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Archive for the category “County Seats”

Sheridan, Wyoming: Retirees Home on the Range

September 26, 2021
(photos and memories from August 1997 and September 2010)

Main Street Sheridan, Wyoming, looking just like the Old West town that it is.

Sheridan, Wyoming seems perfectly happy with its current size and situation. This north-central Wyoming town of 17,000 lies at the eastern edge of the Big Horn Mountains. Runoff streams provide ample water for nearby tree-lined pastures.

Sheridan has both a hometown feel and a retirement feel, and the combination complements both groups. Main Street would not be five blocks of bustling shops without the workers from the surrounding farms and ranches.

The Mint Bar, a cowboy bar. Main Street Sheridan, Wyoming
Dan’s Wyoming western wear and work wear. Sheridan, Wyoming
Downtown pharmacy, formerly J.H. Conrad General Merchandise. Sheridan, Wyoming

Alternately, Main Street would not be five blocks of bustling shops without the retirees supporting the merchants. I came across retirees seated on Main Street benches who offered me advice on which buildings to photograph.

J.C. Penney’s building. Sheridan, Wyoming

The retirees also support the arts — the old WYO theatre has been converted into a playhouse to serve this demographic.

The WYO theatre. Main Street, Sheridan, Wyoming

Both retirees and tourists enjoy the local fishing opportunities.

Flyshop of the Big Horns. Sheridan, Wyoming

Named for Union Civil War General Philip Sheridan, the town was founded in the 1880s. Eventually the railroad came through town and nearby coal deposits were mined to provide coal for the locomotives. By 1910 Sheridan was prosperous enough to build a 3-story, well-ornamented City Hall building.

City Hall. Sheridan, Wyoming

Wyoming vies with other western and midwestern states as the most Republican state in the Union. Sheridan is a Republican town.

GOP headquarters. Sheridan, Wyoming

Sheridan is the county seat of Wyoming’s Sheridan County. A well-kept structure surrounded by massive cottonwood trees, the Sheridan County Courthouse anchors the south end of Main Street.

Sheridan County Courthouse. Sheridan, Wyoming
Sheridan County Courthouse with bronze cupola. Sheridan, Wyoming

To the old timers, cottonwood shade trees denote permanence on the northern plains. Such permanence is the ultimate satisfaction — it seems to last forever, as veterans memorials are meant to.

Sheridan County Bicentennial Veterans Monument. Sheridan, Wyoming

Here’s a bonus photo: I copied this photo from the web page of The Mint Bar on Main Street in Sheridan.

Interior of the Mint Bar. Sheridan, Wyoming. Photo copied from the Mint Bar website.

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

All photos taken by the author on September 21, 2010, except for the final photo showing the interior of the Mint Bar which was copied from https://www.mintbarwyo.com/, the Mint Bar website.

Neil Armstrong’s Hometown

August 31, 2021

This photo taken at the edge of town — Wapakoneta, Ohio — on August 2nd, 2021. I arrived about an hour after sunrise. Wapakoneta, Ohio, has a population of about 9,000 persons. It’s the birthplace and hometown of the first man to walk on the Moon, Neil Armstrong.

Welcome to Wapakoneta, Ohio, Hometown of Neil Armstrong

Wapakoneta follows the common custom in small towns across America of posting photos of their servicemen and women, past and present, along downtown light poles. Armstrong’s service as a Navy flyer earned him a banner bearing his Navy photo. A banner for Astronaut Armstrong is nearby.

Street banner honoring Astronaut Neil Armstrong. Wapakoneta, Ohio

At the center of town, Armstrong is depicted in a statue waving to crowds as he rode in a convertible during the ticker-tape parade through the streets of Manhattan. The parade, of course, celebrated the return of the Apollo 11 space mission, the first instance of man landing on the Moon.

Statue of Neil Armstrong waving to the crowds. Downtown Wapakoneta, Ohio

Opened in 1972, the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta contains artifacts from the Apollo 11 mission and other contributions to the history of aeronautics and space flight. The museum is located at the edge of town, and attracts over 40,000 visitors per year.

Armstrong Air & Space Museum. Wapakoneta, Ohio
Mockups of the Gemini Spacecraft (left) and Apollo Command Module (right). Armstrong Air & Space Museum
Neil Armstrong’s old flight logs and other artifacts from his boyhood in Wapakoneta
Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s actual backup spacesuit. Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wapakoneta, Ohio
Moon Rock. Armstrong Air & Space Museum. Wapakoneta, Ohio

Wapakoneta is in many ways a typical Ohio-midwestern small town. In the late 17th Century the Shawnee tribe settled in this area after having been driven their lands further south by white settlers and the Catawba, Cherokee, and Chickasaw nations. The name “Wapakoneta” might be from the Shawnee language for “place of white bones,” but that’s not certain.

Classic buildings at the central intersection in Wapakoneta. Junction of Auglaize and Willipie Streets.

In 1748, three decades dbfore the American revolution, the French built a fort here called “Fort au Glaize” after the Auglaize River which runs nearby. The river flows northward, eventually joining the Maumee River to drain into Lake Erie near Toledo, Ohio. “Auglaize” is French for “river of great clay.”

In the 21st Century, the City Bakery on Auglaize Street (shown) provides a good selection of donuts.

Classic buildings and storefronts, including the City Bakery. Auglaize Street, Wapakoneta, Ohio

Happily, the town theatre, known as the “Wapa,” is not politically correct about the image displayed on its sign.

The Wapa Theatre, 15 Willipie Street in Wapakoneta

As can be imagined, many photo opportunites exist for tourists to associate themselves with the town’s main hero. This one is on Auglaize Street in front of the Chamber of Commerce.

Astronaut photo opportunity. Auglaize Street, Wapakoneta, Ohio

Wapakoneta is also the seat of Auglaize County, Ohio. The Auglaize County Courthouse was built in 1894 and is still in use today. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Auglaize County Courthouse. Wapakoneta, Ohio
Auglaize County Courthouse. Wapakoneta, Ohio

The courthouse’s statue of Lady Justice stood atop the building until 1953 when it was taken down due to deterioration. In 1994, to commemorate the courthouse’s centennial, the statue was restored and placed in the courthouse atrium, or Great Hall, on the main floor.

Statue of Lady Justice. Auglaize County Courthouse. Wapakoneta, Ohio
“America 1928.” Artwork inside the Auglaize County Courthouse. Wapakoneta, Ohio
Artist’s rendering of the French-built Fort au Glaize, or the Wapakoneta Trading Post, along the Auglaize River. Auglaize County Courthouse.

Finally, another statue of Neil Armstrong can be found in front of the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, this one of him as a boy. The story goes that Neil begged his parents to buy him a 10-cent balsa-wood glider. They did, and then the dreaming started.

Statue of Neil Armstrong as a boy. Armstrong Air & Space Museum. Wapakoneta, Ohio

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

All photos taken by the author on August 2nd and August 3rd, 2021

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):

Mobile’s Mardi Gras

Kingman Arizona — Caravans of Cars and Camels

Salem, Arkansas: Clean Livin’ and the Spitball

Climbing to Mariposa

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

Emmett, Idaho: Gem of Plenty

Dixon, Illinois: Three Presidents

Vincennes: The Town that Made Indiana American

The Little Norse Town of Decorah, Iowa

It’s a Wonderful Life in Denison, Iowa

Mennonite Pastries Banned in Cimmaron, Kansas

Paducah, Kentucky’s Murals and Townscapes

St. Martinville: Louisiana’s Acadian Capital

April 19th in Middlesex County, Massachusetts

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

Summertime in Waseca, Minnesota

Civil War Scenes in Hartville, Missouri

Butte, Montana: The Richest Hill on Earth

Emigrants’ Return: California Refugees in Plattsmouth, Nebraska

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

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

The Entire State is New York and Albany is its Capital

The Town of Sylva in Western Carolina

The Grand Courthouse in Rugby, North Dakota

Neil Armstrong’s Hometown (Wapakoneta, Ohio)

Adventure and Victory: Frederick, Oklahoma

Enterprise, The Jewel of Eastern Oregon

Small Town Propsperity in Warren, Pennsylvania

∙ February in Walterboro, South Carolina

∙ Keep Calm and Look Far (Bison, SD)

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

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

∙ A Statue of Liberty in Heber City, Utah

Stevenson, Washington in the Columbia River Gorge

January in Baraboo, Wisconsin

Sheridan, Wyoming: Retirees Home on the Range

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.

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