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Archive for the category “County Seats”

The Grand Courthouse in Rugby, North Dakota

July 30, 2021

(photos and memories from July, 2021)

The town of Rugby, North Dakota was named for Rugby, Warwickshire, England, and was founded in 1886 as a railroad town along North Dakota’s Great Northern Rail Line. The railroad had financiers from England and so several other towns along the line were also named for English country towns.

Rugby Train Station, an Amtrak stop

Amtrak stops here in Rugby. The line of giant grain elevators along the train tracks is truly impressive. From towns like Rugby, the amber waves of grain are stored and then shipped throughout the world.

Grain elevators along the railroad tracks. Rugby, North Dakota

Rugby has a population of 2,800 souls — small, but to its credit the town seems larger and more vibrant than what those numbers would indicate. Shops are open all along Main Street.

Main and 2nd Street. Rugby, North Dakota

Around the corner is a combination haute couture salon and coffee shop. See the websites for Stylin You salon and spa, and the Solid Ground Cafe, which serves great coffee!

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

A few blocks down 2nd Street, the 1910 Pierce County Courthouse is a perfect example of proud and grand engineering. Back in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the new settlers to the old Dakota territories brought with them a shining optimism and love of country, and the architecture shows it.

Pierce County Courthouse. Rugby, North Dakota
Pierce County Courthouse. Rugby, North Dakota

On the inside, stairways are made of brown marble and the banisters are brass. Marble slabs line the walls in all the hallways.

Atrium. Pierce County Courthouse. Rugby, North Dakota

The ceiling underneath the cupola features four murals: three of agricultural activities and one of an Indian buffalo hunt.

Buffalo hunt. Mural from the Pierce County Courthouse
Early settlers. Mural from the Pierce Cunty Courthouse
Early farm machinery. Mural from the Pierce County Courthouse
Agriculture. Mural from the Pierce County Courthouse

The courthouse staff gathered some old equipment into displays of the early days of the courthouse.

Display of early office machinery once used in the courthouse
Display of old office bureau, chair, and filing system.

In the hallway, I found two interesting black and white photos depicting town life in the 1950s. The first is a photo of the 1957 courthouse Christmas party. The second is of a judge’s retirement party in 1950. In both cases the employees carry a very serious demeanor, and clothing was much more formal than today.

Pierce County Courthouse Christmas party. December, 1957
Pierce County Courthouse. Justice Grimson’s Farewell Party in February, 1950

One house in Rugby stands out. This house stands on 2nd street in between the coffee shop and the courthouse.

Colorfully painted house on 2nd Street. Rugby, North Dakota

Finally, a monument just outside town denote’s Rugby’s place as the geographic center of North America.

Geographic Center of North America. Rugby, North Dakota

All photos taken by the author on July 1, 2021

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

Vincennes: The Town that Made Indiana American

June 30, 2021
(photos and memories from August 1998 and June 2017)

What is the “Northwest?” It depends on your perspective of course. Americans of today might nod to the states of Washington and Oregon, and maybe Idaho and Alaska too. But from the perspective of American Revolutionists in the late 1770s, the new nation consisted of the 13 Atlantic seaboard states. Some visionaries also eyed the “Northwest Territory,” consisting of those lands northwest of the 13 new states, specifically north and/or west of the Ohio River.

Today this area includes the states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. But they all might have stayed in British possession after the Revolutionary War — except for the actions of George Rogers Clark.

Monument honoring Revolutionary War hero George Rogers Clark. Vincennes, Indiana

In February 1779, George Rogers Clark led a company of what can only be called “backwoods Virginia badasses” across winter snows and icy, flooded rivers to surprise and capture British Fort Sackwell here at Vincennes, in present-day Indiana.

Clark’s victory ensured that America would occupy land north of the Ohio, which allowed U.S. peace negotiators in Paris to press for the boundary of the new nation to be set along the Great Lakes. Without Clark’s victory at Vincennes (and Kaskaskia), the new United States/British Empire boundary would have been set along the Ohio River. The Northwest Territory would have become part of Canada, and the Northwest Ordinance would never have been written. A United States limited to territory south of the Ohio River would have been dominated by slave states and history would have turned out much differently to say the least.

Without Clark, Indiana would likely be part of Canada today. Without the 5 northwestern states included in the Union as non-slave states, the history of the Civil War would have been much different.

Clark’s victory at Vincennes is celebrated with memorials in the Vincennes Historic District along the Wabash River.

George Rogers Clark Memorial along the Wabash River. Vincennes, Indiana

Murals inside the memorial explain the history of the region.

Mural inside the Clark Memorial. Vincennes, Indiana

The park includes a statue to the Italian-born Francis Vigo. Vigo, a former Spanish soldier, played an important role in surveilling the British presence at Vincennes and relaying the information to Clark. Vigo County, Indiana, was named for him.

Statue of Francis Vigo and young admirer. Vincennes, Indiana

The historical area also makes a nice place for a riverside park.

Wabash River at Vincennes. Indiana

I photographed an impressive shade tree I found on the Wabash banks, and asked some Indiana Facebook friends what kind of tree it was. A Hoosier replied, “the great big kind.”

Great Big Tree on the banks of the Wabash River. Vincennes, Indiana

Vincennes began as a French settlement, and its French influence can still be seen today. The Old French Cathedral and Cemetary is adjacent to the Clark Memorial in the Vincennes Historic District.

The Old French Cathedral. Vincennes, Indiana
Cemetary at the old French Cathedral. Vincennes, Indiana

The four-story Vigo County Courthouse here in Vincennes features the French style.

Vigo County Courthouse. Vincennes, Indiana
Memorial at the Vigo County Courthouse with flags which have flown over Vincennes in the past
Portraits of Francis Vigo (left) and George Rogers Clark (right). Vigo County Courthouse. Vincennes, Indiana

The city of Vincennes has some charming old architecture. Their local-boy-made-good is comedian Red Skelton. His likeness can be found all over downtown Vincennes, on murals and on lampposts.

Mural honoring Comedian Red Skelton. Downtown Vincennes, Indiana
Downtown Vincennes, Indiana

Having lunch at a sidewalk table on Main Street here feels like being in a canyon. Buildings on either side rise four and five stories using brick construction. The architecture is old, dating from the late 19th century. Although a few buildings are abandoned, most are occupied and thriving.

Downtown Vincennes, Indiana
Vincennes, Indiana

All photos taken by the author on June 27, 2017

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

Butte, Montana: The Richest Hill on Earth

May 30, 2021
(photos and memories from August 1997 and May 2013)

Butte is the 5th largest city in the state of Montanta with 33,000 residents, but it has the most colorful history of any town in that state. During its heyday in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, Butte was one of the largest copper boomtowns in the West. Fortunes were made for many here, especially for owners of the copper mines. They were known as the Copper Kings.

Painting of the Butte Copper Kings. Silver Bow County Courthouse, Butte, Montana

Employment opportunities in the mines attracted surges of immigrants, particularly Irish immigrants. According to Wikipedia, as of 2017, Butte has the largest population of Irish Americans per capita of any city in the United States. I suppose that one descendent of those immigrants might be Rob O’Neill, a native of Butte, a Navy Seal, and the man who shot Osama bin Laden.

Old mineshafts in Butte, Montana

The city of Butte straddles the Continental Divide high in the Rockies and is positioned on the southwestern side of a large mass of exposed granite. The exposed granite mountain is riddled with rich veins of copper, gold, and silver ore which produced millions of dollars of precious metals during the last two centuries. Mineshafts criss-cross the earth deep below the town’s streets. A large open pit copper mine, called the Berkeley Pit, was opened in 1955 nearly alongside the town. Although this open pit ceased operations in 1982, several other mines still operate today extracting molybdenum ore among other metals.

The wealth extracted from the mines in the late 1800s and early 1900s also produced a wealth of ornate buildings and architecture in the city, and the of old bars, ethnic foods, and wild things that accompany prosperouse mining towns.

Ornate mining-era structures from the late 1800s and early 1900s in Uptown Butte, Montana

Since the city is centered at the top of a hill, the “downtown” area is uphill from the working class neighborhoods below it. For this reason, Butte’s “downtown” is known paradoxically as “Uptown” Butte.

Typical streetscape in Uptown Butte, Montana
Former Curtis Music Hall (theatre). Butte, Montana
The old M&M Cigar Store and adjacent structures. Uptown Butte, Montana
Piccadilly Transportation Memorabilia Museum. Butte, Montana

Butte is the county seat of Silver Bow County, Montana. The county courthouse here was erected between 1910 and 1912 at the height of Butte’s mining boom.

Silver Bow County Courthouse. Butte, Montana

The courthouse currently features a sculpture of a World War II “Jungle Fighter” at the front entrance.

Silver Bow County Courthouse with “Jungle Fighter” sculpture. Butte, Montana

Butte’s mines had amassed great wealth for the city by the time it came to build this courthouse. The city and county Fathers spent $750,000 here, an outrageously huge amount of money for 1910. (The ornate courthouse was used as National Guard barracks when mine labor violence provoked the imposition of martial law in 1917).

The interior of the courthouse is one of the most ornate in the United States featuring gold and copper inlays, marble floors, and mahogany doors.

Marble pillars and bannisters, wall murals, and mahogany doors. Silver Bow County Courthouse. Butte, Montana

The second floor walls facing the central atrium feature murals of four pillars of civilization: History, Philosophy, Justice, and Geography. Above these murals are paintings of four presidents (respectively): Woodrow Wilson, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and William McKinley. Below are photos of the murals and paintings:

Mural of History with Woodrow Wilson above it. Silver Bow County Courthouse
Mural of Philosophy with Abraham Lincoln above it. Silver Bow County Courthouse
Mural of Justice with George Washington above it. Silver Bow County Courthouse
Mural of Geography with William McKinley above it. Silver Bow County Courthouse.

It’s odd that Wilson was included on these walls since the building was completed in 1912, the same year of his election. Also, I find it odd that Jefferson was left out.

Here’s a view of Butte from a nearby highway overlook, and then an historical sign explaining the town’s development.

Butte, Montana from a higway overlook with mountains in the distance
Butte, Montana historical sign

Finally, one last historical sign and one last statue:

Our Lady of the Rockies, overlooking Butte, Montana

All photos taken by the author on May 7, 2013

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

List of all Photo Posts in the American County Seats series in TimManBlog

List of photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog (last updated May 30, 2021):

ALABAMA:
Mobile’s Mardi Gras

ARIZONA:
Kingman Arizona — Caravans of Cars and Camels

ARKANSAS:
Salem, Arkansas: Clean Livin’ and the Spitball

CALIFORNIA:
Climbing to Mariposa

COLORADO:
Doc Holliday and the Spa of the Rockies in Glenwood Springs, Colorado

IDAHO:
Emmett, Idaho: Gem of Plenty

ILLINOIS:
Dixon, Illinois: Three Presidents

INDIANA:
Vincennes: The Town that Made Indiana American

IOWA:
The Little Norse Town of Decorah, Iowa

It’s a Wonderful Life in Denison, Iowa

KANSAS:
Mennonite Pastries Banned in Cimmaron, Kansas

KENTUCKY:
Paducah, Kentucky’s Murals and Townscapes

LOUISIANA:
St. Martinville: Louisiana’s Acadian Capital

MASSACHUSETTS:
April 19th in Middlesex County, Massachusetts

MICHIGAN:
Manistique — The Battle for Michigan
Marquette, Michigan: Experience the Warmth!

MINNESOTA:
Summertime in Waseca, Minnesota

MISSOURI:
Civil War Scenes in Hartville, Missouri

MONTANA:
Butte, Montana: The Richest Hill on Earth

NEBRASKA:
Emigrants’ Return: California Refugees in Plattsmouth, Nebraska

NEW MEXICO:
Los Alamos:  A City on a Hill
Truth or Consequences — and Quixotic Occupy Wall Street

Taos
For ‘Days Gone By’ in New Mexico (Reserve, NM)

NEW YORK:
The Entire State is New York and Albany is its Capital

NORTH CAROLINA:
The Town of Sylva in Western Carolina

NORTH DAKOTA:
The Grand Courthouse in Rugby, North Dakota

OKLAHOMA:
Adventure and Victory: Frederick, Oklahoma

OREGON:
Enterprise, The Jewel of Eastern Oregon

PENNSYLVANIA:
Small Town Propsperity in Warren, Pennsylvania

SOUTH CAROLINA:
∙ February in Walterboro, South Carolina

SOUTH DAKOTA:
∙ Keep Calm and Look Far (Bison, SD)

∙ Along the Pathways of Exploration: Fort Pierre, South Dakota

TEXAS:
A Big and Notable Place — Lubbock, Texas
Christmastime in Johnson City, Texas
January Calmness in West Texas (Marfa, Texas)

UTAH:
∙ A Statue of Liberty in Heber City, Utah

WASHINGTON:
Stevenson, Washington in the Columbia River Gorge

WISCONSIN:
January in Baraboo, Wisconsin

Emmett, Idaho: Gem of Plenty

April 25, 2021
(photos and memories of April 28, 2014)

Some years ago, I journeyed from Boise into Gem County, Idaho, on a clear, cool Monday morning in April. Many more years before, some of the Oregon Trail pioneers came this way, crossing from the Boise River valley to the Payette River valley over Freezeout Hill.

Idaho roadside sign atop Freezeout Hill with the town of Emmett down below.

When the travelers saw the well-watered valley of the Payette River below, many decided to forego the long road to Oregon and stay here. Permanent settlement began in the 1860s.

Payette River valley and the town of Emmett, Idaho

The valley below the Freezeout summit glows green like an emerald gem on this sunny April morning.  A little river winds though the valley between the distinct hillsides which enclose it.  Hills are green with speckles of yellow wild flowers, but down below farmers’ orchards bloom with anticipation of a new growing season.

Payette River valley and from atop Freezeout Hill

A minor gold rush followed from 1894 to 1910 until the ore ran out. In the 21st Century local citizens used the panormic perch provided by Freezeout Hill for a memorial to the lives lost on September 11, 2001.

September 11th Memorial on Freezeout Hill. Emmett, Idaho

Down in the valley below, the little town of Emmett (population 6,500; wikipedia entry here) provides both basic services and a small town home. The Hen House Home & Gift can be found on Yelp here.

Downtown Emmett, Idaho

HeBrews Coffee — “The Hub of Emmett.” Link here.

HeBrews Coffee in Emmett, Idaho
Main Street Emmett, Idaho. April 2014

I found this painting outside the old town telephone building. I checked, and Lily Tomlin didn’t come from Emmett, but the image still seems appropriate.

Painting of Lily Tomlin as town telephone operator. Emmett, Idaho

Here, an old corner service station has been converted to a combination Bakery-Deli-Gallery. The photo below was taken in 2014; the space is now the Newstead Farm & Market (link here).

The Gem County Courthouse is here in Emmett. This structure was a WPA project, built in 1939. The county was named for Idaho’s state nickname, “the Gem State,” and was formed in 1915. A new jail and sheriff’s office has recently been added behind the building.

Gem County Courthouse. Emmett, Idaho

I think every green courthouse lawn needs a Sherman tank. Every. Single. One.

Gem County Courthouse. Emmett, Idaho

Similarly, a fine county clock always improves the town square.

Gem County clock. Emmett, Idaho

Mountains in the distance on a bright April morning:

The intersection of Main and Washington. Emmett, Idaho

Finally, some town blooms. It’s no wonder Californians are leaving their state in droves for places like this in Idaho.

Emmett, Idaho

All photos taken by the author on April 28, 2014

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

Civil War Scenes in Hartville, Missouri

March 31, 2021
(Photos and memories from Friday March 4, 2016)

Wright County Courthouse. Hartville, Missouri

The town of Hartville, Missouri lies in the Ozark foothills of southwestern Missouri, about 50 miles from Springfield. Little Hartville has only 613 residents but it is the county seat of Wright County, Missouri. Its two-story yellow brick courthouse was constructed back in 1964, replacing an older, more ornate building. Two signs saying “In God We Trust” hang above the building’s two entrances.

In God We Trust. Wright County Courthouse. Hartville, Missouri

A man named Carl, one of the courthouse maintenance men, saw me taking photos and we talked a bit. He pointed to a hill east of town and said, “You know that the Civil War was fought here. They put cannon on that hill there and fired at cannon on this hill here,” pointing to the hill west of town where the water tower is today. “People digging in the hollows still find cannon balls buried in the mud today.”

Hills overlooking downtown Hartville, Missouri, site of the Civil War Battle of Hartville.
Hills overlooking Hartville, Missouri, plus one of the town’s many churches.

Carl is an older fellow, in his 60s. The talk turned to more recent history. He said he was old enough to remember when they tore down the old courthouse. He said he’d heard stories that people had been hung on the courthouse grounds. That would have been many, many years ago he said. It was a more violent time back then.

I walked around town — not much more than a crossroads where two state highways meet. A few houses along one street, some businesses along another.

The corner of Main Avenue and Rolla Street. Hartville, Missouri
Downtown home in Hartville, Missouri

Grain silos are located down in the hollow next to the food supermarket.

Hartville Family Cafe (formerly LJD’s). Hartville, Missouri

The town BBQ restaurant is down there as well, its smoker parked in front leaking wondrous aroma throughout town. But I chose to eat at a smaller place on Main Avenue. I saw the name — the Yakety Yak Diner — and I couldn’t resist.

The Yakety Yak Diner. Hartville, Missouri

After lunch I took photos of the buildings near the main intersection. Near that corner I found two Civil War murals. One painting showed a Confederate officer seated on a tree stump assiduously reading the Bible before battle.

Mural of Confederate officer in the Battle of Hartville. Hartville, Missouri

The other mural showed Union horsemen and foot soldiers rushing into the fray of battle.

Union horsemen and infantrymen at the Battle of Hartville. Hartville, Missouri

Though the Confederate is shown reading the Bible, one would be mistaken in believing that the Soldiers in Gray were more religious than the Soldiers in Blue. As Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural Address 151 years to the day before my visit to this battle site:

Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully.

President Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

Later on, I saw an old bearded man in an old brown hat sitting on the steps of the old bank building (now the county Historical Society). He looked exactly like the Confederate officer in the mural. I surreptitiously took a photo of the good fellow and felt as if I had stolen a gem.

Overall it was a thoughtful day. Near the first of Spring. Good memories of a quiet road trip.

Here are some more photos of Hartville:

The town has an extensive historical marker explaining the Battle of Hartville in detail. If you’re curious, click on the photos are read the text. Both sides claimed victory here.

Hartville has many churches and old church buildings. Here are some of them:

Formerly a church, now the VFW hall.
Hartville Church of God
First Christian Church

All photos taken by the author on March 4, 2016

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

Mobile’s Mardi Gras

February 15, 2021
(Photos and memories from Sunday February 10, 2013)

I’m in Mobile, Alabama and Mardi Gras is going on all around me.

Mardi Gras parades on Dauphine Street. Mobile, Alabama

Dauphine Street is Mobile’s Bourbon Street, lined with bars and second story patios for looking down on the party below.  It’s still morning but the street is busy with drinkers. Rain is expected today; sorry for the gray-sky photos but it couldn’t be helped.

Mobile Mardi Gras 2013. The lady in the foreground must be sour-faced about the rainy weather. What else?

Technically speaking, it’s not Mardi Gras but Joe Cain Day in Mobile. The Sunday before Ash Wednesday is reserved for Mr. Cain’s memory – a man who basically started the Mardi Gras tradition in this town many decades ago.  The holiday has come to mean parades and family entertainment.

Dauphine Street with the Mobile skyline in the backdrop. Waiting for the Joe Cain Day parade to start.

The highlight of these parades is the opening float, reserved for the Merry Widows of Joe Cain.  These ladies, dressed all in black and wearing veils to keep their identities secret, wail for the memory of poor long-gone Joe Cain and compensate by throwing the crowds strings of black beads, the most coveted throw in Mobile’s Mardi Gras.  I caught a few strands of the blacks, but I also caught a few smacks on the head with throws I didn’t see coming.  Some of these were small Moon Pies, a favorite throw here in Mobile.

I also got a Merry Widow’s drinking cup:

Drink to poor Joe Cain’s memory!
Brought to you by the (not so sweet) Merry Widows of Joe Cain!

Afterwards, I’m at a bar called T.P. Crockmiers, on a barstool, bloody mary in front of me, eggs benedict ordered with a complementary glass of champagne expected to follow.  I trying to work off a headache caused by too many Moon Pies aimed at my head. My drink came in a plastic cup (suitable for take-out), adorned with lime and lemon slices, a celery top, and two pickled okra skewered by a toothpick.  One is always well taken care of in the South.

For those who prefer quiet museums to raucous parades, Mobile has just the place for you.

The Carnival Museum. Mobile, Alabama

Mobile was founded in 1702 and was designated capital of French “Louisiane” in 1711 by Jean Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville. So Mobile does have a French heritage that goes with its Mardi Gras celebrations. Le Sieur de Bienville has a memorial in Bienville Square in the center of town.

Commemoration of Jean Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville. Mobile, Alabama
Central fountain in Bienville Square. Mobile, Alabama

The Spanish controlled Mobile after the French. They’re remembered in Spanish Plaza, a few blocks from Bienville Square. These beautful porcelain park benches must have been gifts from the Spanish cities named on the benches.

From the town of Marbella, Spain, to Mobile, Alabama
From Madrid, Spain to Mobile, Alabama
From Barcelona, Spain to Mobile, Alabama
Statue of Hernando de Soto in Spanish Plaza. Mobile, Alabama

With both French and Spanish heritage, Catholicism is well-represented in Mobile.

Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Mobile, Alabama

There are two twin skyscrapers in Mobile and both are hotels, at least partially.  Nevertheless, this is a growing city, the kind of place businesses are looking to build in. The twin buildings are the RSA Tower and the Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza (according to Google Maps). They are here:

Mobile’s twin skyscrapers

The late, great Hank Aaron was one of Mobile’s favorite sons. Hammerin’ Hank has a baseball park named for him in Mobile, called Hank Aaron Stadium. He is also remembered downtown with the Hank Aaron Loop.

Hank Aaron Loop. Downtown Mobile, Alabama

The city is situated on Mobile Bay, an important estuary of the Gulf of Mexico, so Mobile has always had a military presence — especially a naval one.

Battleship docked in Mobile Bay at Mobile, Alabama
Navy ships docked in Mobile Bay

The Mobile County Courthouse is a new and modern 7-story glass structure.  Their website expresses extreme pride for the building, saying how its open atrium draws people in instead of intimidating them the way traditional structures might. I don’t like that attitude so much; I appreciate a little grandeur in courthouses.

Mobile County Courthouse. Mobile, Alabama

I’ll leave you with a photo of the clean up after Mardi Gras. Who knows, perhaps they are still cleaning up today?

Mardi Gras clean-up. Mobile, Alabama

All photos taken by the author.

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

January Calmness in West Texas

January 31, 2020

For several years running I would take a January trip down to West Texas to escape the bitter cold and snow of Colorado. The little town of Marfa is one of the places I would end up. In January, Marfa is warm and small and quiet, and the stunning ranchland views of the surrounding chocolate-colored mountains provide the respite needed after the hectic holidays of December.

Looking northwest from atop the county courthouse in Marfa toward the Davis Mountains

Marfa, Texas was founded in the 1880s as a railroad water stop in the deserts of Trans-Pecos Texas in between Midland and El Paso. Over the years it also served as a cattle stop, a trail stop, and a World War II army airfield training base, training thousands of pilots including television legend Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame. Marfa is the county seat of Presidio County, Texas but never grew beyond 4,000 souls. Its population is half that today, but subsists on ranching and drawing tourists and artists to its quiet streets.

Presidio County Courthouse. Marfa, Texas

At the very center of town, the three-story Second-Empire style Presidio County Courthouse can be seen from almost anywhere in Marfa. Built in 1886 of local materials, the courthouse features French-style mansard roofs and a central dome topped by a statue of Lady Justice. The grand old building has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Presidio County Courthouse. Marfa, Texas
Central dome of the Presidio County Courthouse and statue of Lady Justice.

I was able to walk into the courthouse and climb the central tower for some photos of the surrounding town and landscape. Marfa sits in the midst of deserts surrounded by distant mountains:

Looking northeast from the courthouse to the Marfa water tower and the mountains beyond
View from atop the courthouse looking west
Looking north from atop the courthouse. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is below.

Marfa is a popular stop for tourists in January. Tourists need good accomodations, and the second-most impressive structure in Marfa provides just what is needed.

The Hotel Paisano. Marfa, Texas

The Hotel Paisano is just a block from the courthouse. Bring your red sportscar and park it out front, then enjoy a beverage in the courtyard. This is January, and the sunshine is warm but not hot.

Courtyard and fountain in Hotel Paisano. Marfa, Texas

This is an old-style hotel, built in the 1930s, so the hotel lobby and streetscape include gift shops.

London, Paris, Rome, Marfa. Gift shop wares near the Hotel Paisano.

Here are a few sights around town. Imagine lazily strolling past them without a jacket and while holding an iced tea:

Palace Theatre. Marfa, Texas
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Marfa, Texas
Brite Building. Marfa, Texas
Paisano Hotel and shops. Marfa, Texas

Information about the Hotel Paisano can be found here. It’s not particularly cheap, but you get what you pay for I suppose.

Finally, here’s a sign that tells a story, a story to bring you back squarely to where Marfa rightly belongs — in Texas:

A Texas story

Who knows if the story is actually true, but just talk to some folks around town and you’ll probably hear 10 more stories just like it.

Map of Texas with Presidio County highlighted (from wikipedia)

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken Friday January 13, 2012.

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

For ‘Days Gone By’ in New Mexico

December 31, 2020

Today is New Year’s Eve and the haunting melody of Auld Lang Syne fills my head like a persistent earworm. The song is from an old Robert Burns’ poem, and its Scottish title translates to ‘Days Gone By.’ The last day of the year is a day to think of times past.

Few things remind me more of ‘days gone by’ than the remote town of Reserve, New Mexico (population 289) in Catron County among the west-central mountains of that state. A 1952 portrait of the old Catron County sheriff paints a vivid description of law and order in ‘days gone by’ in the rural West:

Sheriff Frank Balke of Catron County, New Mexico

Note the pearl-handled revolver and the belt made of rattlesnake hide. Sheriff Balke served three different stints as county sheriff in the 1930s and 1940s. His portrait hangs in the courthouse below, built in 1968 after Sheriff Balke’s times were themselves ‘days gone by’:

Catron County Courthouse. Reserve, New Mexico. Note the ‘Go Get Em Mountaineers!’ banner on the wall.

Catron County New Mexico has a population of less than 4,000, and that hasn’t changed much over the past few decades. The people here are a mixture of Hispanics and Anglos who settled the country along the San Francisco River in the late 1800s. The San Francisco River is an upper tributary of the Gila River, which flows westward through southern Arizona to meet the Colorado. The main town in the county is the village of San Francisco Plaza, but the county seat is the nearby town of Reserve, formerly known as Upper Frisco. Reserve was so named for the various Forest Reserves nearby (now called National Forests).

Reserve is the site of the siege of Elfego Baca, a local lawman who held off a gang of Texan cowboys seeking to kill him for arresting their fellow cowboy on a charge of drunkenness. The affair took place in December 1884 and became known as the Frisco Shoot-out. Badly outnumbered, Baca holed up in an adobe house as dozens of cowboys shot hundreds of holes into its walls. Baca was not wounded even once, while managing to kill four of his attackers during a siege lasting 33 hours.

What’s interesting about ‘days gone by’ in this instance is that fundamental facts are elusive — “Deputy” Baca may or may not have been an authorized lawman at all and the number of cowboys he held off varies from 40 up to 80. Many claim that the cowboys put over 4,000 holes into the adobe walls sheltering Elfego Baca. Regardless of how many bullet holes there were, the holes were real — they served as evidence in Baca’s acquittal at trial for murder.

Mural depicting the Frisco Shoot-out. Reserve, New Mexico

A statue of Elfego Baca stands at the center of town, and an historical plaque explains the circumstances of his fame:

Statue of Elfego Baca in Reserve, New Mexico
Historical plaque explaining the events of the Frisco Shoot-out. Reserve, New Mexico
Painting of Elfego Baca on a front door. Reserve, New Mexico

I was last here in December of 2012. Back then the “downtown” area of Reserve consisted of the county courthouse, a Mexican restaurant, a breakfast cafe, a small bank, two general merchandise stores, and a bar called Uncle Bill’s. It probably hasn’t changed much since then, nor had it probably changed much in ‘days gone by’ before 2012.

Ella’s Cafe. Reserve, New Mexico
The Black Gold Emporium: Gas, groceries, video rentals, etc. Reserve, New Mexico
Frisco Stables collectibles and visitor center, next to the Wild West Coffee Company. Reserve, New Mexico
Uncle Bill’s Bar. Reserve, New Mexico
Gas prices in 2012: $3.87 unleaded and $4.46 diesel. Reserve, New Mexico
Downtown traffic and mountains beyond. Reserve, New Mexico

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken either on January 25, 2007 or on December 12, 2012.

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

Stevenson, Washington in the Columbia River Gorge

November 29, 2020

Stevenson is an old Columbia River port town lying about 50 miles upstream from the Portland (OR)/Vancouver (WA) metro area. The town of 1,500 lies on the steep northern banks of the Columbia River at the western edge of the Columbia River Gorge. The high Cascade Mountains can be seen across the river on the Oregon side.

Downtown Stevenson, Washington, from the steps of the Skamania County Courthouse

Main Street Stevenson is called the Lewis and Clark Highway after the famous explorers. The Corps of Discovery, as Lewis and Clark referred to their expedition, came past this spot going downriver in November 1805, and again returning upriver in April 1806. They referred to the area as the “Great Shoote” for the difficult rapids at this spot.

Historical sign explainging the Lewis and Clark expedition’s travails at Stevenson

In the 20th Century a series of dams were built on the Columbia to help tame the river and to provide hydro-electric power. The Bonneville Dam, 10 miles downstream of Stevenson, was completed in 1937 and provides some calm to the river at this point. This is how the Columbia River at Stevenson looks today:

Columbia River at Stevenson, Washington

Stevenson is an old riverport town.  Little of the port remains but the government recently built a jetty into the river, some shoreline sidewalks, and a park to commemorate the old port. 

Columbia River jetty at Stevenson Landing
An historical sign explains the steamboat era at Stevenson

Stevenson is still small despite its location (within commuting distance to Portland). Today the town is half rural residential and half rural logging community.  There are a few diners downtown and a few brewpubs have been popping up to service the hiking, biking, and wind-surfing crowd.

Walking Man Brewing. Stevenson, Washington
Downtown Stevenson

It’s often cold and windy around here but I lucked out today.  Today is a clear, warm November day.  About half the autumn leaves remain on the trees, leaving the hillsides speckled with gold against an evergreen background.

Along the Columbia in Stevenson, Washington
Looking down toward 1st Street. Stevenson, Washington

The Skamania County Courthouse is a 1970s-style building three stories tall with a wide front lawn sloping down toward the Lewis and Clark Highway below.  The bright green of the Washington state flag reflects off the courthouse’s front glass windows.  Views from the building could be sold as real estate; they look up and down the Columbia River and include the steep green cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon side.

Skamania County Courthouse. Stevenson, Washington
Skamania County Courthouse. Stevenson, Washington

A large tree stump from Skamania County’s logging days serves as the county veterans’ memorial. The best view of the Columbia River Gorge has been reserved for the veterans’ memory.

Skamania County Veterans Memorial

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken on November 2, 2009.

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

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