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.