TexasEscapes.comTexas Escapes Online Magazine: Travel and History
Columns: History, Humor, Topical and Opinion
Over 1800 Texas Towns & Ghost Towns
Texas Hotels
 Texas : Architecture : Monuments :

Texas Panhandle Mystery Monument

The following is a rather interesting story as told through an exchange of email in early September, 2006. Admittedly it is short on sex, untimely death, and drama. Within, no one eats worms to win a house and there are no photos of celebrity babies. There's no DNA to examine, no bodies to exhume - and it didn't involve satellite imagery. What makes it rare is that it is a story of people helping people - cutting through red tape and dismissing state boundaries. Ladies and Gentlemen (and those undergoing a change of gender), we submit to you (with apologies to E. Stanley Gardner):

The Case of the Texas Mystery Monument.

It was a chalk-dry morning with no fewer than three tornadoes on the horizon. Curley and his crew were akle-deep in the dusty hailstones that had just fallen minutes before. Curley was about to brand some truant schoolchildren that had been trespassing on the Bigger-than-Your Ranch when his eye caught the red flashing light on the bunkhouse roof. Email! He mounted his horse, rode up to the bunkhouse, tip-toed so as not to disturb the sleeping coyotes, kicked open the door and lunged for his mouse. But no one was replying to his personal ad on eharmony and no one wanted to buy the Indian artifacts he had listed on e-bay. It was only a letter sent to him by mistake. He forwarded it to us to claim the $1 bounty that TE pays for lost or misdirected email - and it was this lost letter (printed below) that started the whole thing:
Texas monument

Subject: Texas Mystery Monument
Dear Texas Escapes,
Attached [is a photo] showing my father (now 92 but with very limited memory) standing in front of a monument. I've been in touch [with] the Texas Historical Commission, but [I was told that] that agency only came into existence in 1953, while this photo would have been taken some time in the 30s.

Have you ever seen anything like it in your studies? I'm interested in anything I can learn about it--where it was, is it still there, what did it signify, etc. I know you don't [can't] get into genealogical stuff, but I will admit I'm interested - since knowing about it would help me to know when Dad came to Texas.
- Richard Benton, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Letter from Editor to Richard Benton:
Hello Richard,
A fascinating photo. We'll be happy to add it to the forum and see what our readers say. It's a shame the silverfish ate your father's face.

Our reluctance with geneaology is only due to people who get deep into extended family and timelines - but we often "get involved" with forgotten cemeteries and family stories. That's really what gets us out of bed in the morning. Since it doesn't appear to be a specific marker - it may be a forerunner to the familar Texas silhouette markers at the state line(s). It might even be a prototype that was never used. The streamlined shape would match your father's natty 30's suit. We're glad to hear your father is still with us - reaching 92 is quite an accomplishment - no matter what the 100-year-olds say.

We will ask for help from Anne Cook, the photo librarian at TxDoT. She has albums of old photos going back to the 30s - and she's been a great help over the years. If you would want people to contact you directly, we can include your email address - but we always ask first. Sometimes we get immediate responses - and sometimes we don't hear a thing. Our demographics are on our side - since many readers are in their 70s and 80s. It's a wonderful photo. Let us know if you want your email address published.
- John Troesser

Letter to Editor from Richard Benton:
Thanks for the quick response. Yes, you may share my e-mail address, and the original e-mail itself, with anyone you think might help. As far as TxDoT goes, by coincidence, it was also suggested by Teri at "oldphotos@houston.rr.com", I just sent an e-mail to the general mailbox there--however, if you have an address for Anne, I'd love to contact her directly.
- Dick Benton

Subject: Silverfish ate my father's face!
TE to Anne Cook at TxDoT's Photo Library

Hello, Anne
Any comments on the attached photo would be appreciated. It almost looks like a photographer's backdrop. Since it doesn't seem to be incident or disaster specific - could it have been a forerunner to the present markers at state lines? A prototype? I wish the silverfish hadn't eaten the face of the subject - but it's an interesting photo just the same.
Thanks for your time. Hope you are doing well.
John Troesser

Anne to TE:
Yes, I know this photo. I'm thinking it was tied in to the Centennial of 1936. Let me poke around and I'll get back to you soon.
- Anne

Hi Anne
Thank you. That would be wonderful if you had it.
- John
Texas monument
Subject: Silverfish ate my father's face!
Anne to TE

Okay, I found a photo of the monument without the gentleman. There is no identifying information attached to the photo, catalog number H-312. And the images filed on either side of it are from VERY different locations H-311 is Pecos County and H-313 is Woodville; so I hesitate to draw any geographic conclusions.

I'm asking John Anderson at the Texas State Library and Archives if he has any ideas.
- Anne
Subject: Silverfish ate my father's face!
TE to Richard Benton:

Mr. Benton,
We struck out with Anne - but she's checking with _______________at the Texas State Library and Archives. You've got some of the best people in the state working on this. - but don't worry - we still have a chance with our readers when it is published.
- John

TE to Richard Benton:
Subject: Unknown Texas Monument
(Corrected from Silverfish ate my father's face!)

Hello Richard
I apologize for the previous subject line - I forgot it was up there. Anne and I sometimes exchange tabloid-style subject lines. I have many old photos that the damn things have eaten. When she said she had seen the photo - at first I thought she meant the same exact photo - and was hoping your father's face would be shown - but now I know she just meant the monument itself. (After thinking about it - why in the world would TxDoT have a photo of your father?)

Anne has proven herself more than once and ________________ is certainly no slouch. However, since the subject is a monument, Anne has files that the Texas State Library wouldn't have - but on the other hand - the Centennial was a VERY big event. The state erected hundreds of distinctive gray, granite markers if not thousands - and most are still standing. This one, however, is new to me. Although somewhat rare in Texas - Art Deco did make it here. I was thinking it might've been the State Fair - since Fair Park in Dallas has Art-Deco sculptures.

Our fingers are crossed.
- John

Richard Benton to TE:
Subject: Re: Fw: Silverfish ate my father's face!

Actually, I wish I could blame silverfish for the degradation to my father's face, but that occurred as I tried to (gingerly, but obviously not well enough) remove some dirt from that area of the snapshot. No worries about the title, though--I got a laugh out of it!
- Dick
Meanwhile, back at an undisclosed location in Capitol City:

Letter from Anne Cooke to Jim Steele
Hi Jim!
I've attached two photos of a mystery monument. The Photo Library shot, H-312 has no identifying information attached. And the images filed on either side of it are from VERY different locations H-311 is Pecos County H-313 is Woodville, so I hesitate to draw any geographic conclusions.

I'm asking John Anderson (photo curator at the Texas State Library and Archives) if he has any ideas.

The other photo (along with the query as to details) came from Texas Escapes and was submitted by a www.texasescapes.com reader.
- Anne L. Cook

Letter from Jim Steely to Anne Cook:

Anne -- I'm pretty sure that's the 1936 Centennial state entry sign on Route 66 entering the Panhandle from the east/Oklahoma. I've seen photos of it before, and I'll think about it awhile to remember where. Perhaps in one of the THD District Centennial photo albums that you have a few of. I would say the gentleman in the second photo by the sign is Lyndon Johnson, but the hat's too crumpled. That's certainly a natty suit, anyway.
- Jim Steely
Richard Benton to TE (after receiving photos from Anne Cook):

WOW! I score that as at least a triple, not a homerun --that's certainly the monument, much clearer than in my photo (although here, the star seems light colored, whereas in my snapshot it's definitely dark, like a bronze plaque or something). By the way, the original is just a snapshot, so it was probably actually taken on site rather than in a studio. Now if we had any idea of when or / why it was erected...

Thank you so much!
- Dick

Route 66 Texas-Oklahoma State line marker
Highway 75 / Route 66 inside Texas-Oklahoma State line
Letter from TxDoT to TE:

Bingo to Jim Steely who rocks Depression-era Texas structures! I'd looked at thumbnails of the Centennial photo albums but Jim's reply sent me looking at the larger image for the Amarillo District. And there it was...

Although captioned as Highway #75, it is better known as Route 66 which has been supplanted by Interstate 40. I'm forwarding this to TxDOT Wheeler County maintenance to see if anyone knows the fate of the marker.

It's been a pleasure tracking this one down. Thanks for asking.


TE to Richard Benton:
Richard, Good news! What follows is Anne's letter. I had a feeling it was a state line marker. On Route 66! I hope it prompts your father's memory. The base of it might still be there. I know there's an old jail on the Oklahoma side we've been trying to get - so we might try to get an "epilog" photo should we find ourselves near there. Let me know what you think - we'll still feature it - even though the mystery is now solved.
- John

Richard Benton to TE

You guys are awesome! This info will definitely help me in tracking my father's movements in his younger years. Interesting, though, I don't see the dark star on the base--just the bare concrete one.
Regardless, this is terrific! Thank you so much!

- Dick Benton
And so, as the sun set somewhere west of Fort Worth ("where the west begins") five people went to bed knowing that despite turmoil in the Mid-East, high gas problems and a President that says "Nukular" - they, at least, had done their part in solving the Case of the Texas Mysery Monument.

"They shoe horses, don't they?" October 1, 2006 column

See also: What became of old marker on state line? by Delbert Trew
Related Topics: Route 66 | Texas Centennial | Texas Monuments

Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South | West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast

Ghosts | People | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII | History | Black History | Rooms with a Past | Music | Animals | Books
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters | Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators | Lodges | Museums | Stores | Banks | Gargoyles | Cornerstones | Pitted Dates | Drive-by Architecture | Old Neon | Murals | Signs | Ghost Signs | Then and Now
Vintage Photos


Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Recommend Us | Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
Website Content Copyright 1998-2008. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved
This page last modified: May 5, 2009