TimManBlog

Whatever I'm Thinking

Fort Benton, Montana: Head of Navigation on the Missouri

July 31, 2022
(Photos and memories from August 1999 and July 2013)

The Missouri River at Fort Benton, Montana, looking downstream.

The population of the ancient town of Fort Benton, Montana, may have shrunk to 1,449 people in 2020, but its history and landmarks are more than enough to make it interesting.

Fort Benton 150th Anniversary quilt, as displayed inside the Chouteau County Courthouse at Fort Benton.

Fort Benton was founded as a fur trading outpost in 1846 on the upper Missouri River.

Historical sign describing old Fort Benton.

While the mountain fur trade was declining in the 1850s and 1860s, the age of steamboat travel was growing. Fort Benton occupied the head of navigation on the Missouri River, making it a vital trading station for all points between St. Louis and the Far West.

In 1860, the U.S. Army completed the Mullan Wagon Road, a 624-mile military road from Fort Benton to Fort Walla Walla, present-day Washington state, effectively linking the Missouri River to the waters of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.

Proving Fort Benton’s importance, in 1892 the Grand Union Hotel was constructed along the riverbank.

Entrance to the Grand Union Hotel in Fort Benton, Montana

I stayed a night at the Grand Union Hotel in 2013; the hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel is a classy old place and includes the Union Grille Restaurant, which boasts serving “Montana Regional Cuisine.” I’ll stay again the next time I’m in the area; it’s always nice to have a drink or two in an old historical setting. They’re also nice enough to send me e-mails every year advertising their big Christmas celebrations.

Fort Benton was a wild place in the late 1800s, dubbed the “Bloodiest Block in the West.” The sign below details its reputation; the other photo below shows the same stretch of buildings today.

Here are some more photos of Fort Benton’s downtown district today, including some old watering holes.

More recently, Fort Benton has become known for the story of Shep, an ever-faithful shepherding dog who lost his master but showed up at the Fort Benton train station to meet every train for the next four years, awaiting his return. After Shep’s death, the town built a statue to honor the dog. Man’s Best Friend — proven by his actions. The historical sign below provides the details of Shep’s life and death.

Fort Benton is the seat of Chouteau County. The Chouteau County Courthouse was built in 1884 and is still in use today. Chouteau County was named for Pierre Chouteau, Jr., a St. Louis-based merchant who established a trading post that would eventually become the city of Fort Benton.

The Chouteau County Courthouse, Fort Benton, Montana. Built in 1884 and still in use.
Chouteau County Courthouse, Fort Benton, Montana
Chouteau County within the state of Montana

Today, although bridges for highways and railways have replaced slower riverboat traffic on the Missouri River, the river’s charm remains.

Picnic tables along the banks of the Missouri River, near the Grand Union Hotel. Fort Benton, Montana.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on July 15, 2013.

My lifetime hobby is traveling to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month I post about a visit to a scenic or interesting county seat. It’s a hobby, and donations are greatly appreciated to help cover my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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Dayton, Washington, and the Fields of the Palouse

June 29, 2022
(Photos and memories from June 18, 2009)

It’s a glorious day in Dayton, Washington.  A few wisps of cirrus clouds accent the bright blue sky.  On the horizon, I see the white of high clouds above the blue sky, which meets the spring green of Palouse hillsides.  The canola fields of The Palouse are spectacular.

Canola fields of the Palouse above the town of Dayton, Washington

The small town of Dayton (population 2,500) lies in a valley below hillsides of grain; some are striped with brown fallow portions.

Downtown Dayton, Washington, below the Palouse’s striped fields of wheat.

Dayton lies at the southern edge of The Palouse, a spectacular grassland region of southeastern Washington and northwestern Idaho. The town wasn’t named for Dayton, Ohio, as you might suspect, but for early settlers Jesse and Elizabeth Day, who came here in the 1870s. The population here is about 2,500 persons.

There’s only one commercial street in Dayton.  The Liberty Theatre is at one end; Disney’s “Up” arrives in town in two weeks.  A few coffee shops surround that, but there’s plenty of activity here.

Main Street Dayton, Washington

Down the street, an Eagle’s aerie dominates the main business block.  A nostalgic mural is painted on the front wall and provides a reminiscence of life in 19th Century Dayton.

Here are a few more photos of Dayton: if your thing is boutique hotels, then try The Weinhard Hotel; the old-fashioned reliability of Elk Drug provides both prescriptions and a soda fountain; enjoy the look of a beautiful old Victorian home; and the Dayton train depot is the oldest in Washington state, dating from 1881. Dayton’s business district has been designated a National Historic District.

Across the street from the Liberty Theatre on Main Street, the Columbia County courthouse is a gem of gingerbread.  It’s gray wood with stone trim.  The square dome is three stories above a fine green lawn that was being mowed as I took photos.  The front and back entrances have statues of Lady Justice above them; the east and west entrances have golden eagle statues. It’s been in use since 1887.

The Columbia County courthouse has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 1887 Columbia County courthouse, Dayton, Washington.

More photos of the courthouse, including the interior stairwell, a closeup of the statue of Lady Justice on the roof, and a historical plaque explaining Dayton’s history.

Lewis and Clark rafted down the Snake River in 1805 during their voyage to the Pacific Ocean. For their return trip in 1806, they traveled overland, passing through present-day Dayton along an old Indian trail that connected Celilo Falls on the Columbia River with the Nez Perce lands of the Palouse. A town mural memorializes their journey.

Mural showing the travels of Lewis and Clark through Columbia County, Washington.

On the hillsides outside of town are seemingly endless fields of canola flowers.  The yellows against the sky and the distant Blue Mountains were spectacular.

Columbia County within the state of Washington.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on June 18, 2009.

I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s a hobby, and donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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The Lonely Road Through Eureka, Nevada

May 30, 2022
(Photos and memories of Eureka, Nevada from April 10, 1999, May 7, 2012, and May 10, 2021)

The Loneliest Road in America (US Highway 50). This stretch is between Ely and Eureka, Nevada.
Eureka County within the state of Nevada
Eureka, Nevada, along Highway 50 — “The Loneliest Road in America.” The Owl Club Casino is on the right.

Back in the day, in the 1880s, Eureka was a big silver and lead producer with multiple mines, smelters, saloons, and over 10,000 residents. Today Eureka has about 400 residents, yet its place on the “Loneliest Road in America” attracts new visitors every day.

Map of US Highway 50 across Nevada. Eureka is at #5 on the map, in east-central Nevada.

Traveling US 50 in Nevada is something like a roller coaster. Between Ely in the east and Fallon in the west, Nevada’s landscape is a series of north-to-south mountain ranges separated by deep desert valleys. Driving the Loneliest Road involves climbing a mountain range to its summit (mountain passes reach about 7,000 feet) and then descending to a flat sagebrush valley. Then repeat. Sometimes the valleys have dry alkali lakebeds. You’ll see a herd of mustangs grazing the sagebrush if you’re lucky.

Wild mustangs roam the open ranges along Highway 50 in northern Nevada.

The city of Eureka lies 70 miles west of Ely, Nevada, and 70 miles east of Austin, Nevada, along US Highway 50. There are no towns in between, not even a hamlet. It’s all open range, and travelers like me (and you) love it!

Despite its small population of 480, the town of Eureka can boast of being the county seat of Eureka County, Nevada, which has a population of 1,987. Their courthouse was built in 1879 and is still in use today.

Eureka County courthouse. Eureka, Nevada. Constructed in 1879.
Eureka County courthouse. Eureka, Nevada.

This is the District Courtroom in the Eureka County courthouse. Beneath chandeliers and a metal-plated ceiling, an old wood stove stands on one side of the courtroom while a flat-screen TV stands on the other. Built in 1879 and is still in use today.

District courtroom on the second floor of the Eureka County courthouse.
District courtroom. Eureka County courthouse

This shotgun is on display in the courtroom. Stagecoach drivers used this weapon to guard the stage line between Eureka and Ely, Nevada. Good at close range. The genesis of the term “riding shotgun.”

Rifles were used to guard the stage line between Eureka and Ely, Nevada.

The Eureka Opera House is across the street from the courthouse. I took this photo from the second floor of the courthouse.

Eureka Opera House. Built in 1880 and restored in 1993.

A number of Eureka’s other buildings have been restored to their 19th Century splendor.

The Jackson House Hotel, Saloon & Cafe. Eureka, Nevada
The Owl Club Saloon and Restaurant. Eureka, Nevada

Everyday essentials are available to Eureka residents from more commonplace structures in town:

I entered Eureka from the east along US Highway 50. This is the view I found along Highway 50 as I headed west towards the next town — Austin, Nevada, population 167.

The Loneliest Road in America with the Toiyabe Range in the distance. US 50 between Eureka and Austin, Nevada.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author either on April 10, 1999, or May 7, 2012, or May 10, 2021.

I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s a hobby and donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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Georgetown, Texas – Town Square and Spring Wildflowers

April 23, 2022
(Photos and memories of Georgetown, Texas from April 5, 2017)

Texas Wildflowers — bluebonnets and Indian paint brush — outside Georgetown, Texas

Texans are known to brag about their state, and one of the things they like to brag about is their spring wildflowers. Although skepticism is good for mental health, don’t be skeptical of Texas wildflowers; they’re remarkable — as was the cloudless sky, which enhanced the colors remarkably. But sunny days aren’t all that unusual for central Texas:

Texas Wildflowers blooming in April. Williamson County, Texas

Texas Highways magazine has an excellent run-down of the various wildflowers in the state here. Two varieties predominate in Central Texas, the bluebonnet and the (red) Indian paintbrush. They bloom in late March and early April and are easily found along rural highways in central Texas, including Williamson County, north of Austin. Here are a few more photos:

Wildflowers. Williamson County, Texas
Williamson County within the state of Texas

The city of Georgetown is the county seat of Williamson County, Texas. Georgetown boasts a population of 67,000 in 2020, up from 47,000 in 2010, making it America’s 7th fastest growing city. Williamson County, population 609,000, is just north of Austin, and as Austin grows rapidly, this county is quickly becoming Austin’s northern suburbs.

The new Williamson County Justice Center. Georgetown, Texas

Williamson County is now too big a place to be using its old courthouse anymore, so a modern Justice Center has been built to replace the old courthouse. Six or seven blocks away, the old courthouse still stands in the center of the town square, easily found by its metal dome rising above the surrounding two-story buildings. This grand three-story yellow brick structure is preserved well and well-renovated and erected in 1910.

Old Williamson County courthouse (front). Georgetown, Texas
Old Williamson County courthouse (rear). Georgetown, Texas

The old Confederate monument stands outside the entrance to the old courthouse. Like so many others in the old South, this monument honors the memories of soldiers and sailors who fought in that war rather than its causes. “In Memory of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors,” reads the inscription. As a Pennsylvanian born and bred, I don’t carry angst for wars fought over a hundred years ago. I also understand that war cannot be changed to peace without honoring an adversary’s honored dead. I took this photo in 2017, and I hope this statue remains as long as these soldiers’ descendants live nearby.

Confederate soldiers’ monument in front of the old courthouse. Georgetown, Texas

Along the side of the old courthouse stands a historical sign and a statue of county prosecutor Dan Moody (shown below). In 1923-24 Moody prosecuted ten Ku Klux Klansmen for flogging a white traveling salesman after he had ignored their warning to leave Georgetown. Despite the Klan’s impressive power in Texas at the time, Moody won his case, garnered great fame for himself, and later became state attorney general and the 30th governor of Texas.

Georgetown boasts that it has the “most beautiful town square in Texas.” Every town in Texas brags about something or other, and if they did not, the local Chamber of Commerce and tourist board would find something to brag about. But, as I said earlier about Texans bragging on their wildflowers, don’t be skeptical about the Georgetown locals bragging about their town square. It is, in fact, a beautiful location.

The beautiful old courthouse and the buildings around the courthouse have been designated the Williamson County Courthouse Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the structures in the square date from the 1880s and 1890s (the most beautiful era of American architecture) and are generally two-story buildings constructed of handsome red brick or locally quarried limestone.

I’ve put together a gallery of some of the buildings around the square:

Georgetown town square. Georgetown, Texas
Georgetown town square. Georgetown, Texas
Georgetown town square. Georgetown, Texas
Georgetown town square. Georgetown, Texas

The photo above shows a building on the corner with an onion dome. The historical sign on the building refers to these features as a “pressed metal parapet.” Here’s a closer look:

Onion dome structure on a corner building in Georgetown town square. Georgetown, Texas

The corner park shown in the gallery below includes the town’s Founding Stone marker. The white church is nearby.

I hope you enjoyed your visit to Georgetown, Texas!


A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on April 5, 2017.

I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s a hobby and donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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The Languor of Santa Barbara

March 27, 2022
(photos and memories of Santa Barbara, California from May 2005 and March 2016)

The town of Santa Barbara and California’s Santa Ynez Mountains beyond. This photo was taken in 2005 from atop the county courthouse.

Languor: n. (lăng′gər, lăng′ər): A dreamy, lazy, or sensual quality, as of expression: “the clarity of her complexion, the length and languor of her eyelashes (Jhumpa Lahiri).”

That’s Santa Barbara, California. Herewith then, are some photos of languor.

I’ve visited Santa Barbara many times over the years, with the most recent visit on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day 2016 (more on that later). Such a gorgeous day. I started at Mission Santa Barbara.

Mission Santa Barbara

From Wikipedia: “Often referred to as the ‘Queen of the Missions,’ [Mission Santa Barbara] was founded by Padre Fermín Lasuén for the Franciscan order on December 4, 1786, the feast day of Saint Barbara, as the tenth mission of what would later become 21 missions in Alta California.”

Early water storage and irrigation system at Mission Santa Barbara

Although founded over 200 years ago, the mission remains a parish church today and is part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

St. Patrick’s Day at Mission Santa Barbara
Inside Mission Santa Barbara

Besides being a working parish, Mission Santa Barbara is also a museum and historical site drawing thousands of tourists each year.

Entrance to Mission Santa Barbara

A few blocks below the Mission, on Anacapa Street, stands the magnificent Santa Barbara County courthouse. Constructed in 1925 to replace a building damaged by earthquakes, this courthouse is a classic of design and style.  Well-known and often photographed, it was designed in the mode of a Spanish castle and includes a prominent corner tower and turrets, red tile roofing, a courtyard, and open patios and porches for natural cooling.

Plaque found inside the Santa Barbara County Courthouse

This is one of the main entrances, along Santa Barbara Street. The Latin inscription on the archway reads Discite Justitiam Moniti, translated as “Hear and Be Just,” or “Having Been Warned, Learn Justice.”

Santa Barbara County courthouse
Discite Justitiam Moniti

Here’s another entrance. The Latin inscription on this archway reads Dios Nos Dio Los Campos; El Arte Humana Edifico Civdades, translated as “God Hath Given us Countryside; the Art of Man Hath Built Cities.”

Santa Barbara County courthouse
“God Hath Given us Countryside; the Art of Man Hath Built Cities”

Perhaps nothing describes languor better than an open, grassy courtyard in a Mediterranean-style palace on a warm, sunny Spring day:

The open courtyard within the Santa Barbara County courthouse
Clocktower, corner turret, and interior courtyard. Santa Barbara County courthouse
Family play time. Santa Barbara County courthouse
Courthouse roof and other red tiled roofs. Santa Barbara, California

Not to be outdone by the magnificent exterior, the magnificent courthouse interior includes a mural room and other paintings. I’ll just show them below as a set of tiled galleries:

More:

Santa Barbara County within the state of California

State Street is Santa Barbara’s main shopping and commercial street. I photographed the shops and the shoppers.  Italian restaurants were mixed in with jewelry stores and fashion stores.  Most if not all buildings were done in the Spanish Adobe style. 

Starbucks’ walls were whitewashed with the sun. 

A Starbucks Coffee shop along State Street in Santa Barbara

Even the Macy’s store looks like a castle.

Macy’s department store, Santa Barbara

Further down State, young people were drinking green beer in bars made up for St. Patrick’s Day.  The Old Kings Road English pub was fully decked out in green Guinness banners and shamrock-shaped green balloons.  From what I’ve seen back in England, no English pub would ever celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in such a way. However, the “NO WANKERS!” scribbled on the chalkboard is very English indeed!

Old Kings Road English pub. Santa Barbara, California

Amidst the languor and the glamor, offshore oil rigs can be seen from the center of town dotting the ocean surface. They have always been, perhaps, the underpinning of prosperity in Santa Barbara. Let’s not forget them.

Offshore oil and gas rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel

Languor.  The sun comes up on a clear morning — every day.  It’s warm and clear — every day.  It’s cool in the evening — every day.  Rich people live here.  Why do they work? Why do their children work instead of just drawing on the trust fund?  But they do work in the shops, and they converse with friends.  But they do work, perhaps not at the frenetic pace or with the sense of urgency found so much elsewhere, but they do work still.  Perhaps this tells something about the human condition: people still strive even in paradise.


A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author either on May 21, 2005, or March 17, 2016.

I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s a hobby and donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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Key West, Florida

February 28, 2022

The Southernmost point in the Continental U.S. Key West, Florida

Key West is a special place. It stands at the southernmost point in the continental United States and at the starting point (Mile 0) of U.S. Highway 1. Key West was the home of writers Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. US President Harry Truman often spent winters here in a building preserved as the Little White House. Many other US Presidents — from Ulysses S. Grant in 1880 to Jimmy Carter in 2007 — have visited the island. President John F. Kennedy visited Key West in November 1962, a month after the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Key West is 90 miles from Cuba.

For most of us, the trip to Key West is a most memorable drive, a 2 1/2-hour excursion along a chain of islands (called “key’s) and bridges across shallow, turquoise waters.

U.S. Highway 1, dubbed “the Overseas Highway”, connecting mainland Florida to Key West

The Florida Keys take their name from the Spanish word “cay” meaning a “reef,” which is appropriate since the keys are exposed portion of an ancient coral reef.

Mile 0 of US Route 1 at the corner of Whitehead and Fleming Streets. Key West, Florida

The corner of Whitehead and Fleming Streets marks mile marker 0 of U.S. Highway 1. Tour guides and souvenir shops can be found at this corner, as can adventurous long-haul travelers starting the road trip of their lives — 2,370 miles along U.S. Highway 1 from Key West to its northern terminus in Fort Kent, Maine.

Mile 0 marker at Whitehead and Fleming Streets. Key West, Florida

On the corner as mile 0 stands the Monroe County courthouse, constructed in 1890.

Monroe County courthouse. Key West, Florida
Monroe County courthouse and Kapok Tree. Key West, Florida
Kapok Tree in front of Monroe County courthouse. Key West, Florida
Inside the 1890 Monroe County courthouse. Key West, Florida
Monroe County in the state of Florida

I’ve been to Key West once before this trip, staying four days here in the summer of 2004 as I was doing a road trip comprising all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums/ballparks. Summer days here are obviously warmer than in February and I think they’re less crowded also. It was easy getting into Ernest Hemingway’s house back in the summer of 2004 without waiting in line — no such luck in February 2022.

The Ernest Hemingway house on Whitehead Street. Key West, Florida

One thing that surprised me about Key West was the fact that classic homes were being built here as far back as the 1830s. The Patterson-Baldwin House, for example, was built in 1838 and was also used as the first schoolhouse in Key West.

Patterson-Baldwin House. Key West, Florida
Historical sign in front of the Patterson-Baldwin House. Key West, Florida

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was built in 1832. It stands catercorner to the Patterson-Baldwin House.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (1832). Key West, Florida

I took photos of the “Artist House” because it’s one of many homes on Key West that fly the Conch Republic flag. The “Conch Republic” was proclaimed by Key West Dennis Wardlow on April 23, 1982, as a tongue-in-cheek secession from the United States to protest the US Border Patrol’s establishment of a roadblock and inspection station along Highway 1. The “independence” of the Conch Republic lasted one minute, after which time the mayor duly surrendered to the United States and applied for 1 billion dollars in foreign aid!

The Artist House and Conch Republic flag. Key West, Florida

A number of Key West homes feature prominent banyan trees. These trees, native to India, grow aerial prop roots from their upper limbs that extend downward to the ground until they burrow into the soil to form additional tree trunks for the plant. After many years of growth, a banyan tree in front of a house can include a dozen or more such trunks.

The Philip Cosgrove House and its prominent banyan tree. Key West, Florida
Historical marker for the Cosgrove House. Key West, Florida

Here are several more photos of the many points of interest in Key West:

Get your Key Lime Pie here! Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe. Key West, Florida
Key West Weather Station. Key West, Florida
Birthplace of Pan Am World Airways. Key West, Florida
Key West Lighthouse. Key West, Florida

Duval Street is Key’s West’s main street, which in Conch Republic terms equates to fun bars, live music, and nightlife including Sloppy Joe’s, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, and many others.

Duval Street. Key West, Florida
Inside Sloppy Joe’s bar at 3:00 in the afternoon. Key West, Florida
Inside Jimmy Buffet’s ‘Margaritaville‘. Key West, Florida
A train/tram carrying tourists down Duval Street. Key West, Florida

That’s all folks. I hope you enjoyed my photos. I know Key West is on the bucket list of many of you — don’t put it off any longer!


A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on February 24, 2022, except for the photos of the “Southernmost marker” and Ernest Hemingway’s house which were taken on July 1, 2004.

I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s only a hobby — but donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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Jerry Baker’s Silverton, Texas

January 30, 2022
(photos and memories of Silverton, Texas from January 2013)

Welcome to Silverton, Texas, population 731 persons and county seat of Briscoe County, Texas, population 1637! This is west Texas cotton country — flatlands atop the arid Llano Estacado plateau.

Briscoe County in the state of Texas

Silverton (often slurred to ‘Sillton’) is the home of Jerry Baker, proprietor & curator of the old Briscoe County Jail Museum.  As I was taking photos of the county courthouse and the old county jail, Jerry found me and introduced himself. Jerry can always spot the tourists, he says, and he told me, “Sillton is such a small town I know everybody here already and can easily pick out the strangers.”

Jerry Baker of Silverton, Texas
The old Briscoe County Jail, now a museum. Jerry Baker, curator.

Jerry was born in Silverton, lived in larger towns and cities for a while, sold drugs, did drugs, got medication for bipolar disorder, then came back home to enjoy life.  He’ll tell you all this while showing off the old jailer’s bottom floor cot and the stairs up to the two jail cells on the second floor. Jail capacity was 8 prisoners.  The jailer stayed on the ground floor so that prisoners would have to go past him if trying to escape.

The jailer’s quarters on the ground floor of the old Briscoe County Jail Museum

Outside the jail, Jerry will point out the hand-made bat houses on the upper floor jail cell windows.  Building bat houses on the old jail kept bats from making homes in the nearby courthouse. 

Wooden bat houses were built onto the second-floor windows of the Briscoe County Jail Museum

Being a jail museum curator is only a part-time job, so Jerry runs a mowing business in the summer. He’s such a good talker that he’s become pretty well-known around Texas and has been interviewed by TV stations — he has even appeared a few times giving the Texas weather on morning TV news shows. Jerry seems to like everyone and everyone seems to like him.

I searched the internet and found a link to a YouTube video of Jerry Baker discussing tornadoes with storm chasers from the Vortex2 project in 2009: Jerry Baker from Silverton, Texas talks about tornadoes. (His accent is as strong as a Texas wind!)

The Briscoe County Courthouse was built in 1922 and is still in use today.  The old jail remains on the courthouse grounds, but prisoners are now housed in a newer facility. 

Briscoe County Courthouse. Silverton, Texas
Briscoe County Veterans Memorial with the courthouse in the background.

Of course, Silverton is a small place.  There are a few churches, a high school, and a couple of convenience stores.  The largest bank in town is the Happy State Bank — named for the town of Happy, Texas but a great name for a bank nevertheless. 

Happy State Bank. Silverton, Texas
Shops in Silverton, Texas

In Silverton, houses line gravel streets.  Only courthouse square is paved. Dogs are often found lying on front lawns.  I saw one house that had two border collies, a black lab, and a gray cat staring me down as I drove past.  There was another dog in the back, a brown hound dog kept in a cage.  I suppose he is the mean one.

If you happen to be in the Texas Panhandle, or specifically in Briscoe County, check out the Caprock Canyons State Park along the escarpment of the Llano Estacado. The park is situated at the spot where the plateau drops off into west Texas sagebrush prairies. I copied a photo from the park website below. A gallery of brilliant photos of the park can be found here: (photos of Caprock Canyons State Park).

Caprock Canyons State Park. Briscoe County, Texas

So, if you’re on a road trip, escaping the northern winter’s cold with a warm and dry sojourn in the Texas Panhandle, do stop by Silverton if you have a chance. Jerry Baker will find you if he is able, and you’ll add him to your list of friends.


A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on January 15, 2013.

I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s only a hobby — but donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

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Sit and Enjoy the Yesterdays, Today, and the Tomorrows

December 31, 2021
(photos and memories of Coldspring, Texas from June 2000 and December 2021)

We’ve reached New Year’s Eve, an appropriate day for reflection. For many, the year 2021 has been a deadly year, an awful year, as bad or worse than its predecessor. There is much to consider.

In the quiet sunshine of Coldspring, Texas, a park bench offers you a place for reflection with (literally) an engraved invitation:

SIT AND ENJOY
THE YESTERDAYS, TODAY,
AND THE TOMORROWS

Jack G. Stevens Family
A park bench outside the San Jacinto County courthouse offers an engraved invitation in marble

Good advice and I took it.

Coldspring, Texas has a population of 853, so it’s an excellent place to do as the Jack Stevens family suggests. I was here in June of 2000, and when I returned 21 years later in December of 2021 I looked for the old park bench. I found it. It looks the same as does the whole town. So I sat down and wrote my notes just as I did back in 2000, except this time I spoke into an i-phone instead of scribbling them into a notebook with a ballpoint pen.


Coldspring is a little crossroads town near a lake on the Trinity River in southeast Texas. Storefronts are built in an old-west style behind wooden sidewalks and have flags draped from their awnings.

Byrd Avenue faces the courthouse and includes the Mason Jar Bar and Grill. Coldspring, Texas

Many of the buildings are bedecked in festive Christmas decorations.

Church street across from the courthouse, where businesses are ready for Christmas. Coldspring, Texas

Coldspring is the seat of San Jacinto County, Texas, and was named for the Battle of San Jacinto which won Texas independence. The battle actually took place well south of this area, near Houston, so there are no battle sites nearby.

San Jacinto County in the state of Texas

The three-story yellow-brick San Jacinto County courthouse was built in 1917 at Coldspring’s main intersection. The four pillars guarding each entrance remind me of a typical American courthouse, as might be seen on a Hollywood movie set.

San Jacinto County courthouse. Coldspring, Texas

Inside the courthouse, a central atrium has been decorated for Christmas with the courthouse Christmas tree peeking into the second floor. The floor tiles underneath the tree illustrate San Jacinto County’s location within the state.

Christmas tree in courthouse atrium. The floor tiles outline the state of Texas with San Jacinto County in red.

Local girl made famous:

Photo of Rhonda Morrison of Coldspring, Miss Texas 1991, displayed inside the San Jacinto County courthouse.

In my journeys visiting courthouses throughout the country, no state’s courthouses more commonly feature a Christmas manger scene than those in the state of Texas. The threat of lawsuits doesn’t seem to bother the local residents.

San Jacinto County courthouse with Christmas manger scene and Wise Men. Coldspring, Texas

Going beyond the common Manger scene for Christmas decorations, the residents of San Jacinto County have placed lighted crosses above each of the four entrances to the courthouse. The crosses are adorned in red and white lights for the holiday season.

An ornamental cross hangs above the side entrance to the San Jacinto County courthouse for Christmas

In American, placing religious symbols on government property invites controversy and sometimes leads to lawsuits. The basis of the controversy is the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which begins with a prohibition against an “Establishment” of any religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …

Allow me to stand on my soapbox, briefly. Seasonal religious decorations, such as Christmas Manger scenes on county courthouses, in no way “establish” Christianity as the county religion. Such things “establish” nothing. They force no one to accept any religion or belief whatsoever. I see nothing unconstitutional about such decorations and festivities so long as their costs do not derive from the public treasury, which in San Jacinto County they do not — the plywood manger figures are marked as “property of the Victory Gospel Church,” of Coldspring.


A good meal deservedly follows a good reflection, and the Mason Jar Cafe Bar & Grill, across from the courthouse, can provide such a meal.

The Mason Jar Bar and Grill— “Conveniently located in the middle of nowhere!” Coldspring, Texas

Lunchtime — an excellent turkey, avocado, and swiss sandwich with curly fries and sweet tea:

Lunch at the Mason Jar

Time well spent indeed!

The Mason Jar: “where wasting time is considered time well wasted!!!”

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to All from Coldspring, Texas!


A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on December 15, 2021.

I’m trying to travel to all of America’s county courthouses, and each month a post about my visit to the most interesting county seats. It’s only a hobby — but donations are greatly appreciated to help defer my costs.
Thanks,
Tim

Donations are NOT tax-deductible under U.S. law…but you knew that.

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Long Distance Information, Give me Memphis, Tennessee

November 29, 2021

I was singing Chuck Berry’s classic song “Memphis, Tennessee” as I drove into Memphis last week:

Long distance information, give me Memphis, Tennessee
Help me find the party trying to get in touch with me
She could not leave her number, but I know who placed the call
‘Cause, my uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall…

Y’all will be singing this song too driving into Memphis. I think everybody does. The funny thing about that though is it’s Chuck Berry’s song, and he was from St. Louis, not Memphis. Memphis is the home of this guy, the King:

Statue of Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll. Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee

Never mind that — you can hear Elvis doing his version of the Chuck Berry classic right here: Elvis – Memphis Tennessee (YouTube version).

With that introduction, welcome to my wander through Memphis, Tennessee on a mid-November day, going roughly from the north end of downtown to the south end near Beale Street, and then on down to Graceland.

Court Square Park. Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis is the seat of Shelby County, Tennessee. The courthouse in Memphis is a grand two-story limestone structure dedicated on January 1, 1910. The historical sign claims it is the largest and most ornate courthouse in Tennessee.

Shelby County courthouse. Memphis, Tennessee
Shelby County courthouse. Memphis, Tennessee

The courthouse interior includes “mahogany doors and paneling, brass doorknobs embossed with the county seal, and flooring comprised of seven varieties of marble.

Interior of the Shelby County courthouse. Memphis, Tennessee

Inside the courthouse, the Statue of Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States and the first from Tennessee, dominates the main hallway. Jackson was born in the colonial Carolinas but lived most of his life in Tennessee. The inscription on the statue reads “Our Federal Union must and shall be preserved.” The inscription is ironic in that Tennessee seceded from the Federal Union during the Civil War sixteen years after Jackson’s death in 1845.

Carved from single blocks of Tennessee marble, six statues surround the entrances of the Shelby County courthouse. The six are titled: Liberty, Authority, Peace, Prosperity, Wisdom, and Justice.

Shelby County in the state of Tennessee

A few blocks to the south and west of the courthouse, Fourth Bluff Park marks the founding spot of the city — high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. “Fourth Bluff” refers to the 4th of a series of bluffs along the east side of the river collectively known as Chickasaw Bluff, providing high ground safely above the Mississippi’s flood plains.

Taken from Fourth Bluff Park overlooking the Mississippi River and Mud Island. Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis means barbeque, and Charles Vergos Rendevous is one of the best places for barbeque in town, especially for ribs.

The Rendezvous. Entrance from Rendezvous Alley. Memphis, Tennessee
Downstairs at the Rendezvous. Memphis, Tennessee

The Rendezvous and Corky’s in Memphis have always been my favorite two barbeque joints in Memphis. (Corky’s is on East Poplar and not downtown.) Both establishments are known for their dry rub ribs, dry rub is the way to actually the way to go — barbeque sauces tend to cover up the taste of the meat while dry rub brings out its taste. Also, Rendezvous’ mustard-based coleslaw is unique and worth taking home by the quart.

Lunch at the Rendezvous; half-slab of dry rub ribs, mustard-based slaw, and bbq beans. Memphis, Tennessee

A block from the Rendezvous, stands the massive and massively luxurious Peabody Hotel, known for the famous Peabody Duck March, a daily tradition since the 1930s.

The Peabody. Memphis, Tennessee

From Wikipedia’s description of the daily Peabody Duck March:
“Every day at 11:00 a.m., the Peabody Ducks are escorted from their penthouse home, on the Rooftop, to the lobby via elevator. The ducks, accompanied by the King Cotton March by John Philip Sousa, then proceed across a red carpet to the hotel fountain, made of a solid block of Italian travertine marble. The ducks are then ceremoniously led back to their penthouse at 5:00 p.m.”

People waiting in the Peabody Lobby for the Peabody Duck March. Peabody Hotel, Memphis, Tennesse

Today was a bright but windy weekday. I didn’t see many people walking the downtown streets, perhaps due to Covid restricting office use. It also may be so because Memphis is a night town. Beale Street is an institution here.

B.B. King’s Blues Club and many other live music venues line Beale Street. Memphis, Tennessee

Beale Street is known as the birthplace of the Blues. The street is lined with blues venues and nightly becomes one big block party, rivalling New Orleans’ Bourbon Street for music and fun.

Beale Street. Memphis, Tennessee
Statue of Elvis Presley, Beale Street. Memphis, Tennessee

I spent most of the afternoon at Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home. Tickets were $75 for a combined tour of the Graceland mansion, Elvis’ aircraft, and the many exhibits. I thought $75 was steep when I bought the tickets but found it well worth the price at the end of the day. Tickets to tour Graceland can be purchased online here.

The tour of the mansion came first.

Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home. Memphis, Tennessee

We were given a tour of the ground floor and basement rooms. What surprised me was how small the home was compared to what I am expecting. As you can see from the photos below, rooms within the house are only a little larger than what one might find in a typical middle-class American home.

Rooms within the Graceland mansion, decorated for Christmas (clockwise from top left): living room, dining room, downstairs media room, and the famous “Jungle Room,” known to Elvis as the den.

Through the back door of the mansion, the tour continued into the backyard area where we saw Elvis’ swimming pool and, next to the pool, the graves of the King, his parents, and his grandmother.

Graceland swimming pool. Memphis, Tennessee
The grave of Elvis Presley at Graceland. Memphis, Tennessee

One of the backyard buildings contains some photo exhibits and artifacts from Elvis’ life. The photo shown below is my favorite shot of the whole day, it shows a very young Elvis Presley with his father Vernon and his mother Grace, taken in Tupelo, Mississippi during the Great Depression. The young family was dirt poor; Vernon supported them on whatever odd jobs he could find. After becoming a star and buying Graceland, Elvis moved his parents into a bedroom suite on the main floor.

Young Elvis Presley with mother Grace and father Vernon. Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee

I didn’t consider myself a big Elvis Presley fan before visiting Graceland, but I consider myself a bigger fan now.

The Graceland tour includes a wide variety of exhibits — everything from Elvis’ vehicles to his gold records, housed in display venues across the street from the mansion. Below: Elvis’ famous pink Cadillac, a photo of Elvis serving the Army in Germany in the 1950s, and a wall full of recording achievements.

Finally, Elvis’ airplane, the “Lisa Marie”:

The Lisa Marie, Elvis Presley’s 707 parked across the street from Graceland. Memphis, Tennessee

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on November 17, 2021.

I do this as a hobby — but donations are happily accepted if you’d like to help defer my costs.
Thanks,
The TimMan

Donations are NOT tax-deductible under U.S. law…but you knew that.

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North-central North Dakota: the People behind the Places

Freedom Voyages — Life in the United States

November 14, 2021

Welcome to another Freedom Voyage! These trips give me the chance to see the width and breadth of the USA — its landscapes, its small towns, its cities, and its courthouses. Along the way I take and share photos of what I see and what I eat — and whatever I’m thinking.

I choose my road trip destinations with two primary considerations in mind: a) have I never been to this place before; and b) what’s the weather going to be like when I get there? For this trip, I saw an opportunity to see 15 North Dakota counties I’d never traveled to before, and under sunny skies and pleasant temperatures.

Want to live out a Freedom Voyage vicariously? Experience a bit of joie de vivre? My purpose here is to try to convey the experience, the joy I feel as I travel the country. I hope in this way that you can also enjoy these sights, whether you are unable to travel or simply do not have the time or resources to do so.

With that, here’s a photo log of the eight days of clear skies and verdant fields I found in north-central North Dakota. Nothing better than sunshine and a road trip! Enjoy!

Jumping off from Gillette, Wyoming, the Freedom Voyage wanders through north-central North Dakota, starting east of Bismarck to Jamestown, Devils Lake, and Minot and returning to Gillette

Freedom Voyage Day 1, Saturday, June 26, 2021: Colorado Springs to Gillette, Wyoming

My overall plan was to reach Bismarck, North Dakota by Sunday night. That’s a 12-hour drive from Colorado Springs so I decided to split the travel into 2 legs — up to Gillette, Wyoming on Saturday and then on to Bismarck Sunday.

For the drive to Gillette, I stayed on Interstate 25 up to Douglas, Wyoming. There I switched to Wyoming 59, a two-lane highway that takes you through the massive coal fields of Converse and Campbell counties. There aren’t many towns along this road but the coal trains keep you company until you reach Gillette, 115 miles north of Douglas.

Gillette, Wyoming (population around 20,000) services the energy industry in northern Wyoming. The strong business climate for energy, especially during the Trump administration, has provided over a dozen business-class hotels to choose from, including at least one member of each of the larger US hotel chains. I chose Candlewood Suites for this stay.


Freedom Voyage Day 2, Sunday, June 27, 2021: Gillette to Bismarck, North Dakota

Day 2: Gillette, Wyoming through western South Dakota and then to Bismarck, North Dakota

Good Sunday morning from Gillette! A short morning walk brought me to the local Perkins restaurant for breakfast:

Eggs, bacon, hash browns, and crepes at Perkins Restaurant in Gillette

After church at St. Matthew’s, I got on the road at noon: east on Interstate 90 from Gillette, past Devil’s Tower (which can be seen off to the distance from the roadway), across the South Dakota state line, skirted the northern edge of the Black Hills, and then turned north. The roadways through western South Dakota are some of the most desolate stretches of highway in the state, punctuated by some dormant volcanic cliffs. After a few hours, I reached the border with North Dakota. The gallery of 3 photos below shows my sleek chariot, a herd of cattle grazing on the grasslands, and a cross-roads trucker enjoying a rest as the prairie highway winds out into the distance.


Nice country, North Dakota. Although the names of the two states are very similar, North Dakota has a more verdant landscape than its southern neighbor. I drove the 2-lane highways through some farmland until reaching Dickinson, then joined Interstate 94 heading east toward Bismarck.

Statue of a giant Holstein, named “Salem Sue” near New Salem, North Dakota

Just west of Bismarck I pulled off the highway at the Scenic Vista point:

Scenic Vista off I-94 at Mandan, North Dakota, looking east toward Bismarck

In Bismarck, I ate dinner at a great Mexican place called Charras and Tequila, which was next to the hotel where I would be spending the night. Due to today’s long drive, I had skipped lunch except for some convenience store snacks, and so I went full bore mode at dinnertime: chips & salsa, queso, pico, and carne asada with rice and beans. Plus a margarita, of course:

Bismarck is the state capital of North Dakota and has a population of 133,000. Plenty of lodging and dining choices are available in Bismarck. I checked some prices and chose a Wingate by Wyndham.


Freedom Voyage Day 3, Monday, June 28, 2021: Bismarck to Jamestown, North Dakota

Day 3: From Bismarck to Jamestown via Steele, Fessenden, New Rockford, and Carrington, North Dakota

Good Monday morning from Bismarck, North Dakota. According to Wikipedia, North Dakota was a popular destination for 19th Century immigrant farmers and laborers from Scandinavia and Germany. I quickly found a Kroll’s Diner nearby, which is a chain of German restaurants with locations in Bismarck, Minot, and other cities in North Dakota. Their slogan is “Sit Down and Eat,” and that’s also their web address: www.sitdownandeat.com. Choosing from their list of German specialties, I settled on a Fleischkuechle: seasoned ground beef, wrapped inside a pastry and deep-fried.

Fleischkuechle at Kroll’s Diner. Bismarck, North Dakota
Kroll’s Diner, Bismarck (this section was not in use while I was there as if it were part of a museum)

Over the next few days, I’ll be meandering through the north-central North Dakota countryside visiting small towns and county courthouses. Most of these towns will have populations less than 5,000 — they’re quiet but hard-working.

Heading east out of Bismarck my first stop this morning was Steele, North Dakota, with a population of 715 and county seat of Kidder County. The photos below show the STR United Methodist Church (top left), Kidder County Courthouse (top right), view down Broadway Avenue (center right), and Veterans Park behind the courthouse (bottom). Note that the church has a sign outside offering a chance to join services either on Facebook or YouTube. Steele’s storm warning sirens are stationed above the buildings at the far left of the photo looking down Broadway. No storm was coming this day, those clouds are just some morning humidity.

Most towns have a Veterans’ Memorial, but Steele’s is different because its Veterans Park highlights two specific soldiers and their stories. It’s a case of the town explaining the people behind the memorial.

Memorial to Alfred “Skip” Thomas, Vietnam era, including his bronzed boots.
Memorial to Sgt. Elwyn O. Vanous, US Army WWII — POW for 1 year who escaped and walked 700 miles to freedom.

Heading north out of Steele, I stopped next at Fessenden, North Dakota, with a population of 479.

Wells County Courthouse. Fessenden, North Dakota. Constructed in 1895 and still in use

Fessenden: old Quarve Block, largest business building in town (left); Main Avenue (center); and a friendly beagle (right). Not pictured: I walked past about a dozen grade school kids heading down to the town pool for a noon swim — I didn’t think it was a good idea for a stranger to be taking photos of children in bathing suits!

Lunch at the lunch counter at the Main Street Diner: Grilled ham & cheese, tater tots, and homemade chicken dumpling soup.


I next stopped at the larger town of New Rockford, having a population of 1,391. Photos below: the Eddy County Courthouse, erected in 1899 (left), courthouse main lobby and plaque (top right), New Rockford street scene (bottom right). The old courthouse here is still in use — in fact, a trial was taking place in the upstairs courtroom while I was there.


On my way to New Rockford, I drove by this herd of buffalo but didn’t stop to photograph them. After visiting the town I thought I might have missed an opportunity and came back to take a photograph of the herd. They were right up against the fence when I first drove by but by the time I got back they had moved away from the fence. He who hesitates is often lost!

Private buffalo herd. Near New Rockford, North Dakota

By the way, I prefer the term “buffalo” to “bison,” although I am told every so often that “bison” is the correct term. I don’t care. Buffalo is an iconic term of the old American West and it conjures up too many rich images to be replaced in common speech.


My last visit for today would be to the largest town of the day, Carrington, with a population of 2,065.

Foster County Courthouse. Carrington, North Dakota

This courthouse, like most of the old courthouses in this region, was built in the late 19th to early 20th Centuries and was built with a great deal of pride — not only pride in the people but pride in their state and their nation as well. Like many other courthouses built throughout the United States during this era, this courthouse was designed with a sense of grandeur and uses granite exteriors and marble and brass interiors. Vibrant murals depicting county history are painted on the ceiling under the central dome and can be viewed from the building’s atrium two floors below.

Words of wisdom are inscribed into marble walls along the second floor above the atrium, referencing wisdom from both the ancients (Aristotle, Sophocles) and from modern Americans (Webster, Lincoln):

Painting depicting daily life hung on the wall of the Foster County courthouse. Carrington, North Dakota

Feeling thankful for all the eye candy I saw in the courthouse, I strolled to downtown Carrington to get a beverage and write my notes: Headlocks — a sports bar (Minnesota Vikings bar), the Garden Gate — a combination wine bar, coffee shop, and gift shop, and the bank building.


From Carrington, I drove down to the larger town of Jamestown to have dinner and spend the night. Keeping it light tonight I chose a steak salad with a gin & tonic at Sabir’s Buffalo Grill. Eat beef when in cattle country!

Steak salad at Sabir’s Buffalo Grill. Jamestown, North Dakota

Jamestown is a small city adjacent to Interstate 94. There are plenty of lodging options available here. Checking prices, I chose the My Place hotel, part of a new and expanding hotel chain in the west and midwest.


Freedom Voyage Day 4, Tuesday, June 29, 2021: Jamestown to Devils Lake, North Dakota

Day 4: From Jamestown to Devils Lake via Courtenay, Cooperstown, Finley, Pekin, and Lakota, North Dakota

After spending the night in Jamestown (population 15,000 and change) it was time to have a look around. First stop, Casey’s General Store for some of their breakfast pizza. Based in Des Moines, Iowa, Casey’s is a convenience store chain with hundreds of locations throughout the Midwest, but only a few in North Dakota. Their breakfast pizza is my absolute favorite.

Breakfast pizza at Casey’s. Jamestown, North Dakota

The locals here refer to Jamestown as “Buffalo City” so I drove by the National Buffalo Museum before it opened in the morning. They have a herd of about a dozen animals (that I could see), both adults and calves enjoying the early morning sunshine and prairie grasses near the World’s Largest Buffalo statue. The statue is visible from Interstate 94 nearby.

Jamestown has been a center of commerce since its founding in 1872 at the point where the Northern Pacific Railroad would bridge North Dakota’s James River. The town was named after Jamestown, Virginia, and today has a vibrant core of old buildings and plenty of restaurants.

People who live in North Dakota have to account for harsh winters, so their bars and taverns tend to be more spacious than those found in warmer climes. The Corner Bar is one such cozy watering hole providing comfort, community, and warmth.

The Corner Bar at 1st Avenue South and 2nd Street SW. Jamestown, North Dakota

Just around the corner, you can find everything for the sportsman at Gun & Reel Sports.

1st Street West. Jamestown, North Dakota
Looking south down 1st Avenue toward the Catholic Basilica of Saint James. Jamestown, North Dakota

Completed in 1914, the Gothic-style Saint James Basilica is one of the oldest buildings in town, and in many ways, it’s the center of town. People in Jamestown are extremely proud of this church, seeing in it a great achievement erected upon the vast expanses of the North Dakota prairie. The driving force behind its construction was Father Edward Geraghty, an immigrant Irish priest.

Saint James Basilica. Jamestown, North Dakota
Saint James Basilica, interior.
Saint James Basilica, stained glass windows.

Here is a link to a fascinating 16-minute video that provides both the history of the church and of the early days of the town itself. Among the remembrances narrated is the time in 1883 when famous Lakota Chief Sitting Bull visited Jamestown, offering his autograph to residents for 25 cents each. History of St. James Basilica – YouTube.

The 700-mile James River originates north of Jamestown and flows southward to join the Missouri River near Yankton, South Dakota. This river bisects Jamestown but, oddly, the town was named for Jamestown, Virginia, and not for the river. The Lakota called the river “E-ta-zi-po-ka-se Wakpa” (“unnavigable river”), while French trader Jean Trudeau named it the Riviere aux Jacques in 1794. Ultimately the waterway was anglicized into the “James River” by early American settlers. It’s a landmark in the wide prairie. Here is the river making its slow, lazy way through the center of town.

James River. Jamestown, North Dakota

Here are some more photos around Jamestown (counterclockwise from top left): a sturdy home near the center of town, a typical residential street where the trees are twice the height of the homes, Stutsman County and Jamestown town logos, and the Stutsman County Courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Heading north out of Jamestown I traversed wide-open country dotted with small upland lakes. Finally, I arrived at a point dividing the Atlantic and Arctic Ocean drainages. Here’s your sign:

Continental Divide between the Atlantic and Arctic watersheds. Near Courtenay, North Dakota

A few miles further east of this sign is Courtenay, North Dakota (population 45), a small farming town.

Here’s a beautiful home in Courtenay that I couldn’t help but stop the car and photograph. I so admire the perfect workmanship of the awnings above the front windows and the porch. The bright colors of the flower pots and flowerbeds perfectly complement the greens of the lawn, the trees, and the house.

A beautiful home in Courtenay, North Dakota

Here’s another view. This home is someone’s pride and joy, and I assume the exquisite trim was done by the owner himself or herself.

A beautiful home in Courtenay, North Dakota

I was ready for lunch by the time I made it to Cooperstown.

Nana’s Cafe & Coffee Shop on Burrel Avenue in Cooperstown, North Dakota

Ladies and Gentlemen, fair readers, inquiring minds — I had an exquisite lunch meal at Nana’s Cafe — the best meal of the whole trip. Those are glazed smoked sausage slices — probably locally made — next to loaded red-skinned mashed potatoes filled with a pool of melted butter, plus some delicious, buttery fried cabbage. As I sit at my desk today writing this description, I wish I had ordered two meals. I wish I could have that meal again. I’d like to go back to Nana’s Cafe for lunch right now. I recommend it highly.

Lunch at Nana’s Cafe. Best meal of the whole trip!

Down the street from Nana’s, the local pharmacy was holding its annual Customer Appreciation Day. You’ll notice the barbeque grill parked in the street next to the vacant lot. Free bbq and sides for everyone today, come on in! The business and its customers are just one big family. I’ve heard of such things before, but I rarely see them anymore. But I guess they still happen in small, family-sized towns in North Dakota.

Cooperstown Drug Customer Appreciation Day. Cooperstown, North Dakota
The Original Griggs County Courthouse. It was built in 1884 and recently retired. Cooperstown, North Dakota

Artifacts from the old courthouse, truly from the town’s founding, are on display in the new courthouse. These include old machines, portraits of the founders, and a group photo of Cooperstown’s 50-year settler’s reunion.

Griggs County Courthouse. Cooperstown, North Dakota
Old Settler’s Day — June 17, 1923. Cooperstown, North Dakota

Just outside the courthouse, the county maintains the old Opheim cabin, which was built in 1878 and is marked as the first permanent settlement in Griggs County, North Dakota. Some of those pictured in the settler’s reunion might even have memories of the old Opheim place.

The Opheim Cabin. Cooperstown, North Dakota

It’s five days until the Fourth of July and preparations were well underway for Independence Day festivities. The portable fireworks cart displays its wares, including the “Manic Energy” of President Trump. Although this area supports the ex-President “bigly,” they aren’t afraid of having a little fun with his energetic personality. At the far right, the town grocery store, Miller’s Foods, provides a float for the annual parade.

It was a great day in Cooperstown. Even the clouds above Cooperstown looked like they were throwing up a set of flares as if they were cheering for me.

Mid-summer high clouds above Cooperstown, North Dakota

Just outside Cooperstown, I came upon this: the “November – 33” Minuteman missile launch facility (decommissioned 1997).

Several historical signs explain the purpose of the site, its operation, and its maintenance:

What surprising things you find when just out for a drive!


Next stop: the small town of Finley, North Dakota — tons and tons of grain and four-hundred people. An old Air Force plane next to a POW/MIA flag greet you at the edge of town.

Finley War Memorial. Finley, North Dakota

The grain elevators dwarf the town’s buildings which include the Rumors Tavern and an old Methodist church building just a block away.

The Steele County Courthouse in Finley was built in 1925. From the outside, the courthouse could easily be mistaken for a 1930s WPA project, but the interior has marble trim and old-fashioned lettering that one would never see in the aluminum-based WPA structures. Notice the Vietnam War memorial plaque next to the staircase in the central photo. Recalling the POW/MIA flag I saw at the edge of town, I wonder if perhaps Finley suffered local sons lost during Vietnam? Such a loss would leave a mark in a town of 445.


After a northward drive of an hour and a half, I reached Lakota, North Dakota, with a population of almost 700.

Nelson County Courthouse. Lakota, North Dakota

Main Street Lakota runs northward until it ends at the Art Deco style of the Lakota Public School building.

Although Main Street was pretty quiet today, its signage had some personality:

The offices of the Lakota American Newspaper, the official paper of Nelson County.
Caution! Norwegian Crossing! Main Street, Lakota, North Dakota

From Lakota, I drove 30 miles west and stopped for the day at the Fireside Inn and Suites in Devils Lake, North Dakota. This is a privately owned motel catering mainly to summer and winter sports fishermen on Devils Lake. The inn has a small lounge where fishermen can enjoy a brew while swapping fish stories! On this night the Fireside Inn offered their guests free ribs and potato salad with a free drink. I couldn’t pass up a free meal!

Ribs, potato salad, and a White Claw courtesy of the Fireside Inn and Suites. Devils Lake, North Dakota

Freedom Voyage Day 5, Wednesday, June 30, 2021: Devils Lake to Bottineau, North Dakota

Day 5: From Devils Lake to Bottineau via Langdon, Munich, and Cando, North Dakota

Old Main Street Cafe. Devils Lake, North Dakota

I had breakfast at the Old Main Street Cafe in Devils Lake. Actually located on 4th Street downtown, it’s a nice place — small, intimate, and includes a bar for late-night gatherings. Very efficient of them to have their space double as both an early morning and a late-night venue.

Chicken-fried steak and eggs with hashbrowns and gravy underneath. Old Main Street Cafe in Devils Lake, North Dakota

I found an interesting old photograph on the breakfast counter showing the local high school marching band parading down Main Street. Between the photo being black and white and the style of the parked cars, I’m guessing the shot was taken in the mid-1960s. Look how serious they are!

Photo on the breakfast counter (under the varnish) at the Old Main Street Cafe

The Ramsey Photo Lab in Devils Lake offers 19-cent digital prints, plus custom framing. I imagine photoshops have a tough time in the digital age. Nevertheless, other downtown businesses are doing ok; few storefronts are vacant downtown.

A typical Main Street building in Devils Lake, North Dakota

Here are a set of impressive public buildings in Devil’s Lake (clockwise from top left): Ramsey County Courthouse, the old Fire Station, the old Central High (now a middle school), Carnegie Library, World War Memorial auditorium, and the old Masonic building.

The town was named for the nearby body of water — “Devils Lake” or “Spirit Lake” as the Dakota tribe refers to it. This is the largest natural body of water in North Dakota. Devils Lake is a highly saline, closed system whose waters only flow outward to the Sheyenne River during times of extreme precipitation. More information on the formation and history of the lake can be seen in the historical sign below.

Historical sign explaining the evolution of Devils Lake
Devils Lake, North Dakota. The town of Devils Lake is on the far shore.

Heading northeast, I passed through miles and miles of flat farmland and small lakes. I soon came across wide fields of canola. These always make for great photos:

Canola fields. Cavalier County, North Dakota
Canola fields and farm road. Cavalier County, North Dakota

The town of Langdon, North Dakota, has a population of 1,800 and sits just 15 miles south of the Canadian border.

North Dakota Highway 1 as it enters Langdon from the south.
St. Alphonsus Church. Langdon, North Dakota.

Some of the smaller towns in this part of the country have a wonderful tradition of posting photographs of their graduating seniors on Main Street lampposts. I’m a little jealous of these kids — both for the fanfare they’re receiving and for the quality of their photographs. My senior pictures didn’t look nearly as good as any of these kids’ photos do! Here are some of the graduating seniors of Langdon Area High School Cardinals, class of 2021:


It was a hot day today in North Dakota. 87°, clear skies with little or no breeze. Great weather for the crops, while the people were indoors and life was lazy.

My next stop, the town of Cando in Towner County, is about 50 miles southwest of Langdon. The county courthouse is a three-story yellow brick structure constructed in 1898. The old jail was included inside, even though it has not been used for incarceration since 1977.

Towner County courthouse behind a wall of shade trees and spruces. Cando, North Dakota

Inside the old building, the second floor’s wooden floors creaked. The winding wooden staircases at each end of the hallway also creaked, but they look beautiful — demonstrating the great craftsmanship needed to withstand the pressures of 120 years of use.

Cando has a population of just over 1,100. I had a late lunch at the Cozy Café on Main Street, which was empty except for the wait staff and her friends. They made me an awesome grilled cheese and bacon sandwich with fries. After lunch I spent 10 or 20 minutes walking around town, sweating off the calories.


I left Cando around 3:00 in the afternoon so that I could get to the famous Pride Dairy in Bottineau, North Dakota, before its 5:00 closing time. I had been to Bottineau a few years ago but had missed the Dairy during that trip, so I had made sure to include a stop here while planning this trip.

The Pride Dairy is special not only for its excellent ice creams and cheeses but also for having the license to produce vanilla ice cream using Thomas Jefferson’s own vanilla ice cream recipe. (The recipe is recorded in the Library of Congress and it requires imported Madagascar vanilla beans.) So when you eventually make your pilgrimage to Bottineau make sure to ask for the “Thomas Jefferson vanilla.” You can also find this special flavor on sale at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, and at the International Peace Garden, North Dakota, and Manitoba, Canada.

Ice cream sundae using Thomas Jefferson vanilla ice cream. Pride Dairy, Bottineau, North Dakota

Just north of Bottineau, Turtle Mountain rises some 400 feet above the surrounding countryside. The plateau straddles the US-Canadian border and includes many parks and lakes for recreational activity.

I was also here last year. On Turtle Mountain both then and now, I’m reminded of an old Neil Young song called “Sugar Mountain.” The lyrics begin like this:

Oh to live on Sugar Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons

Of course, there are no barkers or colored balloons or circuses on Turtle Mountain. But there are a great many summer houses nestled among the woods and lakes here so it is a very festive place in its own way.

Satellite view of Turtle Mountain. Notice the numerous lakes within the forests. The horizontal line through the middle is the US-Canadian border. Mystical Horizons is the US side at the western edge of the mountain along the main east-west roadway.

At the western edge of Turtle Mountain, the privately-built Mystical Horizons site offers sweeping views of the North Dakota prairie below. These photos were taken at 8:49 pm Central Daylight Time on June 30th, eight days after the summer solstice. At this latitude, at this time of year, sunset doesn’t occur until 9:49 pm.

View from Mystical Horizons on Turtle Mountain, looking west.
View from Mystical Horizons on Turtle Mountain, looking south.

The Mystical Horizons site includes stone and cement structures designed to view the summer and winter solstices and the equinox, mimicking celestial observation configurations at the Stonehenge site in England. A working sundial is also part of the Mystical Horizons site.

Structure for observing the sun’s position at the winter solstice (left), spring/fall equinoxes (center), and summer solstice (right). On each of those respective days, sunlight shines directly through the appropriate notches. Mystical Horizons site.

Bottineau is a small town so there are only a handful of places to stay the night. I chose the Cobblestone Inn, which is a nice place and part of a small chain of hotels found mainly in the Great Plains states.


Freedom Voyage Day 6, Thursday, July 1, 2021: Bottineau to Minot, North Dakota

Day 6: From Bottineau to Minot via Towner, Rugby, Minnewaukan, Fort Totten, White Horse Hill National Game Preserve, and Anamoose, North Dakota

Good morning from Bottineau, North Dakota! The summer sun’s up early in these high latitudes and so am I, and so is everyone else in this northern farming town. A great breakfast place is the Family Bakery & Restaurant on Main Street.

Eggs, sausages, hash browns, and an English muffin at the Family Bakery & Restaurant. Bottineau, North Dakota

It’s 40 miles to my next destination, and luckily, the Family Bakery & Restaurant includes — believe it or not — a bakery where I can acquire some essential sustenance for the trip. I somehow limited myself to a mere three perfect pastries:

Main Street Bottineau, North Dakota. A fine American town on a fine summer morning.

40 miles south of Bottineau lies the town of Towner, North Dakota, having a population of about 500. Yes, it’s “the town of Towner” and refers to itself as the “Cattle Capital of North Dakota.” Friendly place of course. The McHenry County courthouse, constructed in 1907, dominates the town with an architectural style typical of its time.

McHenry County courthouse. Towner, North Dakota

I was able to find and photograph some gems from inside the courthouse as well:

Judge’s bench in the 3rd-floor courtroom. McHenry County courthouse. Towner, North Dakota
Wolf hides and snowdrifts — life in rural North Dakota, from photos on display inside the county courthouse. Towner, North Dakota
County memorabilia and clerical tools — a slice of Americana on display inside the McHenry County courthouse. Towner, North Dakota

Here are some scenes around town: Main Street, the Towner Presbyterian Church, the J & J Market, and the old bank building.


Just 20 miles east of Towner, the railroad town of Rugby, North Dakota was named for the town of Rugby, Warwickshire, England, by the original English financiers of the Great Northern Rail Line. Several other North Dakota towns along this rail line — such as York, Leeds, and Berwick — were similarly named for English country towns.

Below: Rugby train station (served by Amtrak), massive grain elevators storing tons of grain beside the railroad siding, Rugby’s downtown business blocks.

The town of Rugby sports a top-class combination coffee shop and styling salon. Their websites are here: The Solid Ground Cafe (and Stylin You salon and spa)

The Solid Ground Cafe (and Stylin You salon and spa). Rugby, North Dakota

A few blocks down 2nd Street from the Solid Ground Cafe, the 1910 Pierce County courthouse is an excellent example of the proud and grand engineering typical of America in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. This was President Teddy Roosevelt’s time — Bully! New settlers to the Dakota territories, many from northern and eastern Europe, left the “Old Country” for the new world, adopting their new country’s shining optimism.

Pierce County courthouse. Rugby, North Dakota
Courthouse atrium featuring marble walls and columns. Pierce County courthouse. Rugby, North Dakota

Courthouses built in the late 19th or early 20th centuries usually included a great deal of artistry and detail. They were a focal point of pride in one’s town, one’s state, and especially one’s country. Even though this is a small, rural county, the Pierce County courthouse construction included a grand central cupola and murals depicting county life and history.

Painted murals on the ceiling depicting county life and history. Pierce County courthouse. Rugby, North Dakota
One of four murals on the ceiling of the Pierce County courthouse. Rugby, North Dakota

I especially enjoy old photographs hung on the hallway walls of these courthouses because they’re like viewing the contents of a time capsule. Here’s a photo of the 1957 courthouse staff Christmas party, where all classes and ranks gathered together to share some holiday cheer.

Pierce County courthouse Christmas Party, 1957. Rugby, North Dakota

For a few more photos of the courthouse, see my earlier blog post on the town of Rugby: The Grand Courthouse in Rugby, North Dakota.

One particular house in Rugby truly stands out from the rest, and it’s intentional:

House in Rugby, North Dakota

I don’t know the back story of this house, but I can see that the paint job is meticulous so I doubt it was done as a passing fancy.

There’s also a pink garage and basketball hoop behind the house, in the shadow of the town’s grain elevators next to the railroad tracks.

Pink garage, basketball hoop, and grain elevators in Rugby, North Dakota

Just a mile or two south of downtown lies a point of interest almost always shown as that red dot on your Rand McNally road map:

Geographical Center of North America. Rugby, North Dakota

Back on the road again, I’m heading eastward to get to the south side of Devils Lake. The next stop is tiny Minnewaukan (population 224), the county seat of Benson County.

Benson County courthouse. Minnewaukan, North Dakota

Minnewaukan, North Dakota: a quiet mid-day, mid-summer Main Street; the Minnewaukan City Library/Office and Internet center; the Dakota Spirits liquor and convenience store next to the offices of James Wang, ‘Attornly’.


Benson County also includes most of the Spirit Lake Dakota Reservation, home to the Pabaksa, Sisseton, and Wahpeton bands of the Dakota Tribe. The tribe has over 7,000 enrolled members. The reservation grew out of an old army post called Fort Totten, which is a tourist attraction today.


I came to the south side of Devils Lake to drive through White Horse Hill National Game Preserve (formerly Sully’s Hill National Game Preserve) for some photographs and a hilltop view of Devils Lake. I got what I came for.

Buffalo resting in the shade. White Horse Hill National Game Preserve.

The preserve includes some hiking trails, scenic drives, and a visitors’ center. I wanted to get to a hilltop overlooking Devils Lake.

Hilltop view of Devils Lake.
Hilltop view of Devils Lake

After getting in some spectacular views, it was time to head west again to get some dinner and a good night’s sleep in Minot, a decent town that I’ve stayed at before. The 2-hour drive to Minot took me through 100 miles of rural North Dakota farms and fields. The locals are vocal supporters of their country and its former president — displays such as this one are fairly common:

Political signage among the farmland near Anamoose, North Dakota

By the way, this particular drive passes through the town of Velva, population 1,000, and home to Dot’s Pretzels, a homegrown-turned-national snack food brand.

I arrived in Minot thirsty and in time for dinner. When in Minot I usually choose Ebeneezer’s Irish Pub. The roast beef plate was the Thursday special. For entertainment, I got to enjoy a few baseball games on the big screen. In a separate room, a local piano player sang “Desperado” and other popular songs for the crowd.

Roast beef and Guinness at Ebeneezer’s Irish Pub. Minot, North Dakota

With a population of over 40,000 and the large Minot Air Force Base just north of town, Minot offers plenty of reasonably-priced lodging choices, many on the southern edge of town. Checking prices, I stayed at the Noble Inn in Minot.


Freedom Voyage Day 7, Friday, July 2, 2021: Minot, North Dakota to Gillette, Wyoming

Day 7: From Minot to Gillette, Wyoming via Max, McClusky, Washburn, Fort Clark, Center, and Belfield, North Dakota

Good Friday morning from Minot! Although Minot is probably more Scandinavian than German, I couldn’t resist the call of Kroll’s German Diner (Güt for da Gut) on the south end of town. I particularly had to try their highly-touted knoephla soup this time — a mixture of knoephla dumplings and potato chunks in a buttery broth. Yes, it was delicious.


After breakfast, I drove south through the beautiful North Dakota prairie, passing over the Missouri Coteau and its plethora of sloughs — also known as kettle lakes or prairie potholes. These sloughs are the result of ancient glacier activity which left small, water-filled depressions in the surrounding plains. Since it was still early July and these canola fields hadn’t yet bloomed, here’s a photo I took during my travels to Minot in late July 2020:

Late July canola fields and prairie sloughs. Along US 83 south of Minot, North Dakota

Further to the south and east, the town of McClusky, North Dakota, population 380, holds its place among these prairies. The Sheridan County courthouse is here in McClusky. I caught a morning photo of the 1940 structure, and a photo of snowy county life from a picture hanging on the hallway inside the courthouse.

Here are a few photos of McClusky, “Heart of North Dakota”: (clockwise from top left) water tower; courthouse marker; Main Street pharmacy, realtor and law office; and town park.


It’s Friday. This has been a great week but it’s time to head home. My stop for the night will be in Gillette, Wyoming, 7 hours and 450 miles away, but there’s still enough time to stop for a photo or two should a good picture present itself.

Crossing the Missouri River at Washburn, North Dakota

Traveling along in the afternoon, I came across signs for the “Scientific Geographical Center of North America” near (by extraordinary coincidence) the town of Center, North Dakota. This central point was found using more modern calculations than those used when Rugby, North Dakota, was determined to be the center of North America. Center, North Dakota, was established in 1902, decades before modern calculations were done.


After passing through