Over the past few months I have had opportunities to travel in many parts of central Texas; up along the Red River, eastward to Marshall and Nacogdoches, and south the Brenham and Navasota. All areas are often similar but definitely individual.
I grew up in Jacksboro, about three hours west of Greenville on Highway 380. It was early last month when I went to a funeral there. As I drove out in a rainstorm, I knew the next day would be a beautiful spring day. It was! The rain had filled the rivers and stock tanks, the word for places created to hold water for cattle and other livestock. Grass was tall and green, every indication of a fine season.
Jacksboro is unique. It grew around a post-Civil War Indian fort, Fort Richardson. The stone buildings surrounding the courthouse square date back to the late 1800s. People in Jacksboro are proud of their heritage and that heritage is visible everywhere.
I also drove through Denton and Decatur, both becoming suburbs of Dallas and Fort Worth. But they are working hard to remain unique. Many cattle came through Decatur after the Civil War on their way to railheads in Kansas.
Last summer I went to Jefferson to a Civil War conference. Jefferson is not really a great place to visit in the heat of summer. But like other old towns in Texas it has preserved it antiquities in the forms of homes, stores, and the bayou where steamboats stopped for cotton and passengers on the way to New Orleans. The next boat might come from New Orleans and carry goods for the interior of Texas, such things as sugar, coffee, lumber, and furniture. The respect for the past is evident throughout town.
Trying to find the route of Jefferson Road, I drove back roads one spring weekend. Every time I thought I knew where the road had been, I came to a steep hill or creek too deep to cross in a wagon pulled by multiple yokes of oxen. Jefferson Road brought supplies and goods to all the communities in this part of Texas long before there were railroads.
In my travels I have visited Marshall, Denison, Palestine, Jacksonville, and Longview. These were railroad towns that developed after the Civil War. They all have beautiful old homes and churches. But the most evident feature is the railroad tracks, switches, depots, and hotels. There is an obvious similarity in all.
This past weekend I went to Brenham to a history conference. I always avoid interstate highways if at all possible, and this was no exception. I was absolutely swept away with the beauty of Navasota. I understand some of the lavish homes were really summer homes for wealthy families in Houston. It is evident that some one or some group had deep pockets to finance the great restorations.
Anderson is the county seat of Grimes County. As you come around a curve there is an incredibly gorgeous courthouse. Anderson is the center of the county and therefore was chosen as county seat and not Navasota.
Brenham is, of course, known for Blue Bell Ice Cream. I splurged on a delicious piece of buttermilk pie, but was very impressed with the way the downtown area has been preserved.
On my latest venture I saw a peacock farm, a saw mill, and crossed the Brazos River, the Trinity River three times, and the Sabine River. I am here to tell you there is always something to see in Texas.