Focus on the Backroads » Photo Journeys

Focus on the Backroads bio picture

    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


By 1886 a large number of Catholic families were living in and around Warrenton, Texas.    The priest from near by Fayetteville organized a congregation and visited saying mass in private homes.  In 1888,  Frederick and Helen Spies sold one acre of land to the Catholic bishop on which a church and cemetery were to be built.  Within a year a large building was built and named Saint Martin.  The church flourished.  By 1915 most of the Catholics in the area had moved away.  There was the need to build a school in Fayetteville and the Catholic Bishop granted permission to demolish St. Martin Church so that the lumber could be used to build the school.

When the school was completed there was enough lumber left over to build a small chapel at the original site of St.Martin’s Church.  The building is 14 foot 3 inches by 18 foot 1 inch and is now know as THE SMALLEST CATHOLIC CHURCH IN THE WORLD.  It contains many of the fixtures, including the alter and tabernacle and statures, from the original church.  There are 12 wooden pews.  Mass is held once a year on All Souls Day.

Some of the early settlers and church members are buried in the nearby cemetery.

St. Martin Church is located off Highway 237 in Warrenton.  It is open to visitors and is worth the stopping for!


This little church is like the Little Train that Could…….I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.  I know I can.



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Just east of downtown Austin, the Texas State Cemetery is located on 22 acres of land.  The cemetery is divided into to two section, one that contains 900 graves of deceased prominent Texans and another that has over 2,200 graves of Confederate soldiers and widows.

In 1851 General Edward Burleson, who fought in the Battle of San Jacinto and also during the Cherokee and Mexican War and later served as the Vice-President of the Republic of Texas, was the fist person buried in the cemetery.  He was the only person buried there until 1856 when Abner Lipscomb, Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, was buried in 1854.  Between 1856 and 1866 there were numerous burials including Civil War Generals, soldiers that found for Texas independence, and many of widely know Texas leader at the time.  In the late 1900’s the State of Texas took over the Confederate Men’s and Women’s Home.  As many of these men and women passed away there was space made available at the cemetery to bury them with their former Generals.  One acre was set aside for graves of Union veterans.  Later all but one, Antonio Briones, were removed to Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.  Briones is buried alone in the far northwest corner of the cemetery.

In the early 1900’s there were efforts to enhance the Texas State Cemetery.  In August of 1906 a Albert Sidney Johnston monument was completed.  Johnston, graduated from West Point in 1826 and served as a general in three different armies:  The Republic of Texas Army,  the United States Army,  and the Confederate State Army.  He was the highest-ranking officer, Union or Confederate, to serve in the Civil War.  He was killed early in the Civil War at the Battle of Shiloh at the age of 59.  Shorty afterwards the remains of Stephen F. Austin were brought to the cemetery and a monument was erected in his honor.  Between 1929 ad 1936 over seventy men and women were reinterred.

Burial guidelines were established in 1953.  To obtain a plot individuals must meet one of the following requirements:  member or ex-member of the Texas Legislature, Confederate Veteran, elected state official, state official appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature,  individual designated by governor’s proclamation or a resolution of the Legislature, or the spouse of anyone meeting and of these criteria.

In the northeast section of the cemetery is Monument Hill.  The special area honors those who have made sacrifices to preserve the freedoms that we enjoy as Texans and Americans.  There are monuments commemorating Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipients,  World War II, and the Vietnam War.  The Gold Star Mothers Monument honor women whose sons and daughters have perished in all wars.  The Nine Men of Praha Monument honors men from Fayette County who died in combat in 1944 and 1945.  There is a monument that honors  African-American legislators that served Texas during Reconstruction.  One of the most memorable monuments is the 9-11 Memorial which includes two actual beams from the World Trade Center towers that were destroyed in 2001.  In 2013 US Navy Seal Chris Kyle was laid to rest on Monument Hill.  The inscription on his grave reads  It is our duty to serve those who serve us.

The next time you visit Austin please take some time to visit this beautiful cemetery.  It is an opportunity to reflect  and honor the many men and women that have contributed to our great Texas Heritage.

Texas is neither southern or western….TEXAS IS TEXAS       Senator William Blakley

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Throughout the backroads of Texas are scattered one of our most valuable and ignored historic resources: HISTORIC TEXAS CEMETERIES.  Some are located in our major cities, some in small towns, some off major highways, and some are at the end of long dirt roads.  Many of these cemeteries are the only thing remaining of once very thriving communities.

These cemeteries are reminders of earlier settlers of the Lone Star State.  These folks built homes, churches, businesses, raised families, fought wars, and laid the foundation of what would become the state of Texas.

What makes a Texas cemetery historic?  Any cemetery 50 years or older that landmarks the presence of a family or community qualifies.

There are over 50,000 historic cemeteries in Texas, many of these have not been recored.  You can check out all the documented cemeteries to date by county by searching the Texas Historical Commission website – or of course you can  drive the backroads and turn every time you see a sign that points out a cemetery –  I might see you there.

Every cemetery has a story to tell.  Sometimes it is the history a family or settlement.   Many times you find the graves of famous Texans, soldiers that have fought in many of our wars, past Texas Rangers (not baseball players),   young mothers and children that died during child birth.  I  even found a marker that said “this stranger wandered into town and was shot” – wish I knew who that stranger was.

If you are truly interested in Texas History you might consider doing some research and selecting a few of these Historical Texas Cemeteries to visit.  Better yet, the next time you are traveling on a Texas backroad and see a sign that says CEMETERY with an arrow – take a view minutes and visit – if you are on the backroads you are not in that much of a hurry!

My walk through the cemetery was an acquaintance with local history……Christopher Wren

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Sometimes you find amazing things almost in your backyard – this is one of those times.

In 1894, Reverend JT Upchurch established the Berachah Rescue Society in Waco, Texas with the purpose of redeeming and aiding prostitutes and other fallen women.  In 1903, after being driven from Waco by angry fellow Methodist church members who opposed his aiding prostitutes, Upchurch and his wife Maggie Mae moved to Oak Cliff to continue their mission.  Soon after they purchased twenty-seven acres of land to establish the Berachah Home for homeless girls, usually these girls were pregnant.  It soon became known as Rescue Hill.

Girls came from Texas and the surrounding states to have their babies and learn to care for themselves and their babies.  Upchurch did not believe that mothers and children should not be separated so adoption was not an option until the mother had cared for her child for one year.

By 1928, the home had expanded to 67 acres.  On this land a hospital, nursery dormitory, dining room, print shop, handkerchief factory, chapel, office building, schoolhouse, 1,000 seat auditorium, barn, and a cemetery were built.  The girls worked at the print shop, the handkerchief factory, as teachers and did other task around the home.  Funding was provided by businessmen from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Upchurch published The Purity Journal to keep them informed about their mission work.

In the early 1930’s Reverend Upchurch’s health began to fail and in 1935 the home closed.  It was reopened in 1936 as an orphanage, the Berachah Child Institute, by Upchurch’s daughter, Allie Mae and her husband, Reverend Frank Wiese.  In 1942 the property was purchased by the Christian Missionary Alliance.

It is unknown how many girls had past through the doors of the Berachah Home.  It is also unknown how many children were born.  I wonder what became of the mothers and the children that were residents.  Reverend Upchurch and his wife dedicated their lives to an important cause, although they were ridiculed by many they continued on mission.

The University of Texas purchased the property in 1963 and still currently owns it.  The only remaining evidence of Rescue Hill is The Lost Cemetery of Infants.  

One has to assume since The Berachah Home was a home for unwed mothers that there were some complications with some births.  There are approximately 80 grave sites in the Cemetery.  Most are marked by a flat stone with either a first name or a number, such as Infant #1.  Last names were not included to protect the unwed mother’s anonymity.

I have lived in Arlington since 1975 and until about a week ago I was unaware of this fascinating piece of history.  While a student attending The University of Texas at Arlington,  I actually lived about 300 yards from this site.  Yesterday I visited The Lost Cemetery of Infants.  I was touched by what I found – simple graves of forgotten babies who had no past, present, or future.  I now wonder what happened to the hundreds of children that would leave the home to follow the backroads of their lives.

This site is special and I encourage people to visit Rescue Hill.  Not much there except a history of a lot of folks that were touch by the Reverend Upchurch and his family.  I have included a photograph of each of the markers at this cemetery (sorry a couple are out of focus).  Please take a minute to remember each and every one of them.

There is not a footprint to small to leave an imprint on this world……….unknown

LOST CEMETERY OF INFANTS   (Doug Russell Park – northwest corner)                                                                                                           801 West Mitchell Street  – Arlington, TX

past pictures from UT Arlington Archives

SusannaFebruary 25, 2021 - 5:01 am

I went to UTA in the 90’s and never knew about this home and cemetery. I will visit and pay my respects!

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Scattered throughout rural Texas there are hundreds of historic dance halls.  Some of these are still operating today while many are in disrepair.

These halls were and continue to be an important part of our history and our TEXAS Heritage.  You will not find these halls off the Interstate Highways – you must detour onto some beautiful and scenic Texas back roads.   When you arrive at one of these halls you will immediate travel back in time and marvel at these historic wonders.

Fraternal orders, gun clubs, and agricultural groups built most of these halls.  Used by town folks as places to gather for both recreation and also as meeting places to discuss issues that were important to the community.

Unfortunately, the Texas Dance Halls are becoming an endangered species.  Some have been torn down over the years because of the expense of keeping them operating.  Others have been lost because of natural disasters such as floods and fire.  To many have just passed away because of old age and neglect.

Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc. is a non-profit group that is dedicated to SAVING TEXAS DANCE HALLS ONE TWO-STEP AT A TIME.   TDHP is committed to rescuing historic Texas dance halls, the authentic music, and culture that is still found in them by:

  • Developing informational programs to promote public awareness and use of Texas dance halls as living venues for community assembly, music and social dancing
  • Keeping an inventory of all traditional dance halls in Texas, including those that have been lost.
  • Documenting and publishing the history of Texas dance halls, individually and as a collection of resources, for the purpose of education and outreach.
  • Serving as a clearinghouse for information that can aid the preservation of Texas dance halls.
  • Providing assistance to list dance halls on the National Register of Historic Places or to complete grant applications for preservation projects.
  • Providing financial, technical, or organizational assistance for the restoration, rehabilitation and preservation of historic dance halls.

If you grew up in Texas there is a good chance that you have spent time at one of these historic halls… there is a very good chance that either your great-grandparents and/or your grandparents first met while dancing across the floor of a Texas dance hall.

Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc. and other like-minded organizations need help…SAVING THE HISTORIC DANCE HALLS.   Visit the TDHP web site at to learn more about the mission and the work that TDHP is doing.  Then please consider making a donation to help preserve these Texas Treasures.   If you agree that now is the time to preserve these historic halls please share this blog with your friends.

Remember………when the band starts to play every dance begins with the first step.


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