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Mineola, TX–First Baptist Church

What I like about historic Mineola are the renovations over the past five or more years.  The stoplight downtown, one you will likely sit at, will force you to look around and you’ll notice the restored depot and the downtown area including eateries, antique shops and more. Either that, or you’ll be stuck behind a fast moving train barreling through headed here ore there.   There is usually some kind of event scheduled throughout the year.

And there is this beauty:   First Baptist Church at 204 N Johnson St.  You cannot miss it with it’s towering steeple.  I took the scenic route through town that day, only a few blocks away and shot this picture with my IR Nikon.

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Posted by on March 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

New Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, Germany Community, Crockett, Texas Forest Trail Region

If you read my last blog entry, you will have found me driving around in the Davy Crockett National Forest in search of cemeteries, historical markers, and massacre sites.  That is what brings me to write and share this post.

While on the 1655 headed toward disappointment I found this quaint little treasure, New Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, tucked away in a clearing.  I stopped on the road, looked at my watch and wondered where everyone was since it was church time.  I sat in my car, studied the map, made some adjustments to my camera and shot this picture of New Pleasant Hill Baptist Church.  I waited around a bit in hopes that church would begin if it hadn’t already and I could attend worship services and meet church members and gather some valuable information to share with you here.  I didn’t see a soul.

Once home I googled the name of this church and found very little information about it. But I did find this:  Texas Forest Trail.  If “Germany, TX” is searched then more information on the church can be found.  How I’d love to interview anyone associated with that community.  If you have any additional information, please send it to me via Email

The historical marker reads as follows:

Settled by families of former slaves following the Civil War, this community received its name, according to local tradition, in reference to the homeland of the German immigrant family that had settled in the area in the 1830s. Several freedmen, including George Smith, John Burt, Lewis Hall, and Van Benton and their families, obtained pre-emption land grants in the area in the 1870s and 1880s, and soon a close-knit community was formed. Although the Germany community did not have its own post office and never was incorporated formally, its citizens organized the New Pleasant Hill Baptist Church and a public school. The church still serves a loyal congregation. The school held classes in a building shared with the church. It was expanded, possibly with Julius Rosenwald Fund assistance, and continued in operation until 1949. Still a rural community, Germany is home to a few resident families and serves as a gathering place for former residents. Many former citizens are returned here for burial in the community cemetery, which dates to the 1880s. Maintained by citizens and volunteers, the cemetery contains marked and unmarked graves of pioneer settlers and their descendants. (1997)

 

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Posted by on March 17, 2017 in Churches, Texas

 

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Augusta, Texas

At the time of my return home to North Texas I veered to the west toward Houston County to see the area where the Edens-Madden Massacre took place, one of several significant events which occurred during the uprising in 1838 known as the “Cordova Rebellion”.  While on leave my hosts and I scoured the worldwide web looking for information and maps.  Remaining fond of Google Maps, although not always so accurate, I, without question drove West on the 103 towards Crockett out of Lufkin.  I’ll take you to that remote location in a following paragraph or more.  As for the story of the massacre there are a dozen or so versions.  Everyone has their angle, you could say, both fictionalized accounts and slightly accurate recollections.  I am not too concerned about the exactness of it all for this violent attack ended the lives of many.  The Kickapoo and Cherokee were eventually expelled from this region.   This is one of many of my own personal excursions for family history research.

While a stack of Madden history lies on a manila folder on the table, I take a sip of favorite beverage with little bubbles while listening to Gregory Porter’s “Children, Your Line is Draggin’”.   I am unable to read some of my scribbled notes taken while skimming the pages of books and notes left on my Grandmother’s desk last month.  There’s enough to figure it all out.  She used to tell me about the Edens Madden Massacre years ago and I actually have that recorded on a cassette tape.

Let me take you down this interesting and scenic route through the Davy Crockett National Forest.  If you haven’t been through there I suggest you alter your next East TX drive right on through it.  It’s pretty.  And there are so many historical markers, it will take hours to get to the other side if you stopped to read them all.  I had no time at all except for the ones that had anything to do with the Madden family.

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The pin shows this site to be on the edge of the Davy Crockett National Forest.  I followed the 21 and found the 1543 that winds and curves and changes becoming a dozen or so other numbers and  you must pay attention to the direction you are driving.  At the least have a compass because GPS can vanish on narrow unpaved sandy road of the dark forest.  My Droid maintained contact with the virtual world so I had little problem.

This is a Sunday morning, mind you, and this is the Bible Belt.  People go to church out here  as remote as this area is I passed ten or more car/truck loads of churchgoers headed one way or another to congregate in rural worship houses, some with their own Texas historical marker firmly planted front and center of the church building.  I got invited to church by a passerby  who stopped while I was seated in my car on the edge of the red dirt road looking at my bewildering Google map.   Onward I traveled and the road became more narrow and sandy.  I’m now on the 544.  Want to know what’s back there?  Trees.  Tall pine trees.  And a gate.  There was nothing but a gate with more trees on the other side.  This is exactly where the map said the place was but there was nothing to see except for pine trees.  I’m miles from civilization and no public restrooms or refreshment stands to be seen.  One must do what is necessary and move on.

I drove West to the 2022 where a historical marker stood right on the corner.  I was as happy to find it as I was to see pavement.

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I suspect the area described above was the Edens land.  I should have conducted more research.  But alas, there was more Edens-Maddens history a few miles ahead in Augusta.

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This is one of four markers located in Augusta at the site of the massacre according to Dana Goolsby of TexasEscapes.com.  A mile or so and a left turn the Augusta Cemetery sits long the 1680.  The gate was closed but there were no “do not enter” signs so I opened and drove through toward the back.  Edens and Maddens can be found buried there. I did not take a log with me and mark off who is who on the massacre list.  Some were buried on Edens cemetery and others apparently here.

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When I pulled out of the cemetery closing the gate behind, I drove slowly through town in hopes to find a local walking along the road carrying groceries or sitting on the porch watching people like me read the historical signs so that I could interview them.  I met one man with his wife researching the DeWitt family.  They were from Georgia.

Turning East toward Alto, a patch of bright yellow daffodils swayed in the breeze while the sky darkened threatening rain.  I rolled the window down halfway and turned up the radio to listen to “Back Roads” by Brandon Rhyder.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2017 in Texas

 

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Larissa, Texas

From my driveway to “X-marks-the-spot” in East Texas is roughly a five hour drive.  It takes me seven  hours or more because there is plenty to see along  US 69.  It is a lovely scenic drive once in the Piney Woods region, otherwise a pleasant stretch of open countryside with cows and horses grazing in the fields pass by.  There are plenty of historical markers on the way and if you stop at all of them and read them the drive may take an additional hour or two.  It all depends if you meet others along the way with similar interest in the Lone Star State’s story.

I’ve driven this route for the past 12 years and I must add I never tire of it.  That’s because each time I take a trip there, I look for something new to visit.  East Texas offers a rich historical heritage that swings way back to the early years of Civil War.  I’m not going to write the history of Texas here right now.  Or ever.  But I will share one little treasure I found while seeking “ghost towns” on the internet last month for my week long excursion to visit family.

North Cherokee County has a tucked away and pretty much abandoned rural townsite known as Larissa.  The town is about 20 miles northwest of Rusk.  If you search for information on anything north, west, south, etc of Rusk, you will be delighted to find plenty to explore but you must gather information for there are no large billboards or adverts welcoming tourists to these areas.  These are the back roads of the back roads.

Larissa is known for the Killough Massacre that occurred October 5, 1838 and documented as “believed to have been both the largest and last Native American attack on white settlers in East Texas”.  The purpose of this blog entry is to share with you my journey and my picture(s) and not to go on about the history.  You can look that up yourself.  I will tell you how to get there for it’s not shown on many maps and did not pop up on any of my GPS maps.

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This was shot with an IR converted Nikon D70 in case you are wondering why the trees and grass are white.  The effect gives a more eerie feel.  The site is located far back in the woods and appears to be well maintained although it is apparent that over the years some vandalism and partying have taken place as evidenced by a condom package and a few flattened beer cans scattered across the empty parking lot.

IMG_20170221_150712752[1] A chain link fence surrounds the memorial and a maintained road and parking lot lie to the north.  And the entrance is shown in the photo below.  The site is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  I spent about half an hour there reading all the markers and enjoying the cool air of the February Monday. Nothing could be heard but the breeze soughed through the tall pines with a cawing of a hawk overhead.  For a moment I had forgotten the rest of the world, the daily routine, who was where and why.  I sat on a large rock and looked over my shoulder toward the dense forest of brush and pine imaging the life of the settlers in the 1800’s starting anew, building from scratch as they migrated West.  My phone rang.  I had to get to Lufkin in time for supper.

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How do you get to this monument?  Follow me.  North of Jacksonville on State Highway 69, hop onto the 855 in Mt. Selman.  Drive West.  Turn left on FM 3405.  I saw no sign about the Killough Massacre but another blogger wrote there was one there.  Once on the 3405, drive a short distance and look for the 3411.  The sign is clear.  Turn right.  Keep going until you reach a split.  This will be the 3411 and the 3409.  Stay on the 3411 veering to the left.  You are going to drive a bit and begin to feel like you have driven too far.  Keep driving.  The road is going to curve to the right a bit and then to the left and you’ll pass some farms.  It all looks the same in the woods doesn’t it?  Keep your eyes open on the left for the gate.  It’s CR 3431 with a sign for the Killough Massacre site.  Enjoy your visit.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2017 in Photography, Texas

 

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Dr. White’s Sanitorium, Wichita Falls, TX

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Only one stop was made in Wichita Falls on our haunted trek to Amarillo to see Dr. White’s Sanitorium –Old Insane Asylum. There were several spots we could have checked out but this was easiest for the time we had left in the day. Once mapped we turned right onto Olen Street and found what we thought was going to be a dilapidated structure with weeds grown up around it, an old iron gate partially open inviting the curious in. We did no prior research. All of these finds were random and found on one website only. We found the address 508 Olen St in Wichita Falls, TX. I had to look twice on the internet to verify this place for it had been converted to a private residence. I wanted to knock on the door and ask to take a tour. Obviously we didn’t. Surely they have people like us drive by regularly.
According to various websites, this facility was used to house tuberculosis patients back in the 20’s. Once closed it was abandoned and as you can well establish the building was explored by those in search of ghosts and sounds were audible leaving much to the imagination. I have not found evidence that it was used as an insane asylum. This was an easy find.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Witches Gate #2

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While Courtney took some more shots of Witches Gate in the previous entry, I pulled up on my handy Droid Witches Gate #2 located just east of Witchita Falls on Hammon and Hatton Road. This is nothing more than an intersection with a couple of versions, one involving a murder of a young couple doing what young couples do after the Texas sky goes dark.
When we found it I got out and walked around in the middle of the road and examined the guardrail and the ditch below. The area is open countryside scattered with small farms, horses, tractors, an old Chevy pick-up and some made-up stories. I looked up at October’s morning sky, yawned, stretched, and ho-hummed carrying my camera looking for a more interesting subject.
Number Two doesn’t look as mysterious and exciting as Witches Gate but because it was on our list of “haunts”, we had to drive there just to check it out. It is written on various websites that there is a relationship to this corner of the road and the burned structure I’ve written about. Some say that the land was owned by the Keith Brothers who owned the Witches Gate land. I suppose if you drive long enough on Hammon Ranch Road you’d end up on the WG property. If you drive long enough you’ll end up somewhere.
Perhaps after dark one night I’ll bring my paranormal detection equipment and hang out with the mosquitoes at this location and report back to you my findings, that is if I don’t get killed by a drunk driver out that way. You know, the one that takes the back road. By the way, did you know that you can download apps on your iPhone to detect ghosts? Is there an app to detect drunk drivers?
After a bit of googling I discovered several stories and books written about the Keith brothers and the troubles at Witches Gate. I bought the book, How Did They Die? (Murders in Northern Texas 1926-1975) by Julie Coley.
All I wanted was a trip to Amarillo to see the Cadillacs, the horse museum and some stars at the Canyon. Here I now sit spending hours researching the Witches Gate stories.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Jolly, Texas

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There isn’t much in Jolly. Really, there isn’t. There is an RV Center, a Baptist church, and the Jolly truck stop/Valero gas center that takes up a chunk of property just north of the highway. The population is less than 200 people. Hop on the 2393 south and you’ll find yourself eventually at Lake Arrowhead state park. I write about Jolly, however, not for the above listed places but for an easily missed little place along the 287 that is recorded on http://www.hauntedplaces.org/.

According to the website, this place called Witches Gate is “a burned mansion, the centerpiece of a local legend. Many different stories circulate here. Some say the wealthy family who lived here was met with tragedy when the father passed away. The mother went crazy and burned the house. Another tale says robbers broke into the house, and one of the small boys in the family managed to trap the robbers and set the house afire, killing everyone inside, including himself. Other stories say the family was involved in witchcraft, which spawned the name Witches Gate. Folks say the ghost of the two brothers who lived in the family can be seen among the ruins.”

This is the month of October and the fields and trees remain lush with vegetation so finding ruins is not an easy task.  On our third attempt and U-turn, we finally located this old place on the south side of the 287 but it wasn’t easy to see.

Have you seen it?

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2015 in Uncategorized