Western Trips

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Towns of Texas

Western Trips had the opportunity to take an enjoyable and historic walking tour of downtown Round Rock Texas. There are of course many historic towns in Texas and Round Rock certainly has it's share of interesting stories.

palm house museum round rock texas
Round Rock's Palm House Museum
When you stroll through the downtown area one of the first impressions you get is just how well so many of the old historic buildings have been preserved. In addition, most of the buildings have informative plaques  regarding when the structure was built and what it's early use was. This makes the walking tour not only informative but also a lot of fun.

The downtown Round Rock Historic Commercial District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The Round Rock Historic District consists of the buildings fronting the 100 and 200 blocks of E. Main Street and the Old Post Office/Masonic Lodge at 107 S. Mays Street.

Below is information on just a handful of historic buildings in downtown Round Rock Texas. There are a great many historic structures all around Round Rock which makes it a good stop while traveling through the area. If you're traveling to Austin or San Antonio on Interstate 35 a stop in Round Rock is time well spent.

Palm House Museum

Round Rock's Palm House Museum is at 212 E. Main and was the former home of Andrew J. Palm who migrated to Texas from Sweden in 1853. The home was constructed by Palm about three miles north of Round Rock in 1873. The home was moved to it's present site in downtown Round Rock in 1976. The home was designated a Texas Historic Landmark in 1978.

round rock texas history
Old Williams Grocery Store historic building
Today, the Palm House Museum is filled with period furnishings and also serve as the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center.

Round Rock Mercantile and Economy Drug Store

From 1877 to 1884 Peters and Brothers operated a mercantile store at this site. After that the structure was used as a meat market and then a blacksmith shop. In 1907 the current structure was built and operated as a mercantile store and the Economy Drug Store. In 1910 a fire destroyed a good deal of the building. The store was repaired and was operated as a dry goods store. A grocery store operated in the building until 1979. Today you can see the store's original display case and soda fountain counter. The address of this structure is 202 and 204 E. Main St.

J.A. Nelson Building

This building located at 201-203 E. Main Street was one of Round Rock's largest downtown stores. A fire in 1879 destroyed the entire block. At that time a store was operated at the site but a new building was built on two lots by W.T. Cox who then sold the building to partners Steinberg and Blair. One store on the site was purchased by a man named Dooley who ran the town's largest hardware store.

downtown round rock texas
J.A. Nelson Building
Both of the buildings constructed after the 1879 fire were lost again in an 1899 fire. A man named Nelson who had worked for Dooley opened another store on the site in 1900 but this time built an iron facade on the building. Nelson's Hardware Company thrived and supplied materials for many of the homes in Round Rock Texas. Nelson also operated a bank from the store. Nelson's bank operated there until the year 1954.

Williams Grocery Store 

This structure was built in 1876 and sold to S.P. Williams who operated a grocery and dry goods store here beginning in 1881. New ownership arrived in 1903 and after that the building served as an office, a five and dime In later years Walsh Television and Appliance and Round Rock Plumbing and Electric Company operated here from the 1960's to 1974. The address is 103 E. Main Street.

Links to four Western Trips photo articles you'll also enjoy include:

Historic Salado Texas, just north of Round Rock along Interstate 35 and also a town where the old Chisholm Cattle Trail passed.

A Visit to Old Town Round Rock Texas 

A World Class Austin Texas History Museum 

Lockhart / History and the Barbecue Capital of Texas

nelson building round rock texas
Another view of the restored J.A. Nelson Bldg
Early Round Rock Texas Commerce

Today, Round Rock Texas in Williamson County is essentially a northern suburb of the greater Austin area. The entire Austin area including Round Rock have grown tremendously.

Round Rock actually has it's roots dating back to 1851 when a settlement was established along the north shore of Brushy Creek. The first settlement there was named Brushy. This was the area today which is referred to as Old Town and was on a feeder to the Chisholm Cattle Trail leading from south Texas north into Kansas. The Old Town area is also referred to as Old Round Rock.

The International-Great Northern Railroad came through the county in 1876. The tracks were built to the east of the original settlement (Old Town) and it wasn't long until just about all commercial enterprises located themselves in this new section. After the railroad arrived so did several new hotels. This is the site now called downtown Round Rock. This is the reason that many of the old historic sites in downtown Round Rock shown in this article were established in the years just after 1876. Wherever the railroad laid tracks commercial development soon followed.

old buildings round rock
Johnson Drug Store Building
Several historic buildings are preserved in Old Town which is located west of Interstate 35. The downtown area of Round Rock where the historic buildings shown in this article are located is east of the Interstate. Interstate 35 has also been a key factor in Round Rock's later growth which really took off starting in the 1960's.

One last side note is that there actually is a round rock in Brushy Creek that the town got it's name from.  The round rock is found in the middle of the creek. Where the rock is located was used as a good place to cross the creek for both Native Americans and cattle and stagecoaches. Today you can still see some of the wagon ruts on rocks in the area. The first bridge was constructed across Brushy Creek in 1890.

(Photos from author's private collection)

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Amarillo Texas Route 66

route 66 amarillo
Route 66 was a major highway through Amarillo Texas just like it was for many other towns and cities during the Mother Road's golden years. Stretching from Chicago Illinois to Santa Monica California, Route 66 was the spark that brought commercial growth to many small towns.

In a very real way Route 66 is a part of America's identity. Route 66 also represents America's first highway infrastructure. This was the time that roads went from dirt to paved. 

Today, to see some of the remnants of this historic highway in Amarillo Texas, you'll want to make a fun visit to Amarillo's Sixth Street Historic District. This is a thirteen block area west of downtown Amarillo in the San Jacinto Heights Addition. Amarillo is the largest city in Texas that the old Route 66 passed through. The good thing is that it still indeed does pass through.

amarillo route 66 historic district
Cowboy Gelato
This historic district is a collection of commercial buildings that are associated with the famed highway. Shopping, restaurants and unique shops are what is now part of this area of Amarillo's nightlife scene. For anyone out there who might remember the days of the old Route 66 this is definitely a must stop.

Many eclectic shops line this old part of the famous road  and the district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

Route 66 and the Interstate Highway

Interstate 40 runs east-west though Amarillo and as many people who are familiar with Route 66 know the Interstate replaced a good amount of the old highway. Route 66 today still passes directly though Amarillo.The state with the longest continuous stretch of old Route 66 is Arizona between Seligman and Kingman. Both of those towns are also connected by Interstate 40.

route 66 golden light cafe
Historic Golden Light Cafe
Route 66 followed Amarillo Boulevard through Amarillo, but an older alignment turned south on Pierce, then west on Sixth. Today, the follow Route 66 through town you'll be making several turns. The good part is that the signage will direct you pretty well. When you drive west from the Route 66 Sixth Street Historic District you'll also make a few turns mostly to the south where Route 66 becomes the frontage road on Interstate 40.
At this point you're not far from the old Cadillac Ranch along the Interstate which features buried Cadillac automobiles which you can spray paint.

In both directions out of Amarillo on Interstate 40 you'll see signage where original stretches of the old road are still intact. In fact, many of the towns you'll drive past on Interstate 40 on either side of Amarillo have the old Route 66 as their main road through town. Tucumcari New Mexico, Santa Rosa New Mexico, Shamrock Texas, Erick Oklahoma are towns along Interstate 40 that were quite busy during the heydays of Route 66.

Route 66 went through realignments in several areas. The most noted one occurred in the late 1930's when the Mother Road bypassed Santa Fe New Mexico in the quest for a shorter and lower elevation route to Albuquerque.

Links to more Western Trips articles you'll enjoy include: 

Route 66 / Texas Panhandle

Route 66 and Shamrock Texas

amarillo texas sixth street
Sixth Street Antique Mall
Amarillo's Sixth Street Historic District

The Golden Light Cafe shown in the above photo was established in 1946. This was the busy Route 66 era prior to the Interstates and the cafe is still going quite strong. A vintage 1946 hamburger stand on old Route 66, the Golden Light serves a great Frito pie. It's a great place to have lunch and dinner. This is one of the oldest still operating cafes found on Route 66.

The Sixth Street Antique Mall is located in one of the oldest buildings along Sixth Street. Here you'll find true vintage and antique items. You'll also find some of the best original postcards available. If you're traveling Route 66 through Amarillo this is a must stop.

Another stop in the Amarillo Route 66 Historic District we made was at Cowboy Gelato. Located directly on Sixth Street, Cowboy Gelato offers a wide variety of gelato plus stuffed hamburgers and great barbecue. This is a must stop for some great food. Weather permitting there's also an outside patio available. 

(Photos from author's collection)

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Friday, May 24, 2013

State Parks in Texas

Fort Richardson post hospital building

Western Trips had the opportunity of visiting one of the more interesting state parks in Texas. Many of Texas' state parks are historic sites and our visit of Fort Richardson in Jacksboro Texas, not far northwest of Fort Worth, gave us a good glimpse of frontier military life. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963. This is a stop you want to add to your Texas vacation planner if you're in the Fort Worth area. It's an excellent fun and educational venue great for the entire family.

Fort Richardson is located in Jacksboro Texas, 60 miles from Fort Worth and 60 miles from Wichita Falls on U.S. Hwy 281/380.

Fort Richardson State Park and Historic Site

Fort Richardson State Park and Historic Site are the remains of a federal fort built after the end of the Civil War. The state park includes 454 acres.

Fort Richardson hospital ward
Established in 1867 by the Fourth Cavalry, Fort Richardson was tasked with both enforcing reconstruction laws in north Texas and also with protecting settlers from Indian raids. The fort was the northern most of a line of federal forts in Texas constructed after the Civil War.

Indians raids were a decades long problem for settlers in Texas and wouldn't end until about 1875.The Comanche and Kiowa tribes were the raiding parties. Fort Richardson was built at a strategic location where the North Texas Prairies meet the Panhandle Plains. The location is also not far south of the old Indian Territory being about 120 miles south of Fort Sill. Native Americans who resided in Indian Territory would often ride south and raid settlers across the Red River in north Texas.The raiding was often and deadly. The army was forced to set up several forts, including nearby Fort Griffin and Fort Belknap, to curtail the north Texas attacks.

The Units Serving at Fort Richardson

During the fort's lifespan, several army and cavalry units were stationed there. From 1868 to 1871 it was the regimental headquarters for the Sixth Cavalry. From 1871 to 1873 it was the Fourth Cavalry, from 1873 to 1876 it was the Eleventh Infantry. Other units who served at Fort Richardson included the Tenth Cavalry and the Twenty-fourth Infantry.

Old post morgue
It's interesting to note the range of duties tasked to the army units serving at Fort Richardson. These included escorting wagon trains, helping local law enforcement to catch fugitives, protecting cattle herds and even overseeing elections. In general, the troops and officers at Fort Richardson and the surrounding forts helped settle north Texas in a variety of ways. 

The End of the Red River War

It took the Red River War during 1874 and 1875 to finally put an end to the Indian threat. Expeditions from Fort Richardson arrested Indians responsible for the Warren Wagon Train Massacre in 1871 and fought Comanches in Palo Duro Canyon in 1874. An interesting fact is that Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman was actually at Fort Richardson on an inspection tour when word of the wagon train massacre just about twenty miles to the northwest reached the fort. General Sherman was the head of the army during the President Grant administration.

Another interesting historic note is that General Sherman personally arrested the suspects in the Warren Wagon Train Massacre later at Fort Sill and had them sent back to Jacksboro Texas for trial. Incidents like the wagon train massacre is what reportedly caused Sherman to give his officers the order to go all out and bring all Native Americans to the reservation. The Red River War was the result of his orders.

Treatment room
Due much to the success of the Red River War and the end of Indian raiding the fort closed in 1878.

Fort Richardson was named after General Israel B. Richardson who had served in the Texas military during the Mexican American War before joining the Union Army during the Civil War. When the Civil War broke out Richardson had retired from the army and had been farming in Michigan. After the engagement at Fort Sumter that started the war Richardson re-enlisted.

Links to additional Western Trips articles you'll enjoy include: 

The Old Ranch Town of Matador Texas

The Western Army / Fort Reno 

Lockhart / History and the Barbecue Capital of Texas 

Tour the Historic Homes of Waco Texas

The Post Hospital

What you'll see today of Fort Richardson are two replica barracks and seven original structures including the hospital, morgue and bakery. The Visitor Center and Interpretive Center are in the old officer's barracks. The park offers guided tours daily.

Officers Quarters
You'll see a restored military hospital, the main exhibitwhich is one of the surviving buildings. The structure was built of sandstone and has been expertly restored. Inside you can see the Dr's office, the hospital kitchen, general ward and other rooms all restored to their original arrangement.These are excellent exhibits and will give you a good feel for the old remote life on the Texas frontier.

State Park Facilites

Like many state parks in Texas, Fort Richardson offers hiking trails, camping facilities and picnic areas plus a picnic pavilion for groups. One trail is 1.7 miles in length for hiking and another is a 9.5 mile equestrian trail.

Fort Richardson is one of the most historic state parks in Texas, easy to reach from Dallas and Fort Worth and makes a fine addition to your Texas vacation planner.If your visiting the Dallas/Fort Worth area it fits in for a very good day trip adventure.

(Photos from author's collection)

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Matador Texas

Visit the small Texas town of Matador Texas and you're visiting a part of the state which is all about the history of the early Texas ranches.

hotel matador
Hotel Matador
The Matador Ranch and Their Scottish Investors

The Matador Ranch, one of the largest in Texas, was established in 1882. Like many of the old ranches of the west, the Matador Ranch was backed by foreign investors. In the case of the Matador it was a Scottish investor group. The group initially invested about $1.25 million. The purchase included 1.5 million deeded acres and 1 million acres of open range in Motley, Floyd, Dickens, and Cottle counties.

History will tell you that other big Texas ranches such as the XIT and the JA Ranch both were largely financed by investors from England and Scotland.

The Matador Ranch was given a post office in 1886 and for all intents and purposes the Matador Ranch was in charge of the local community which sprang up from it's operations. It wasn't until the end of the 1800's that the community itself separated from direct control of the ranching interests. 

Matador Texas, located in Motely County, was formally incorporated in 1912 and made the county seat.  By this time many of the big ranches, such as the XIT Ranch, were selling off their land to smaller farmers and ranchers. The Matador Ranch however continued in operation until 1951. In 1951, the Matador Ranch, which then controlled about 800,000 acres, was sold to Lazard Freres and Company of London for $18,9 million. After buying the property from the Scots, Lazard Freres sub-divided the land for sale.

matador texas hotel
Hotel Matador courtyard
Visiting Matador Texas

Matador Texas is located about 75 miles northeast of Lubbock and about 120 miles southeast of Amarillo on U.S. Hwy 70.

Hotel Matador

Among the historic sites you'll want to see is the Hotel Matador. The Hotel Matador opened for business in 1915. The beautifully restored hotel is now a unique bed and breakfast inn in downtown Matador. The original structure was built by Roy Carter and his wife, the former Jessie Simpson and was named the Carter Hotel.

Carter built what one would say a luxurious hotel considering the remote area the town was in. The Carter Hotel included fifteen rooms, a dining rooms and even laundry service. On top of that the hotel employed a bell boy and had an ice cream parlor. The hotel changed ownership several times and became known as the Hotel Matador during the 1920's. During it's history before becoming today's B & B the structure was made into apartments and after that a single residence.

motely county texas jail
Old 1891 Motely County Jail
1891 Motely County Jail

Another interesting structure you'll want to see in Matador is the historic 1891 Motely County Jail. This stone structure is over 120 years old and represents the oldest government structure in Motely County Texas still standing.

Motely County Texas also received a courthouse the same time this county jail was erected. The limestone jail structure was built as a two floor facility with living quarters and offices on the first floor and the jail cells on the second. It's said that the second floor also housed a gallows although it reportedly was never used.

Links to two additional Western Trips photo articles you'll enjoy include:

The XIT Ranch

Charles Goodnight Ranch Home

Wild Horses and Cowboys 

The Bluebonnets of Burnet Texas

bob's oil well matador texas
Bob's Oil Well
Bob's Oil Well

Drive just about a mile west of downtown Matador Texas and you'll come to a historic structure named Bob"s Oil Well.

Bob"s Oil Well is located right at the junction of  US 70 and Texas 70. This old service station was opened in 1932 by a World War One veteran named Luther Bedford “Bob” Robertson. Prior to opening his own business Bob worked as a filling station attendant. When you visit the old service station you'll see a large oil derrick built above the structure. Robertson built the derrick to help promote his service station business. The original derrick was built from wood but in 1939 he replaced it with a new steel one.

Ever the promoter, Bob paid truckers to place signs across the country noting how many miles it was to his service station. Today you might still see these type of signs when you travel the Interstates. Over the years Robertson increased his business to include a garage, cafe and grocery store. Luther Bedford “Bob” Robertson passed away in 1947. Robertson's widow tried to continue with the business after his death but the operation closed during the 1950's.

As of this writing there is a restoration project being put together and they are in need of funding. For more information about this and/or to donate write to Marisue Potts, Bob’s Oil Well, PO Box 523, Matador, TX 79244.

matador texas
Downtown Matador Texas
Today's Matador Ranch

The current owners of the Matador Ranch utilize 130,000 acres for cattle raising spread over five counties of Texas. Additionally, there is the Matador Hunting Lodge, located north and west of the former ranch headquarters. Offered are twelve suites each named for a person significant to the history of the Matador Ranch.

Matador Ranch hunting includes hogs, turkey, quail, mule deer and dove. The ranch offers several multi-day hunts. More information on Matador ranch hunting opportunities can be found at www.matadorranch.com.

Matador Texas is one of those small Texas towns off the beaten path but very well worth a visit. Touring Texas you'll find some of the best historic sites off the beaten path. As we mentioned earlier, the town and the area was one of the most active during the early days of Texas cattle ranching and there's a good amount of history to explore there. 

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hiking Santa Fe

Santa Fe New Mexico is home to world famous art, art galleries, Native American culture and Spanish influences dating back to the time of it's founding in 1610. Hikers will also find plenty to do in Santa Fe.

santa fe canyon preserve
The Dale Ball Trails

Hiking Santa Fe includes miles of interconnecting trails operated by the City of Santa Fe. In the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains among juniper and pinon, the Dale Ball Trails and the La Tierra Trails provide a network of over 50 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.New Mexico in general offers a wide range of outdoor activities and many of them include cultural adventures.

The trails offer hikes, runs, mountain-bike rides and, as you can always count on, some great views. Because the trails are along a relatively lower elevation their use can be enjoyed year round. The Dale Ball Trail system ranges in elevation from 7000′ to 9000′ above sea level. The trails include both old trails and additional new ones.

The hiking and biking trails are located just outside the city in the foothills to the east. The Dale Ball Trails preserved more than 1,150 acres of land for local flora and fauna. With the city of Santa Fe as a backdrop, the Dale Ball Trails wind around the “foothills” of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

sangre de cristo mountains
Sangre de Cristo foothill scenery
You'll find the trail head for the Dale Ball Trails South in the parking area of the Nature Conservancy’s Santa Fe Canyon Preserve.

From the city of Santa Fe you'll want to  follow Alameda Street east for about one mile to where it ends in a 3-way stop.

Turn left onto Upper Canyon Road and continue east approximately one mile, until the road makes a sharp left and becomes Cerro Gordo Road. Immediately after making this left turn, you will see the parking area for the Nature Conservancy to the right. The trailhead is marked at the far end of the parking area.

Creation of the Dale Ball Trails

The Dale Ball Trails came about by the work and generosity of several people and groups. The trails were named after Dale Ball who was a longtime Santa Fe resident. Ball came up with the idea of the trail system and worked to make it a reality. The McCune Foundation along with an anonymous donor came through the the major portion of the required funding. Dale Ball secured the funds and oversaw the construction of the trails. Trails you'll choose from include switchbacks and can include steep running on both hard rock and dirt surfaces.

An important point to remember about the Dale Ball Trails is that they came about by a community wide effort. Various groups schedule working events to improve trail safety and repair erosion effects.These groups include but are not limited to the Trails Alliance of Santa Fe and Santa Fe Fat Tire Society.

dale ball trails santa fe
Along a Dale Ball Trail
The La Tierra Trails

The La Tierra Trails are located within the city limits of Santa Fe and are on public land. All of these trails are considered easy to moderate for both hiking and biking. The plan for La Tierra Trails was put together by the city of Santa Fe in 2008. The idea was to have a multi-use trail in the northwest area of town. 

La Tierra currently comprises about twenty-five miles of trails and begins only two miles from the Santa Fe plaza. The La Tierra Trails add to existing recreational trail destinations in and around Santa Fe and expands the City’s wilderness trail offerings to over 60 miles of recreational trails within a very close proximity to downtown Santa Fe. Great trails without having to make long drives to reach.

Additional Santa Fe Area Trails

Anyone wishing to hike some scenic trails around the Santa Fe area will also want to explore Hyde Memorial State Park. The park is located about eight miles north of Santa Fe in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the way to Ski Santa Fe.

dale ball hiking trails
Another Dale Ball Trail view
While Hyde Memorial State Park offers several trails, one trail we enjoy a lot is the Waterfall Trail. This trail begins at Group Shelter #2. The hike is one-half mile round trip and follows a creek to bedrock with a cascading waterfall.

Another Hyde Memorial Park Trail we enjoyed was the West Circle Trail. This 2.2 mile trail is considered difficult due mostly for the 1,000 foot elevation gain along the way. The circle loop is 3 miles long in total. You'll get some great views of the Santa Fe area through beautiful pines.

Keep in mind that the trails at Hyde Memorial State Park range in elevation form 8,400 to about 9,500 feet. This means that weather can change in a hurry and because of the dryness you'll surely need to carry along adequate water.

Links to two additional Western Trips hiking and biking articles you may enjoy include...

Hiking New Mexico 

Historic Cerillos NM Hiking

(Photos from author's collection) 

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Anderson Mill Austin TX

When you're looking for that unique historic out of the way stop while searching for things to do in Austin Texas, a visit to the old Anderson Mill is just the place.

anderson mill texas
Anderson Mill, TX
A Gunpowder Factory

Anderson Mill came into being during the American Civil War days when a mill was set up to help make gunpowder for the Confederate Army. The Mill had been named the Travis Powder Company in 1863. The Anderson Mill was set up by a man named Thomas Anderson and his two sons on Cypress Creek in northwestern Travis County Texas. Anderson had moved to Texas from Virginia during the 1850's. While the mill was important for the Confederacy during the war, the mill was turned into a gristmill when the war ended. At one point Anderson added a cotton gin to the operation. Thomas Anderson also became a postmaster when the first post office opened in 1876.

At the beginning of the Civil War gunpowder supplies for the Confederate armies were insufficient.  In 1861 Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, charged Colonel George Washington Rains with solving this issue by creating a local supply of gunpowder. It was just this need that turned small mills such as Anderson's Mill into a war supply center. These local gunpowder mills could be found throughout the Confederacy. The largest by far of these gunpowder factories was the Confederate Powder Works consisting of some twenty-six buildings in Augusta Georgia.

anderson mill austin tx
Restored Anderson Mill structure
Bat Guana to Gunpowder

During the Civil War years, Anderson and others extracted saltpeter from bat guano available from nearby caves. They combined it with charcoal which was obtained by burning cedar trees along with sulfur to produce the all important gunpowder for the Confederacy. Soldiers during the Civil War also used bat guano from Longhorn Cavern near Burnet Texas also in the Hill Country region to manufacture gunpowder in the limestone cave’s main room.

The Disappearance of the Water Powered Mill

As with water powered gristmills which accounted for almost all of them, the entire industry became more mechanized and the water powered mills disappeared. By the early 1900s, most of these labor intensive mills and their grain grinding stones were replaced by electric power and high-speed steel rollers. To give you an idea of the smallness of the community, in the year 1884 there were only thirty people residing at Anderson Mill. Interestingly enough, while stone milling became increasingly rare there is a renewed appreciation for this old process. Today as you travel around the U.S. you'll find restored gristmills that have been turned into commercial ventures or in some cases serve as museums.

texas hill country photo
Texas Hill Country view from Anderson Mill
A Texas Historic Site

The Anderson Mill site was given a Texas State Historical Marker in 1936, and the ruins of the mill were actually dismantled in 1941. This was prior to the building of the Mansfield Dam which itself created present day Lake Travis. The Anderson Mill Gardeners together with family members to built a replica of the mill and museum on land near the original site.

According to Anderson Mills Gardeners, Inc "The Anderson grist mill was a gathering place for farmers who came to have corn ground. The settlers had to travel many miles and usually several wagons from a community would come to the mill and camp while their corn was being ground. The camping was enjoyed by all because this was a period of telling the news and helping each other with problems. The miller could only grind forty bushels of corn a day, so the men who were not helping would be doing repairs or talking about the crops. The women in the mean time were busy cooking and sewing and gossiping."

texas hill country mill
Anderson Mill Texas Historic Marker
The links below are to two additional Western Trips photo articles you'll enjoy. They include;

Gruene Texas on the Old San Antonio Stage Line

The Guenther House and Pioneer Flour Mill

Today's Anderson Mill

The Anderson Mill and museum are only opened for the public on the fourth Sunday of every month between March and October. The address is 13641 Farm to Market Rd. 2769, Austin, TX. 

The mill and museum site is about an eighteen mile drive north from downtown Austin Texas. It is on the north shore of Lake Travis. 

For more information regarding scheduled events at the Anderson Mill and museum, see website www.volente.org/amgc/

(Photos from author's collection)

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Texas Railroads

When you research the golden days of railroading you'll come to recognize that the state of Texas might of had the largest number of different railroads crossing it's borders. Texas railroads were numerous as were the train depots servicing them. Just as with the case of railroad towns all across the country, railroads came and went and many merged together. Fortunately, a good number of these historic train stations still exist in Texas.

waxahachie texas train depot
Restored old Katy Railroad depot
The two historic train depots featured in this article are found in Waxahachie Texas, located in Ellis County, about thirty miles south of Dallas. Waxahachie had been around prior to the Civil War (1850) but like so many settlements around the nation it was the railroad industry that spurred it's growth and solidified it's future.

The M-K-T Waxahachie Train Station

One of the historic railroads that came down from the north into Texas was the MKT, commonly referred to as the Katy. This was the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. In fact the Katy was the first railroad to come down into Texas from the north. Waxahachie Texas was on the main line of the Katy Flyer, a very popular named rail route which ran from St. Louis Missouri to Galveston Texas. The entire journey was made in thirty-seven hours. The Katy Flyer offered buffet sleeper cars for those passengers who chose to have meals aboard the train. The other option was to take meals at the MKT eateries located in some select stops such as Dallas. The MKT Katy Flyer operated over this route for decades lasting all the way to 1961.

mkt railroad sign
The MKT Depot in Waxahachie Texas was closed at the time of it's merger with the Union Pacific Railroad in 1988. By that time all of the passenger service had been long gone. Freight was the name of the game in Texas.

Today the old Katy Railroad Depot is used by the city of Waxahachie. The station is located just a few blocks south of the courthouse on S. College Avenue.

The Rock Island Waxahachie Train Depot

Waxahachie Texas has the distinction of having two restored historic railroad depots directly across from one another. In addition to the old MKT Depot you'll also see the old Rock Island train station with it's unique architecture. This train station was actually built by the Trinity & Brazos Valley Railroad which began in 1902 and was eventually merged into the Burlington-Rock Island in 1930 after several years of financial difficulty. Waxahachie was similar to many Texas towns where it was at the junction of several railroads, multiple lines and multiple train stations. In the case of Waxahchie, the MKT and the BRI separated there for lines leading south from town. The Burlington-Rock Island operated on rail line rights over MKT owned tracks north of Waxahachie to Dallas.

rock island train station waxahachie texas
Old Rock Island Depot
The old Rock Island depot in Waxahachie has a unique tower design which looks very much like the BRI Depot in nearby Corsicana Texas. 

The last of the Rock Island passenger trains to travel through Waxahachie and utilize the depot was the Sam Houston Zephyr. This was the BRI route connecting Fort Worth Texas and Houston which started service in 1936. The year 1936 also saw the large Texas Centennial celebrations throughout the state. Travel time on the new streamlined Sam Houston Zephyr was originally five hours with only four stops along the way, Waxahachie being one of them. Because of declining profits and competition from automobiles and airlines the Sam Houston Zephyr discontinued service in 1966.

Links to two additional Western Trips photo article regarding railroads in Texas include;

The Slaton Texas Harvey House

Texas Train Rides / The Heartland Flyer

The Old Spanish Trail Highway

Texas Railroading

Anyone who has spent time researching the history of specific railroads will understand that mergers and acquisitions were commonplace. There were a great number of situations where very small lines were chartered to build rail lines over perhaps a few hundred miles. Over the years and in some cases in only a few years these lines merged with other larger railroads and these as well were acquired by even larger railroads. The southern branch of the Katy Railroad was primarily made up of several of these smaller lines being acquired.

rock island train depot
 Geographically, Texas, by reason of it's size, was a crossroads for railroads for two main reasons. The state was growing steadily and passenger service was in demand to cities such as Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. The second reason was that efforts were made from Texas to build a southern transcontinental route to either Los Angeles or San Diego. Such an effort was begun by the old Texas Pacific Railroad which ultimately ended with the Southern Pacific route from Los Angeles to New Orleans via El Paso, San Antonio and Houston.

As you travel around Texas you'll have the opportunity to explore many historic train stations from railroad's golden age.

In addition to Texas train depots there are also preserved Harvey Houses which were built along the Santa Fe Railroad tracks such as the old Harvey dining room just about eight miles south of Lubbock in the town of Slaton. The Slaton Harvey site is now a Harvey House museum and B & B.

(Photos from author's collection)

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Heard Museum McKinney

heard museum mckinney
Heard Museum McKinney main building
The Heard Museum in McKinney is a museum and much more. Located in the Dallas suburb of McKinney Texas, the Heard facility there is named the Heard Natural Science & Wildlife Sanctuary. When you speak about a museum, the Heard facility is really a beautiful sanctuary just outside the city limits. You'll want to be certain to take your camera, a lunch and plenty of bottled water because there are so many walking and hiking trails to enjoy.The Heard Natural Science & Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the best places in the Dallas Texas area for a fun, educational and low cost family outing.

Bessie Heard of McKinney Texas 

When you visit the Heard Natural Science & Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney Texas you're realizing the dream of Miss Bessie Heard. Bessie loved trees and her first civic endeavor in McKinney Texas was a tree planting project that visitors to the city today can still view. Interestingly enough, born in 1886 Miss Bessie Heard was of the age of eighty years when she made the decision to establish a place in north Texas so that all future generations could enjoy nature.

texas hiking trails
Boardwalk along the Wood Duck Trail
The Heard Museum McKinney opened in 1967 and was an instant hit. The museum today boasts an annual visitor count of over 100,000 people. The museum's goal is education, conservation and preservation. What you'll see today at the Heard Natural Science & Wildlife Sanctuary is a haven for more than 240 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. You'll also have the opportunity to explore about 150 species of wildflowers. Also offered at the Heard are night hikes as well as adult nature education classes. Exhibits at the Heard Museum provide valuable learning opportunities for the more than 20,000 students who visit each year

The Trails at the Heard Natural Science & Wildlife Sanctuary

Western Trips was fortunate to visit this venue and enjoyed several of the fine hiking trails. Your hike at the Heard is essentially a hike through nature. The Heard is located in a pretty setting that offers guided nature walks and other activities on a regular basis.

The Heard Natural Science & Wildlife Sanctuary will offer you over 6.5 miles of self-guided and interpreted nature trails that wind though the diverse habitats of their 289 acre wildlife sanctuary. There are eight trails in all. 

heard natural wildlife sanctuary
Interpretive display along the trail
The trails at the Heard Natural Science & Wildlife Sanctuary are open whenever the museum is open. One of the fun and interesting trails Western Trips was able to walk was the Bluestem Trail. Here is a one mile round trip loop trail which the museum states offers the best views of the prairie. 

Another fun walking trail we enjoyed is the Wood Duck Trail. This trail is one mile long which offers the best views of the wetlands environment. The Wood Duck Trail travels along both an overland trail and a boardwalk trail. 

Indoor and Outdoor Exhibits

One of the unique things about visiting the Heard Natural Science & Wildlife Sanctuary is that in addition to the fun walking and hiking trails is the fact that exhibits are explored both inside the museum building and outside. Outside includes even an amphitheater which is the venue for special exhibits scheduled throughout the year.

Outside you can walk through the wildlife exhibit called "Animals of the World". Here you can view a collection of animals that change from time to time. Some animals on exhibit at the Heard are loaned to the museum for a specified period. The exhibit is set up to teach visitors about the animals and the role they play on earth. 

wild animal exhibits
Animals of the World exhibit
Another very interesting and unique exhibit outside of the main museum building is the "Native Texas Butterfly Garden". Enter the butterfly house and walk among a wide variety of Texas butterflies. The Butterfly Garden is planted with host plants that naturally attract a wide range of butterflies. It's also a great place to take some very unique pictures.

The Heard Museum's indoor exhibits offer a fine interactive environment where visitors can discover, enjoy and experience various aspects of the Texas natural environment. As an example of interactive opportunities for children are Main exhibits at the museum change from time to time which means you can visit the museum grounds several times and see something new each time. As an example, as of this writing the Heard Museum is exhibiting Texas venomous snakes, rocks, minerals and fossils, seashells and marine life, North Texas ecosystems, a children's fossil dig, and a  marine room among even more  Included among past exhibits at the Heard have included the theme of dinosaurs. 

The Heard Museum also offers a gift shop with fun and educational items that are perfect for children and go along with the museum's theme of nature education.

Links below are to two additional Western Trips photo articles relating to more fun family stops around the greater Dallas Texas area. They include;

Texas Electric Railroad Museum 

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

texas butterflies
Butterfly House
Visiting the
Heard Natural Science & Wildlife Sanctuary

Make sure to plan ahead for both museum hours and any special events and exhibitions scheduled. 

The museum is located at 1 Nature Place , McKinney Texas. McKinney is located about thirty miles north/northeast of downtown Dallas. For all information about hours and current exhibits as well as detailed directions on how to get there from various parts of the Dallas Metroplex see website www.heardmuseum.org

The Heard Natural Wildlife Sanctuary is a terrific day trip while in the Dallas Texas area. The Heard McKinney offers a perfect family outing opportunity.  

(Photos are from author's private collection)

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Shamrock Texas

route 66 in shamrock texas
Tower Service Station and U-Drop Inn
In the Texas Panhandle and along the old historic Route 66 is the town of Shamrock Texas. Western Trips visited Shamrock and uncovered a classic Texas town with a solid connection to the days when Route 66 brought many automobile travelers through the area.

Shamrock got it's name in 1890 from it's first supposed postmaster, George Nickle, who actually never opened up his post office. Nickle was a local rancher and suggested the name Shamrock which would stand for good luck and courage. A post office was eventually opened by a woman named Mary Jones who used Shamrock as the name for the settlement.

There were several factors that aided in the early growth of Shamrock. Long before Route 66 passed through the town, the Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railway opened a depot in Shamrock in 1902. The railroad actually called the stop "Wheeler" as in Wheeler County. About a year later however the railroad changed the station's name back to Shamrock which was the original name. Shortly after the railroad's arrival town lots were being sold and a school was established in 1903.

magnolia service station
Old Magnolia service station, Shamrock, TX
Tower Service Station and the U-Drop Inn

There are several historic structures you'll want to explore when visiting Shamrock. Established in 1936 was the Tower Service Station and the U-Drop Inn. The first thing you'll notice is a unique art-deco tower which was constructed to lure tourists passing by on Route 66. It's architect was a man named J.C. Berry from Pampa Texas also in the Texas Panhandle. You'll find the building on the corner of old Route 66 and U.S. Hwy 83. The service station and adjoining restaurant was thought to be the most up to date structure on Route 66 between Amarillo and Oklahoma City. The service station and restaurant building, like many similar structures along Route 66, fell into disrepair when the old Mother Road was replaced by the Interstate Highway.

Although it closed for business in the 1990's the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The structure was taken over by a local bank who then gifted it to the city of Shamrock. With funds from a federal grant the building was beautifully restored to it's original condition. Today the old Shamrock Texas Tower Service Station and U-Drop Inn serves as a gift shop, Visitor's Center and office for the local Chamber of Commerce.

pioneer west museum in shamrock texas
Pioneer West Museum in the old Reynolds Hotel
The Pioneer West Museum

This excellent museum is located in the old Reynolds Hotel which was constructed between 1925 and 1928 by attorney Marion Reynolds. The Pioneer West Museum's address is 204 N. Madden.

This is one fine museum with a large and varied collection of all things pertaining to the history of Shamrock Texas and the Texas Panhandle. In fact, the Pioneer West Museum is comprised of twenty-five rooms which houses it's collection.

Exhibits include cowboy gear, antique musical instruments, a large collection of horse saddles, a doctor's office and a dentist's office, pioneer weapons and a fine collection of ranch and farm artifacts. This is definitely one of the more interesting museums along old Route 66 and in the Texas Panhandle. If your travels take you along Interstate 40 between Amarillo and Oklahoma City you'll do well to add the Pioneer West Museum to your trip planner.

western horse saddle
Saddle exhibit at Pioneer West Museum
Celebrate Saint Patrick's Day in Shamrock Texas

What would be more natural then celebrating Saint Patrick's Day in Shamrock Texas? Shamrock's Saint Patrick's Day event dates all the way back to 1938. A man by the name of Glenn Truax thought that Shamrock, with it's name and Irish immigrant history, would be the ideal spot for an annual Saint Patrick's Day celebration that would draw thousands of attendees.

The first annual celebration brought in about 2,000 people and twelve bands. The celebration however was cancelled between 1941 and 1950 largely because of World War Two. The Junior Chamber of Commerce and the American Legion helped restart the event in 1950 but again it was cancelled in 1951 due to the Korean War. The Saint Patrick's Day celebration started yet again in 1952, organized by the Shamrock Chamber of Commerce, and the event has been held annually ever since.

hair waving machine
Antique hair permanent waving machine exhibit
Links to three additional Western Trips photo articles you'll want to see for your trip along Interstate 40 in Oklahoma and Texas include;

The Roger Miller Museum featuring exhibits about the singer/songwriter in Erick Oklahoma about 23 miles east of Shamrock on Interstate 40.

Fort Reno Oklahoma which was an important military fort during the Indian Territory days as well as through World War Two. Lots of history and a great museum is located on the former military post.

Post Texas  

Post Texas was built in 1907 by cereal magnate C.W. Post. Post's idea was to built a model town. Post Texas is located about thirty miles south/southeast of Lubbock.

Visiting Shamrock Texas

Shamrock Texas is located about 110 miles east of Amarillo and about 188 miles west of Oklahoma City and very near to the Oklahoma border.

Just about anywhere you travel today along the old Route 66 you'll find plenty of interesting and historic towns and structures such as these in Shamrock Texas The links for the two Western Trips articles included with this post represent just a small sample of the trip stops you'll want to make.  A stop in Shamrock makes a good addition to your Route 66 trip planner with plenty of good photo ops.

(Photos are from the author's private collection)

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