Western Trips

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Visit a Worldclass Austin Texas History Museum

Visiting a museum is always a unique experience, as each one has its own unique characteristics, style and content. You'll find while visiting Austin,Texas that the city has many fine world class museums. If your travels take you to Texas make it a point to visit Austin. There's plenty to see and do.

bullock texas state history museum
The Bullock Texas State History Museum
The Bullock Texas State History Museum

Let history come to life with Texas stories, photos, artifacts and records in what is probably one of the finest state historical museums in the U.S. Add to this a 400 seat Imax Theater and special 4D effects and chances are you'll come back more than once. Exhibits, innovative films, and unique encounters await you at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. This museum is a division of the Texas State Preservation Board.

All of this is found in the 175,000 square foot Bullock Texas State History Museum in downtown Austin, Texas. The Bullock Texas State History Museum is a dynamic educational institution that takes visitors to the fascinating Story of Texas through a variety of programs and exhibit experiences.Like all great historical museums, the Bullock Museum offers temporary revolving exhibits as well as stunning permanent exhibits. The museum houses natural and cultural artifacts from throughout Texas history.

austin museum attractions
The bronze star on the Lone Star Plaza
," film takes viewers back to the 1900 Galveston Hurricane when weather and especially hurricane prediction was in it's infant stages. You'll feel the wind rush through your hair, lightening flashes and thunder shakes the theater. You'll feel  powerful vibrations as a gusher explodes from an oil derrick on screen. Take your seat for a thrilling special-effects experience that will fascinate you.

If your vacation or weekend trip plans include Texas, you may enjoy the Western Trips articles on the links below...

A Visit to the Historic Texas State Capital Building

A Glimpse of the San Antonio Spanish Missions

Go Underground at the Longhorn Cavern State Park

Lockhart Texas / The Barbecue Capital of Texas

space capsule exhibit
Museum space capsule exhibit
Some of the Past Museum Exhibitions

Highlights from the exhibition When Austin Got Weird included posters dating from 1967 to 1980 that feature favorites such as Janis Joplin, Willie Nelson, Pete Seeger, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Fats Domino and the Ramones, Asleep at the Wheel, Sir Doug and the Texas Tornadoes, and Shiva's Headband.

The 1968 Exhibit included photographs, artifacts, vintage pop culture items and interactive display organized in the Bullock Museum's Herzstein Hall which covers 7,000 sq feet.

Another past exhibit was Views of the Capital which commemorated the 125 year anniversary of the capital building's dedication.

A Museum for the Entire Family

Located at 1800 N. Congress Avenue, the museum is a fine way to spend a hot Texas summer day around the state capital building and the University of Texas campus. A visit to this Texas museum is also a great way to spend an afternoon with the family. There's plenty of exhibits that will catch the attention of children and young adults of all ages.

austin texas attractions
One of the museum's unique exhibit areas
More Attractions in Austin Texas

The Bullock Texas State History Museum is in an area adjacent to the University of Texas campus and the Texas State Capital Building. Exploring the large university campus is always interesting and if you haven't visited the capital building you should add it to your trip plans.

 The capital building was constructed from 1882 to 1888, largely of red granite from the Marble Falls Texas area, with funds from the sale of over 3 million acres that became the famed XIT Ranch. The ranch occupied most of the Texas Panhandle area and was one of the largest cattle ranches in the world.The capital rotunda has portraits lining it's wall of every governor and leader of Texas. The Texas State Capital Building is one of the seven state capital buildings that are higher than the U.S. Capital Bldg.

Texas has plenty of great historical venues to visit. The Bullock Texas State History Museum is one of the Austin attractions you don't want to miss. 

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Little Known History About Lake Tahoe / A Great Western Trip

lake tahoe photo
Lake Tahoe high in the Sierra Nevada range
The Beauty of Lake Tahoe

Located directly on the boundary between California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe has been a tourist destination just about ever since tourists could regularly travel to it's shores. At one time, people could travel to Tahoe City, California, directly on the lake, by taking the railroad mainline to Truckee, California then riding a narrow gauge train down to Tahoe City. By the turn of the twentieth century, Lake Tahoe became a true tourist destination with small communities dotted around it's shoreline, some with hotels.

Today's Lake Tahoe offers something for everyone, from camping, trail hiking and biking, skiing, rafting, boating, water sports and golf. Lake Tahoe, at an elevation averaging 6,224 feet, offers blue skies and a unique vacation experience.

Below are a few trip stops you may want to add to your lake Tahoe vacation planner.

lake tahoe california
Lake Tahoe off Tahoe City, CA
The Watson Cabin Living Museum

The Watson Cabin is one of several museums around Lake Tahoe and is located on a bluff above Commons Beach in Tahoe City. Operated by the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society, the museum is a must stop for anyone traveling through the north Lake Tahoe area.

The cabin was constructed in 1909 by Robert Montgomery Watson for his son Robert and his family as a wedding gift. The elder Watson arrived in the Lake Tahoe area in 1875. Like many others from northern California, Watson left the area in 1897 to seek his fortune in the Yukon, and later returned to Tahoe City as a "trail blazer, mountaineer, conservationist, and High Sierra guide.  His name is also seen today at Mt. Watson and Watson Lake.

watson cabin museum tahoe city ca
Watson Cabin
Not only is this structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places but is also known as Tahoe City's oldest structure. The cabin was kept in the Watson family for many years until it was taken over by the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society in the 1970's. The last owner of the Watson Cabin was Mildred Collins, Robert Watson's daughter.

The Watson Cabin was one of the very first structures in Tahoe City to have indoor plumbing. When the cabin was built it contained two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom upstairs and a sewing rooms. The outdoor porch is on the first floor.

The Watson Cabin is located at 560 North Lake Blvd, Tahoe City, California.

The Steamer "Tahoe"

Known as the largest steamer on Lake Tahoe, the 169 foot long steamer "Tahoe" carried passengers, freight and mail 1896 to 1935.

 steamer tahoe
Steamer "Tahoe" model
The steamer Tahoe was owned by the Bliss family and during it's run was operated by four different captains. Duane L. Bliss, referred to as the “Grand Old Man of Tahoe,” had business interests in lumbering, hotels, streamers, railroads and real estate. It is estimated that the steamer traveled about 14,000 miles every summer. 

After the steamer Tahoe ended it's service in 1935 it was dry docked at Tahoe City. Scrap metal was fetching good prices and rather than having the historic Tahoe scrapped, a Bliss grandson bought the Tahoe as well as two other historic Lake Tahoe vessels and had them moved across the lake to Glenbrook Bay. In August of 1940 the Tahoe was ceremoniously scuttled in about 370 feet of water off Glenbrook. 

The exact location of the Tahoe has been determined (the S.S. Tahoe, sits wedged in sand, facing north, a mile out from Glenbrook Bay on the Nevada side of the lake) and although there were suggestions to bring her back up, the costs to do this appears to be too expensive.

You may also enjoy the Western Trips articles on the links below...

A Visit to Historic Carson City Nevada

The Donner Pass Snowsheds / California State Railroad Museum

Auburn CA and the Great Gold Rush / An Historical Trip

gatekeepers museum lake tahoe
Gatekeeper's Museum
View Lake Tahoe Steamer History at the Gatekeeper Museum

To learn more about Lake Tahoe steamer history, you'll want to make a stop at Tahoe City's Gatekeeper Museum. Here you'll view model exhibits, photos and artifacts about Lake Tahoe vessels.

There are many other exhibits in this museum regarding early Lake Tahoe including Native American basketry, original firearms, and black bear exhibits and stories. It's a fun and educational visit, is easy to reach, and makes a good family side trip while at Tahoe.

The original Gatekeeper's Cabin was also built by Robert Montgomery Watson. The cabin's purpose was to house the watermaster who regulated the flow of water out of Lake Tahoe into the Truckee River.

The Gatekeeper Museum is located right in town adjacent to the dam. The museum address is 130 West Lake Boulevard, Tahoe City, California.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, visiting Lake Tahoe is a unique experience. Those who have visited the area likely have returned several times. High in the Sierra Nevada range, Lake Tahoe and it's many communities have plenty to offer the adventurist traveler. It's a beautiful place where recreation and history meet twelve months a year.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Story of a Texas Town and a White Buffalo

The story of Snyder, Texas begins in 1878 with a buffalo hunter and trader by the name of  William Henry (Pete) Snyder. Snyder came to west Texas from Pennsylvania and went ahead and built a trading post on the banks of Deep Creek. Other hunters gravitated to the post, and a colony of buffalo-hide dwellings grew up around it. These dwellings, as well as the sometimes shady character of their inhabitants they attracted, gave the town its first names, "Hide Town," and "Robber's Roost." Finally, in 1882 Pete Snyder drew up a town plan and invited immigration.

historic buildings snyder texas
Faught Bldg built by T.J. Faught as a Masonic lodge
The Legend of the White Buffalo 

Legend has it that only seven white buffalo have ever been shot. In fact, it is said that there was only one white buffalo per 10 million.

To Native Americans, the bison or American buffalo was a symbol of sacred life and abundance. Indians relied on the buffalo for their very existence using every part of the animal for food, shelter and various tools and utensils.

The white buffalo also has a famous Native Indian legend attached to it regarding following the proper path while on earth and how all things in nature were connected.The legend concerns a White Buffalo Calf Woman and remains very sacred to the Lakota and many other tribes.

One such white buffalo was shot near what is today the town of Snyder, Texas. This particular white buffalo was shot by a man named J. Wright Moore in 1876. Moore's name is also spelled "Mooar". Historic accounts have used both spellings.

white buffalo photo
The white buffalo
It's been reported that Moore may have shot up to 22,000 buffalo during his ten years as a hunter from 1870 to 1880.  Moore shot the buffalo when the small settlement located on Deep Creek was a trading post. J. Wright Moore received such acclaim from this event that he was able to start his own ranch and from it eventually the town of Snyder was established.

For a long time there was a fiberglass statue in Snyder of a white male buffalo. The statue was built to commemorate the shooting. Not long after, someone noticed that the white buffalo hide on display at Mooar's ranch was that of a female.

Upon learning this, the town of Snyder got rid of the fiberglass buffalo as quick as possible and replaced it with a bronze female white buffalo statue. That is the statue you'll see today when visiting Snyder, Texas. In fact, make a note of it, there are three different white buffalo statues today in Snyder, Texas.

There has not been another white buffalo seen around today's Snyder Texas for well over 100 years.

White Buffalo Memorial Park is located near the site of the 1876 shooting, and an adjacent ranch is the resting place of the white buffalo hide. The park is also home to the white buffalo statue #1. The park is located northwest of Snyder on S-CR 253/FM 1609, north of the small town of Union.

j wright mooar snyder texas
J. Wright Mooar

Quanah Parker and J. Wright Mooar

An interesting story concerns J. Wright Mooar and the historic Comanche leader Quanah Parker,  the last chief of the Quahada Comanche Indians.

Both Parker and Moore (Mooar) hunted the buffalo. They also at times hunted the buffalo in the same area around today's Snyder, Texas although there is no record that they ever met at those times. The difference here was that Quanah Parker and his followers were being hunted by the U.S. Cavalry. Parker was the last Comanche holdout and was being chased by General Philip Sheridan and his officers. The goal was to move Quanah Parker and his people back to Indian Territory in present day Oklahoma.

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

The Story of Littlefield Texas and the World's Tallest Windmill

Old Fort Parker and the Formation of Texas

A Visit to Historic Quanah Texas

A World Class Austin Texas Museum

Quanah Parker was eventually defeated by Colonel Ranald Mackenzie at Palo Duro Canyon and was moved to the reservation. Years later when both men became good friends and told many stories about the times they hunted the buffalo and actually knew of each other but never crossed paths. J. Wright Mooar died in 1940 at the age of 91 and Quanah Parker much earlier in 1911 at the estimated age of 62 or 63. Parker's exact birth date is uncertain.

It's important to note that Quanah Parker's father was a Comanche and his mother was a white woman.  Cynthia Ann Parker, Quanah's mother, had been kidnapped in 1835 during a Comanche raid on the family homestead near present day Groesbeck, Texas. At that time, the Parker home/fort was at the outer reaches of the frontier line in Texas. Quanah's Comanche father was Pete Nacona, a Comanche leader who was eventually killed in battle against the Texans at Pease River.

Events in Snyder Texas

Snyder, Texas is located about 85 miles southeast of Lubbock and about 80 miles west of Abilene,Texas, Texas along U.S. Hwy 84. 

Snyder is home to many events during the year. A sample of them include...White Buffalo Days, White Buffalo Bikefest, the West Texas Western Swing Festival. and a spectacular small town Fourth of July Celebration which includes arts and crafts, carnival rides, sand volleyball, basketball, softball, parade, and the big firework display.

snyder texas square
East side of Snyder Courthouse Square
Also, you'll want to stop by at the Scurry County Heritage Village at 900 East Coliseum Dr. Plenty of interesting exhibits including old historic structures and replicas, oil and farming equipment and Engine No. 5, the last steam locomotive belonging to the Roscoe, Snyder and Pacific Railroad. Scurry County was named  after Confederate General Wm. Scurry. 

Another stop to make in Snyder, Texas is the Scurry County Museum. Located at 6200 College Ave, this unique museum displays exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of Scurry County. There are permanent exhibits which are well-maintained, and informative. This museum is a great place for both adults and children and features many interactive displays. In addition to permanent exhibits, the museum also has two galleries that display revolving exhibits.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips. J. Wright Mooar and White buffalo photos in the public domain)

Friday, September 5, 2014

They Called It Hangtown For Good Reason

A town called Hangtown and also Old Dry Diggings is all about the California Gold Rush, the prospectors it attracted from around the world and the colorful and often times questionable characters that followed those prospectors.

old town placerville california
Placerville, California
Hangtown, now the beautiful town of Placerville California, was part of about thirty mining camps that sprung up around Coloma. What made Coloma so important was the fact that it was the site of the sawmill built by James Marshall for John Sutter.

The sawmill was being built on the South Fork of the American River however the events that happened here in 1848 had nothing to do with sawing wood. Marshall noticed several flakes of metal in the water and recognized them to be gold.The story is that Sutter tried to keep the gold discovery a secret but word of course eventually got out and Sutter's life and this branch of the American River would never be the same again.

As a side note, those that visit the town of Coloma today can visit the site of Sutter’s Mill and view an operational replica of the Mill. 

Visit Placerville California

Placerville was named after the placer gold deposits found in it's riverbeds and hills. Located about 47 miles east of Sacramento on historic U.S. Highway 50, Placerville is a must stop if your travels take you to California's Gold Country. Reaching  Placerville is via State Highway 49 and U.S. Highway 50, along one of the most traveled corridors in California. 

historic placerville hotel
The red brick Cary House Hotel
Placerville's Cary House Hotel

During your self guided walking tour of Placerville you'll come across the historic Cary House Hotel. The original hotel was constructed by William Cary in 1847. The first hotel burned down in 1856 and a new one with three floors was built on the same spot of the original hotel. Interestingly enough, fires were not uncommon in gold rush towns of the 1850's. Construction was mostly wood and fire precautions were not a top priority.

It was said that the rich and famous of the 1800's who traveled through the area often added the 77 room Cary House Hotel to their travel plans. Just a few of the notables were Mark Twain who wrote for a period for Placerville's Mountain Democrat newspaper. Another on the list was Ulysses S. Grant. This was considered a luxurious hotel with a bathroom on every floor. The hotel was three stories high with the fourth floor you see today added in the 1900's.

cary house hotel placerville
Today, the Cary House Hotel is an operating hotel with 40 rooms which have their own bathrooms. Sixty percent of the rooms are suites with kitchenettes. This charming, comfortable and historic hotel still has it's  original 1850s woodwork and bricks. For more information and to book a reservation see website www.caryhouse.com

Why Hangtown?

Today's Placerville California picked up the name of Hangtown in 1849. As you can imagine, the name came from the overly large use of that form of justice. Like most stories from the mid 1800's, how the name Hangtown came to be has a few versions.

Gold mining camps everywhere attracted plenty of dubious characters. Gamblers, swindlers and outlaws always follow the money and the money was where the gold was. Trying to take the prospectors gold was an industry in itself. Today's Placerville was in the center of this activity and it was growing fast. With the type of population found in the gold camps it wasn't long before capital punishment was applied, and applied plenty. Hangtown was the place for the hangings.

placerville historic buildings
Masonic Temple Bldg, built in 1893
If you're looking for the most accepted version of how the town became known as Hangtown, here's the story...

A gambler named Lopez won a lot of money at a local saloon. This of course brought him to the attention of the criminal element. After Lopez retired for the evening, several men tried to overpower him. Lopez resisted, and with the help of others, the would be robbers were captured. During their "flogging",three of the robbers were also accused of being wanted for a murder and robbery.  Followed was a 30 minute trial where the men were pronounced guilty. The crowd around the court demanded that the men be hanged and they were in short order. 

A note about the tree that was used for the hanging. Today only the stump remains. This stump from the old tree is now in the cellar of "The Hangman’s Tree" tavern on Historic Main Street. The spot where the tavern is once was the location of  Elstner's Hay Yard where the hangings took place. The address is 305 Main Street.

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

 A Visit to Historic Sutter's Fort

 Old Town Truckee California

Two interesting books regarding Hangtown and the California Gold Rush include...Wagons to Hangtown: A Story of the California Goldrush by author Diana M. Johnson and Hangtown Creek: A Tale of the California Gold Rush by author John Putnam.

See Placerville's Bell Tower

placerville bell tower
Historic Placerville Bell Tower
On Placerville's Main Street is the historic Bell Tower. The Bell Tower is a monument to the city’s volunteer firemen. The Bell, placed in the tower in the plaza in 1865, was used as an alarm system to call out the firefighters. 

The Tower served it's purpose  for well over 100 years. In 1911 the Bell Tower was moved to Cannon Hill. One year later due to electrical problems ringing the bell on it's Cannon Hill site the tower was moved back to the plaza. In the meantime the wooden tower was replaced with a steel one. In 1965 a car hit the tower and almost knocked off the bell.

Rather than getting rid of this historic bell tower which some people had desired, it was instead remodeled, relocated,and renovated. Today it proudly stands as a monument to honor Placerville's city's volunteer firemen.

Add Placerville to Your Vacation Planner

If your travels take you to the Sacramento California area and in particular the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills, you'll enjoy a visit to Placerville, once the hub of Gold Rush activity and old west history. There's a good many historic sites in and around Placerville including a full calendar of fun events for the entire family. 

For a list of Main Street Events in Placerville see website http://www.placerville-downtown.org/Events.html

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips)