he's not more well known. Here are some interesting facts about his life that I insist you memorize:

  • He lost an eye in an oil field accident yet still went on to become a pilot
  • He was the first person to fly solo around the world
  • He invented pressure suits for high altitude flying
  • He died in the same place crash as Will Rogers

Now take that handful of factoids to your next cocktail party and impress your friends.

We'll leave you with a good look at the pride of Grand Saline: a great big hunk of salt, which is on display outside of the Salt Palace and brings joy to local wildlife searching for a little small town flavor.