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Texas | Columns

A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers

Bob Bowman &
Archie P. McDonald, PhD

Places / Architecture /
Historic Buildings

  • The oldest town in Texas? 1-18-09
    For longer than most of us can remember, Texans have been squabbling over which community is the state’s oldest. The principal players in this ongoing feud are a couple of East Texas cities, Nacogdoches and San Augustine, and a West Texas village, Ysleta. Now, it appears there may be another contender...
  • Fawil 1-5-09
    Fawil, it has been said, is a town that got its name by accident...
  • Shotgun Houses by Bob Bowman 12-22-08
    A reader called the other day with a question: “Do you know anything about shotgun houses?” You bet I do. I lived in three shotgun houses as a boy...
  • Depression Parks by Bob Bowman 12-14-08
    Each time I head southeast from Lufkin, a boyhood memory pulls me into a roadside park beside U.S. 287 a few miles before entering Woodville...
  • The town of Chickenfeather by Bob Bowman 12-8-08
    Except for a rural cemetery, little is left of Chickenfeather in the once-rolling hills of eastern Rusk County.
  • Town names by Bob Bowman 11-19-08
    A highway engineer in Nacogdoches County once told me that keeping a highway sign at Looneyville was an exercise in futility. "Within hours after we put up a new sign, it disappears," he said...
  • The Blue Hole by Bob Bowman 11-3-08
    Deep in East Texas, near the Angelina-Jasper county line, an old rock quarry has found a place in Texas history...
  • Bridge for sale by Bob Bowman 10-6-08
    One of East Texas’ best known bridges is up for sale, but so far there are no takers. Stretching across the Neches River, the Texas Highway 94 bridge has been in place since 1936. It is included in the National Register of Historic Places...
  • Lobanillo by Bob Bowman 9-29-08
    There are four faces of old Lobanillo, which straddles East Texas’ oldest highway less than 20 miles from the Texas-Louisiana border...
  • The story of Cuthand by Bob Bowman 9-22-08
    The remains of Cuthand, a town with one of the most unusual names in East Texas, are scattered around the intersection of Farm Roads 1487 and 916 seven miles east of Bogata in Red River County.
  • The Mystery of Caddo Mounds by Bob Bowman 8-4-08
    Caddoan Mounds, a settlement of dwellings and temples, was the home of a prehistoric group of Caddo Indians, who settled in the Neches Valley sometime in the late eighth century, A.D. What is left of the mound-building Caddos is found in stone artifacts and small tools at the Caddoan Mounds State Historic Site...
  • Buena Vista by Bob Bowman 7-21-08
    Buena Vista is one of my favorite places because it has such a colorful history, and a few weeks ago we helped dedicate a marker to its cemetery.
  • Weeping Mary by Bob Bowman 5-5-08
    Few town names in East Texas attract as much curiosity as Weeping Mary, a 140-year-old black community hidden away in the deep woods of western Cherokee County. Located on County Road 2907, off Texas Highway 21, ... Weeping Mary was first settled after the Civil War by freed slaves from neighboring plantations....
  • Dog trot houses by Bob Bowman 3-24-08
    Dog trot houses were built and occupied by East Texas’ earliest settlers. Many of them migrated here in the early l800s from the Old South and brought southern customs, including the way buildings were constructed with them.
  • Rudolph the red-nosed pumping unit by Bob Bowman 12-17-07
    If you drive through Lufkin during the holidays, be sure to take notice of one of East Texas’ most unusual Christmas decorations...
  • A unique town story by Bob Bowman 12-3-07
    ... Just how these and other strangely-named communities got their names is a whole slice of East Texas history. For example, take Redwater, located twelve miles southwest of Texarkana in southeastern Bowie County...
  • Out-of-the-way places by Bob Bowman 10-22-07
    A friend once told me his greatest pleasure was driving around East Texas and looking for oddball places seldom found in tourism brochures...
  • Restoring Davy’s Spring by Bob Bowman 10-8-07
    An East Texas landmark remembered by motorists from the last century has been given a long-deserved facelift at Crockett. Anyone over fifty who traveled down El Camino Real, known today as Texas Highway 21, probably remembers stopping at the Davy Crockett Spring and sampling its cool water.
  • Newton, Texas by Archie P. McDonald 9-24-07
    It is strange how my life has intertwined with Newton County, the long, slender eastern twin of Jasper County located in southeast Texas just north of Orange and Beaumont, Texas...
  • Fairmount by Bob Bowman 8-27-07
    The only visible reminders of Old Fairmount, an early East Texas community in southern Sabine County, are a well-kept graveyard and a church founded in 1887...
  • Jarvis Christian College by Archie P. McDonald 8-20-07
    Obtaining a collegiate education presented a problem for African Americans in Texas prior to court-ordered racial integration which began in the 1950s... In Texas, especially East Texas, Wiley College in Marshall and Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins were about the only options for undergraduate instruction...
  • Replying to readers by Bob Bowman 7-2-07
    One of the pleasures of writing this column is hearing from readers all over East Texas, especially when they offer suggestions or ask questions. Over the last year or so, we have accumulated dozens of questions, and it’s about time that we tried to answer some of them.
  • East Texas Bapist University by Archie P. McDonald 6-18-07
    East Texas Baptist College, now University, began and remains in Marshall, Texas...
  • The Chief's Sons by Bob Bowman 5-28-07
    Natchitoches and Nacogdoches
    "It is a story that has been told and retold in Texas and Louisiana--one that almost every school child has learned in the classroom...."
  • "No Gallows" by Bob Bowman 4-2-07
    The names of some East Texas towns can be downright confusing. And much of the confusion arises from mispronunciations which, during the passage of time, have become actual names.
  • The Emporia Mystery by Bob Bowman 3-29-07
    In the early 1900s, an explosion and fire spread throughout the old Emporia sawmill in south Angelina County. An estimated 30 sawmill workers, most of them black, are believed to have perished in the conflagration...
  • All Those Pleasant Hills by Bob Bowman 3-29-07
    Could Pleasant Hill be the most popular name for towns in East Texas? With nine communities named Pleasant Hill in the more than 40 counties that constitute East Texas, it certainly qualifies--and that doesn't include cemeteries.
  • Alto by Archie P. McDonald 12-18-06
    "This story is about Alto, a town originally known as Branchtown located on El Camino Real, or the Old San Antonio Road, where US Highway 69 and State Highway 21 intersect south of Rusk, north of Lufkin, west of Nacogdoches, and east of Crockett. Once upon a time, those places might have been described as near Alto, for it was nearly as large as any of them."
  • Why did they name it that? by Archie P. McDonald 10-23-06
    Everyone wonders why some cities and towns in East Texas are named as they are but never really make a effort to learn the secrets-except Fred Tarpley, long-time professor of English at East Texas State University, nee Texas A&M at Commerce. Fred's curiosity led him to compile 1001 Texas Place Names, published by the University of Texas Press...
  • Jot Em Down by Bob Bowman 10-2-06
    Anyone who listened to the radio in the l930s and 1940s remembers Lum and Abner, the mythical storekeepers invented by Chet Lauck and Norris Goff. From their Jot 'Em Down Store in Pine Ridge, Arkansas, Lum and Abner evolved into one of the nation's most popular radio series.But if you ask old timers in Delta County, Texas, they'll tell you with pride that they remember when the Jot 'Em Down Store was in East Texas...
  • Granny's Neck by Bob Bowman 9-18-06
    Granny's Neck is one of the oddest names ever given to a piece of East Texas real estate. Also known as Old Granny's Neck and Harper's Crossing, the small community was six miles southeast of Cooper, where the Old Bonham-Jefferson Road crossed the Suphur River in Delta County...
  • The Burning House by Bob Bowman 8-21-06
    Motorists traveling along U.S. Highway 59 in Polk County are often startled to see what appears to be flames pouring from the windows of old sawmill house...
  • A Moving History by Bob Bowman 8-7-06
    "...Bill Daniel is best remembered by some admirers for one of the strangest events in East Texas--the move of an entire town from Liberty to Waco, a distance of more than 200 miles, in October of 1986 during the Texas sesquicentennial celebration..."
  • El Camino Real by Archie P. McDonald 7-30-06
    In 2004, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison succeeded in persuading Congress to designate El Camino Real, at least the Texas and Louisiana portions, a national historic corridor. We Texans, especially we East Texans, knew it all along...
  • The Cutoff and Mistletoe by Bob Bowman 7-24-06
    There is an old Texas saying that goes something like this, "Every time the Legislature meets, keep a close watch on your wallet and your wife." In the case of Trinity County--a lovely East Texas landscape dotted with pine trees and bordered by two rivers--the Legislature grabbed more than the county's wallets and wives...
  • Another College Among the Pines by Archie P. McDonald 6-19-06
    We who give "All Hail to SFA" think of our University by one of its earlier nicknames, "The College Among The Pines." That also described another excellent institution headquartered in Carthage, Texas, named Panola College after its host county...
  • In Due And Ancient Form 2-27-06
    Masonry in Texas
  • The Runestone by Bob Bowman 2-19-06
    "East Texans willing to take the time to drive about 100 miles into eastern Oklahoma will be rewarded with a centuries-old mystery."
  • Legacy of an Oldtimer by Bob Bowman 2-5-06
    Alvin Burchfield remembers logging town Fastrill
  • Fairmount Cemetery by Bob Bowman 1-24-06
    "Cemeteries are not just resting places for the dearly departed; they are also repositories of a community’s history -- from its beginning to the present. Such is Fairmount Cemetery, a well-kept graveyard nestled among the pines and oaks of southeastern Sabine County, near the Texas-Louisiana border."
  • FDR and Nine Acres by Bob Bowman 1-9-06
    "With luck -- and an infusion of funds -- a historic Kilgore home built in the 1930s could be on its way to regaining its stature as one of East Texas’ most interesting homes. Set in sylvan splendor in the middle of the East Texas Oil Field, the home of oilman Tom Potter is best known as Nine Acres, a place where President Franklin D. Roosevelt probably visited in the thirties."
  • A Christmas Treat by Bob Bowman 12-19-05
    "Stars top the sixty replica derricks, helping Kilgore maintain its title as the state's official "City of Stars." Kilgore is also among the stops on the Holiday Trail of Lights, which includes Marshall and Jefferson in East Texas and Natchitoches and Shreveport in Louisiana."
  • The Bell Tower by Bow Bowman 11-15-05
    The bell will soon ring again across Mount Pleasant’s courthouse square.
  • The Tyler Depot by Bow Bowman 10-31-05
    a National Historic Landmark
  • SFASU by Archie P. McDonald 9-28-05
    "Twenty-three Reasons Why The Stephen F. Austin State Normal Ought to be Located at Nacogdoches."
  • Sawmill Supermarkets by Bob Bowman 8-29-05
    "You can find a model of sorts for today’s Wal-Mart superstores by looking back to the 1880s and early 1900s in East Texas..."
  • Demise of a Town by Bob Bowman 6-14-05
    "In the 1960s, Camden -- a sawmill town tucked away in the tall pines of northern Polk County -- held a special place in history. It was the last company town in East Texas..."
  • The Neches River by Bob Bowman 5-15-05
  • A Tragedy's Museum by Bob Bowman 3-14-05
    New London Museum
  • Why Did They Name It That? by Archie P. McDonald 3-9-05
    Cut and Shoot, Texas
  • The Arthur Temple School of Forestry by Archie P. McDonald 2-22-05
  • A Unique Landmark by Bob Bowman 2-1-05
    A granite shaft set into the ground on April 23, 1841, marks the only international boundary existing within the continental United States.
  • The Carnegie Libraries by Bob Bowman 1-25-05
  • The Colonel’s Home by Bob Bowman 1-12-05
    Myrtle-Vale, one of the most magnificent pre-Civil War homes still standing in East Texas.
  • Nazis in East Texas by Bob Bowman 1-1-05
    POW camps in East Texas
  • Sam Rayburn's Home by Bob Bowman 12/13/04
    "A visit to Bonham should start with a stop at the Sam Rayburn House Museum on U.S. Highway 82 on the west side of town."
  • McDonald Observatory - An Orphan’s Gift by Bob Bowman 11-29-04
    Standing atop Mount Locke in the Big Bend area, McDonald Observatory is far removed from East Texas, but without the interest and generosity of an orphaned Confederate soldier from Clarksville, the world-famous astronomy center might not exist today. William McDonald ...
  • Remembering a Courthouse by Bob Bowman 8/17/04
    "[I]n the l950s, many Texas counties threw aside history, tradition and elegance and replaced some of our finest courthouses with modern buildings -- many of them with little character or appeal. That happened in my home town of Lufkin."
  • Home of the Cardinals by Archie P. McDonald 7/29/04
    Lamar University
  • Wiergate by Bob Bowman 6/16/04
    "Grass grows over the ground where more than 550 homes once stood and bitterweeds cover the site of the town's business district. But Wiergate, somehow, lives on as many of the community's 300 or so residents still make their living from working in the woods."
  • Love's Lookout by Bob Bowman 5/26/04
    Perched atop a scenic forested ridge beside U.S. Highway 69 north of Jacksonville, Love's Lookout offers perhaps the grandest view in East Texas.
  • Fort St Louis by Archie P. McDonald 5/5/04
    The life and death of La Salle.
  • Drug Store Centennial by Bob Bowman 4/27/04
    The San Augustine Drug Store celebrates (May 2004) a hundred years of doing business at the same location in downtown San Augustine; and fountain drink "the Grapefruit Highball."
  • Juan's Cabin by Bob Bowman 3/17/04
    The still-standing log cabin of Juan Antonio Badillo, one of a handful of Tejanos who died at the Alamo on March 6, 1836
  • Fort Teran by Bob Bowman 2/20/04
    Hidden deep in the woodlands bordering the Neches River are the last remains of what may be the earliest fort built in East Texas. And, perhaps, a buried treasure.
  • An Editor's Home by Bob Bowman 2/12/04
    The Standard was one of Texas' foremost newspapers, largely because DeMorse not only recorded Texas history; he was one of the principal makers of it.
  • Fort Boggy State Park by Bob Bowman 1/29/04
    Texas' first new state park in six years.
  • Toledo Bend Reservoir by Archie P. McDonald 1/04
  • The Church Lights by Bob Bowman 12/1/03
    When the church decided to phase out the old kerosene lights for safety reasons, Clark went to Jefferson Lighting Company of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and told them what he wanted. The reproduction fixtures were custom-made for the church down to the ornate decorations and adapted to electricity.
  • Revisiting Outhouses by Bob Bowman 9/03
    The only existing East Texas outhouse ever built by the Work Projects Administration
  • Saving Sallie's Home by Bob Bowman 8/03
    Today, more than a few Hemphill townspeople are convinced Sallie's prayers 95 years ago have protected her house from the wrecker's ball and will lead to its eventual restoration.
  • Outhouses by Bob Bowman 6/03
    "The old-fashioned outhouse, which served thousands of rural East Texans before indoor bathrooms became affordable, has again become fashionable, but not as a working privy. It is showing up in historical displays, as art and in advertisements."
  • A Frontier Hotel by Bob Bowman 5/03
    "During the early days of the Republic of Texas, stagecoaches rumbled across East Texas, carrying passengers from one distant community to another... Some roadside homeowners saw the need and opened their homes to the passengers. As a result, many pioneer homes evolved into some of East Texas' best known stagecoach inns."
  • Big Thicket Founder by Bob Bowman 5/03
    "If the Thicket, with its riches of woods and swamps, orchids and deer, was famous in Southeast Texas, and perhaps known in the rest of the state, it was utterly unknown elsewhere."
  • The Corn Crib by Bob Bowman 12/02
    "In early East Texas, corn cribs were as essential to farmers as their plows and mules. Used to store corn on the floor and peanuts in the rafters, the cribs enabled families to store food for themselves and their livestock for the winter months."
  • McMahan's Chapel by Archie P. McDonald 7/21/02
  • Blue Star Highways by Bob Bowman 4/ 21/02
  • The First Roadside Park by Bob Bowman, 3/16/02
  • A Pioneer Hotel by Bob Bowman, 6/17/01
  • The Old Stone Fort by Archie P. McDonald, 5/13/01
  • The Starr Family Mansion by Archie P. McDonald, 4/1/01
  • Restoring Two Old Reds by Bob Bowman, 2/11/00
  • The Castle Builder by Bob Bowman, 12/3/00
  • Masons: Building Temples in East Texas by Archie P. McDonald, 9/24/00

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