TimManBlog

Whatever I'm Thinking

Moundsville, West Virginia and its Ancient Mounds

August 31, 2022
(Photos and Memories of August 27, 2009)

Grave Creek Mound. Moundsville, West Virginia

Moundsville is a small city incorporated in 1830 and built along the banks of the Ohio River in West Virginia’s “Panhandle.” Settlers named the town for an ancient Indian burial mound they found nearby. The mound rises over fifty feet from the surrounding countryside and is located just a block away from the riverbank.

The historical sign at the site provides the basic information.

Historical sign explaining the burial mound at Moundsville.

The mounds at Moundsville were not built by the local native American tribes at the time of white settlement. They were built by tribes that had left the area long before the settlement of the Ohio valley by other Native American tribes, such as the Shawnee.

A West Virginia state park and museum provides the essential background and history of the site.

Museum exhibit at Grave Creek Mound.

I wanted to climb the path to the top of the mound. However, the museum caretaker would not allow this, as she explained that they had a “yellow jacket problem” up there.

Grave Creek Mound. Moundsville, West Virginia

Moundsville is the seat of Marshall County, West Virginia; the county was named for Virginian John Marshall, first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The county courthouse is currently undergoing renovation, but beyond the fencing, the front grounds are filled with Civil War memorials. Notably, a Union Civil War statue occupies the place of honor at the corner of the courthouse grounds, facing the town’s main downtown intersection.

Marshall County Courthouse. Moundsville, West Virginia

What is now West Virginia was part of the state of Virginia when the Civil War began in 1861, and Virginia was one of 11 states to secede from the Union to form the Confederate States of America. However, the western counties of Virginia were still mostly pro-Union, so these western counties seceded from the state of Virginia. In 1863 the seceded portion was admitted to the United States as the new state of West Virginia.

Marshall County Courthouse. Moundsville, West Virginia
Working fountain behind the Marshall County Courthouse.

Moundsville was once a thriving stop on the Ohio River – that water highway to the West. In the mid-20th century, the West Virginia panhandle was a bustling part of the steel industry. Today, the old steel valley has mostly closed, and its best young people have moved elsewhere.

The Fostoria Glass Museum (was the Fostoria Glass Company). Moundsville, West Virginia

Country music superstar Brad Paisley grew up in little Glen Dale, just on the northern edge of Moundsville. The town of Glen Dale has marked the 8th Avenue street sign “Brad Paisley Boulevard” based on a line in one of his songs referring to “Tomlinson and 8th” in his hometown.

West Virginia is so mountainous that a wall of a forested mountainside looms over the horizon in any direction you care to look.

Jefferson Street. Moundsville, West Virginia

When in a West Virginia town, it’s always fun to separate its “West” features from its “Virginia” features. The county courthouse is “Virginia” because of its white and silver Colonial-style cupola. The county was named for Virginian John Marshall, the first U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice. That’s another “Virginia.” The locals speak with a Southern accent (although not as pronounced as their down-river neighbors in Kentucky), which is also “Virginia.” For “West,” there’s the fact that every building in town is red brick construction due to the many old brick factories just upriver north of Wheeling. There are no colonial mansions here. Add to that the “West” countenance of the folks on the street. They are a sort of cross between denim-clad hillbilly mountaineer and rough-hewn industrial worker; none seem to belong inside or outside a tobacco plantation.

Hillbilly’s Pub & Grub. Moundsville, West Virginia
Moose Lodge. Moundsville, West Virginia
An old corner bank building, now being used as a family vision clinic

It was a sad day for Moundsville. The only coffee shop on Jefferson had no customers. The lone waitress stood behind the counter, bent over a newspaper spread out over the countertop where local older men should be sitting to chat about the old days over a cup of joe or a glass of sweet tea. Few of the other storefronts on Jefferson had anyone inside at all.

An old corner building. Moundsville, West Virginia

However, I may have seen an old Virginian sitting near me at lunch in Wendy’s (the only busy restaurant in town). He was an elderly gentleman who was probably old enough to have seen the Depression. Most patrons were quickly gobbling whatever form of cheeseburger ordered at the counter. This man, however, sat at a table with his wife as if they were expecting wait service. He had neatly combed full head of gray hair and wore sharp gray suspenders over a plaid shirt and gray slacks. He sat upright at his table, perfectly erect, next to his wife, eating his meal. As I watched him furtively, I saw a genuinely comfortable demeanor that seemed to say, “I am a dignified person, here or wherever I am, in any company, because of how I carry myself today and how I have lived my long life.”

A well-maintained front-yard fish pond in Moundsville
Marshall County within the state of West Virginia

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 August 27, 2009

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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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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