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Project Update

Cover Prototype Design

This is the first post I’ve made that doesn’t include a photograph and isn’t about some small Texas town.  But I thought I’d let you know why there haven’t been many posts lately and when you can expect to see more.

As many of you know, I’ve traveled around Texas over the past four-plus years uncovering (sometimes literally) and photographing beautiful abandoned buildings.  For the last year, I’ve been working on the design of a book and trying to find a publisher.  As of July, I have a potential deal with a large academic press (don’t want to say who for fear of jinxing it) pending the submission of final copy and photographs and their review and approval.  I have another dozen or so sites to photograph this Fall and a lot of copy to finalize before I can submit. So if postings seem sparse, that’s the reason.  I hope to finish all of this by the end of January.

Thank all of you who follow Lost, Texas and for your many comments.  I really enjoy hearing about personal connections with the places I’ve photographed.  Keep ’em coming!

Thanks,

Bronson

 

Fowlerton

Fowlerton School

Driving on State Highway 97 east of Cotulla, TX there is nothing to identify what was the town of Fowlerton, other than a non-descript post office, a few mobile homes, and the standard highway city-limits sign.  Once upon a time though, it was a thriving town of 2,000 people.  On my recent visit, I was able to locate the remains of the old school (above) and a small church.  The school building has elements of the early International Style – specifically the corner window, the unadorned brick wall, and the thin porch roof supported by equally thin columns.  Given the more typical rural vernacular architecture of that time, this school would have been seen a very modern.

The Fowler Brothers Land Company (James and Charles) founded and developed the town in the early twentieth century in an ambitious attempt to develop a 100,000-acre tract that had once belonged to the Dull Ranch. They induced the San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf Railway to extend its lines into the planned town, built two dams to provide water for irrigation and a new hotel, and laid 200 miles of public roads. They also built a cotton gin, installed an expensive water system, and conducted an aggressive advertising campaign to attract settlers and investors.

The land surrounding the townsite was divided into tracts of ten to 160 acres; for $25 dollars down and $10 a month an aspiring farmer could buy farmland and a receive a complimentary town lot. Land seekers (some called them “land suckers”) responded by moving to Fowlerton by the hundreds. By October 1911, when the SAU&G made its first trip into Fowlerton, the town already had two hotels, three general stores, a bank, twenty-five miles of streets, a telephone system, and 1,200 residents. By 1914 Fowlerton’s population was estimated at 2,000, and that year the town became the home of a summer normal school.

After 1917, however, the town rapidly declined; most of the farmers had suffered financial reverses due to a draught, low commodity prices, and marketing problems. Meanwhile, the Fowler brothers were targeted by a number of lawsuits accusing them of fraudulent marketing practices. The town thereafter “literally seemed to fall apart,” according to a former resident. By 1925 Fowlerton’s population had dropped to 600, and by 1931 only six businesses were reported there. By 1949 the community had 300 residents and four businesses and by 1964 200 people and two businesses. In 1972 the population was 100. In 1986 one newspaper called Fowlerton a “near-ghost town.”

REFERENCES:  John Leffler, “FOWLERTON, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlf27), accessed May 08, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Marfa Redoux

Fort D. A. Russell Barracks

There is a part of Marfa’s history that is very different from the current hip, artsy place most people think of when they hear the name.  Back in 1911, the Mexican Revolution was underway.  Fearing that Mexican troops might attack across the border, the U.S. government sent cavalry troops to Presidio County to protect its citizens.  Camp Albert, later changed to Camp Marfa, the post was also home to Signal Corps biplanes that patrolled the Rio Grande during the conflict.  Units from Fort Bliss went to Camp Marfa on a rotational basis for field training.  The role and size of Camp Marfa grew during World War I to include state, federal and National Guard troops.  Following WWI, the War Department used a large donated tract of land near Marfa to train combat troops.

In 1930, Camp Marfa was renamed Fort D. A. Russell in honor of Gen. David Allen Russell, a native New Yorker who served in the Mexican War and died during the Civil War.  Only a year later, the government began discussions to abandon the fort and its $480,000 annual payroll.  The citizens of Marfa fought hard to keep the fort open, but lost the fight in 1932 and the installation was turned over to caretakers.

However, the closure was short-lived.  In 1935 the post was reopened to house 700 men of the Seventy-seventh Field Artillery.  The first group scheduled for officer training arrived in 1938 and training continued at the fort for several years.  Prior to and during World War II, Fort Russell added 2,400 acres donated by the citizens of Marfa, planted 1,000 trees, improved existing buildings, and built new ones. By this time 1,000 men were stationed at the fort. In 1944 the first woman officer was assigned to the post, and civilian women replaced soldiers as drivers of cars and trucks. During the war a camp for prisoners of war also was established at Marfa. Texas had approximately twice as many POW camps as any other state, first because of the available space, and second, curiously, because of the climate.  The Geneva Convention of 1929 requires that prisoners of war be moved to a climate similar to that where they are captured; apparently it was thought that the climate of Texas is similar to that of North Africa.

Fort D. A. Russell was deactivated in 1945.  In 1949 most of the fort area and facilities were sold to private citizens.  Today, shells of former barracks and other buildings dot the weed-covered grounds.  Some buildings have been repurposed to serve as home to the Chinati Foundation and a museum for the artwork of Donald Judd and others.

REFERENCES:  Lee Bennett, “FORT D. A. RUSSELL,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qbf14), accessed November 10, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Teague

Teague Hotel

Teague is at the junction of U.S. Highway 84, State Highway 179, and Farm roads 80 and 145, nine miles southwest of Fairfield in western Freestone County. The area was first settled around the time of the Civil War. During the latter half of the nineteenth century a small community known as Brewer, grew up at the site.  When the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway was built through the county in 1906, it located its machine and car shops at the site.  The town, renamed Teague after Betty Teague, niece of railroad magnate Benjamin Franklin Yoakum, was incorporated in 1906.

Benjamin Franklin Yoakum, railroad executive, was born near Tehuacana, Texas, in Limestone County on August 20, 1859, the son of Narcissa (Teague) and Franklin L. Yoakum. At age twenty he became a rodman and chain bearer in a railroad surveying gang, laying the International-Great Northern Railroad into Palestine, Texas.  He later became a land boomer and immigration agent for the Jay Gould Lines. He drilled artesian wells and brought European immigrants from New York to farm the land of the Trans-Mississippi and Rio Grande valley.  In 1886 he became traffic manager of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway.  In 1887 the town of Yoakum, Texas, was named for him. In 1889 he was promoted to general manager of the railways, and in 1890 he became receiver.  For three years he was general manager and third vice president of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe.  In 1897 he became general manager of the Frisco (St. Louis and San Francisco Railway Company).  Under him the lines grew from 1,200 to 6,000 miles.  In 1905 the Frisco and Rock Island lines were joined, and Yoakum was the chairman of the executive committee.  This line was known as the Yoakum Line and at the time was the largest railroad system under a single control.  His career was one of the most colorful of the many men in railroad history.  He knew each branch of work: engineering, traffic, operating, and finance.  In his later years he became very interested in the farm problem.  He was an advocate of an agricultural cooperative society, growing and marketing farm products to reduce the spread between farm and consumer.  It is said that his genius made Hidalgo and Cameron counties into agricultural communities. In 1907 Yoakum moved to New York, where he had a farm in Farmingdale, Long Island.  He became president and later chairman of the board of the Empire Board and Mortgage Company.

The community served as a shipping center for area cotton farmers and grew rapidly. By 1914 it had Baptist, Catholic, Disciples of Christ, Methodist, Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal, and Presbyterian churches, as well as public schools, waterworks, an electric light plant, an ice plant, three banks, two cotton gins, a cottonseed oil mill, a cotton compress, the Teague Daily News, two weekly newspapers, and a population of 3,300. Teague continued to prosper during the 1920s.

The onset of the Great Depression and plummeting cotton prices, however, began a slow decline that continued until the 1980s. The number of businesses dropped from 140 in 1931 to 100 in 1936. After World War II many other stores and businesses closed, and by the early 1980s only forty-six rated businesses remained. The town also witnessed a decline in population during the same period; it reached a low of some 2,800 in 1975. After the mid-1980s, however, the population grew steadily, and in 1990 Teague had 3,268 residents. The population was 4,557 in 2000. The area has large coal, lignite, sand, and clay deposits. In recent years natural gas production has become an important industry.

REFERENCE:  Christopher Long, “TEAGUE, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hgt04), accessed July 28, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association;  Mary M. Orozco-Vallejo, “YOAKUM, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN,” Handbook of Texas Online(http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fyo01), accessed July 30, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Tehuacana

Texas Hall – Tehuacana Academy

Tehuacana has a rich history of education dating to the period just prior to statehood.  Several institutes of higher education have called Tehuacana home, including the Tehuacana Academy pictured above.  It was a Cumberland Presbyterian college that opened its doors in 1852.  Dr. Franklin L. Yoakum (a physician turned teacher who later founded the Texas Academy of Science) and Daniel G, Molloy taught there.  The academy was a local enterprise, despite its connections to the Presbyterian Church, and neither Bible courses nor denominational views were taught.  Tehuacana Academy, as an institution, did not survive the Civil War.

A post office called Tewockony Springs was established at the current location of Tehuacana in 1847.  It was most likely named for the Tawakoni Indians, part of the Wichita group from central Kansas who lived in the area until the late 1840s.  When Tehuacana Academy opened in 1852, the community was known as Tehuacana Hills, though the post office continued to be called after the springs.  The post office was discontinued during the Civil War, but service resumed in 1869, at which time the name of the office was changed to Tehuacana.  That same year, John Boyd persuaded the Cumberland Presbyterian Church to make Tehuacana the site of Trinity University, which had been created by merging three other small Presbyterian schools that had also failed during the Civil War.

By the mid-1880s Tehuacana had three churches, two gristmills and cotton gins, and 500 residents.  It was incorporated in 1890 with a mayor-council form of city government. The census of 1900 reported 382 residents in Tehuacana.  Trinity University moved to Waxahachie in 1902, and the property was deeded to the Methodist Church, which opened Westminster College, a preparatory school for Methodist ministers, which had its origins in rural Collin County.  Westminster College remained in Tehuacana until 1950 when the property was sold to the Congregational Methodist Church, which opened another junior college there, the Westminster Junior College and Bible Institute.  It offered an associate of arts degree. The Bible Institute, a department of the college, offered a four-year curriculum leading to the degree of bachelor of religion.  In 1968–69 the college had fifteen faculty members and ninety-five students, but by 1970 the student body had decreased to sixty; Elmo McGuire was president. In 1971 thirty-five students and seven teachers of the Westminster Junior College and Bible Institute moved from Tehuacana to a forty-acre campus at Florence, Mississippi, a location called the “geographical center” of the Congregational Methodist Church.

In 1903 the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway completed its track between Cleburne and Mexia, passing through Tehuacana. The population increased to 425 by 1910 and to 615 by the mid-1920s. Tehuacana lost its rail service in 1942, when the track between Hubbard and Mexia was abandoned as part of the war effort.  Westminster College became part of Southwestern University in 1942 but was closed in 1950; the campus reopened in 1953 as Westminster Junior College and Bible Institute. The population of Tehuacana fell to 412 in the early 1930s and continued to decline through the early 1980s, reaching a low of 265 in 1982. Moderate growth in the 1980s brought the population to 322 by 1990. In 2000 the population was 307.  Tehuacana is at the intersection of State Highway 171 and Farm Road 638, six miles northwest of Mexia in northeastern Limestone County.

REFERENCES:  Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl, “TEHUACANA, TX (LIMESTONE COUNTY),” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlt04), accessed July 28, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association; “WESTMINSTER JUNIOR COLLEGE AND BIBLE INSTITUTE,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/kbw13), accessed July 31, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association; David Minor, “WESTMINSTER COLLEGE,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/kbw12), accessed July 28, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.