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."

 Above is a look at the dedication of the marker and centennial celebration of Amarillo's favorite gas!

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.