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People | Texas Centennial | Texas Cemeteries

John Durst

Leona, Texas
Leon County

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Leon County Tx - John Durst Centennial Marker
John Durst Centennial Marker
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, December 2010
Location - "From Leona, take FM 977 about 2 mi. E to CR 142 (Durst Rd.), go N .5 mi. to gate on left, go W down dirt road .3 mi. to Durst Family Cemetery" - Texas Historic Sites Atlas
1936 Centennial Marker Text

John Durst

Came to Texas in 1821
Owner of the Old Stone Fort in Nacogdoches in 1835
Moved to Leon County in 1844,
His wife being the first Anglo-American woman resident of the county.
Born in Arkansas
Feb. 4, 1797
Died, Feb. 9, 1851.
His wife
Harriet M. (Jamison) Durst
Born in Virginia, Feb. 5, 1807
Died, September 23, 1885.
Leon County Tx - John Durst Centennial Marker
John Durst Centennial Marker Text
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, December 2010
More Texas Centennial
Leon County Tx, Leona Texas - Durst Family Cemetery
Durst Family Cemetery
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, December 2010
Leon County Tx, Leona Texas - Durst Family Cemetery
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, December 2010
Leon County Tx, Leona Texas - Durst Family Cemetery
John Durst marker among tombstones
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, December 2010
More Texas Centennial | Texas Cemeteries
Photographer's Note:
Subject: Leon County - Looking for John Durst
Leon County was my last county of the 17 or so contiguous East Texas counties to see all the Texas Centennial Markers placed in those counties back in 1936. Of the 145 markers in these counties, I had been able to find and photograph 138 of them, so far. There are seven Centennial markers in Leon County including the El Camino Real monument in Normangee. With two more markers yet to be seen, the directions to the John Durst grave marker was east from Leona to Durst Road. Then, north and through an open pipe gate. Follow the dirt road 0.1 mile to the Durst Family Cemetery.

No problem. I went up to the house but there was no answer to my knock. Leaving a card in the door jamb, I followed a dirt road. Up, over, around and through several deer feeders and turn-arounds. Nothing. Another dirt road. Same thing. Then a third. I double checked my mileage and checked to see if there were any other gates on the left or right. Nothing else. This must the place. Time was running out. It was Friday afternoon barely an hour before sunset and I had an appointment to see the Fort Milam Marker sixty miles to the west near Marlin at sunrise the next morning. This was my last chance to see all the markers in Leon County.

The other Leon County marker to see was about ten miles away. Maybe I could locate it and still have enough time to come back to find Durst. The Baxter King marker was supposed to have been set near the grave site but the weather and unpassable roads back in 1936 necessitated that the marker be set near an intersection. Finally found it and came back to find the family cemetery.

Still no one home. The sun was nearly setting, and I went further on down the road. Found a house, knocked on that door, and asked the man if he knew where the Durst Family Cemetery was. "Sure," he said, "I'll show you." He got into my truck and said that it would be easier to show me than to try to tell me where it was.

Sure enough, there was one more, barely visible, dirt road. We came right to the walled cemetery. He told me the story of John Durst, and how he rode nearly a thousand miles to tell of General Santa Anna's march north to Texas. Too bad the marker doesn't mention this important part of Durst's life, as well as an important part of Texas History.

Side Story: A Mushed Landing in Leona
On the way back to his house, he pointed out a grass runway. I was stunned not only that is very grassy, but that there were some pretty tall trees for a plane to clear on take off and landing right at the end of the runway. He told me the story of how a man was coming in for a landing when the wind shifted. The pilot decided it would be best to go around for another attempt. The plane stalled and, he said, 'the plane landed right in the top of that tree' and wasn't damaged much at all. I couldn't see how a plane could 'land' in a tree like that.

The tree was maybe thirty feet tall and not all that strong looking. He said the plane's weight kind of settled into the tree, and before long, the pilot and passenger simply stepped out onto the ground, much like exiting a taxi. Amazing stories: Missing the marker, knocking on a stranger's door for information, his taking me to the marker, and his relating an airplane adventure to me. I asked him when this happened and he said maybe around 1985. I thanked him for his time. He was more than cordial, and appeared to have been glad to revisit the cemetery.

As you might suspect, I am interested in anything related to aviation, especially accidents with happy endings. When I got home, I went to the FAA Accident Investigation database. Simply entering the location as Leona, Tx, and a date range of 1/1/1980 to 12/31/1989. Sure enough the incident came right up. The final report was very close to the one related to me. On April 3, 1988, a Cessna 172 missed a landing on a grass runway and "mushed" into some trees. This is the first time I have seen the technical aviation term for this type of landing. A Mushed Landing. Wonder is this is covered in pilot training landing techniques. Add to all that, I checked the plane's registration number. It was recovered, repaired and is still flying today!
- Barclay Gibson, December 2010
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Nacogdoches County Tx - Mt Sterling Town Site Marker
Photo Courtesy Barclay Gibson, December 2010
See Mount Sterling founded by John Durst
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