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Archive for the category “County Seats”

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.

Small town Prosperity in Warren, Pennsylvania

October 31, 2020

Nestled in a shallow mountain valley along the upper Allegheny River, Warren looks like many other central Pennsylvania small towns. Its population stands at 10,000 or so, and the streets here are lined with tall deciduous trees. Often shaded behind those trees are old Victorian homes dating back to Warren’s oil and timber boomtime in the late 1800s. But prosperity has come back to town, as you’ll see below.

In the fall it’s absolutely beautiful here. A stroll down 5th Avenue in Warren isn’t at all like a stroll down 5th Avenue in Manhattan or even in Pittsburgh, but it’s striking in its own way. I used this photo as my PC desktop background for a while.

5th Avenue in Warren, Pennsylvania

Imagine sitting on the front porch of this fine home, enjoying a coffee or a whiskey depending on the time of year.

Classic brick home with American flag in Warren, Pennyslvania

Just one more home please. 5th Avenue in Warren runs along the base of a mountain, as seen off to the right in this photo.

Victorian home with classic front porch and American flag. Warren, Pennsylvania

The Warren County Courthouse is just down the street.

Warren County Courthouse. Warren, Pennsyvlania

Built in 1876, the cornerstone says July 4, 1876, or the day of America’s first Centennial celebration.

Cornerstone of Warren County Courthouse

Renovated in 1999, the courthouse was originally topped by a steel statue of Lady Justice, which has since been replaced with a fiberglass version. The original statue currently sits in a first-floor display case. According to the historical notes, the replacement to a fiberglass version was undertaken since fiberglass is better able to withstand lightning strikes, other weather, and gunshots. Gunshots? Yes, the notes mentioned that when taken down in 1999 the old Lady was found bearing bullet marks. What happened? Were bored residents using her as target practice from their front porches on quiet evenings? It doesn’t say.

Warren County Courthouse
Warren County Courthouse front lawn and Civil War cannon

The history of this part of north-central Pennsylvania includes conflicts with Seneca and other Iroquois tribes. One war chief named Cornplanter, son of a Dutch trader and a Seneca woman, led negotiations with the new United States after the end of the Revolutionary War. Wikipedia has an entry on Cornplanter here. On his painting, found displayed prominently inside the courthouse, Cornplanter is shown with an American flag draped over his left arm with the shadow of George Washington over his right shoulder,

Dutch-Seneca Chief Cornplanter

Warren was named for Revolutionary War hero General Joseph Warren, who died at the Battle of Bunker Hill. The town honors him with a statue in the park, below the tree-lined ridge at the north end of town.

Statue of Joseph Warren in Warren, PA

Warren has always been an oil town, and its proximity to the Marcellus Shale and its fracking activity helps with its prosperity today. Storefronts downtown along Pennsylvania Avenue (main street) are mostly occupied. I hope the prosperity lasts — beautiful, stately small towns like this deserve a break.

Downtown Warren, Pennsylvania
Downtown Warren, Pennsylvania
Elk fountain in downtown Warren, looking west

Every old Pennsylvania town has a statue honoring its Union veterans from the Civil War. Warren’s statue is at the base of the Hickory Bridge over the Allegheny River, at one corner of the main intersection in town.

Civil War memorial in Warren, PA. Hickory Bridge over the Allegheny is at the right.

Downtown Warren lies along the banks of the upper Allegheny River — far, far upstream from the river’s confluence with the Monongahela at Pittsburgh. Here, the Allegheny is just a big mountain stream.

Hickory Bridge over the Allegheny at Warren, PA
Allegheny River near Warren
Canoeists and a kayaker on the Allegheny, waving at me

Although Warren has only 10,000 residents, it does have some culture. The Struthers Library Theatre uses the old town library building for events. List of events can be found on their website here. It’s impressive. A photo of the classic venue is below.

Struthers Library Theatre. Warren, Pennsylvania

Of course the new library building is pretty nice too. I like the classical references along the exterior walls.

Warren Public Library

Finally, and not at all least importantly, every cool town needs a cool cigar lounge. Allow me to present Nice Ash Cigars and Lounge (link here), a classy part of the Warren nightlife. Nice Ash has two additional locations in Depew and Fairport, New York — but why cross the border into New York (no-fracking country) when you can enjoy a cigar in Pennsylvania?

Nice Ash Cigars and Lounge. Warren, PA

As the sign on the window says, Nothing Beats a Nice Ash!

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken on either October 4th or October 8th, 2019.

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

Paducah, Kentucky’s Murals and Townscapes

September 30, 2020

Paducah, Kentucky is a small city situated on the south bank of the Ohio River at its junction with the Tennessee River, which comes up from the south.

The Paducah waterfront looking northeastward up the Ohio River with the Tennessee

Paducah is an old city in terms of the American west, founded in 1827 by William Clark of Lewis & Clark fame with a purchase of 37,000 acres of land for the sum of $5. An historical sign downtown explains the circumstances.

Colonel George Rogers Clark had claimed the land as a warrant for his army service during the Revolutionary War, in which he effectively gained the entire Northwest Territory for the new United States of America.

Much of Paducah’s history is recounted by murals painted on the town’s Ohio River floodwall. A walk along the wall is a walk through history.

Kincaid Mounds near Paducah, around 1300 A.D.
Chickasaw tribesmen along the Ohio in the early 19th Century. The Lewis & Clark flotilla is shown passing by on their way downstream to the Mississippi.

The name “Paducah” was given by William Clark. Some say Clark named the town for the “Padoucas”, a Great Plains tribe he encountered in his travels to the Pacific with the Corps of Discovery. Others say Clark named the town for Chief Paducah, leader of a nearby Chickasaw band.

Scenes of early white settlement in Paducah
Steamboats docked at Paducah

The town was a major prize in the early days of the Civil War. In 1861 while Kentucky was trying to remain neutral in the impending conflict, General Ulysses Grant took Paducah on September 6 before his Confederate counterpart could do so. Later in the war Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest conducted a successful raid on the city.

The Battle of Paducah, 1864
Paducah, Kentucky in 1873
Paducah in the early 1900s
Paducah Townscape, 1930s
Paducah as the “Atomic City”. Home to the nation’s only uranium enrichment facility.

The Ohio landing areas near the riverfront provide an insight into late 19th Century Paducah. The area abounds in old brick merchant buildings now used as restaurants, bars, and antique shops.

Downtown Paducah
19th Century brick buildings in Paducah, Kentucky
Tree-lined merchant shops converted to restaurants
Paducah, Kentucky. Red brick streets downtown

The McCracken County Courthouse occupies an entire city block seven blocks away from the river. This two-story red brick structure was built between 1940 and 1943 under the auspices of the WPA.

McCracken County Courthouse
McCracken County Courthouse

Here’s a final floodwall mural of some of the most prominent old buildings in Paducah. Most of them are churches.

The churches of Paducah, Kentucky

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken on September 3, 2019.

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

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

August 31, 2020

An August day is a good day to come to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. This is a tourist town and a Rocky Mountain mecca. Downtown has antiques shops, outdoor gear merchants, old bars and new coffee places. Glenwood Springs straddles the Colorado River at the bottom end of Glenwood Canyon.

Doc Holliday Tavern, Glenwood Springs, Colorado

I remember the very first time I came through Glenwood Springs in September, 1991. I was driving an old Mazda GLC on my first cross-country trip.

Downtown Glenwood Springs with the red cliffs of the Rockies as a backdrop

I was charmed by the old buildings and wild west flavor. Main Street includes the Doc Holliday Tavern & Saloon — a little box of a building with a neon sign fashioned as a revolver above the front door.

The entrance to Doc Holliday’s Saloon, Glenwood Springs

Doc Holliday’s life story can be found here. He was a dentist-turned-gunslinger driven west as a remedy for tuberculosis. Ultimately the disease took his life (not a gunshot wound), and he died and was buried in Glenwood Springs.

Other buildings downtown are old stone and brick structures and provide a solid western feel, like this one:

Downtown Glenwood Springs

Because Glenwood Springs is situated deep in a canyon, nearly every view provides a mountain vista behind it:

Glenwood Springs is not without its brewpubs.

Glenwood Canyon Brewpub

Amtrak runs through Glenwood Springs and then up into Glenwood Canyon. Here’s the old train station.

Amtrak train station, Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs is the largest town in this area and the county seat of Garfield County, Colorado.

Garfield County Courthouse, Glenwood Springs

The downtown area is along the south side of the Colorado River. If you go across a metal bridge spanning the river (and Interstate 70) you’ll find the Spa of the Rockies.

Spa of the Rockies, Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Nice place to enjoy some hot springs — or just take a dip in their pool on a hot day. Or just a place to lie around the pool thinking about it.

Here’s another view of the Spa of the Rockies, their old hotel towers, and their waterslide.

Spa of the Rockies

There’s nothing like rafting down the Colorado River on a hot August day. These rafters have just exited the rapids of Glenwood Canyon, which is just upstream of Glenwood Springs.

Rafting on the Colorado River

I’ll finish with some photos looking eastward, upstream along the river into Glenwood Canyon. Both Amtrak and Interstate 70 snake their way through the canyon along the banks of the Colorado River, providing breathtaking views unmatched anywhere outside of the Grand Canyon of Arizona. I drove through this canyon for the first time back in that first cross-country trip in 1991 — I’ve come back many times since. Of course!

Looking eastward from Glenwood Springs
Colorado River at Glenwood Springs

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken either on August 2, 2006 or August 21, 2009.

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

Summertime in Waseca, Minnesota

Note: I wrote the draft of this post after visiting Waseca, Minnesota in June, 2016 — but didn’t publish it. I’ve had a very busy schedule this month so I’m dusting off the draft and putting it out there today. Hope you enjoy it.)

June 28, 2020

While sitting at the counter one bright summer morning at the Pheasant Cafe…

The Pheasant Cafe in Waseca

Sixes! I need Sixes!

That cry echoed across the diner with the urgency of a Chicago commodities trader hawking pork bellies at the Merc.

I looked up from my ham and cheese omelet with hash browns to find the source of the sudden commotion. There, off to my far right sat four old men around a corner table. A fifth man, probably a septuagenarian, stood leaning forward, left hand on the table, right hand clutching five big red dice, ready to toss them onto a white tablecloth. Dishes and silverware from finished breakfasts had been pushed to the edges of the table, making room for a small pile of silver coins in the center. Old friends playing for nickels and dimes — early Thursday mornings here in rural Minnesota somehow resemble late Friday nights at Caesar’s in Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, not minding the rambunctious old men, a lone old woman sat at a separate table across from them, calmly sipping her coffee, waiting for her husband who should arrive in a few moments.  At yet another table two old women sat together, similarly sipping their black coffee and waiting. Perhaps they are wives to one or two of the dice-playing men. Or perhaps they have no one to wait for.  I wondered.

Waseca, Minnesota lies about an hour south of Minneapolis but a world away. It’s corn and soybean country; no casinos, those are an hour south in Iowa. Here’s a free plug for the Pheasant Cafe. Drop by someday — I doubt you’ll get any action, but the good food will be reward enough.

Outside the cafe, State Street has been prepared for the Fourth of July.

State Street. Waseca, Minnesota. (verified by the town water tower in the background)

In addition to the classic breakfast café, Waseca successfully meets and exceeds all one’s small town expectations.  The two blocks of downtown businesses are all open.  (This includes two other coffee shops, several bars, and at least two casual dining restaurants.)  Side street houses are shaded by tall leafy trees.  Lawns are being mowed, wood siding is being re-painted.

The Waseca Music Company, and other classic brick businesses. Waseca, Minnesota

The Waseca Music Company is still around, still on State Street. In fact they’ve been around since 1952, which means they were around when the Beach Boys’ “I Get Around” charted to number one in the United States in 1964. The Waseca Music Company probably sold that record as a 45.

Thrivent Financial, El Molino Restaurant. State Street. Waseca, Minnesota

Waseca boasts a population of 9,000. That’s small but growing — 9,000 is its largest size since settlement in 1867. Waseca is the largest town in Waseca County, and the county seat.

People think Minnesota is full of Swedes, but the census says that there are twice as many people of German descent here as there are Scandinavians, and in turn twice as many Scandinavians here as Irish, who are twice as many as the combined totals of all other Waseca residents.

Waseca County Courthouse, preparing for Fourth of July festivities

Built in 1897, this Richardson Romanesque structure has three granite pillars across the front entrance.  The entrance is clothed in American flag banners in anticipation of the Fourth of July just two weeks away at the time of the photo.  Above it all, a corner, four-faced clock tower rises 100 feet above the ground and keeps accurate time.

Waseca County Courthouse

This courthouse can be found on the National Register of Historic Places. Here’s some additional information at Wikipedia. That entry however, doesn’t mention the cannon found on the courthouse lawn. It seems too large to be from the Civil War — perhaps it’s a World War I artifact.

Cannon at Waseca County Courthouse

Nearby grain elevators give away the county’s main line of business.

The old Miller-Armstrong Building. Waseca, Minnesota

Later on, as I walked along a residential street, three 10 year-old girls ran swiftly past me on the sidewalk. I heard: “Hi”, “Hi” (the third one a bit behind the other two) and “Hi”. Wearing summer pastel shorts and t-shirts, each one said good morning to the stranger (me) as they rushed along to accomplish 10 year-old girl things.

They were probably going to the lake. Every Minnesota town has its own lake — didn’t you know that? Until James Lileks features Waseca in The Bleat, you can find out more here (the website has a rotating series of photos and the 2nd one is a good aerial view of town and lakes).

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken on June 23, 2016.

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

A Statue of Liberty in Heber City, Utah

May 31, 2020

(Note: I wrote the draft of this post after visiting Heber City, Utah in May, 2012 — but didn’t publish it. I’ve had a very busy schedule this month so I’m dusting off the draft and putting it out there today. Hope y’all enjoy it.)

An old wit once compared the nineteenth-century Mormon pioneers of Utah to the Jewish refugees who settled in Israel after the Holocaust — fleeing oppression, both groups settled in barren deserts only to turn them into beautiful gardens.

As I drove into Heber City, Utah, I could tell this was an old Mormon town just by reading the street signs. The Mormons are peculiar yet conformist — each Mormon town has the same street layout, a rigid system of grid numbers. There are never streets named for trees, ex-Presidents, nor even esteemed Mormon leaders. Instead, a street 9 blocks north of town center is called simply “900 North” while a street 3 blocks east of town center is “300 East,” and so forth everywhere. The only exceptions are for the central north-south street, called “Main”, and the central east-west street which is called “Center”.

Each Mormon town has a tabernacle, and it usually rises at the intersection of Center and Main, the center of town and so symbolically the center of town life.

Pictured below is the old Wasatch Stake Tabernacle in Heber City, built in 1889. Today this is just an historical artifact — having outgrown the old building the local congregation has since built a larger facility nearby.

Wasatch Stake Tabernacle with statue of “The Family,” Heber City, Utah

(Some history here from Wikipedia.)

I glanced quickly at the bronze statue of “The Family” on the temple lawn. At first it seems like a typical statue honoring a simple pioneer family, yet I thought it a peculiar subject for the formerly polygamous Mormons. Nevertheless it is true that the LDS church outlawed polygamy in 1890 and that only a minority of Mormons practiced it even when it was sanctioned.

Wasatch Stake Tabernacle

Heber City was founded in the late 1850s by English immigrants of the Mormon faith (early Mormons heavily evangelized in England) and named for Mormon leader Heber C. Kimball. Like many other Utah towns, Heber City is often referred to as just “Heber” — as Salt Lake City is often referred to as just “Salt Lake” or Brigham City as “Brigham.”

Heber is down-slope from its famous ski neighbor Park City (or is it just “Park”?) on the eastern slopes of the Wahsatch Mountains. The area is a combination of old-time Mormon community and newer, ski-related growth. The two appear to intermingle well. The established folks provide services to the newer ski group who in turn spend their money on land and retail sales.

Business block at the Corner of Main and Center. Heber City, Utah

Heading away from the intersection of Main and Center, I photographed a typical home — smallish but well-kept and with a fantastic view behind it:

In the Shadow of the Wahsatch. Heber City, Utah

Snow-capped peaks in the background. It’s late May.

Heber City is prosperous.  New, upscale restaurants compete with fast food places and national-brand big-box stores up and down Main Street.  Competing with McDonald’s, Heber offers you Dairy Keen (“Home of the Train”) — a family-oriented hamburger and ice cream shop featuring a miniature train running in a loop along the edge of the dining room ceiling. Everybody loves trains!

Dairy Keen was nearly full when I went inside; half were eating while the other half were watching the trains chugging along over their heads.  Here’s a link so that you can support them the next time you’re in Heber: www.dairykeen.com.

Dairy Keen, Main Street. Heber City, Utah

Another promising place is the Side Track Café and espresso bar. (Note: the photo was taken in 2012; the Side Track has since closed).

Side Track Cafe

Built into an old Mormon stone house the Side Track offered all the products Mormons notoriously eschew — beer, wine, espresso and live music.  In fact the Side Track seems to be flaunting them.  Perhaps the owners are rebellious old hippies but I’ll never know since the Side Track Café was closed when I dropped by — even though their flashing neon sign said they were O-P-E-N, O-P-E-N, O-P-E-N.

When saying that Heber City is a “Mormon” town that doesn’t mean that the town is only Mormon. Other faiths are well-represented:

St. Lawrence Catholic Church, corner of Center Street and 100 West. Heber City, Utah.

Because Utah is booming, nearly every county seat I visited in the state has a new courthouse and a new justice center.  Wasatch County’s new justice building is just south of town.  The structure is a semi-circular ranch-style building covered by a red stone veneer with yellow stone trim.

Wasatch County Courthouse. Heber City, Utah

Let’s finish back at the beginning with the old Tabernacle. In front of the old tabernacle is a bronze statue of a pioneer family called “The Family.”

Statue of “The Family.” Heber City, Utah

Here’s the inscription:

The monument’s foundation symbolizes the eternal nature of the family. The plow represents the industry of man. The wheat is the fruit of honest labor. The wheel represents progress; through effort we move forward. The father provides direction for  the future with his hand on the wheel. The mother, located at the center, provides teaching and nurturing of the family. The son kneels at his mother’s knee which reminds us that the greatest lessons are taught in the home. The daughter standing with a book in her hand suggests the need for continued education.

First there is “industry” then “labor” and then “progress” through “effort”.  “The Family” travels in a setting of Liberty: This is a statue of the American experience — a Statue of Liberty if you will. This monument could represent any of the many American pioneer emigrations and could be appropriate in any number of states: in Kentucky showing how Daniel Boone led settlers through Cumberland Gap, or in Oregon at the end of the Oregon Trail, or even in Massachusetts describing the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock.

All long journeys are both physical and spiritual endeavors. Anyone who says otherwise hasn’t read “Huckleberry Finn.” 

Although today’s modern journeys are less physically taxing than those of our ancestors, they can be just as spiritually transformative. Try it. You’ll see.


Plaque honoring Heber C. Kendall. Heber City, Utah

The People of Heber City cherish the heritage bequeathed by our pioneer forebears and the challenge set forth by the city’s namesake, Heber C. Kendall:  Now you people have named your little town after me.  I want you to see to it that you are honest, upright citizens….that I may not have cause to be ashamed.

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken on May 30, 2012.

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

Salem, Arkansas: Clean Livin’ and the Spitball

April 29, 2020

Salem, with a population of less than 2,000, is the largest town in northern Arkansas’ Fulton County. The landscape here consists of rolling farmland, yet mostly used for cattle raising from what I can see. It’s hard to say if the county is considered part of the Ozarks or not – there are some tall hills around but I wouldn’t call them mountains.

Town Creek. Salem, Arkansas

The Salem has the standard town layout – the courthouse is at the center of town square with roads and businesses on all four sides.

Fulton County Courthouse. Salem, Arkansas

A sign on the courthouse lawn explains that the land for the Fulton County Courthouse was donated in 1842. The current building was constructed in 1891 and renovated in 1974. It’s a two-story brick structure with the bricks painted red. The architecture I would characterize as sturdy – there are no adornments whatsoever. It’s purely functional.

Inside the courthouse, some professional photographs of rustic county scenes line the single first floor hallway. These are professionally done and very striking photographs. I’m surprised that they aren’t for sale, I imagine each one could sell for hundreds of dollars.

A local group called the “Fulton County Master Gardeners” provides landscaping for the courthouse lawn and they did an excellent job. The group maintains over a dozen flowerpots on the lawn currently filled with blooming tulips. Here’s some examples of their fine work:

Tulips at Fulton County Courthouse. The stone marker on the left describes the Civil War battle of Salem, March 11, 1862.
Tulips at Fulton County Courthouse. The small sign above the planter identifies the work of the Fulton County Master Gardeners.

I took some photos around town. Salem is a small place.

Looking east down Church Street. Salem, Arkansas

On one corner, Swingles Family Diner which looks inviting although I’ve had breakfast already. Nearby, an old two-story stone building is marked “Federal Building“. It’s nice to see the Federal Government occupying such humble offices for once. The sign on the door lists 3 offices: Election Office, Revenue Office, and Veterans Office.

The Federal Building in Salem, Arkansas

The newest building in town square is the Bank of Salem, cater corner to the courthouse. Across the street from the bank, Mayfield’s General Store is sadly going out of business, leaving others to services the town’s feed corn and ammo needs.

Businesses along the town square in Salem, Arkansas.

However, the true center of town is the hair salon down the street, “Trendy Tresses.” They’re doing a booming business.

Trendy Tresses. Salem, Arkansas

Across town square stands the picturesque Salem United Methodist Church. I love old stone buildings.

Salem United Methodist Church. Salem, Arkansas

A half mile from the Salem town square, Preacher Roe Park is the town baseball field, probably used for Little League and pony league games only these days.

Historical sign at Preacher Roe Park. Salem, Arkansas

There is an historical sign by the park explaining how Preacher Roe, famous major-league pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers the 1950s, offered his time to help raise funds for lighting the park. He brought himself and some major league friends, including Pittsburgh Pirate Bill Virdon, to play exhibition games here in Salem. The funds were raised in a few years of games.

Preacher Roe Park — with lights — about a half-mile walk north of town square along Route 9. Salem, Arkansas.

Here’s a little bit more about the old ballplayer, from Wikipedia:

“Roe was still pitching in the majors at age 39, unusual at the time, and was the third-oldest player in the National League in the 1954 season, his last in the majors. When asked to explain his longevity, he replied “Clean livin’ and the spitball.” He described his methodology in a 1955 article in Sports Illustrated, “The Outlawed Spitball Was My Money Pitch”, published a year after he retired.”

Clean living and the spitball. Life is a knot of paradoxes.

Hope you enjoyed this walk around Salem. Here’s a link to Salem’s Chamber of Commerce site. Quite a bit different than Salem, Massachusetts, don’t you think?

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken on April 18, 2018.

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

St. Martinville: Louisiana’s Acadian Capital

March 31, 2020

I learned in grade school that Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana and that New Orleans is its largest city. But that’s not the whole story. West of New Orleans lies Acadiana. Visit the Cajun homeland, and you’ll see that it’s sort of a separate country.

Bayou Teche in St. Martinville Parish, Louisiana

I had thought that Lafayette was the capital of Acadiana; it’s not, it’s just “the city.” St. Martinville is the Acadian’s capital and spiritual home. At the center of St. Martinville is St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, a grand yet simple church.

St. Martinville, Louisiana
St. Martin of Tours, St. Martinville, Louisiana

I caught a work crew cleaning the church grounds, and a little girl was raking the shrubs around the statues. She was maybe 10 or 11 and had the French Acadian features — brown hair, blue eyes, and fair skin.

More background on the Acadians, or “Cajuns,” is available from Wikipedia here. The Expulsion is the Acadian’s national origin narrative, and “Evangeline” is their epic poem. St. Martinville is the home of this remembrance.

Evangeline, outside St. Martin of Tours church
The Evangeline Oak, St. Martinville, Louisiana

The Evangeline Oak (and the church) lie along the banks of Bayou Teche which runs through town. It was a warm, calm spring day and I took some photos along the bayou, where cypress trees stand along the banks with half their roots out of the water. It was so peaceful and quiet, and not a single mosquito.

Bayou Teche

I’ve been told that Louisiana bayoux are actually slow-moving rivers and not standing water or swamps. Someday I’ll test that. I’ll set up a bayou-side lawn chair on some warm, mosquito-less winter day. Then I’ll toss a leaf in the water and spend the day with a book, some tunes, some snacks, and see how the leaf travels downstream in an afternoon. It will be an “experiment.”

There are some nice little places along the bayou complete with tall, wide oaks covered with Spanish moss, and this hotel.

Spanish Moss. St. Martinville, Louisiana
Old Castillo Bed & Breakfast. St. Martinville, Louisiana

The old hotel lies along the bayou, near the Evangeline site and St. Martin’s Church. Their website is here.

I walked around town. Things are quaint, well-run, well-kept, and busy. These aren’t rich folk, but they prosper.

Typical street scene. St. Martinville, Louisiana

The local shops carry an obvious French influence.

Le Petit Paris Cafe

Street signs in the center of town are written in both English and French.

St. Martinville is the seat of St. Martin Parish, Louisiana (counties are called “parishes” here). I found the courthouse a few blocks south of the church along Rue Principal Sud (Main Street South). It’s a two-story wooden building that looks like a southern plantation house. Unfortunately the place was being renovated at the time and I couldn’t go inside.

St. Martin Parish courthouse. St. Martinville, Louisiana

I hope you have a chance to visit St. Martinville. The town is a real treat. And by the way, Acadian gumbo is a national treasure! Despite the humid climate I could see myself living here for a while.

All photos taken by the author. Photos taken in March, 2011.

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

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