Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lost North Texas Ghost Towns & Places on 1892 Walker Map

While I was working on the Lost Railroads map clip, I realized that this 18902 Walker Texas County Map had a good number of obscure places that are no longer on contemporary Texas maps. Thinking there might be some interest, I made a slightly larger clip to look at:

Click on the map to enlarge the image

Starting at the top left is Doan's which was the last supply point on the Great Western or Dodge City cattle trail.  It is not uncommon to find on maps of this period. However over in Montague County, Red River Station, known earlier as Salt Creek, is seldom on any Texas map even though it was the main crossing point for cattle drives on the Chisholm Trail. If you look  further you will find intriguing names like Adieu, Audubon, Custer City, Gertrude(s) and many others that no longer exist or are simply markers on the highways. The Handbook of Texas Online can probably help on some of them.  But others are simply lost.

Map image from the Electric Books Collection

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Lost Railroads of North Texas ~ 19th Century Fantasies

Today I received a fine 1892 Texas County & Railroad map published in the Walker International Atlas. While in the process of scanning it for future publication, I realized that this is another of those great maps that contained some "fantasy" railroads that were never built, even though they are drawn and named on this map.  Here is a map clip of the Fort Worth, Dallas and western counties that  shows some of these historic anomalies.

Click on the map to enlarge the image

The red lines follow the railroads-that-never-were on the map clip.

  • The Dallas,Pacific and Southeastern started in Dallas, ran northwesterly to Grapevine, then west to the Roanoke area, on to Rhome and ends on this map at Aurora, a little further west from Rhome. Using a dotted line I have extended the grade through Wise County to near Boonsville, close to the Jack County line where efforts finally ended.  
  • The Bridgeport & Decatur Railroad was promoted for many years but nothing ever happened.  It is rare to find it on a major atlas map.
  • The Red River & Southwestern Railroad running from Jacksborough (!) down to Granbury was part of a scheme that envisioned a north-south railroad running through Indian Territory, then close to Red River Station or Spanish Fort, Jacksboro and eventually to the Gulf. At one time or another various routes were projected, but nothing ever came of the plan.
  • The Fort Worth & Albuquerque or the Fort Worth Northwestern Railroad is not on this map.  However, it was contemporary to all these other projects and managed to grade about 4 miles west into what is now the Carswell area. I have added it in dotted lines leaving Fort Worth to head near Springtown, close to Agnes, then south of Jacksboro to Graham, on to Seymour and ultimately to Albuquerque. This road was a long time dream of B.B. Paddock and was a part of his Tarantula plan to have railroads into Fort Worth from every compass point. .

These projected  railroads, all a product of the expansion fever of the late 1880's as cities like Fort Worth & Dallas tried to expand and solidify their trade territories and influence, were not just dreams.  Probably most of them had raised money, received promises of bonuses from cities on their route and had sold stock as well. In several instances, actual land purchases were made and grading of the right-of-way had begun.  In the case of the DP&SE, over 40 miles was graded and ready for ties & rails. The financial panic of the early 1890's dried up eastern bond money from capitalists and killed most of these railroad projects. The DP&SE and the FW & Albuquerque continued to be seriously considered almost up to World War I.

There are some fascinating stories and history in the public records of the ventures.  I have been researching and collecting them for several years and I plan to publish a few here from time to time.

Map image from the Electric Books Collection

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Strawn: A Palo Pinto mountain city with history

On Saturday the 15th I finished my westward scout to Fort Griffin & Albany by detouring south down through the Necessity community and onto the brick streets of Strawn. FM-207 is a fine, scenic drivers road that starts just east of Breckenridge, and on that gray day there was no traffic so I flew down at speed. From the ridge tops I could look across into the valleys still filled with light fog.

The road intersects SH-16 just above the bridge across Palo Pinto Creek. Just across the bridge on west side is the old Dr. Pepper bottling plant and tourist center, the first of several remnants of the time when Strawn was a fixture on the old Bankhead Highway.

This is a remarkable complex of red brick structures that lie on the bridge approach and down lower on the flood plain of the creek. There is a fine residence with its outbuilding all still in use, another intact building of good size and the shell of the old tourist courts laying further back. Everything is well maintained although the buildings appear to be unused.  I noticed new paint and some planters in front of the main building as I went by.  I got more details at a later stop.  

Note: All these pictures were taken on trips in previous years when the light was better. 

Just across the highway is the unused old water tower with a dilapidated brick pump house, and to the east of that on the little bluff above the creek a huge old brick funeral home that once was a private residence. There is some history there to be found.

Front Street runs on both sides of the T&P railroad and North Front has most of the historic buildings that were the downtown. The old Bankhead Hotel and Apartment building is still very visible and has recently been spruced up with new paint and repairs since the picture was taken. To the east on Front are additional buildings , many still in use as are those on the north-south Franklin Street. Off the main drag is the impressive Strawn City Hall building.

The towns of Thurber, Strawn, Gordon and Mingus (Thurber Junction) as well as numerous smaller camps like Lyra were driven by the rich deposits of bituminous coal that lie in a band that stretches down from central Oklahoma.

While Thurber was the largest producer, the mines of Strawn were very active, with thousands of loaded cars shipped each year.   There was a siding from the T&P down to the Mount Mary mine. The short remnants of the track were removed recently.

If you drive around Strawn a little you notice many Thurber brick streets and a number of very comfortable homes of all sizes, most of which are of brick construction.  People lived well here in the golden years of coal mining and oil production. As the city grew, they built Tucker Lake several miles to the west on a branch of the North Palo Pinto. It lies above a small park and a rough road will take you up to some fine views. The farm road follows the rails until the T&P curves a little north to get through the gap to Ranger at Wilde Canyon which is private and inaccessible.

The Strawn Historical Museum: As I swung around by Mary's Cafe for a last look, I noticed that the normally closed Strawn Museum across the tracks had a car parked in front.  So, I drove over and walked in.  The building which is set back from North Front looks very small, but inside is fairly roomy.  I shook hand with Bob Stogsdill the museum host and started my look around. Bob is a good guy and very knowledgeable about Strawn and the area and showed me some interesting exhibits, pictures and maps. The Museum, in spite of depending mostly on donations is working hard to improve and it shows.  They are open from 11 AM to 4 PM on Friday, Saturday & Sunday and now have a page on Facebook as well as an occasional Newsletter. If you are interested in the history of south Palo Pinto County, it's well worth the time to stop in.

1935 Strawn Coal Field Map ~ UT

1928 Plat of the Town of Strawn
All pictures and illustrations ©2011 Electric Books Collection ~ Pete Charlton

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fort Griffin: A New Map of Texas Frontier History

The history of the Texas frontier forts, as well as those in New Mexico and Indian Territory is fascinating. I have been collecting maps, views and descriptions of these places for many years. I have also visited a number of the surviving posts, many of them several times. These are special places.  If you stand quietly on the parade ground of remote posts like Fort Richardson, Fort Belknap, Fort McKavett or Fort Lancaster, you can feel what it must have been like in the raw times from the 1850's to the 1870's out there.

Fort Griffin on US Highway 283 north of Albany is one of those places. The Fort is on a bluff overlooking the Clear Fork of the Brazos River and the important but nasty little town of Fort Griffin on the flats below it.

Fort Griffin was originally a barrier Fort set right out in the Comancheria in 1867 after the Civil War.   To the north is old Camp Cooper and the ill-fated Clear Fork Comanche reservation site.  The Butterfield Overland Stage ran nearby on its way west.  And the great Western Cattle Trail poured millions of longhorns through the area on the way to Dodge City. That's just part of the story of this old place.  There is so much history between Albany and Throckmorton, it's hard to imagine or visualize.

Now there's a fine map that captures a lot of it.  On a recent business trip to Fort Griffin, Jan Lenoir at the Visitor Center showed me a map that she had drawn as a handout to visitors. Just a simple 8-1/2 by 11 sheet run off on the office color inkjet printer, it covers everything with clarity, simplicity and detail.

Not only is this a good map for the present, but in my opinion it is a map that will be valuable as an historic record and reference in the future.  It certainly has a place in my files on Fort Griffin and the Texas frontier forts.

Fort Griffin on Facebook.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

TCU Wins 1929 Southwest Conference!

I thought I'd add a little bit to Frog Fever by putting up a clip from the front page of an October, 1930 newsletter printed by the local printing house of Turrentine & Thompson who were located at 508 Commerce Street.

The 1929 TCU team had accomplished two huge goals during their season:

With their first-ever victory of Texas they were on a roll and in contention.  The final game of the season with SMU would decide the SWC championship.  Even then the sportswriters were filling the Fort Worth-Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News with column inches of predictions and interviews. Everyone predicted a hard fought game between two equally matched teams. Here's a description of the game from a Wikipedia entry found by Jack White:

The 1929 season saw the arrival of Coach Francis Schmidt and TCU's first SWC title. The title was won in the last game of the year on November 30, 1929 against SMU. Coming into the game TCU led SMU in the conference standings. TCU had 4 wins, while SMU's conference record was 3–0–1. Since this was the last conference game of the year for both teams, TCU could win its first SWC title with a win or a tie. The first half of the game was scoreless, but in the third quarter Weldon “Speedy” Mason tacked on 40 yards to a 16-yard pass from SMU quarterback Bob Gilbert. After the extra point, the Mustangs led 7–0. TCU would not score until its second time on the SMU 1-yard line in the fourth quarter. That is when TCU quarterback Howard Grubbs ran behind All-SWC fullback Harlos Green and Mike Brumbelow for the game-tying score. The Frogs left plenty of time on the clock for SMU to answer their score, but Grubbs, now playing defense, intercepted Gilbert's pass. TCU then ran the clock out to force the tie and to win its first SWC title.

While the TCU illustration is from the fall of 1930, it's obvious that the fever was still burning..

News clips from the December 1, 1930, Dallas Morning News

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The "N" Word.. Say It Out Loud..

"Nigger"..  There, I've said it out loud.  Try saying it yourself, in front of your children if you want to. A vile word at the least, but still a word in our language that should not be emasculated or softened in any way.  "Nigger" is a word that everyone should know, that everyone should understand what its true meanings are, and what it stands for. In addition, it should be used as necessary in conversation and in any kind of publication.

To substitute or redact this explicit word in any form is simply unacceptable since it sets an historic context that cannot be delivered in any other way. Simply put, Huckleberry Finn becomes pablum when the word "nigger" is removed.

The use of slimy euphemisms like "The N-word" has been promulgated by so-called "family publications" and the FCC among others in order to somehow protect "innocents" from being stricken through their ears or eyeballs. As if those innocents are not exposed to the reality of everyday language from their earliest days and manage to somehow survive without visible damage.

What is important when using a word like "nigger" is that it is made very clear that this word implies not only a deep racial bias, but the suggestion that the person is without character of any kind. As a man that grew up in times of segregation I have always been aware that from almost its beginning, the word "nigger" was used as a racial epithet but also was used indiscriminately as a word for the utterly worthless. Vile in any context.

While "nigger" is used jokingly or sarcastically between certain groups of black individuals, that doesn't lessen its nastiness.  But being nasty doesn't mean that the word should be censored in any way. It's just a word. What it means is what is important. Everyone from the earliest age should be made aware of how bad it is, and that if they use it meanly, they diminish themselves rather than the subject.

I will tell you that if someone were to call me an "N-word" instead of a "nigger" jokingly or not it would make no difference. In either case, retaliation would be instant.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

On books.. Lost States you never heard of

I imagine that we all get books of one kind or another as gifts.  One of those that I received this year was really something special.  Lost States by Michael J. Trinklein is an interesting, funny book that is actually useful.  Even if you aren't interested in maps as I am, it's still very readable and you'll come away feeling good and maybe a little smarter.  It would be a fine gift for almost anyone.

Here's a PBS review of Lost States...

Thursday, January 6, 2011

On books.. James Lee Burke

After celebrating Christmas and New years with a long bout of the crud which turned me into a snorting, coughing zombie, I want to mention some books that I feel are exceptional in one way or the other.  Personal opinion, as always..

One of the most satisfying gifts I gave this year was an inscribed copy of The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke to an old friend. This is the latest in the much admired Dave Robicheaux series of what are mis-typed as mystery novels. In my opinion, Burke has risen far above this and if the critics and other authors are correct, he is now one of the most respected and admired writers of fiction in our time. I know he is in my estimation.  I have read almost everything he has written since about 1986 and each new book is solid, thoughtful, wrenching in some ways, but also entertaining.

Read John Connolly's link for an appreciation from another master..