Tag Archive for MY NECK OF THE WOODS

Pilgrimage To Clark Cemetery

It was a pilgrimage of sorts. There was a grave that I needed to see again, and it had been on my mind for awhile.

I drove slowly along the country back roads in Cooke County, breathing clouds of white caliche dust through the open window, as I searched for road markers. The GPS on my smart phone had gone stupid on me when I plugged in the name of a century-old cemetery, so I had to go “old school” and use a paper map. Oh, who am I kidding? I have no navigational skills, so I stopped and asked a farmer for directions. After a few more twists and turns, I found myself at the gates of Clark Cemetery only to find the dadgum gate locked with this sign on it:

Clark Cemetery sign

Do whut? They wanted me to call somebody so that I could enter the cemetery? I try to play by the rules, so I called the numbers — only to be sent to voicemail with both of them. “Well,” I said to myself, “the sign just says ‘for access call,’ It didn’t say I had to actually talk to anybody.” This old gal didn’t drive forty-five minutes in the Texas heat to be turned away at the gate. Besides, it isn’t lawful in Texas to deny access to a cemetery!

Section 711.041 of the Health and Safety Code states that any person who wishes to visit a cemetery that has no public ingress or egress shall have the rights for visitation during reasonable hours and for purposes associated with cemetery visits. The owner of the lands surrounding the cemetery may designate the routes for reasonable access. Section 711.0521 further states that interference with ingress and egress is a Class C misdemeanor. – Info from Texas Historical Commission http://www.thc.state.tx.us/preserve/projects-and-programs/cemetery-preservation/cemetery-laws

lane to cemetery


So, I shimmied through fences and began the climb up the lane to Clark Cemetery. As I plodded along the sandy, rutted road cicadas whirred in the trees and songbirds serenaded me. I lost myself in reverie, thinking about the life and death of the man whose grave I was seeking. It was easy to imagine myself walking this lane behind a coffin in 1862 to bury a man in the meadow at the top of the hill.

I had been to this grave back in 1979 with the Cross Timbers Genealogical Society to record the information on the tombstones. His epitaph sent a chill up my spine. Back then I didn’t have a digital camera. I have been thinking about this place for months and was anxious to see it again.



I had to go though yet another locked gate (these people really want a Class C misdemeanor!). At last I stood before the grave of Nathaniel Miles Clark.
Nathaniel Miles Clark tombstone

Dadgum! I should have taken a picture thirty-six years ago! The tombstone didn’t have as much lichen or as many stains back then! Let me try a closeup, and I’ll transcribe it for you.

Nathaniel Clark epitaph

Was murdered by a Mob. October 13, 1862. His last words to his companion.” Prepare yourself to live and to die. I hope to meet you all in a future world. God bless you all!”

The entire tombstone reads:

Nathaniel M. Clark
Born
June 26, 1816
Was Murdered
by a Mob
October 13, 1862
His last words to
his companion
“Prepare yourself to
live and to die. I hope to
meet you all in a future
world. God bless you all”

So, I found the gravesite of Nathaniel Miles Clark, but I wasn’t satisfied. My pilgrimage wasn’t over. I trudged back down the hill, taking only photographs and leaving only footprints, to journey to my next destination: the site where he died! I’ll tell you about that adventure next time! I’m still digesting some of the information.

A Gem Of A Depot in Gainesville, Texas

Santa Fe Depot, Gainesville, TX
At this sleepy little Santa Fe Depot, I squinted my eyes and tried to imagine it as the bustling hub of Gainesville, Texas. That was hard to do when there wasn’t another person on the street with me. However, in 1944, passenger tickets sales for the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway in Gainesville were the 8th largest in the nation! Soldiers from nearby Camp Howze (an infantry replacement training camp), families with fidgety children, and businessmen would have crowded the sidewalks, sweating in the midday sun.

Built in 1902, the brick train station served passengers until December 1979, when the last Amtrak train came thundering down the tracks. For twenty years, the station was unused by passengers, until the Amtrak Heartland Flyer began making a stop here in 1999. You can still hop aboard a train in Gainesville, but only twice a day. That’s not why you want to stop at the depot. Visitors to this neck of the woods need to stop because it houses a gem of a museum that pays homage to (among other things, including memorabilia of the Gainesville Community Circus) the first twenty-nine years of operation — when a Fred Harvey lunch counter operated out of the building. As a sweet aside, it might also have a ghost! Hang on. I’ll get around to that in a minute.

Outline of lunch counter

Although the counter has long since been removed, you can still see the outline on the floor of where it stood. Displays throughout the building give you a hint of what it was like when waitresses in black dresses, black hose, polished black shoes, and crisp white pinafore aprons efficiently buzzed about the counter serving meals to hundreds of passengers each day.

Courtesy of Morton Museum of Cooke County

Courtesy of Morton Museum of Cooke County



They were The Harvey Girls. The picture on the left shows the Harvey Girls and their German-born chef, Ernest Emil Schurig, around the lunch counter.

This tiny museum in Cooke County, Texas preserves a bit of the Harvey Girl history. It whetted my appetite for more. I had no idea the part that the Harvey Girls, and their employer, Fred Harvey, played in changing the West.



Fred Harvey came to the United States from England in 1853 at the age of seventeen. Like most immigrants, he was chasing the American Dream — and he caught it. His first jobs were as a dishwasher and as a busboy in a restaurant in New York. He quickly moved up the ladder, learning all about the food service industry. He later owned restaurants but the Civil War, and the depressed economy following it, hampered his success. Then, he had a brilliant idea: he made a deal in 1876 with the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway to put eating houses along the rail line.

Rail travel in the 1800s was pretty miserable. With no air conditioning, the open windows made for dusty, hot travel … with no food served! Passenger had to wait until the train stopped, every hundred miles or so, and hope to be able to buy beans and biscuits during the short pause at the station. Fred Harvey changed all that with his Harvey lunch counters — the first restaurant chain in the United States. Ticket masters queried the passengers about whether they planned to eat at the next stop and telegraphed ahead, so that the chefs at the Harvey diners could plan for the amount of food to have ready.

Harvey House place setting

Excellent food, served on fine china, awaited the passengers. Imagine how difficult it would have been to accommodate everyone during the twenty minute stop! Was the food excellent? Yes, it was only the best. Beef was shipped in daily from Kansas City; oysters and clams were shipped from the coast; and in Gainesville the water was deemed unsuitable for coffee, so it was shipped in daily from Fort Worth! Here is an excerpt from a 1927 Harvey diner menu, on display at the Gainesville Depot Museum, to give you an idea of what foods you might find waiting at the next stop.

excerpt from 1927 Harvey House menu

Prime rib of beef for $1.10? Jumbo Bull Frog Almandienne? Grilled Boston Scrod? I don’t even know what a Scrod is, and I don’t think I want to find out!

All of this would have been served to you by those immaculate and efficient Harvey Girls. That women were serving the food in these fine establishments was a bit of a novelty in those days. Before Fred Harvey started hiring women to serve in his diners, most waitresses were “shady ladies,” or at least perceived to be so. Waitressing was not considered a job for a proper young lady.

The story goes that in a Fred Harvey restaurant in Raton, New Mexico, the waiters were a bunch of rowdy ruffians. After a fight one night, they didn’t show up for work the next day. Mr. Harvey was so enraged that he fired the lot of them and promptly advertised for young ladies to take the positions. Ads went out in newspapers across the land saying:

Wanted: Young women 18 to 30 years of age, of good moral character, attractive and intelligent, to waitress in Harvey Eating Houses on the Sante Fe in the West. Wages, $17.50 per month with room and board. Liberal tips customary. Experience not necessary. Write Fred Harvey, Union Depot, Kansas City, Missouri.

Adventurous young women from farms in the Midwest, cities in the northeast, and all points in between rushed to apply. The money was good, the thought of adventure in a new community out west was enticing, and some of the young ladies figured that there was always a chance that a suitable husband might be on the next train.

The women had to sign an affidavit that they were of good character, they had to agree not to marry within six months of employment, and they had to abide by strict rules of conduct (including “no expectorating on the floor”). After six weeks of training, they went to work.

Fred Harvey and his Harvey Girls raised the reputation of the job of waitress to a high level of respectability. In a time when there weren’t many jobs available to women, the Fred Harvey chain offered females a chance to gain independence. That history is commemorated at the Museum at the Depot in Gainesville, Texas.

I know what you are thinking. “Wait a minute, Shelly. You mentioned a ghost!” I did, didn’t I.

bedroom for Harvey Girl



The ghost is upstairs, where you will find the rooms that were once occupied by the Harvey Girls who worked at the depot and the manager. There are seven sparsely furnished rooms that were for the girls, a common bathroom, and two rooms for the manager.



hallway at the Harvey House



Museum volunteers and guests often hear footsteps tap-tap-tapping down the hardwood floors of the long hallway when there is not a living soul upstairs!

Who could it be? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps it is the manager of the Depot, making certain that these ladies of high moral character are safely tucked into their rooms at night? Perhaps it is the restless spirit of a Harvey Girl stepping down the hall to the communal bathroom? I suggest that you visit the museum and decide for yourself. It’s definitely worth the stop.

The museum is located at 605 East California Street in Gainesville. Just find the train tracks, and you will be there. Because it is a small town, you might want to call ahead before visiting at (940) 668-4579.



[Note: If you are curious and want to read more about the Harvey Girls, I suggest Harvey Houses of Texas: Historic Hospitality from the Gulf Coast to the Panhandle (Landmarks) by Rosa Walston Latimer.]

Cure The Crazies in Mineral Wells

MineralWells1943

“Home of Crazy?” Mineral Wells is my kind of town! I got there as fast as I could. My original purpose of the visit was to investigate the history of a location that claims to be crazy haunted (not the Baker Hotel, but another house). However, when I got to town I was distracted by the “Crazy Water.” Supposedly, people once believed that water from certain wells in town could “cure the crazies,” and I felt I should probably know more about that … not that I really believe that there is hope for my kind of crazy.

The legend, dating from the 1880s, is that a “crazy” woman sat by a well (originally known as The Wiggins Well, for the owner, W.H. Wiggins) in town all day long. She continually asked people passing near her to draw her a pail of water to relieve the summer heat. This woman was said to be so addled that she had to be reminded to eat. That’s pretty doggone crazy! School children watched her daily through the windows, until lunchtime. That’s when the woman went back to a the small clinic owned by Dr. Yeager, which is where she lived. As she drank the water, “people slowly began to notice that the crazy old lady was not so crazy anymore.” Could it be the water that alleviated the old woman’s crazies? People didn’t know, but soon people were flocking to the well to try the magic water. They named the well, “The Crazy Lady Well,” but that was soon shortened to “The Crazy Well.”

A drinking pavilion was built over the well and expanded several times, even offering rooms for rent to those who wanted to stay and bathe in the healthful waters.

Crazy Well

The first Crazy Hotel was built in 1912, and enlarged in 1914. It burned in a fire in 1925, and was reconstructed in 1927. People from all over the world and from all walks of life gathered at the bar to sip that Crazy Water.

Crazy Hotel Fountain

Now, possibly that “crazy” woman of the legend was just experiencing menopause, and it got better naturally. Then again, that water is chock full of minerals including calcium, magnesium, sulfate, and a significant amount of lithium. It reportedly healed all kinds of ailments, with “the power to relieve or cure, dyspepsia, neuralgia, sore eyes, paralysis, insomnia, liver and kidney problems, rheumatism, scrofula, and improprieties of the blood.” The advertising of the time was rather amusing. Below is a postcard from those days long ago which would have certainly lured me to come there in hopes of curing arthritis.

We Lost Our Job in Mineral Wells

In the 1930s, the Food and Drug Administration banned this type of advertising, because there was no scientific data to verify the claims that mineral water was a “cure-all.” By the 1940s most of the water companies had closed down, which was a hard hit for the economy of Mineral Wells.

These days only one company, located at 209 W. 6th Street, seems to be in existence. They sell bottled water (I bought a case of it), they offer baths, and they even rent rooms at the Crazy Bath House. Stay there and you can bathe in mineral waters all day long if you would like.

Bath-House

A visit to the Crazy Bath House is on my list of things-to-do. I want to spend more time in Mineral Wells because the town and its history intrigues me. I’m sure I’ll tell you more about the town and its haunting on another day. For now, I need to go drink a quart or two of Crazy Water. If it works, you will be the first to know. Cheers!

  • [Postcard of Mineral Wells Welcome Sign], Postcard, n.d.; digital images, (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth443466/ : accessed August 12, 2014), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Mineral Wells Heritage Association, Mineral Wells, Texas.
    Crazy Well, Mineral Wells, Texas, Photograph, 1890?; digital image, (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth24974/ : accessed August 12, 2014), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Boyce Ditto Public Library, Mineral Wells, Texas.
  • the Crazy Hotel. Crazy Hotel, Mineral Wells, Texas – America’s Great Health Resort, Text, n.d.; digital images, (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth16343/ : accessed August 12, 2014), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Boyce Ditto Public Library, Mineral Wells, Texas.
  • We lost our job at Mineral Wells, Texas, Photograph, 1920?-1930?; digital image, (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth38081/ : accessed August 12, 2014), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Boyce Ditto Public Library, Mineral Wells, Texas.
  • Photo of bath house courtesy of Crazy Bath House.