Friday, September 27, 2013

More Exploring : Fairflied Lake State Park and Corsicana

Fairfield Lake State Park is located about six miles northeast of Fairfield.  The City of Fairfield is located along I-45 and if any one has taken that drive between Houston and Dallas  you will certainly know this town.  The exit to Fairfield is where the Sam's Restaurant is located; one of the best known restaurant along the Houston to Dallas route.  They have great food and serve a buffet that is really large with great home cooking.  If you are taking this route make sure to stop and eat.

Back to Fairfield Lake State Park, what a beautiful place.  It is noted for it's fishing and is acclaimed to have some of the best fresh watering fishing around. this part of Texas.  It is a relatively new park that open in 1976 to the public.  There are beautiful campsite for park host and for just camping; great fishing pier and a real big day picnic area with swimming hole.  It looks like a wonderful place to part host but in talking to the rangers, the program is on hold currently as they are resurfacing the roadway and will be closing the park during this winter, but you might contact them about spring, summer 2014.

Park Host Site
Wildlife in the area

The City of Fairfield, itself, is full of interesting history.  It is the county seat for Freestone County and the Courthouse has one of the original civil war cannons sitting in front of it.  This area also had a reunion grounds for the confederate veteran; today this is the Freestone County Fairground.  The town is also known for the Freestone County Museum which is located in the century-old jail.  Make the stop and look around - you will enjoy it.

Corsicana, Texas:  A town full of roughnecks and wild elephants.  We have driven through and passed by Corsicana many many time but never took the time to really look at the town.  What a interesting place.  It is the county seat for Navarro County; the county was named for Antonio Navarro, hero from the Texas Independence War and the town was named after his father's birth place, an island called Corica.
The town was a major player in the development of the railroad system in the 1800.  The Houston & Texas Central Railroad (north-south) and the St. Louis & Southwestern Railroad (east-west) crossed each other in Corsicana.  These railways were important transportation for the cotton industry during this time.

Downtown has a great collection of historic homes and commercial buildings.  I must say I was impressed as so many towns/cities are destroying their historical buildings.  I truly hate to see all the history and great design destroyed.  At the Visitor Center you can pick up a guide for a Walking Tour of Historic of the downtown area explaining all the historical building with their stories.  It is not a long walk and if you take the time to walk it you will not regret it.   Most of Corsicana's downtown buildings were some of the first commercials buildings in Texas and were built at the time of the first oil discovery in 1894 near the downtown area.  Petroleum Park located at 7th Ave.and 12th Street marks the "Birthplace of the Texas Oil Industry" with an oil derrick and is the site where the first oil was discovered in Texas in 1894.  The original rotary rig that was horse/donkey driven used during that time, now sits in the Smithsonian's Museum of History and Technology.

One other interesting story about the town is that Wolf Brand Chili was founded here.  Lyman T. Davis, the founder of Wolf Brand Chili, in 1895 started selling his chili off the back of an old wagon with crackers for five cents bowl in front of the Blue Front Saloon.  The Saloon supplied beverages and soon a booming business was founded.  He later opened a meat market and continued to serve his chili everyday from the back of the market.  People soon started asking him if they could take some home and he developed a "chili brick" for sale.  In the 1920's the business was so successful he begin canning the chili for sale.  In canning he needed a label and the photographer working with him suggested that he use the image of his pet wolf "Kaiser Bill", thus the name "Wolf Brand Chili".  The chili was produced in Corsicana until the 1980's when Quaker Oats moved production to Dallas.  The mail order distribution continues our of the Corsicana today just a block away from where it was founded over 100 years ago. 
Another interesting story - In October 1929 the Al G. Barnes Circus was coming to town and was going to have the parade of animal from the train was taking place.  Ms. Eva Speed Donohoo was standing on 13th Street watching with the elephant, Black Diamond, reportedly the largest elephant in captivity at that time, bolted form the parade and trampled through town attaching Ms. Donohoo and killed her.  The mounted head of Black Diamond can be seen at the Watkins Trophy Room on  S.15th Street.

Also just north of town is a location called Pioneer Village, which will take you through the history of the town through authentic old log cabins, barns, store fronts, post office, slave quarters, blacksmith shop, to Harmon's Hoodlum wagon.  There are a number of small historical museum, Peace Officer, Lefty Frizzell, Sam Roberts, and the Redden Home to name a few.  All contain items true to the time period and are very interesting.  Take the time and walk through this area.  

The other neat thing, and especially if you are taking the walking tour, is that there are a number of the older diners that have been preserved and maintained their history and continues to serve great home cooked  food.  Fred and I both can attest to this fact!!
Fred and I covered both the town walking tour and the walk through Pioneer Village all in one day.  I would recommend that you take a couple of days if you really want to see things in detail and take more time reading the history.  We were just under a time constraint.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ft Parker State Park and Old Ft. Parker Restoration

On our days off Fred and I are hitting the road around the area to see what we can find.  One of the reasons we chose this lifestyle was to get out and see things.  Fred was wanting to learn more about the state the was born and raised in so we are now off on our adventures:

Ft. Parker State Park:
What a great place.  It sits around Lake Parker and offers great fishing and canoeing.  In fact you can put your canoe in at the Confederate Reunion Ground and canoe down the Navasota River to the lake into the park.  The park was developed between 1935 and 1942 by the Civilian Conservation Corps as sits on the old town site of Springfield, Texas.  Springfield was once the county seat for Limestone County but the railroad came through and the court house buried down so the town was moved to Grosbeck, closer to the railroad and a new courthouse was built. There are great wooded camping areas and a large picnic are with swimming.  This is certainly a place to keep on your list to visit.

Old Ft. Parker Restoration:
Now you really talk about some history this place has it.  It is just up the road from the state park and is restoration of an old fort that is full of history. 

In 1833 Daniel Parker got permission to come settle in Texas and stare the Predestinarian Baptist Church and with a group of followers and his family he started out in July 1833.  One group of the followers settled in what is not Elkhart, Texas and a replica of their Pilgrim Baptist Church still stands.  The rest continued with the Elder John Parker farther west closer to the Navasota River.  Elder Parker with three sons, Silas, James and Benjamin began to clear land and established "Parker's Fort" in December 1833.  The fort was completed in 1834 and was for the protection of the settlement as they were in in the middle of Indian Country.

On May 19, 1936 while most of the men were out in the fields working, a band of Comanches Indian came to the fort under a white flag stating they were looking for food and water and to trade.  Benjamin Parker had talked to them and when he returned from the fort with the beef they requested they charged the gate of the fort before it could be closed.  There five of the settlers killed and five were captured.  The remain survivors headed for Fort Houston. 

The most famous of the captives was Cynthia Ann Parker who was 9 years old at the time.  She grew up as a Comanche and married Chief Peta Nocona and lived as his wife  and gave birth to 3 children.  She along with her infant daughter was recaptured in the winter of 1860 by Ranger Tom Kelliner when he lead an attack against the camp she was in along the Pease River.  She was returned to her kin in east Texas but never accept that way of life again.  She tried to run away a number of times to return to her husband but was forced to return back to her kin each time.  Cynthia never readjusted back to her old way of life and she and her daughter passed away in 1864.  Legend has it her Indian chief husband passed away shortly there after and that they both died of a lonely heart. 
One of her sons, Quanah Parker,  became one of the last great Comanche chiefs.  He realized the futility of further resistance and helped the Comanche to adapt to the American culture and way of life. 
The fort is very interesting and has lots of pioneer memorabilia.  There are event that are going on every weekend, so there is lots to see and do.



Confederate Reunion Grounds - Mexia, Texas

Wow things are really great here and we are really enjoying it along with our dogs, Boots, Scootin & Boogie!!

We have a 3 day work schedule and then 4 days off.  I am working in the visitor center checking in guest to the site and Fred is working on the grounds.  We are to put in 24 hours for our site but since we are both working we are doing more.  Between noon and 3 Fred  goes to the coach since it is over 100 degrees here and watches TV.  He is then on call with a radio, but chances of him getting called out are slim to none.  He is enjoying playing on the zero turn and just messing around.  My work is not really hard and I am starting to really get into doing other things. The grounds are beautiful here and we are always discovering something new.  There is a lot of history here from the veterans of the civil war meeting to the oil boom in Limestone County in the 1920's.  I have been amazed at all I have been learning and finding out.  This is really a great place to explore.  The Reunion Grounds are located in Mexia, TX at the intersection of the Navasota River and Jack's Creek.

In the 1880 this was the location where the Northern and Southern veterans met for fellowship and the shared memories of their was experiences and sacrifices.   In 1888 the group that meet was formally organized and was named the Joseph E. Johnston Camp of the United Confederate Veterans (UCV).  Joseph E. Johnson was a commander of the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee.  The veterans met each year between the full moon July and August and would have anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 people in attendance.  They finance these reunions by selling plots of the land that was solely for the purpose of camping each year for the reunion. 

At the end of the war there were 4 cannons that were buried by the Confederates in the Fairfield area as they were not sure of the message they received about the end of the war.  As these reunions progress during the  years these cannons were dug up and the two brass ones were melted down and the two iron ones were kept.  One sits in front of the courthouse in Fairfield today and the other one named "Old Val Verde" was used during the reunions and was fired to start and end each day of the reunion.  Today this cannon still sits on the ground underneath the four flags of the Confederate.
In 1894 the Confederate built a pavilion for the purpose of social gathers and the dances held during the reunion.  This pavilion still sits on the grounds and in my opinion is a masterpiece of architecture.  The picture to the left is the pavilion and below is a picture of the top inside.  It is truly wonderful.

Looking down Navasota River
toward Fort Parker
State Park. 
In November 1920 a wildcatter by the name of Albert E. Humphreys struck oil in Limestone County.  He made a deal with the Confederates for water and built a pump house on Jack Creek to supply his wells.
Jack's Creek had an expansion bridge across it and water was pump from this area to the oil rigs.  Col. Humphreys improve the Reunion Grounds in return for the water  and built the Pure Oil  Company clubhouse and a large bathhouse/swimming area for large parties and gatherings.

This is the remains of the chimney where the POCO club. was located.  There are other remains of other homes that were located on the ground in which the care keepers for Col. Humphreys lived.  They maintained the grounds and the pump house.

There is so much more to these grounds and if you ever get the chance stop by and visit.  It is truly a moving place and you can still feel the presents of the Confederates on the grounds.  In April of each year there is a reenactment of a battle of the Civil War and the grounds are alive again with both Confederate and Union soldiers camping and enjoying their selves.  The site today is used for fishing in the Navasota River, family reunions, weddings, group activities and school educational programs.  There is no overnight camping provided on the site, but Ft. Parker State Park is close by with full camping sites provided.  Improvements to the grounds is still being made and more is learned each day about the history of the grounds and the area.  I am truly happy we had the chance to workamp here for 3 months and learn more about the area, the civil war, and the post war activities.