Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Texas, Huntsville and Washington-on-the-Brazos

Monday, Dec. 7th - Sunday, Dec. 13th

Monday we drove about three hours to Trinity, Texas where we set up camp next to Lake Livingston at Marina Village Resort, Westwood Shores.  There were hundreds of birds here and lots of deer wandering around the campground in the evenings.

These pelicans were gathered on this little island just a few hundred yards down the beach from us the whole time we were here.  There's been a lot of rain and the water came up more each day shrinking their little island, while their numbers seem to double.  But they all continued to try to fit on the tiny shrinking island.  You can see how high the water is by the electric post in the water for one of the campsites.

Tuesday we drove into Huntsville to tour the Sam Houston Memorial Museum located on the Sam Houston State University campus and the site of General Houston's farm.  The rotunda houses the largest collection of Houston artifacts and memorabilia anywhere.  He is the only man to have served as governor of two states.   He was governor of Tennessee before he moved to Texas, led the fight for Texas' Independence, was President of the Republic of Texas, U.S. Senator and Governor of Texas until he refused to secede from the Union. 

Woodland Home is the original home that Houston and his wife built here in 1848.  Four of their eight children were born here.  This was their home during much of the time that he was in the U.S. Senate.  The little log cabin to the left was his law office, which was the center of Texas politics in the early days of the Texas frontier.

View from the back with the garden, law office in the center and detached kitchen on the right to protect the house from fires and heat in the summer.

Close up of his law office.  According to his grandson, he loved Huntsville where he didn't have to feel "up to his knees in alligators" as he sometimes did when he was in the state capitol of Austin.  There were chickens and ducks wandering about and there was a little creek running along the other side of the fence.  A really pretty setting.  There are also a couple of other dog trot cabins that have been moved onto the property and a blacksmith shop.

This Steamboat House (1850s) was also moved onto the property from a mile or two across town next to the Oakwood cemetery.  They sold Woodland to help pay off campaign debts in 1858 and lived in this home when he resigned the governorship in 1861 until his death in 1863.  He died in the front bedroom just behind the steps and was carried up the steps to the front parlor where he was laid in his coffin and the service was held.  His coffin was built by Union prisoners he had befriended and shown concern for.  At the time the house was on a hill just a couple blocks from the cemetery, so they carried him down the hill and buried him. 

This is his grave with a little nicer marker than it originally had.  This one was erected by the State of Texas in 1911 on the 75th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto that won Texas their independence from Mexico.  It represents Houston as the General in command of the Texas Army with Lady Victory on the left and Lady History on the right.  The wrought iron fence around the grave is designed with inverted Roman battle-axes, symbolizing "Peace; the battle is over."  All but four graves in Oakwood Cemetery are facing east as it is a Christian cemetery and all are awaiting Christ's return.  In some newer cemeteries this is not true.

This is Hughstown Castle of Scotland, home of his ancestors.  A little trivia:  In the 1840s fewer than 1 in 10 persons bathed even once a year in America.  In Europe smoking was considered indecent, filthy and rude and to many people it was highly offensive.  When first introduced into Europe in the 16th century, its use was prohibited under severe penalties, which in some countries amounted even to cutting off the nose.  In 1839 the city of Houston had a theater, courthouse, jail, even a capitol, but not a single church.  When a Methodist minister arrived in 1843, he said many members have "backslidden, some have been going to dancing school and some have joined the Baptists!"  In 1846 a Catholic missionary said, "Houston is infested with Methodists and ants."  Circuit riding preachers had open air camp meetings or revivals.  There were frequent insinuations about camp meeting babies.  One doctor advised evangelists to "shut up shop, since they were making souls faster than they were saving them" at camp meetings.  Teacher's proficiency was judged by the number of switches he kept by his chair and how frazzled the ends were.  


Sam wore this vest proudly, as a gift from his brothers, the Cherokee Indians, whom he lived with several years as a teenager and again for a couple years later in his life.  He negotiated with the Indians on several occasions for President Jackson, who was his good friend.   They also have Santa Anna's saddle, sword, dagger and chamber pot from his surrender at the Battle of San Jacinto.

  From the cemetery we walked across the street to this little barbeque place and had a great lunch.

John had the brisket, sausage and ribs with potato salad and pinto beans.  I had the turkey and brisket.  It was all delicious, but the brisket was to die for.

As we headed home we stopped at the visitor center on the edge of town where we should have stopped on our way into town.  This 77 foot statue A Tribute to Courage, made from 60 tons of concrete and steel, faces Interstate 45 and is the tallest likeness of an American hero.  

Thursday we drove over to Washington-on the-Brazos State Park, birthplace of a nation, where 59 men met in this replica of Independence Hall for two weeks to create and sign the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico as Santa Anna's army approached.   There's nothing left of the town here that was once a busy river port and ferry crossing.  When the railroad came through, it was no longer needed and just gradually died.  There is a nice visitor center with very nice exhibits about the history here and walking trails and signs.

They also have Barrington Farm here which was the home of Dr. Anson Jones, the last President of the Republic of Texas.  His youngest child was named Cromwell Anson Jones for their ancestor, Oliver Cromwell.  His oldest son was named Samuel Houston Jones, but was later changed to Samuel Edward (after his grandfather) when his father disagreed with Houston over the annexation strategy for statehood.  It's an 1850s working farm with care takers dressed in period costume.  

This chamber pot was sitting on one of the beds complete with corn cobs for use as TP.

Dining room with linoleum area rug.


A baby tender, just big enough for a baby to stand up in.

Corn husk dolls made by Mom or Grandma, as close to Barbies as they got.

Chicken and duck coop.

Barn and guinea hens who decided to chase after me.  I guess I was intruding on their turf.  There were two slave cabins and a corn/cotton crib.

And a hog pen.  Ossabaw hogs were brought over by the Spanish almost 500 years ago and kept isolated on Ossabaw Island off the coast of Georgia.  The hogs of Barrington Farm descended from the original Spanish stock.

They had a few Pineywoods cattle, cousins of the Texas Longhorn.  They are smaller without the extremely long horns.  There were also a few oxen.

Then we went through the Star of the Republic Museum, all about the ten years from 1836 to 1846 that Texas was an independent nation.   The Constitution of the Republic of Texas allowed slavery, which had been illegal when they were part of Mexico since 1829.  Slavery was outlawed in England in 1833.  The capitol of Texas moved from Washington-on-the-Brazos in 1836 to Columbia to Houston from 1837 to 1839, Austin 1839 to 1841, Houston again in 1842, Washington again 1842 to 1845 and back to Austin in 1845. 

Grandmother's secret recipe for washing clothes.

Uses for the hog, everything but the squeal.

Saturday we went back to Bennie J's for lunch and to the Texas Prison Museum in Huntsville.  25% of the Huntsville population lives behind prison fences.  The population in 2000 was 35,078 with 26,174 inmates in the five Huntsville Units.  The Walls Unit in the city limits had 9,000 inmates.  The rest were in the four outside city limits 10 to 20 miles from the city.

They had lots of interesting stuff, including "Old Sparky" the electric chair, a gun that was supposedly found in Bonnie's lap after Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed by law officers and all sorts of exhibits about certain prisoners and notorious escapes and the famous Texas Prison Rodeo that was held for 55 years (1931 to 1986).  It started out as a little entertainment for the inmates, workers and families.  It soon grew to 15,000 locals coming and they started charging admission.  Besides the calf roping, bull riding and bronc riding, they had unique events like bare back basketball, bull chariot racing, wild cow milking, mad scramble and the hard money event.  Inmates in red shirts went into the arena with a raging bull with a tobacco sack tied between his horns with $50 cash in it plus donations, sometimes as much as $1,500.  Whoever could grab the bag and take it to the judge got to keep the money.   They eventually built a new brick stadium to accommodate the crowds that sometimes exceeded 78,000.  By 1986 the stadium needed costly renovations and the profit margin had dropped, so the rodeo was discontinued.  Huddie Ledbetter did time here in Huntsville at the "Walls" Unit for murder.  His famous song Midnight Special is about that experience.  It is called Walls because of the massive 20 foot walls encompassing the facility.  It was built in 1848 and was the only walled prison in the state until 1883.  At the end of the Civil War, it was the only prison still standing in the Confederate states.  The typical cell is 6' x 9' for two inmates and it is heated, but not air conditioned.

I found the things they did to entertain themselves interesting.  This was a chess set carved completely from soap, including the board.

Floral arrangement made out of toilet paper.

Purse made out of Camel cigarette packs in the 1960s when cigarettes were still sold in the commissary.  If you look closely, you can see that the light brown parts are the camel.

Guitar made entirely from wooden match sticks.

This was carved by an inmate, but was not completed when he was released,  Not to worry though, like several other items that were not finished, they were still here waiting for them when they came back, and they did come back and finish them.

Just for fun.

This was across the street from the Sam Houston Museum with a sign that said come by on Christmas Eve and get a candy cane and like us on  We moved to Robert, Louisiana near Baton Rouge on Monday.

Merry Christmas

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