Friday, March 2, 2018

2018 February - TT Colorado River RV Campground in Columbus TX

From TT Lake Conroe in Willis TX, we moved to the TT Colorado River campground just north of Columbus TX. This is our first visit to this park which we had heard good things about from other campers. It is a small campground of only about 128 sites (less 7 that were wiped out by the Colorado River during Hurricane Harvey in 2017). Generally what we have noticed about Thousand Trails (TT) campgrounds is that most of them have major roadway problems due to lack of maintenance. TT Lake Conroe for example, had roadways were full of ruts and pot holes, and the sites were riddled with large rocks that made it hard to even walk on them. They were filled with old construction debris (crunched concrete) which would leave large jagged rocks exposed when the silt settled into the ground with the rains. In TT Colorado River the roadways are mostly in good condition and the sites are all made of small compacted gravel, lined with railroad ties to keep the gravel on one side and the grass on the other. 

In  1836 General Santa Ana's fight against Sam Houston and the Texicans fought the bloody battle of San Jacinto winning their sovereignty as a Republic. However, the town of Columbus was burned to the ground with Santa Ana's retreat. In 1844 Congress finally agreed to annex the territory of Texas, and on December 29, 1845 Texas joined the United States as a slave state. However, Columbus was rebuilt and in the next 50 years Columbus grew into a center of justice, commerce and culture. The first courts were held under a towering live oak tree, which still stands next to the present day courthouse. The economy grew steadily since Columbus was the fording point of the big cattle drives and the turn-around for the paddle-wheelers. Then the railroad came to and through Columbus making things that much better. John Stafford was the boss cattle baron of this area, who established the Stafford Bank and Opera House, which brought the glitter of stage productions to the frontier, hosting famous opera star Lillian Russell and Harry Houdini on numerous occasions.  A pioneer by the name of Shaw, motivated by the abundance of game and rich virgin soil along the Colorado River moved out of the town of Columbus and established himself along the river.  Soon many other settlers poured into the area and followed Shaw's lead also settling along the curving stretch of the river, which later became known as "SHAW'S BEND."

Following a few principal family skirmishes the principals started dying off and for a time Columbus would be passed by history. As the years passed, Columbus was spared the curse of concrete and steel, crime and pollution which moved on to growing cities like Houston and San Antonio, its river still ran clear and her forests were still filled with an abundance of whitetails, Houston became synonymous with dynamism, money and power;  but Columbus became a sanctuary for the human spirit

In 1890 a man named Ernst Tietscherts bought acreage on Shaw's Bend. The land had overgrown and as a consequence game had moved away. Ernst Tietscherts implemented a plan of land development which was years ahead of its time, and for three generations of Tietscherts land ownership, prior to the formal concept of Ecology; they sought to effect the maximum productivity of the land, and protect the wild life by preserving areas of natural habitats. Domestic pecan and fruit orchards were established, and vegetables and grain crops were farmed, ponds excavated, wells dug and all manner of cows were brought in. Buildings were constructed to last, fence posts, water troughs, water towers and even an entire paved road system were constructed with concrete. Finally, around 1952 the deer returned; then by 1970 wild turkey, coyotes and wolves followed.

Finally by 1982, a different type of pioneer came to Texas, men of a new vision with a special project in mind. They represented and organization from the far West, called THOUSAND TRAILS and they were dedicated to finding, improving and preserving areas of outstanding natural beauty for the enjoyment of their member families. Free access to open lands had become scarce. Across the United States, national and state parks were being visited and camped beyond capacity. There was an urgent demand for preserves prepared for the needs of family recreation protected by 24-hour security. Thousand Trails  rose to that challenge, establishing membership campgrounds from Southern California to British Columbia in Canada. Then the Thousand Trails organization turned to TEXAS, a new territory in growth potential. Seeking the most beautiful locations possible, here in the Columbus area they found such a location. Though hardly a stereotype of Texas, Columbus is not an expanse of desert, sand and cactus, but rather a convergence of the coastal grasslands, stands of pine and forests of oak timber. Throughout the Colorado County they could find no prettier land than the area of "Shaw's Bend", and its shining star, the Tietscherts' land that sprawled upon it, which became TT Colorado River RV Campground, with sites for RVs, tents and cabins.

Camping is not the only benefit to this campground. For the hunter or bird watcher there is plenty to keep you busy. It has the largest deer population in the state, dove and quail are abundant, Pheasant have recently been introduced into the area. The migratory bird hunting is outstanding with Eagle Lake, the self proclaimed "Goose Hunting Capital of the World" only 18 miles away; and another 6 miles out (also in Eagle Lake Tx) will take you to the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge.

United Daughters of the Confederacy Museum (left) and originally the Stafford Bank  and Opera House (right).  The Stafford Opera House, was built in 1886 by cattleman R .E. Stafford, and first served as a bank on the first floor and theatrical venue on the second floor. Although called an “opera house”, no evidence exists that a live performance of an actual opera was ever performed on the Stafford stage. Rather, the “opera” designation was a commonly used term for 'theaters' at the time, a reference perhaps due to the fact that the entertainment of the period included just  singers among their primary performers. The Stafford’s Second Empire-style design is attributed to architect Nicholas Joseph Clayton, an advocate of the High Victorian movement. The R. E. Stafford family home (below) is situated directly next door to the Stafford Bank/Opera House building.

A view of the main downtown street (Milam St) showing the
typical small town America architecture.

Bird's eye view of part of Columbus over the Courthouse

Funeral home.

Colorado County Courthouse (built 1890-91) is an historic government building located at 400 Spring Street in Columbus, Colorado County, Texas. It was designed in a combination of Classical Revival and Italianate styles of architecture by noted Houston architect Eugene T. Heiner, who has designed at least nine other Texas courthouses. This is Colorado County's fourth and most recent courthouse. It originally had a central bell tower which was replaced before 1939 by a central domed Tiffany-style skylight. On July 12, 1976, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and it was renovated in 2013, when historic colors were restored. It is still in use today as a courthouse. 

Horse and buggy was the main type of transportation in Columbus until the mid 1930s. Here shown with the Colorado County Courthouse in the background when it had a tower clock. A tornado damaged the tower in 1890, dropping the clock 120 feet requiring it to be rebuilt, at that time with a dome clock.
Under the dome and above the courtroom, the central domed Tiffany-style skylight.
During the tower clock era, the city of Columbus employed a Clock Winder who got paid $15 per month. When the tower clock was replaced with the dome clock, this position became obsolete.  
This trunk of an old oak tree was where court has held while the courthouse was built. The branches have been cut down to avoid their falling on drivers (and previously on buggies) but the tree trunk remains as it is a historical landmark.





The above photos are from the National Prairie-Chicken Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, after Harvey went through Texas, many of the Prairie-Chickens have been lost. These birds are an Endangered Species, mostly due to Fire Ants, as the ants kill the bugs that are the major food source of the Prairie Chicken chicks. Though the actual (yearly) count is not done until April, at last count (after Harvey) from a population of 32 (last year) the Refuge has accounted for a total of 6 (4 males and 2 females). They are hoping that during the Prairie Chicken Festival held in April (at which time they also do an 'official' count of the Prairie Chicken population) they will find a greater number of these birds within the Refuge.
We had gone into Columbus to do a historic homes tour but were surprised with the tour being cancelled, so we opted to drive the extra 19 miles to the town of Eagle Lake and another 7 miles to the Refuge. There we were given insightful information and shown an informative video of the Prairie Chicken. Then we took a drive on the property, hoping to see some of the Chickens, but that was not to be. Actually, all we were able to see was an Alligator in a stream and White Tail Hawk, apart from a bunch of cows.  The cows were cute. Three yearlings were on the road and weren't sure what to do when faced with our truck (on their road), but after awhile opted for the better part of valor and retreated, letting us by. Here are photos from our visit:
Mary talking with a Refuge Volunteer
Caiman in a stream
Armed for bear, but not much to see around here except for the Caiman in previous photo
Part of the Gulf Coastal Plains (it's all flat).
Long horn cows

A sweet yearling who didn't want to move.
Isn't she sweet?
A white-tailed Hawk
Taking flight
Registration on road to the right before the gate
There are huge herds of resident deer, though they are very skittish.
Entry gate (they give you all the codes for your entire stay).
Pool table
Front Desk
Coffee area
Activity Center
Quiet TV viewing area in Activity Center
Children TV Viewing Area
Entry Gate
Gate has string lights on the cross bar to see it easily
"A" Section (3 circles on the map)
A huge miniature golf course and in great condition.
This is Don (Phyllis) Maddux and off screen is Molly their doggie. They wwere next to us at TT Lake Conroe and now 2 sites down from us here in TT Colorado River. RVing has a migratory pattern so often one sees the same people traveling in the same direction on more than one occasion. So new friendships are easy to flourish and many of them are long-lasting. 
Still signs of the trees that were put down by Hurricane Harvey
Note the photos above and below... The large trunk that got caught in this tree's upper branches are about 15-20 feet above the ground and the river is currently about 15-20 feet below the ground we were standing on. So that's about 30-40 feet above its normal level.
Boat Ramp to Colorado River
 There are a lot of large grass expanses... Great for the dogs to run and play.
Our site. During the flooding of the Colorado River as a consequence of Hurricane Harvey the water reached the eaves of the restrooms/showers seen in the background, and on this end it was to the top rung of this fence, which would have put the water level just above our basement doors, had he been at this site, then. Everyone was evacuated though.

Edith2... at home.
The deer run all through the campground

Ready for company...

02-14-2018:  To all our friends, we wish you a 
Meet Jo Ann Locklin, our tour guide. Today we went to visit the United Daughters of the Confederacy Museum, which  is housed in the old water tower. The old water tower was built in 1883 with 400,000 bricks, the tower originally supported a big tank filled with water used to douse downtown fires by the Fire Dept. When Columbus got a water system, the tank was taken off the top of the tower and the town tried to blow up the remaining tower with dynamite. However, its three-foot-thick walls resisted and the structure remained. So, looking like a misplaced castle tower, it was turned over to The United Daughters of the Confederacy, which used it first as their meeting place and then as the United Daughters of the Confederacy Museum. Two exhibits of interest: a three-barrel shotgun and a double-barrel pistol.
Several museums and historic sites that highlight the rich, local Texas history can be found in the city limits of Columbus. To some, these memorial statues and markers are viewed as divisive and thus unworthy of being allowed to remain in public places. While we respect their right to their own opinion, abhorrent as it may be, to us, they simply represent a memorial to American's forefathers, who fought bravely during past wars, and perhaps also as lessons for us and future generations to learn from our past. These memorial statues and markers have been a part of the Southern landscape for decades and it is our fervent hope that they continue to adorn and inspire our landscapes.
We salute and thank the Daughters of the Confederacy for collecting and maintaining this small but worthy and inspiring museum of Texas and American History.
Our entry in the museum's registry.
Civil war field medical and amputation tools,
Double-barreled pistol.
World War I uniform weapons and medals of local Texans
Among these, a three-barreled shotgun, as noted below,
The Last Cavalier, J.E.B. Stuart
My Old Grey Jacket
A cookbook compiled by the Columbus Cemetery Association? We doubt that we would dare to try any of those recipes so we don't end up in the cemetery.
Award to the 'Children of the Confederacy', an organization for both male and female descendants of those who honorably served the confederate states of America during the civil war. Sponsored and supervised by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, children under the age of 21 who meet the same genealogical requirements as the daughters of the confederacy are eligible for membership. The purpose, goals, and activities of the Children of the Confederacy are much the same as those of the United Daughters of the Confederacy... Pride in one's heritage, a willingness to give to others, and a sense of responsibility are but a few of the lessons the organization seeks to instill in its members.
The United Daughters if the Confederacy Museum sits on the southwest corner of the Colorado County Courthouse Square in Columbus, Texas.
Bill needed to send in his means documentation to the VA to get an appointment for an MRI in San Antonio, as that is our next destination, so we went to the VA La Grange Outreach Clinic to register it, but they were uncertain what to do with it, so we opted to just fax it to VA San Antonio instead. We went to Hengst Printing (which houses a printing shop plus several other businesses in one) in downtown, and sent it. Then, as we were already there we chose to go visit Monument Hill and the Kreische Brewery State Historic sites. 
In the years following the establishment of Texas as an independent Republic, following the victory of Sam Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, General Santa Ana of Mexico continued to try to get Texas back to Mexican sovereignty by two major incursions (1840 and 1842) In the second Mexican invasion, September of 1842, Nicolas M. Dawson (of La Grange Tx) mustered 53 other men and made their way to San Antonio to join the fight, when 500 Mexican soldiers attacked killing 36 of these men in what became known as Dawson's Massacre. Three men escaped but 15 were taken prisoner and were marched over 1000 miles into southern Mexico, near Vera Cruz.
Then in the winter of 1842, angered by the brutal Dawson's Massacre, over 300 Texan soldiers ignoring official orders marched down the Rio Grande attacking a Mexican border town called Ciudad Mier (Mier City). Despite numerous Mexican casualties, 250 Texans were captured by Mexican forces and also marched 650 miles to Mexico City. Within weeks 181 men escaped but due to harsh desert conditions 176 of them eventually surrendered. However, enraged by their defiance Santa Ana ordered the execution of ALL prisoners. However, succumbing to diplomatic pressures from the US and the United Kingdom, the Mexican government agreed to what has become known as the "Black Bean Death Lottery". 10% of prisoners would be executed  and to determine which 17 would be shot, a burlap sack was filled with 159 white beans and 17 black beans. Then each man drew one bean. Those that drew a black bean were separated and shot immediately. The remaining 159 survivors were then marched to Perote Prison in Vera Cruz, where they met the 15 survivors of Dawson's Massacre.
Texas Ranger and "white bean" survivor, Lt. John Dusenberry, returned to the area of the execution of his comrades in 1847 during the Mexican War. Dusenberry and his men risked their lives to exhume the remains of the Black Beans victims and return them to Texas. La Grange was chosen as their final resting place, because it was the home of Capt. William Eastland, the only officer of the Black Bean Incident. Later, as Fayette County residents found out that LaGrange was to be the resting place of these heroes, the same sense of honor and duty prompted them to also retrieve the bodies of the Dawson's Massacre company from their graves near Salado Creek.
On September 18, 1848, the 6th Anniversary of the Battle of Salado Creek, the remains of these Texan militia volunteers were reburied in a common tomb at Monument Hill, attended by over 1,000 people including Sam Huston, President of the new Republic. In 1933 the present granite vault was placed around the old tomb, and in 1936 the adjacent 48-foot shellcrete monument was erected by the Texas Centennial Commission on the centennial of Texas Independence.
Monument Hill, monument and crypt
The end of the Mexican War in 1848 brought peace and prosperity to Texas.  Attracted by cheap fertile farm land and a moderate climate, large numbers of Czech and German immigrants arrived in Fayette County. In 1849 German immigrant Heinrich Kreische purchased 172 acres on the bluff, which included the Dawson/Mier tombs. There, along with his wife and 6 children, he built a family home, which remains today as an example of the prosperity enjoyed by many immigrants in Texas. By 1857 Heinrich Kreische had become an important member of the community and was recognized as a master stonemason, constructing numerous buildings (including 4 courthouses) in the county. For the rest of his life the Kreisches maintained the Dawson/Mier tomb that became known as Monument Hill.
In 1860 Kreische began building a brewery in the ravine below his house, so that he could utilize the natural spring water. By the middle of the Civil War "Kreische's Bluff Beer" was being produced on a commercial scale, and by 1879 the Kreische Brewery was the 3rd largest brewing operation in the State of Texas. Heinrich fashioned and popularized the term "Frische Auf" (which translates to 'Freshen Up') which he would put up in a banner at his property signaling that a fresh brew is ready and as such served as an invitation for major social events, such as weddings, shooting competitions, large picnics and dances, with of course  the enjoyment of his beer. Heinrich Kreische died in 1882 after falling from his wagon, and by 1884, due to modernization of the industry and Kreische's death, the brewery folded.
Monument Hill and the Kreische Brewery and family home property was eventually donated to and maintained by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department as State Historic Sites. It was a fun and informative day learning about yet another part of Texas history.
Two beautiful landscapes: Bill's money is n the one with the white shirt.
Site Plan of the 172 acres that was the Kreische property
(Monument Hill, Family Home and Brewery)

The building on the right (above) and on left (below)
is a smokehouse and beyond it the barn
Side view showing architectural staircase to the top floor.
View of the Family Home from the back (3 stories) whereas from the front it is 2 stories
More like a picnic table behind the Kreische family house.
Second Story (from the rear)

The trees have such weird trunks
Bill's Honey
Visitor's Center at Monument Hill / Kreische Brewery
A local resident of Monument Hill
Edith 2 patiently waits in the parking lot



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