Western Trips

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Bluebonnets of Burnet Texas

The Bluebonnet Capital of Texas

One of the best places for viewing Texas wildflowers is Central Texas which includes the Edwards Plateau, known commonly as the Texas Hill Country. This is an area mostly of oak-hickory or oak-juniper woodlands, mes-quite-mixed brush savannah and grasslands. It is one of the most beautiful regions of Texas. 

texas bluebonnet festival
The Texas Bluebonnet
Burnet Texas is deep in the Hill Country of Texas, in the Highland Lakes region. Burnet  is easily accessible from all directions and is located at the intersection of Highways 281 and 29. 

Burnet Texas is surrounded by sparkling lakes and rugged hills. Any time of the year it's a scenic drive just getting there. When the bluebonnets are all along the roadsides the Hill Country becomes a special place. Thousands of people take scenic drives in the spring when the bluebonnets and Texas wildflowers are in full bloom.

Burnet is considered by many as being one of the best places in Texas for viewing wildflowers. Burnet officially gained recognition to this obvious fact in 1981 when the Texas State Legislature officially designated Burnet the “Bluebonnet Capital of Texas.”

The Texas Bluebonnet

The Texas Bluebonnet is a hardy winter annual native to Texas. The Texas Bluebonnet was named as the "State Flower of Texas". The bluebonnet is the most commonly seen variety of Texas wildflower along roadsides and in uncultivated pastures throughout Texas. Bluebonnets have been loved since the first Natives lived and traveled through the vast prairies of Texas. Indians comprised folk tales around the bluebonnet. The early day Spanish priests gathered the seeds and grew the flower all around their missions.

texas bluebonnet artwork
Bluebonnet sculpture
The Founding of Burnet Texas 

Burnet is located at the edge of the spectacular Texas Hill Country about 50 miles northwest of Austin.  Burnet is also about 180 miles southwest of Dallas and about 99 miles north of San Antonio. The town is among the beautiful Highland Lakes.

The settlement was first established as a fort on the Texas frontier in the mid-1800's. This was an area of the Comanche Indian and forts were established as the frontier line moved westward from East Texas. 

Burnet has maintained its pioneer roots and rural charm while adapting to the modern age.

A town was founded next to Fort Croghan in 1852 when Burnet County was established. The town was first named Hamilton after John Hamilton, who owned a league and labor of land nearby. In August 1852 a post office was established in Hamilton and named Burnet Courthouse. In 1857 thirty-five residents of the town petitioned the state legislature to change the name of the town to Burnet since there was another town in Texas named Hamilton. 

>Both the city and the county were named for David Gouverneur Burnet, the first (provisional) president of the Republic of Texas. Burnet also served as Vice President during the administration of Mirabeau Lamar.

burnet texas historic district
The Bluebonnet Festival 

All year Burnet's Historic town square offers visitors a unique shopping and dining experience. Gift, antique, and collectible shops surround the square along with dining establishments.

The annual Burnet Bluebonnet Festival has grown into one of the most exciting and well attended small-town festivals in Texas. Always taking place the second weekend in April, the festival attracts crowds north of 30,000 each year. Each year, activities are added to keep the annual event exciting for first time visitors as well as repeat festival fans.

The Burnet Bluebonnet Festival is an annual tradition for both residents and visitors alike. Many people attend from all over Texas as well as from other states. It is said that once you’ve attended your first Burnet Bluebonnet Festival you’ll be hooked. If your western trip takes you to Texas during April be certain to mark your calendar for the second weekend in April. Chances are you'll come back year after year.

texas hill country flyer train
The Hill Country Flyer
Travel to Burnet Texas on the Hill Country Flyer

The Hill Country Flyer is a train that makes regular weekend runs from Cedar Park Texas, just to the north of Austin, to Burnet to take tourists out to shop at the antique and gift stores in Burnet, to dine in the local restaurants and and to enjoy Hamilton Creek Park.  Call 512-477-8468 for more information.
There's plenty of fun things to do in the Texas Hill Country during your visit to Burnet. A few of these fun venues are described on the links below as well as within this article.

See the Western Trips articles on the links below...

The Frontier Settlement of Dripping Springs Texas 

Visit the Longhorn Caverns of Texas 

The Town of West Texas

Visit Lockhart  / History and the Barbecue Capital of Texas

burnet texas festival
Bluebonnet Festival on Burnet Square
Additional Burnet Texas Attractions

The Fort Croghan Museum is located next to the Burnet Chamber of Commerce on Highway 29 about 1 mile west of Highway 281.  It has exhibits of old guns, restored carriages, antique furniture, and relics from the local frontier days.   The museum is open April through August.  

Visit the Highland Lakes CAF Air Museum - Headquarters for Confederate Air Force Hill Country Squadron. It features WWII fighter planes, firearms, photographs, and memorabilia.  It is located on Highway 281 south of Highway 29 in Burnet. The museum is located next to the Burnet Airport.  

Memorial Day Weekend is the time for the Annual Texas Hill Country Tour and Trade Show sponsored by the Austin Road Riders' Association (ARRA). As many as 1,000 motorcycle from all over the U.S. converge on the town of Burnet for this popular show.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Visit the Shawnee Mission State Historic Site / Kansas

The Shawnee natives were living in the Ohio Valley as early as the late 1600s. The Shawnees were considered fierce warriors. They were the more feared and respected of Ohio's natives. In fact, the Shawnees battled from the 1600’s until their forced departure from Ohio in 1832.

shawnee indian mission
Shawnee Methodist Mission, East Building
As American westward migration spread from the eastern seaboard settlement the Native Americans were uprooted, a relocation program that would last until at least 1890. Regarding the Shawnees, between the years 1831 and 1833, the U. S. forced the Shawnees to give up their land in Ohio. The U.S. government sent the natives to reservations in Oklahoma and Kansas, a destination for many Native American tribes.

When the Shawnees gave up their eastern lands they received about 1.6 million acres west of Missouri. This was of course west of the frontier line at the time and the area was generally referred to as the Great American Desert.

The Shawnees Request a Missionary

In July 1830 Chief Fish, leader of the Missouri Shawnees, requested a missionary through their Indian agent George Vashon.

The missionary society began in 1830. Reverend Thomas Johnson, a Methodist minister, was appointed missionary to the Missouri Shawnees and his brother William, missionary to the Kansas tribe.

shawnee mission kansas
Shawnee Mission North Bldg.
The Reverend Johnson, who was originally from Virginia, suggested to the missionary society that one central school be built to serve many tribes. A site was chosen was were a branch of the Santa Fe Trail passed through the Shawnee lands. Shawnee Mission was established as a manual training school attended by boys and girls from Shawnee, Delaware, and other Indian nations from 1839 to 1862.

Classes were held six hours each day except Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday teaching was limited to three hours. The boys worked in the shop or on the farm, usually for five hours a day. The girls helped with the sewing, washing, and cooking. The students, as a rule, went to bed at 8 p.m. and rose at 4 a.m.

Mission School Construction

When construction began, about forty hands were employed, and the buildings were soon under way. Brick-kilns were put up for the burning of brick, while some were shipped from St. Louis. Lumber was produced at their own local sawmill.

The manual training portion of the school ceased in 1854. In 1858 Reverend Thomas Johnson turned the school over to his oldest son, Alexander, who ran the mission until it closed in 1862. Shawnee Mission was one of the earliest, largest, and most successful mission schools in pre-Territorial Kansas and the West.

conestoga wagon exhibitThomas Johnson was murdered at his home in Missouri on January 2, 1865. The murderers were believed to have been Southern sympathizers who apparently were angered when Johnson, a pro slavery man for many years, had sworn an oath of allegiance to the Union at the start of the Civil War. Johnson County is named for Thomas Johnson and was one of the first counties established in the Kansas Territory in 1855. Both  the old Oregon-California Trail and the Santa Fe Trail passed through the county.

See the Western Trips articles on the links below...

Remembering the Shawnee Trail

The Minnesota Massacre / Start of the Indian Wars

Visiting Shawnee Indian Mission State  Historic Site / Fairway Kansas

The State of Kansas took over the mission property in 1927. Since that time it has been administered by the Kansas Historical Society. Today it is operated as Shawnee Indian Mission State Historic Park. The location is 3403 West 53rd, Fairway, KS. This is just in the southern edge of Kansas City.

This is a site you will want to add to your western vacation planner. This historic park is quite interesting and makes a great family trip stop. It's a must see when you're in this area of Kansas.

thomas johnson shawnee mission
Rev. Thomas Johnson
Exhibits in the East Building and North Building

Begin your tour in the East Building, which includes the Visitor Center, store, and several exhibits. Discover the story of the Johnson family, Indian agents and missionaries, Kansas settlement, Bleeding Kansas, Overland trails, and the Civil War.

Exhibits in the North Building tell the story of the emigrant Indians in Kansas-—such as the Iowa, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, and Sac and Fox. Objects include woven baskets, beadwork, drums, and other folk art made from techniques passed down through generations of Kansans with American Indian ancestry.


Site tours are provided by site administrator. For groups of more than 10, two weeks notice is requested. School groups can also schedule guided site tours with two weeks notice.

(Article copyright 2014 Western Trips. Photos and images in the public domain)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

See the Last Remaining Paddle Wheel Tug Boat

Tugboats have been around for about two centuries. They have always been considered the "tow truck" of the waterways. The tugboat is a small watercraft, yet powerful, and had played a huge roll in transportation of goods by moving larger boats through channels that couldn't maneuver themselves alone. Tugboats can either pull or push a larger ship.

Today, tugboats usually use diesel engines but the early ones ran on steam power. The story below is about the historic Eppleton Hall which can be seen today on San Francisco Bay.

sea water steam tugboat
Steam tugboat Eppleton Hall
The Eppleton Hall Steam Tug

The Eppleton Hall was built in 1914 by the Hepple and Company of South Shields, England, for the Lambton and Hetton Collieries, Ltd. The vessel drew it's name after the Lambton family's ancestral home. The vessel was designed to tow ocean-going coal-carrying vessels to and from the port of Newcastle on the River Tyne. At hte time of the boats construction coal was a very booming business. The overall transit time of the coal was saved by towing the sailing vessels upriver to load. The Eppleton Hall was also employed to tow newly constructed ships out to sea.

See the Historic Eppleton Hall Steam Tugboat

The Eppleton Hall is preserved at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in San Francisco, California. There are five main vessels moored at the park and each has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

This vessel is the last floating example of a paddlewheel British harbor tug. It is powered by two "grasshopper" steam engines, old-fashioned engines even when they were new over a century ago.

eppleton hall san francisco
Eppleton Hall
The Eppleton Hall was the last paddle-wheel steamer ever to cross the Atlantic Ocean under its own power. It spent its first 50 years pulling and pushing larger coal ships on the River Tyne and the River Wear in northern England. Coal was the lifeblood of England in the early 20th century and Newcastle was the main coal port. When coal mining eventually declined, vessels like the Eppleton Hall headed to the junk yard.

The Eppleton Hall is the only remaining intact example of a Tyne paddle tug. The boat is a direct descendent of the first craft to go into commercial service as harbor tugs.

 The Eppleton Hall was utilized on the Wear and Tyne rivers in England from 1914-1967. In 1946, she was bought by France Fenwick, Wear and Tyne Ltd., which operated her in the Wear River until 1964. The restoration will take her back to her last working years.

See the Western Trips articles on the links below...

 Passenger Ferries of San Francisco Bay

Submarine Museum / USS Pampanito

See One of Arizona's Man-Made Wonders of the World

Things to See and Do in La Jolla California 

The Eppleton Hall's Sea Water Steam Engine

The steam engines used on the Eppleton Hall are descended from a type that was first built in  England in 1828. The grasshopper type engine was patented in England in 1803 by William Freemantle and was actually introduced in 1804 by Oliver Evans.

ocean steam tug boats
Eppleton Hall underway
The two large side lever engines were often referred to as "grasshopper engines". The engine is also referred to as being half-levered. They can operate the paddle wheels independently, making the tug very maneuverable in tight spots.

Advantages of the grasshopper engine were it's cheapness of construction, durability and relative ease of maintenance. 

The Eppelton Hall also had unique hand forged boilers that allowed the vessel to use sea water. Maintenance for this type of sea water included chipping out salt accumulations about every six weeks. By being able to utilize sea water the vessel did not have to carry large fresh water tanks.This was a big advantage for steam tugboats.

Many will say today that ocean going vessels cannot use salt water in their boilers.The fact is that salt water was used for steam a long time ago but as mentioned above, the salt deposits did mean that boiler maintenance was necessary on a very regular basis.

hyde pier san francisco
Old Hyde Street Pier, San Francisco
Visit the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

As mentioned above, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park displays several historic vessels including the steam ferry Eureka and the tall ship Balclutha. 

The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, located on the edge of San Francisco Bay, in the Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood. After stopping by the interesting Visitor Center you exploration begins in a walk onto the pier to visit the park's collection of floating historic ships.

You'll get some great photo opportunities and you'll experience breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. The Visitor Center is located at 499 Jefferson Street (at Hyde).

(Article copyright 2014 Western Trips)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Omaha's Historic Attractions

The city of Omaha is named after the Omaha Indians who gave up the land where it was established in 1854. The tribes name "Omaha" means "Those going against the wind or current".

florence mill omaha
Florence Mill
Today's Omaha Nebraska has a population of about 800,000 and is the 42nd largest city in the U.S. Omaha has a very storied history involving the old frontier Army of the West, the railroad, pioneers over the Overland Trail, meat packers and of course Native Americans. As a result, you'll find a great many Omaha attractions when you visit the city, many being of historical significance.

Below are just a few of the attractions in Omaha you'll want to add to your Nebraska vacation planner.

Florence Mill

Located in the historic Florence Mill area of North Omaha, the Florence Mill was constructed in 1848 and over the years was referred to by several names. The mill has been known as Mormon Mill, Grist Mill and Old Pink Mill. This area of Omaha itself has more historic sites per square mile to offer the tourist than any other area of Nebraska.

This area of Omaha was settled long before today's settlement itself was established. After the fur trappers came Europeans and the missionaries who in many cases settled among the Native Americans. This was at a time prior to the forming of the Nebraska Territory. Also came the Mormons who after leaving Illinois in 1846 traveled west crossing the Missouri River and through Omaha on their way to present day Utah. During this journey the Mormons settled what was then known as Winter Quarters. The settlement later became known as Florence during the territorial era of Nebraska and was eventually annexed by Omaha.

During the second weekend of May Florence celebrates "Florence Days". Included is a parade and many fun activities. Today the Florence Mill is operated as the Winter Quarters Mill Museum and ArtLoft Gallery. The museum collections features many exhibits and newspaper articles from the pioneer days. From June through September you'll also ant to visit their popular Farmers Market. The Florence Farmer's Market began 21 years ago. The location of Florence Mill is near the 30th Street exit of I-680. The mill address is 9102 North 30th Street.

florence bank omaha
Florence Bank building
Florence Bank

Another historic site you'll want to visit in the Florence Mill area of North Omaha Nebraska is the Bank of Florence Museum. The museum address is 8502 North 30th Street and is operated by the Florence Historical Foundation. 

The Bank of Florence originally opened during the 1850's as soon as the vault arrived from the east. Interestingly enough you can still view this bank vault today as it has remained in it's original site.

The building was constructed at the old site of the Mormon Winter Quarters. The bank manager lived on the second floor. When the bank was opened, it would be another ten years before Nebraska would become a state. Because of this the Bank of Florence issued its own money in denominations of $1, $2, $3, and $5.  The bank notes became known as "wildcat currency."

The Bank of Florence failed during the financial panic of 1857 but the building again became a bank in 1890. This bank stayed solvent until the Great Depression. In 1904 .the second story was turned into the offices of the Florence Telephone Company. After the Florence Days in May, the bank is open for tours. Hours are 11 A.M. to 3 P.M. Saturday and Sunday from June 1st through August 31st. The museum features a fine collection from Florence's rich history as well as an exhibit of the bank manager's second floor living quarters.

See the Western Trips articles on the links below...

See the Overland Trail Wagon Ruts / Nebraska

George Crook and the Aftermath of the Little Bighorn

general crook house museum
General Crook House Museum
The General Crook House Museum

The Museum is the authentically restored home of General George Crook. It was constructed in 1879 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Crook House is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 1 to 4 p.m. The Crook House is located at historic Fort Omaha at 30th and Fort Streets.

Starting as a colonel during the American Civil War and promoted to general, Crook was captured by a band of Confederates, later paroled and again took up arms for the Union until Lee's surrender.

After the Civil War, General Crook led several expeditions in the frontier west including the expedition that eventually led to the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana.Involved in many expeditions against the Indians in the west, George Crook was considered by many to be the frontier west's most successful Indian fighter. Crook at different times in his career commanded the Division of Arizona and the Division of Missouri.

The house is an Italianate style, which represented the no-nonsense grandeur of the military frontier. The furnishings are from the 1880 Victorian period. From early November through the end of December, the museum celebrates Nineteenth Century Holidays. The Crook House Guild, with help from area designers and design students, transforms every room in the house into a captivating glimpse of Christmas past. The George Crook House exhibits how a Army Commanding Officer lived on the Frontier in the 1880s. The Crook House heirloom garden has more than 110 varieties of flowers and plants.

(Article copyright 2014 Western Trips. Photos and images in the public domain)