Thursday, July 30, 2015

Marking Time - Gladewater, TX

The East Texas town of Gladewater is known as the "Antique Capital of Texas" and with that title comes a fair amount of history.  Our first stop is the East Texas Museum at Gladewater where they have a historic marker right out front:

The marker reads:

     "The W. E. Nunnelee Bus Lines began passenger service from Tyler to Gladewater and Mt. Pleasant in March 1925; later added buses from Tyler to Henderson and Nacogdoches. Twenty-six vehicles were operated over the 205 miles. These included 7-passenger automobiles and 12-, 15-, 16-, and 19-passenger buses.
     Fare from Tyler to Gladewater was $1. with stops in Winona, Starrville, Friendship, the 30-mile run took an hour, over roads paved in 1919 and 1923.
     On Aug. 1, 1927, buses were placed under regulation of the Railroad Commission. This line had franchise No. 1; it was one of 247 companies running 865 public passenger vehicles on 20,348 miles of Texas roads.
     Many of these "buses" were autos built for private use. Others had "stretched" auto chassis seating 10 or more passengers. Several models had doors that opened along the side. Uncomfortable and hard to drive, they constantly needed new tires and repairs to brakes and valves. Breakdowns were frequent. Overhauls (often made, or necessity, by the roadside) were handled by mechanics lacking suitable tools.
     Although far different from the airconditioned, safety-engineered bus of today, early buses showed the way to a new era in convenient transportation. Incise in base: Early travel, communication and transportation series erected by Moody Foundation."

Not too far from this location is the site of the Snavely #1 Discovery Well:

The Gladewater Heritage Society was kind enough to add their own historical marker to this site:

The marker reads:

     "On April 7, 1931 this wildcat well drilled by Selby Oil and Gas Co. of Tulsa, OK. came-in at 1000 barrels an hour.  Located in the Sabine River bottom a mile south of town,  it connect Gadewater to the vast East Texas Oil Field stretching from Longview's Lathrop Well 7 miles north, to Kilgo's Crim Well 14 miles south.  Royalty owners were the Snavely family of Martinsville, IL. headed by judge Herschel Snavely, nine relatives came to watch the drilling.  L.C. Snavely acquired interest in this land when several Illinois investors underwrote the sawmill, lumber operations of James Moore who in 1906 bought 4200 acres for $20,000 and moved his enterprise to Gladewater by train.  Moore's mill was destroyed in 1913 by a boiler explosion.  In 1914 he surveyed and divided the land into equal sections.  Investors drew lots to determine their parcels.  Oil was discovered under the entire 4200 acre tract.  Texaco, Inc. operated the well from 1938 until its shut-down on November 30, 1957.  Texaco closed its local office in 1987 after 54 years in Galdewater, and donated to the city this pumping unit from the Texaco-Snavely "A" Lease #1.  The original derrick was wooden."

The discovery of oil had a huge impact on not only this East Texas but the rest of the country as well.  Here is some video we shot that explains a little more about the formation of the East Texas Oil Field:

Monday, July 13, 2015

Roadside Highlights: Tyler, TX

If you are anything like us then you agree that it's the odd roadside attractions that make a trip go from good to great. The weirder and more arbitrary, the better. But, like us, you might not think that they all deserve their own blog entry. If that's the case then you might group several geographically approximate roadside attractions into one blog entry.

What a coincidence, so did we!

And since we're currently in Tyler, TX, we'll start here with our first "Roadside Highlights" entry. On our last visit we checked out the historical markers and memorials in downtown's courthouse square but there was one we missed. It is under this unassuming tree on the southeast corner of the square:

And it memorializes Tyler's most beloved squirrel, "Shorty."

Shorty was the beloved courthouse mascot and upon his tragic passing he was honored with this tombstone.

And if dead animals are your thing you can find plenty at the Brookshire's World of Wildlife Museum:

I was going to go on and on about the seemingly endless displays of exotic taxidermy but there is clearly one stand out:

Yes, "Monkeys Playing Monopoly" is truly a work of art and is eerily reminiscent of a recurring childhood nightmare I used to have quite a while ago. Take a moment to soak in all the elaborate details from each player's individual name takes to the one monkey brandishing a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.

If that's not enough animal hi-jinks for you then stroll down Teddy Bear Lane in the Children's Park to see two giant wrestling teddy bears.

It's a nice little park that's hidden away yet relatively close to downtown...and it has wrestling teddy bears. Can't beat that.

Lastly, when you are on your way out of town you can stop and get some coffee at Kickerz. It's easily identified from the road because...well, you know.

This one is technically in Whitehouse, TX which is just south of Tyler but the draw of a giant hat shaped coffee shop is easy motivation for the 5 minute drive. I recently learned that they are hoping to start a franchise so I'm sure that cowboy hat shaped buildings will soon start popping up everywhere.

And that would be awesome.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Denzel Goes to East Texas

One lesser known aspect of Texas history is the success of the Wiley College debate team.  Wiley College is located in Marshall, TX and was founded in 1873 and is thought of as the first Black college west of the Mississippi River.  The school's debate team had an incredibly successful run starting in the early 20th century.  Their 1935 season was chronicled in the 2007 film "The Great Debaters" directed by and starring Denzel Washington.

Washington played the English teacher/debate coach Melvin Tolson.  Tolson taught at Wiley College from 1924-1947.  He was known as an accomplished scholar, poet and activist.

The '35 team from the film consists or characters that were both directly based on specific former students and based on amalgams of various students.  James L. Farmer Jr. appears as a character in the film and was an actual student at Wiley and member of the debate team.  He was a child prodigy and attended the college when he was only fourteen.  He was played by Denzel Whitaker (not to be confused with Denzel Washington, after whom he was named, and is no relation to Forest Whitaker, who also appears in the film.)

His father, James L. Farmer Sr. was a faculty member at Wiley College and was the first African American Texan to earn a doctorate from Harvard University.  In the film he is played by Forest Whitaker:

On the campus of Wiley College there is a historical marker honoring Dr. Farmer Sr.:

The Samantha Booke (with an "E") character was loosely based on Henrietta Bell Wells who was the first women to join the debate team.  She was played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell (from Friday Night Lights):

While they filmed the movie in a variety of locations they were able to shoot some scenes on the Wiley College campus, most noticeably outside the Wiley King Administration Building:

It's always interesting when a little piece of Texas history ends up on the big screen.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Daisy Bradford No. 3 Discovery Well

Geologist Devin Dennie takes a look at the history of the Daisy Bradford No. 3 Discovery Well which brought about the discovery of the East Texas Oil Field and Oil Boom of East Texas:

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Lunar, the Better

When you think of the small East Texas town of Lufkin you might not immediately think of fossils, dinosaurs and space travel but those are some of the topics covered in the town's little known (at least I had never heard of it) Naranjo Museum.

But among the impressive dinosaur skeletons and archaeological specimens is the museum's most impressive piece...which came from a long distance to its East Texas resting place.

That's right, the world's largest moon rock on display can be found in Lufkin, TX!  It was collected by the Apollo 14 mission and was permanently loaned to the museum by NASA’s Johnson Space Center.  Here's a close look at the 4 billion year old specimen:

The moon is approximately hundreds of thousands of miles away so if you want to see a big piece of it you're probably a lot better off heading to Lufkin.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Boys Don't Cry in Greenville, TX

We showed you one small town that was used in the filming of the film "Boys Don't Cry" and now we have another. Although this town is significantly larger...Greenville, TX:

Hilary Swank's character walks around the downtown square on the way to the court house. You can see that the "Sabine Trading Post" isn't there anymore but remnants of the sign are.

And then up the stairs of the Hunt County Court House which is yet another great looking Texas courthouse and soon-to-be the topic of an upcoming "Marking Time" entry.

The camera tilts up to show off the rest of the courthouse and even though the film (which is based on a true story) doesn't take place in Hunt County they didn't make any effort to hide the giant "Hunt County Court House" carving at the top of the building:

I didn't go inside so I have no idea if the interiors were shot inside the actual court house. Guess I'll save that for my next trip to Greenville.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Music Memories

When you think about monuments to Texas music legends, the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue or the Willie Nelson statue, both in Austin, might first spring to mind.  But let me introduce you to another Lone Star performer whose memorial is worth a stop on your next east Texas road trip:

Jim Reeves started his career as a minor league baseball player but an injury led to his pursuit of fortune and fame in the music industry.  And it worked.  So much so that his hometown of Carthage, TX (also the former home to country music legend Tex Ritter) has created an impressive memorial to his memory:

Check it out the next time you are in the area.  If you aren't familiar with Reeves' work then sit back and enjoy his effortless performance of "I Love You Because" on a Norwegian TV show in 1964: