Focus on the Backroads » Photo Journeys

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  • FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS

    There is approximately 50,000 miles of Interstate Highway in the United States.....filled with cars traveling at an average of 75 miles an hour. Several years ago I began driving the BACKROADS throughout Texas and the surrounding states - discover many fascinating places and people. While traveling "off the beaten path" I have tried to capture the spirit of these forgotten roads in photographs.

    After sharing some of these journeys with folks I have met I've been encouraged to document my travels.........I invite you to FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS!

    "To often......I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen"
    Louis L'Amour

FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS: SCOTTSVILLE CEMETERY – SCOTTSVILLE, TEXAS

In June of 1840 William Thomas Scott, his wife Mary Rose, and other members of their family settled in this area of East Texas.  Scott established five cotton plantations, including his residence, Scottsville Plantation, which was constructed by slaves.  His home was a replica of  a mansion in Mississippi owned by Jefferson Davis.  Scottsville was granted a post office in 1869 and the population grew to about 300.  Scott served in the House of Representatives of the last Congress of the Republic of Texas and later he became a Senator of the first legislature after statehood.  He died in 1887 and is bury next to Mary Rose in the Scottsville Cemetery.

The Scottsville/Youree Cemetery is named for Peter Youree, a captain in the Confederate Army.  Youree later became a banker and eventually built the first skyscraper in Shreveport, Louisiana.

The Scottsville Cemetery is the oldest private cemetery in Texas located four miles east of Marshall, Texas.  The cemetery is filled with amazing artistic monuments.  At the entrance  of the cemetery is a Confederate monument.  During the Civil War the Scott Plantation provided provisions for the Confederate troops.  There are seven names, of family members who were involved in the war, inscribed on the pedestal.

In 1904 a church was build at the cemetery by the family of William Scott Youree after he was killed in Mexico.  The Weeping Angel marks his grave.  The monument was created by sculptor Frank Teich and is named Grief.  The ten foot statue is carved from Carrera marble and cost $40,000.00 in 1904.

If you look closely you will find a small stone, actually the smallest in the cemetery.  It is the stone for Major Herman Kretz – 2nd Battalion.  Pennsylvania infantry US Army.  In fine print it states:  Barried Lot 3593 Arlington National Cemetery.  The only reason the the stone is there is because it is next to his wife’s tombstone.

A visit to the Scottsville Cemetery amazing!  It is one of the most beautiful cemeteries not only the state of Texas but in the United States.

A cemetery is a history of people – a perpetual record of yesterday and sanctuary of peace and quiet today.  A cemetery exists because every life is worth loving and remembering……..always.         Unknown

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FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS – BELLE PLAIN, TEXAS: A TEXAS GHOST TOWN

In 1875, Nelson Smith purchased land with plans to build a college and a town.  It is believed that the town’s name Belle Plain was in honor of Katie Belle Magee, the first child born in the town.  By the next had a population of 55 and three businesses. In 1877 Callahan County was established and Belle Plain was chosen as the country seat. Slowly the town grew and by 1880 there were over 300 folks there supporting a hotel, several stores, a court house and jail, saloons, two fraternal lodges, eleven lawyers, four doctors,  and a newspaper – The Callahan County Claredon..

Belle Plain College was located on 10 acres of land and opened in 1881, becoming fist colleges in West Texas.  The campus comprised of two building and was best know for their music program.  The school had fifteen pianos, a brass band, and an orchestra.  300 students was the highest enrollment.  Along with the music program the school offered science and liberal arts study courses.

Belle Plain’s troubles began when rail construction bypassed the town and instead the rail went through Baird, Texas which was six miles north.  The county seat was shortly moved to Baird.  the jail was disassembled and rebuilt in Baird (it still stands there today). Belle Plain, a town that at it’s peak had a population of about 1,000 soon became deserted.

The only thing that remains is the Belle Plain Cemetery which can be visited by the public.  There are several remains of the building from the college but these are now on private property.  (as you can tell by the pictures I went over the fence).

To visit Belle Plain take US 283 South from Baird, travel about 8 miles then go East on county road for about 1.5 miles.  There are signs that will direct you to the cemetery

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FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS: FORT GRIFFIN STATE HISTORICAL SITE

Located in the rolling hills  between the West Fork of the Trinity River and Clear Fork of the Brazos River Fort Griffin was considered on of the wildest places in the Old West.  On July 29, 1867 Fort Griffin was established by four companies of the Sixth Cavalry of the US Army to give settlers protection from Comanche and Kiowa raids.  The fort was first named Camp Wisdom and was later renamed Fort Griffin after Charles Griffin.  Griffin had been a Civil War Union General and was the military governor during the early years of Reconstuction.

When completed the fort would house up to six companies of soldiers.  Included were administration building, a hospital, officers’ quarters, numerous barracks, a guard house, a bakery, a powder magazine, five storehouses, four stables, a laundry, and a workshop.  Soon after the fort was complete a new settlement started at the bottom of the hill.  This settlement was first call The Bottom, The Flat or Hidetown and eventually would take the name of the fort.  Along with honest folks that  engaged in ranching, farming, buffalo hunting and other businesses many well know outlaws, gunfighters and hooligans arrived.  The town gained a reputation for lawlessness.  Some of these visitors included Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Big Nose Kate (famous lady gambler), Pat Garrett, Bat and Jim Masterson, and gunfighter John Wesley Hardin.   Soon the town was nicknamed “Babylon on the Brazos.

As more people arrive the indian attacks increased in the area.  In 1874 the Army defeated the Kiowas and Comanches at Pal Duro Canyon.  After the Red River War the area was flooded with more settlers and became a ranching and farming center.  On May 31, 1879 Capt JB Irvine from Company A, 22nd Infantry lowered the flag for the last time and relocated with the troops to Fort Clark.

On Januarey 1, 2008, Fort Griffin was transferred to the Texas Historical Commission.  Today there are the ruins that remain from the fort.  The visitors center is a must with exhibits and information about this historical site.  There are also campsites, hiking trails, and it is the home of the official Texas Longhorn Herd.

The history of Fort Griffin is commemorated each year in the Fort Griffin Fandangle, and outdoor musical.  The Fandangle, which has been in production is 1938 is staged in an acre-sized amphitheater with a cast of over 400 locals.  The six performances, that occur on the last two weekends in June, are attended by more than 10,000 people each year.  (I hate to say this BUT I have never attended – I will next year!)

Please visit the Fort Griffin website at www.visitfortgriffin.com.

“Mom, this is a cool place”………..little boy at the Fort Griffin Visitors Center

 

 

 

 

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FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS: THE FAMILY ROAD TRIP

Summer is here……..time for the Family Road Trip.  Along with baseball, hotdogs, and apple pie there is nothing more American the the road trip.  This summer (hopefully) millions of American will pack their bags, throw them in the trunk, load the kids in the back seat to begin the GREAT AMERICAN FAMILY ROAD TRIP.  Some may head to a local destination while others will drive thousands of miles visiting some of our many State and National Parks.

The first recorded road trip across the United States took place in 1903 – when H Nelson Jackson, Sewall Crocker, and a dog named Bud drove a 1903 Winton Touring Car from San Francisco to New York City.  The trip took 63 days and cost $8,000.00 – cost included food, gas, lodging, tires and repairs, and the cost to purchase the Winton.  Lucky for them there was no need to pay $45.00 for a souvenir t-shirt at every stop!

During the 1950 there was a rapid growth of car ownership – these were not only used for commuting but also for leisure trips.  Families began traveling to exciting destinations on highway, such as Route 66, all across the country.  With this increase of family road trip vacations business catering to these travelers were built.  As the family arrived into a new town they would be met by “men who wear the star” (I know some of you have no idea who they are), many new fast food cafes, and the only important thing to the backseat passengers (which included my brothers and I) was “does the motel have a swimming pool”.  If there was we were happy travelers.  Little did we know that those late evening swims were to make us tired so we would sleep.

Growing up in the late 50’s and 60’s we did not have the travel options that we have today.  Airplane travel was much to expensive so we traveled by car or train (maybe the subject of another blog).  Most of our road trips were to visit relatives in  Washington, Oregon, and many trips to Montana to visit the Grandparents.  Not bad destinations – trips to the beach, ghost towns, fishing trips in the mountains, camping, and visits to both Yellowstone and Glacier National Park.  Some of the most interesting parts of these trip were the roads that we traveled between our house in  Vancouver, Washington to our destination.  Oh how I would like to again jump in the far back seat of my dads station wagon, remember those, the lucky one in that seat never knew where they were going but they always got to see where they had been.  How many hours did we spend making faces at the people behind us!

The family summer vacation has changed for many people.  Many people now jump onto an airplane or ship – because they are in a hurry to get where they are going, or they have this urge to spend time surrounded with by water.  There are still many American’s that embrace loading the kids up into the SUV, turning on their favorate movie on the DVD and heading out to exciting destinations.  I am glad we only had AM radio back in the day…….if we had a DVD player I would have never learned all the words to 100 bottles of beer on the wall or how to play the ABC game with the signs

Of course there were conflicts on the way – the worst ever between my two brothers and I was always …….who was going to have to sit on the hump in the middle of the back seat, that was the worst.  Many times my mom would hear “mom, he touched my leg” and we will not discuss the many burping contest.

Included are some of my favorite photos from Family Road Trips of my family while we were growing up

 

Sometimes the road you travel doesn’t lead to the Destination you had hoped for.  But if you can look back on the trip and Smile…..Then it was worth it!                   unknown

 

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FOCUS ON THE BACKROADS: OKLAHOMA CITY NATIONAL MEMORIAL

Twenty years ago, an explosion ripped through the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, in Oklahoma City, at 9:02 in the morning.  As a result of the actions of two cowards (not to be named in respect to the victims) 168 people, including 19 children, were killed and hundreds of others were injured.  The attack stunned the entire nation – how could this happen in the heartland of America – at that time the worst terorrist attack on our soil.

Almost immediately a task force was formed to start planning a permanent memorial where this tragedy occurred.  In October of 1997, President Clinton sign a law creating the Oklahoma City National Memorial  as a unit of the National Park Service.  The total cost of the memorial was 29.1 million of which 17 million coming from private donations.  On April 19, 2000, the fifth anniversary of the attack, the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial was dedicated.  On February 19, 2001 the Memorial Museum was dedicated.  Approximately 350,000 people visit each year.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial is one of the most inspiring site you will ever visit.  The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial sits on 3.3 acres and is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year.  This site consist of the following segments:

  • The Gates of Time:  two twin bronze gates.  These frame the moment of the blast – 9:02am.  9:01 is on the east gate and represents the last moment of peace,  on the opposite gate is 9:03 which represents the moment of recovery.  On each of the gates the following is inscribed:  We come here to remember Those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever.  May all who leave here know the impact of violence.  May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.
  • Reflecting Pool:  This thin layer of water flows over polished black granite.  The pool runs east to west down the center of the Memorial.
  • Field of Empty Chairs:  There are 168 empty chairs that were hand-crafted from glass, bronze, and stone.  Each represents the victims of the blast with their names etched on the glass base of each.  The chairs sit on the site where the Murrah building once stood.  The chairs are arranged in nine rows which represent the nine floors of the building.  Each person’s chair is on the row on which the person was located when the bomb went off.  The chairs are groups also according to the blast pattern,  most nearest the area of the building that was most heavily damaged.  There are five chairs that are located on the most western section that represent the five people that did not die in the Murrah Building.  Three of these people were in building near by, one outside of the building, and  one was a rescuer.  19 of the chairs are smaller than the others, these representing the children that were victims.  There of the women who died that day were expecting – these unborn children are listed on their mothers’ chairs beneath their mothers’ names.
  • Survivors’ Wall:  the only remaining original section of the Murrah Building are known as the Survivors’ Wall.   It has several granite panels that were salvaged from the Murrah Building.  The names of the 600 survivors are inscribed on these.
  • The Survivor Tree:  This tree is an American Elm and is located on the north side of the Memorial.  It was the only shade tree in the parking lot across from the Murrah Building.  People would arrive early to  secure a parking spot under this tree.  This tree can be seen in photos that were taken in the 1920s so the tree is about 100 years old.  The Survivor Tree has glass and debris embedded in it’s trunk.  Many of it’s branches were blown off by the blast.  Although most believed the tree would not survive – it now THRIVES!  It has been mandated that the tree will be protected as a living memorial.  When the decking and wall were build around the tree a large portion of the roots were placed inside a large pipe so that it could reach the soil beyond the wall.  There is an inscription on the deck wall that reads, The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.  Every year hundreds of seeds from the Survivor Tree are planted and the resulting saplings are distributed each year on the anniversary of the bombing.  There are now Thousands of Survivor Trees growing on public and private land through the United States.
  • The Memorial Fence:  This 10 foot fence was build around the area of the reflection pool and chairs during the construction.  I section of it was moved to the west side of the Memorial.  Visitors still leave stuffed animals, poem, and other items.
  • Children’s Area:  There are more than 5,000 hand painted tiles from all over North America that were made by children and sent to Oklahoma City after the bombing.  Most are stored in the archives there is a sampling on the wall in the Children’s Area.
  • Rescuers’ Orchard:  A grove of Oklahoma redbuds, Amur Maple, Chinese Pistache, and Bosque Elm trees have been planted on the lawn surrounding the Survivor Tree.  These represent the rescuers who responded and gave aid to the survivors; this is why these surround the Survivor Tree.
  • Journal Record Building:  This building houses the Oklahoma City national Memorial Museum.

Many of us remember the scenes from April 19, 2095.  We will never forget this tragedy as we watched this building destroyed along with the lives of so many,  all of our lives changed that day.  We should continue to pray for the victims and their families and salute the many responders who worked so hard to save the lives of the people in the building that day.  I will never forget seeing a photo of Chris Fields, an Oklahoma City firefighter carrying 1 year old  Baylee Almon away from the Alfred Murrah Building.  Baylee later died in the hospital.  She is truly an Angel and Chris is truly a HERO!

The actions of these two cowards is unforgivable and tragic.  The loss of of the victims lives is heartbreaking.  The actions of the first responders and the American people is inspiring.  If you have not visited this memorial please do – not to take a selfie but to spend time honoring the victims and heroes of that day.  You will be glad you did!

Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which we live   –   Robert Kennedy

note:  photo of firefighter Chris Fields and Baylee Almon taken by Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Porter

 

 

 

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