Follow by Email

Sunday, July 26, 2015

254 Courthouses

Routes Traveled

The above map is what I used to mark the counties I had visited and what counties I had not.  For me it's hard to believe that I went to all 254 of them.  The first courthouse that I photographed was on July 1, 2011, over four years ago in Grimes County.  The Italianate courthouse sits alone in a traffic island on top of the only hill in Anderson and looks down on the small town.  For me, it is still one of the most beautiful courthouses in Texas.
Grimes County Courthouse, Anderson, TX
I wondered how hard would it be to go to all 254 counties.  I began to read about people who had done such a project. One was Dr. Mavis P. Kelsey, of the famed Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.  He and Donald H. Dyal published The Courthouses of Texas, a guide to the 254 county courthouses.  I ordered a copy and it became my personal guide for the next four years.  I quickly learned some basic architectural terms and styles and I began to see these terms in subsequent courthouses.  It also provided a history lesson on how Texas counties were formed and how they got their name.  If you are contemplating seeing some of these courthouses, I would suggest you get a copy of the book as the location of each is documented.

I became familar with the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, THCPP, administered by the Texas Historical Commission after noticing the large sign on the McClelland County courthouse grounds in Waco.  Part of the courthouse was shrouded in scaffolding.

The blue counties have courthouses that have been completely restored under this program.  There are many counties waiting funding for their courthouse program.
Throckmorton County Courthouse under restoration

Throckmorton County Courthouse after restoration

My recent trek through the Panhandle uncovered ten counties that have the Ten Commandments on a 3' X 3' X 3' block of gray granite prominently displayed in or on their courthouse grounds.  It warms my heart that the people of Texas are not afraid to point to the importance of God's law and it's significance to state law.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Day 4: Last Four Counties; Fossils, Longhorns, and Home.

We spent the night in Lubbock and we were up early the next morning.  We had a great breakfast and we were off to see the last four counties on my list.  We would stay on US82 the entire morning as we traveled west.  My thanks to David Billingsley for navigating and laying out an efficient route that resulted in our doubling back on the same road only once. That was yesterday.  We did return to Lubbock because it was the closest big town that had acceptable hotels from which to choose.  Our day’s journey took us around Lubbock on the loop and west on US82.  The first county we came to was Crosby. The Crosby County seat is Crosbyton.  We got there literally before anyone was awake and we had the courthouse square to ourselves.

The courthouse was built in 1914 in Texas Renaissance style with Classical columns forming a portico (that’s front porch in architecture language).  Crosby County was organized in 1886 and it is named after Stephen Crosby, who was a member of the Know-Nothing party.  Sounds like both the Republican and Democrat party today.

Across the street from the courthouse we saw and interesting sign, “Mount Blanco Fossil Museum.”  We had to check this out. 
“The Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum is a scientific and educational institution dedicated to a correct interpretation of Earth history and fossil remains. We believe that the fossil record speaks of catastrophic events happening several thousand years ago rather than slow processes taking place over millions or billions of years as is held by the popular establishment.”  I walked over to the museum and could see plaster paris molds of tusks, creatures and fossils.  It was closed or I would have paid the $5 admission to go inside.  On to the next county, Dickens.

The Dickens County courthouse is a Romanesque Revival building built in 1893 and designed by E. I. Aiken and built of stone.  It has been remodeled twice which has really altered its appearance.  

Originally, it had a hipped roof and tower with stone chimneys.  This courthouse screams out for restoration.  At least they didn’t demolish the original!

Continuing westward, we came to Gutherie, county seat of King County.  This courthouse was built in 1914 in the Texas Renaissance style.  I’ve included the historical marker for details.  King County is home to the huge 6666 ranch, one of the largest in Texas.
another relic of a dream
The terrain is more or less flat but there are occasional rolling hills.

We continued west to the town of Benjamin, county seat of Knox County.  This is #254, the last courthouse on my list.  The courthouse is a 1935 Moderne-style built of stone.  It is a very typical courthouse built in the 1930’s.  I decided to go inside and while taking some interior photos I met the Knox County Judge, Travis C. Floyd.  Judge Floyd asked if I wanted to photograph the courtroom, to which I replied, “Yes, sir.”  He graciously turned on the lights and staged the room for the photo.  Next, I met the local Justice of the Peace, Augustin Rodriguez.  He was also gracious and extended to me any courtesy that I needed to finish with the courthouse. I thought both men are what makes Texas such a great state.

From Benjamin we traveled south and passed through the small town of Rule, Texas.  I found some wall murals and an old tractor to photograph.  From Rule, we continued south toward Abilene, our starting point.  

Along the way we drove up on a herd of longhorn cattle.  At 75 mph it took me a while to stop and turn around and go back.  When we got back to the spot the longhorns had headed to a water tank.  Undaunted, I found a cross dirt road and drove down it until I saw the longhorns again.  As I expected as soon as I got out of the car, the cattle began walking toward me.  I took several photos of the huge animals and we continued our journey south. 

I stopped once more watching a Case tractor pull a plow across a field.  The scene just summed up what a lot of people do in this part of Texas, farm.

On the trip home we stopped at two county seats I had already photographed, Hamilton County, in Hamilton, Texas and Coryell County in Gatesville, Texas.  I was able to get some better photos than the ones on previous visit.

Coryell County Courthouse
After taking David home and driving back to my home in Cypress we had logged 2611 miles in four days zigzagging across the Texas Panhandle.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Day 3: Pantex & A Short Trip Through Palo Dura Canyon and Back to Lubbock

The beginning of our third day on the road found us leaving Pampa, Texas driving west on US60 to Panhandle, Tx, county seat for Carson County.

The Carson County courthouse is a 1950 Moderne-style courthouse with Art Deco carvings.  There is a relief over the entrance doors depicting Carson County’s economy.  Leaving town we passed an old railroad station that has been converted into Panhandle City Hall.  I’m glad to see the folks using these old historic buildings after restoration.

We drove west on US60 and passed corn field after corn field with an occasional cotton field.  All of a sudden the landscape on the north side of the highway changed to a huge plant larger than most Panhandle cities.  We were intrigued so I turned and headed to it.  We noticed some signs on the fence that got my attention;  “Use of Deadly Force Authorized”  We noticed a work crew taking soil samples and wondered about that.  We came to the entrance where cars were lined up to go through a checkpoint and then I looked at the sign and realized what it was.  You do the google search yourself.  The name of the plant is PANTEX.  There were also hundreds of storage igloos to the south and west between the plant and US60.  I wanted to drive up to the gate and tell the armed guards that I was a 46350 in the USAF in the 60’s and I would really like a tour of the plant. Naw! We just didn’t have the time.


Prohibited Items

​The following items are NEVER allowedANYWHERE on-site at Pantex, unless prior authorization has been received from the Safeguards & Security Division.
  • Alcohol
  • Ammunition
  • Arrows
  • Blackjacks
  • Chemical dispensing devices for pepper spray, mace, etc.
  • Controlled Substances
  • Compound bows
  • Crossbows
  • Drug paraphernalia
  • Drugs (prescriptions are allowed as long as they are prescribed for the employee who is using them--Medical must be notified of medication use)
  • Explosives
  • Explosive devices
  • Fertilizer (Bulk)
  • Firearms
  • Items that could be used to manufacture explosives
  • Incendiary devices
  • Knives with blade length exceeding 5 1/2 inches
  • Knuckles
  • Nightsticks
  • Nun chucks
  • Stun guns
  • Swords
  • Technical Surveillance Equipment (i.e. any equipment specifically designed to clandestinely collect information)
  • Zip guns

Controlled Items

​The following items are allowed on-site at Pantex but MUST remain in personal vehicles in the Property Protection Area.
  • Cameras - At no time are pictures to be taken anytime on plant site with any type of personal equipment
  • Computers not owned by Pantex (Exception: given on a case-by-case basis by the ISSM or his designate)
    • Laptops/notebooks
    • Smartphones/PDAs (i.e. iPhones)
    • Media players (i.e. iPods)
    • Tablets, pads and slates (i.e. iPads)
    • Game devices (i.e. PSPs)
    • Any other device with a processor and storage
  • Computers Components
    • Cellular wireless cards
    • Wireless cards (Exception: wireless cards used for pool laptops in transit between 16-19 and your car)
    • Bluetooth cards, devices or adapters
    • Any other computer component or peripheral
  • Global Positioning System (GPS) - (e.g. portable transmit/receive)
  • Golf clubs
  • On-Star
  • Personal software
  • Radio frequency (RF) devices (Exception: key fobs are allowed except in Nuclear Explosive Areas)
  • Recording devices (optical, video, audio or data)
  • Telephones (all types including cellular and satellite)
    • Exception: Government-owned cellular telephones
  • XM or Sirius radio receivers with recording capabilities
  • Any privately owned device, electronic or optical, capable of recording, processing, storing or transferring audio, computer data, video or photos

They were serious about security.

 We passed by the east of Amarillo and took the highway leading to Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  We got there, paid the entrance fee and drove into, or I should say drove down and into the park.  Palo Duro is approximately 120 miles long, 600-800 feet deep and is the second largest canyon in the US.  The rocks expose a geologic story, layer by layer revealing a panoramic view of magnificent color. 

There was a significant decisive battle at Palo Duro Canyon during the Indian Wars of 1874-1875 against the Southern Plains Indians, specifically the Comanche.  The US Cavalry, led by Col. Randal Mackenzie, 4th US Cavalry descended a narrow zigzag trail down the south wall into the canyon and attached the first of five encampments of Kiowa, Comanche and Cheyenne at dawn on September 24, 1874.  The Cavalry burned teepees and winter food stores.  The Indian horse herd of 1400 was captured and driven to Tule Canyon.  Mackenzie ordered 1100 of the horses shot the next day.  Facing the coming winter without food or horses meant starvation.  This forced the Indians to return on foot to the reservation in Fort Sill, Ok.  The traditional way of life for the plains Indians was gone forever.  Leader of the Comanche, Quanah Parker, will be examined later when we get to the town named for him.

We got back on the courthouse trail, this time on US287, and headed to Claude, county seat for Armstrong County.  The county was obviously named for someone named Armstrong.  However, no one knows who this is.  It was not recorded in any county record.  The best guess is that it honors some settlers to the area with that last name.

Clarendon, county seat of Donley County.  This is perhaps the best looking courthouse in all of the Panhandle.  It was built in 1894 in the Romanesque Revival style with brick and stone.  It has been restored through the Texas Historical Commission, Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program.
The Donley County Courthouse has a monument to the Ten Commandments also but here you can read what else is inscribed on the block of granite.
It is now the oldest functioning courthouse in the Texas Panhandle. The structure is asymmetrical (no two sides of the building are alike), which is an unusual feature for this type of building in Texas during that time.
Courtroom, Donley County Courthouse
Damage from a tornado in the 1930s resulted in the removal of the original third floor and tower. Prior to renovation, the courthouse had serious problems with water infiltration and bats infesting the attic due to a deteriorating metal cornice.
The project included reconstruction of the third floor and was a dramatic transformation. It was completed in July 2003.

We continued south on US287 to Wellington, and the Collingsworth County courthouse.  This is a 1931 Texas Renaissance style courthouse made of brick and stone accents.

We then turned south on US83 and headed to Childress, county seat by the same name.  The Chilldress courthouse is a 1939 Moderne-style courthouse designed by Towns & Funk of Amarillo.  I thought the tile American flag was the one thing that cried out for a photo.

From Childress we drove to Quanah, county seat of Hardeman County. The courthouse is a 1908 Beaux-Arts style built of brick with a dome.  It is an impressive hall of justice.  The town of Quanah was named Quanah Parker, last chief of the Comanche tribe.  Quanah was the chief when the Comanche were defeated at Palo Duro Canyon. Quanah Parker (died 1911) was a leader of the Comanche people during the difficult transition period from free-ranging life on the southern plains to the settled ways of reservation life. He became an influential negotiator with government agents, a prosperous cattle-rancher, a vocal advocate of formal education for Native children, and a devout member of the Peyote Cult.

From Quanah we continued south on US287 to Vernon, county seat for Wilbarger County.  The Wilbarger County courthouse is an impressive three story 1928 Classical Revival designed by the firm of Voelcker and Dixon and built of steel, concrete and stone. 
Wilbarger is one of the few counties with a Confederate Soldier Memorial.

Wilbarger WW1 Memorial

The Foard County Courthouse has an impressive Veterans Memorial with soldier and sailor.

We turned back west on US70 to Crowell, county seat of Foard County.  The courthouse was built in 1910 in the  Texas Renaissance of brick and stone with classical details.  In 1942 a tornado ripped the dome and porticoes from the building and they were not replaced.  I thought the Veterans Memorial was very impressive.

Our next town was Paducah, Cottle County seat.  The courthouse was built in 1930 in the Moderne-style of brick with Art-Deco and Classical details.  The corners have NRA eagles.  Cottle County was named for George Washington Cottle, an Alamo defender.
Motley County Courthosue

We continued west to Matador, Motley County seat and Floydata, Floyd County seat in that order. As so ended our third day of travel.  We drove on to Lubbock and spent the night in a very nice hotel Mary Alice found for us.

PS:  Pantex is a Department of Energy facility for the production of nuclear weapons, which I worked on while in the United States Air Force. I am very familar with Pantex and what they do there.