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:



Thursday, December 21, 2017

Amarillo - Helium Capital of the World

We head to the Texas panhandle for the next installment...all the way to Amarillo, Texas, home of big steaks, planted Cadillacs and, yes, helium.

It's true, Amarillo is sometimes known as the "Helium Capital of the World" due to amount of halium gas produced from the area. In 1968 this monument to helium (and is meant to resemble a helium molecule) was build an now stands outside the Don Harrington Discovery Center.

The historical marker reads:

      "Erected 1968, commemorating the 100th Anniversary of discovery of helium in the gaseous atmosphere surrounding the sun. (The discovery of traces of helium on earth was first announced in 1895.)
      The four time columns are filled with books, documents, and various artifacts that will tell future generations about life in 1968. After the time columns were filled, the caps were welded on and the contents sealed in a helium atmosphere. In twenty-five, fifty, one-hundred, and one thousand years from the time of filling, the four individual columns are to be opened.
      Helium is an element which occurs in commercial volume in natural gas produced since 1918 from wells in the Texas Panhandle. In 1929 the first of several helium processing plants began operations near Amarillo. Large quantities of helium extracted from natural gas are stored underground northwest of Amarillo, and will provide a valuable source of supply for many years. Once used only in lighter-than-air craft, helium now serves vital needs in industry, science, and the nation's military and space programs."

As mentioned on the marker, the capsule contains four time capsules. The first one was opened in 1993 and the contents are on display inside the museum. The others will be open in 2018, 2068 and 2968!

I can't wait to see what's in there!



Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Harrison County

If you are traveling eastbound on I-20, Marshall, TX is the last of the "biggish" cities you're going to see before you hit Louisiana.  I think of it as the third entry of the "I-20 Trinity" that includes Tyler and Lonview (sorry Kilgore).  They've put a lot of work into their historic downtown area but their pride and joy is the Old Harrison County Courthouse.


And with good reason.   Even if you're not a "courthouse groupie" you can't help but give it a good long stare if and when you find yourself in downtown Marshall.  It no longer holds court but serves as a museum and town centerpiece as well as being the building that pops up in most East Texas travel literature.

Outside stands a Confederate soldier as a monument to the large amount Confederate history the town has:


Also outside are the Historical Markers.  Instead of being posted on a pole or to the building itself, they are both mounted to stone tablets.  I can't decide if this puts more or less emphasis on them:


The marker for Marshall reads:

     Two years after Harrison County was created by the Republic of Texas Congress in 1839, landowner Peter Whetstone offered property for a courthouse, a church, and a school in an effort to persuade county officials to locate the seat of government in the new town formed on his land. Isaac Van Zandt, the local representative to the Republic Congress, named the new community Marshall in honor of U. S. Chief Justice John Marshall. By 1850 it had become one of the wealthiest towns in East Texas, with a population of about 2,000 and a number of cultural, religious, and civic organizations. 
     An important Confederate stronghold during the Civil War, Marshall was home to the wartime capital of Missouri and the postal headquarters of the South's Trans-Mississippi Department. Following the war, it was the site of an office of the Freedmen's Bureau. 
     After the Texas and Pacific Railway located its division point, shops, and offices here in the 1870s, Marshall became a major regional marketing and educational center. Colleges located here included Marshall University, Marshall Masonic Female Institute, Wiley College, Bishop College, and East Texas Baptist College (later East Texas Baptist University).

The marker for Harrison County reads:

     The original inhabitants of this area were the Caddo Indians. Anglo settlers, mostly from the southern U. S., began arriving in the 1830s. Many obtained Mexican land grants in 1835, and population increased following Texas independence in 1836. The Republic of Texas Congress created Harrison County in 1839 and named it for Texas revolutionary leader Jonas Harrison (1777-1836). Marshall became the county seat in 1842. 
     Harrison County was predominantly rural and agricultural, with cotton as the main crop. By 1850, it was the most populous, as well as one of the richest counties in antebellum Texas. A strong heritage of slavery prior to the Civil War and the influx of many former slaves after the war resulted in a large black population, as well. 
      The Southern Pacific Railroad, which built a line into Marshall before the Civil War, became part of the Texas and Pacific Railway system in the 1870s, connecting Harrison County with communities to the east, west, and north. The railroad located its main shops and offices in Marshall, which soon became a major transportation center. The economic base of the county diversified by the 1940s and was no longer primarily agricultural.

The Courthouse is right next to Telegraph Park which has this sweet statue:


The park is the site of the first telegraph office in Texas and these two stand vigilant tapping out welcome greetings to visitors.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Texas Tourist Camp Complex


The Petrified Wood Gas Station holds a place in the pantheon of Texas roadside attractions.  It's got the triple threat pedigree that we are always on the lookout for:  Science, History and Culture.  We'll start, as we frequently do, with the historical marker:


     "Local businessman E. F. Boydston (1888-1945) purchased this site, a former feed 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 later were faced with rock, and more cabins and garages were added in 1935. The original wooden gas station 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 faced with stone to match 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 1960s after a highway bypass built west of town diverted traffic from this area. The cafe reopened 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."

 And we move on, as we frequently do, to the video.  Devin explains the awesomeness of this location:



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Iron Works BBQ

A barbecue themed blog entry is long overdue so I hope you brought your appetites for today's installment of the blog.


Iron Works BBQ is in downtown Austin and serves up heaping plates of smoked goodness with a side of history. The restaurant's site was the location for an actual family run iron works.

Their historical marker reads:

"Ironsmith Fortunat Weigl (1884-1973) migrated to Austin in 1913 from Germany with his wife Anna and sons F. Lee and Herbert. Work was scarce until 1917, when Weigl was commissioned by the noted local woodcarver Peter Mansbendel, who supplied a forge and tools. In 1922 Weigl established his own ornamental iron works, which he moved to this site in 1935. With the help of his sons, he produced original works, entirely hand wrought, for many significant Austin homes, the State Capitol, and buildings of the Universities of Texas and Texas A & M. His firm remained in operation until 1977."


So grab some lunch on your next history hunt. And if you need more convincing I'll leave you with this shot:



Sunday, April 2, 2017

J.D. Tippit

If you are familiar with the circumstances around the JFK assassination you're probably aware of the role that DPD police officer J.D. Tippit played.  Unfortunately he was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald as the assassin was fleeing.

It took almost fifty years but this unsung hero was finally awarded a Texas Historical Marker to his honor.  It was placed at the location of his death and is easily missed if you're not looking for it:


The loss of Officer Tippit came at a time of national mourning for the country so his sacrifice is too often overlooked.  Thankfully, the marker had been refurbished and still looks like it's brand new.  Here's the close up:


 It reads:

     "On November 22, 1963, at this intersection, Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald, 45 minutes after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dealey Plaza. After the assassination, Oswald fled to his rooming house in Oak Cliff, in a neighborhood where Officer Tippit was assigned. While on patrol and traveling east on 10th St., having just crossed Patton St., Tippit stopped Oswald, who was walking on the sidewalk. After a brief conversation with him through the passenger window, Tippit exited his police car, at which time Oswald fired three shots across the hood, striking Tippit as he pulled his gun. Oswald then came around the rear of the car and fired a fourth shot. Oswald left the area. Temple Bowley, a citizen, stopped and used Tippit's radio to call for help. Officer Tippit was taken to Methodist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. 
     Oswald appeared at Hardy's Shoe Store shortly after manager Johnny C. Brewer heard a radio broadcast that a police officer had been shot and killed nearby. Brewer followed Oswald to the Texas Theater, where employee Julia Postal called police due to Brewer's suspicion. There, Oswald attempted to shoot arresting officer M.N. McDonald. 
     Tippit, who left behind a wife and three children, is buried at Laurel Land Memorial Park. In 1964, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Valor from the National Police Hall of Fame, the Police Medal of Honor, the Police Cross, and the Citizens Traffic Commission Award of Heroism. Although the intersection of 10th and Patton Streets has changed, Officer Tippit's actions and subsequent murder at this site are remembered for setting into motion a series of events that led directly to Oswald's arrest."

Due to grandparents with a great sense of historical preservation, I'm happy to own the 11/23/63 issue of the Dallas Times Herald.  Here's a look at the article/obituary for Tippit that was published that day after his death:


Sunday, January 29, 2017

C.S.A Leather Factories


 While passing through Gilmer, TX on recent trip from one place to another, I stopped in the downtown square to snap some pictures.  Like many small Texas towns, the downtown area is packed with historical markers.  The last one I was able to nab (photographically) was for a building that was a shoe factory that made leather boots for the Confederate Army during the Civil War:


The marker reads:

     "On this site during the Civil War, a shoe factory converted leather into footgear for the Confederate Army.
     A harness factory nearby made bridles and saddles and also leather lines and breechings that hitched horses and mules to gun carriages, wagons and ambulances, to move armies through campaigns and battles. 
     Leather was obtained from a local tanyard that treated over 2,000 hides a year. East Texas plants furnished the South 900 sets of harness and 300 saddles monthly during the war."

 But leather, schmeather...I was hungry.  Luckily the building currently houses Hadden's Sandwich Shop and it's got several of my favorite things inside: old school Texas antiques, Star Wars memorabilia, and sandwiches!


In case you were wondering if the mention of Star Wars above was just a typo, I can assure you it is not.  For some reason there is a tribute to the famous film franchise among the cases of antiques and East Texas memorabilia:


There is another case with Star Wars action figures for sale as well.  Why the seemingly out of place tribute to the sci-fi staple?  I have no idea.  But I like that it adds an air of mystery to the place.  It's there for a reason but I don't necessarily need to know why.  Another highlight is the "Wall of Fame":


Lots of places have similar walls and the best places have walls in which almost none of the pictures are of people that you would recognize.  This wall definitely comes through on that point.  I want to say that one of them is a magician, maybe?  But enough talk, let's eat!


They have a very extensive menu but I gave my attention to the sandwich section.  After all, this is a sandwich shop.  So I picked one of my favorites: the muffuletta.  A good muffuletta is all about the olives.  There are several different tactics: you can mash them into a mush or dice them or slice them.  These were sliced and had great flavor.  Merging with the cheese a meat, a new "sauce" was created which makes this sandwich much more than the sum of its parts.

It was an odd hour for eating and I was in a rush so I only got a half sandwich which is normally not enough for me to write a review but this pace made such a good impression on me that I wanted to get it out there.  I look forward to returning many times in the future to work my way through the rest of the sandwich menu.