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Audubon on the Texas Grasslands

Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
#1
Audubon, Texas

Wise County
N 33.39056
W 097.61549
Elevation: 984’


North of intersections CR 2585 and 2675, near Alvord


Sometimes just the name of a town –existing or vanished- stirs the curiosity bucket of questions and you’re drawn to its location like a magnet. Why would someone name a town after a naturalist? I may never know why. If the pastoral scenes around me offered any explanations, I can see why one would.

Pioneers from the southern states immigrated to the Texas frontier, stopping here and there for a night, a day, maybe weeks. Many decided to settle on land that they particularly liked as they migrated west. Some settled in places were they ran out of supplies or energy. Others followed friends or relatives from their homes in the east. The grasslands area in central north Texas struck a chord in many travelers and there they chose to plant their own roots.

Dradon and Polly Shirey, both from South Carolina, decided to stake their claim on 160 acres of the grasslands in the early 1850’s. When they arrived the undulating plains were lush with waist high native grasses and timber growing in sandy soil. Plentiful springs were scattered nearby feeding creeks and streams. Other pioneers drifted in settling nearby. Around 1865 Shirey dedicated eleven acres of his northeast corner to a town site, dividing it into one-acre blocks.

The Shireys are well remembered even now; Mrs. Shirey is often referred to ‘Aunt Polly’ in many of the historical accounts and remembrances. Their log home was the first in that area, later enlarged to serve as the hotel and stage coach stop.

They named the town ‘Audubon’ in memory of the naturalist, James J. Audubon, who died in his home on the Hudson River in 1851. Audubon’s travels included only a small area along the Galveston Bay in 1837. His fame as a painter and chronicler of bird life was not as wide spread then as it is now. He must have left an impression on those who nominated the town with his name, which indicates some of the settlers were well educated.

Settlers built log homes and planted the sandy soil with corn and cotton. Before and during the Civil War men moved their families to a fort on Sandy Creek for protection from Indian raids. When land in this area of Texas was opened for filing claims in 1874, settlers moved in like army ants to stake new beginnings.

“Uncle Clabe [Claburn White] made Aunt Mandy [Mrs. C White] to go out on their place and sit on a stump for about two hours one day so he could say in Decatur that she was on the land while he made a request to file on the 160 acres. She sat out there and knitted from 12 o’clock until 2 o’clock so he would not have to swear a lie in Decatur, as they had not yet built a log cabin.” -Remembrances from Pearl Bilbrey of Audubon.

The peak of population in Audubon was in 1880: two cotton gins, two blacksmith shops, three churches, two lodges (Woodmen of the World and Masonic Lodge). The Chisolm Trail was a few miles east of Audubon, where supplies for forts and surrounding growing communities were hauled in wagons. Because transportation from the main trails were by oxen team and slow, families were mostly self-sufficient and self-sustaining producing nearly all their own food and furnishings. A friendly and close-knit cooperation always prevailed in such communities where neighbors banded together for building houses, planting and harvesting crops and social gatherings.

“We had chickens, a garden and meat. We dried peaches and beans for the winter. Later it was canned in glass jars. In the early days, the only preserving was drying. After the first norther in the fall we killed hogs. We always looked forward to fresh pork. We salted and smoked the hams and middlings, and they would last until late in the following summer. Many families would form ‘butcher clubs’. Each member would butcher a calf every few weeks. This way, fresh meat would be used.” – from account by early Audubon citizen.

The demise of the town began in 1888 when the cotton crop was wiped out by a boll weevil infestation. Farmers then planted peanuts for a cash crop. Poor land conservation practices -over grazing and over cropping- caused soil erosion by water and wind. Fertility decreased and the land just gave out. You can’t continue taking and not give anything back in return. Farmers began to leave.

In 1883 the railroad bypassed Audubon and went through Alvord. Businesses and people moved away and the Masonic Lodge was moved to Alvord in 1886. The post office closed in 1904 and the school likewise in the early 1930’s. In 1937 much of the surrounding land was purchased by the federal government and reclaimed by redseeding and building dams to reduce erosion. It was incorporated into what was then known as The Panhandle National Grasslands.


The town –its stores, mills, schools- are all gone now. The town has reverted back to Nature.

This Texas Historical marker is located where once was the main street in Audubon. Another sign marks the former location of the school.


“After leaving school, I made frequent trips to the little village with my father. I can still see the blacksmith shop, which always fascinated me, and the little store across the street from the blacksmith shop, and the old clay road leading to the ‘business district’." Recollections around 1903 by Lucille Conley

One lone Audubon institution remains: the Bethel association. The Bethel Baptist Church still serves the surrounding community. The current building is the fourth to serve as the church. The first was a small log building, which was also used for the school. The second, erected in 1900, was destroyed in a windstorm in 1933. The third building was one moved from the Rush Creek community in 1917. That building burned in 1969 and was replaced with the current one just yards from the historical marker on the hill, serving the small number of farmers in the area where they still grow and share fruits and vegetables, make home-made ice cream with peaches from the trees, and make grape juice to serve at picnics under the arbors.

The land changes, people change, but some things still remain the same.

 
Joined
Aug 16, 2008
Messages
249
Location
Amarillo, TX
#2
Very Interesting. I really enjoyed the background historical quotes.

It really is fascinating. There was a real town, and now, it's just gone.
 
Joined
Sep 29, 2006
Messages
40
Location
Houston, Texas
#3
"...someone name a town after a naturalist..." Yeah and sometimes just the opposite---name a person after a famous town---Like other towns here in the Great State...Sam Houston named after Houston, Stephen Austin after Austin, and William Penn after the town of William Penn near Highway 105 outside Navasota. I guess the list never ends.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
#4
"...someone name a town after a naturalist..." Yeah and sometimes just the opposite---name a person after a famous town---Like other towns here in the Great State...Sam Houston named after Houston, Stephen Austin after Austin, and William Penn after the town of William Penn near Highway 105 outside Navasota. I guess the list never ends.
Ah, that must be from the 'other' history book. As in History of Planet Texas.

:mrgreen:
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
#5
It really is fascinating. There was a real town, and now, it's just gone.
Many of these are scattered all over the country, even the continent, because Canada also has ghost towns. A fellow forum member (another forum) posted this on Sandon in Alberta. Compare the photographs: from the early 1900's and the modern photo he took from the same location. It was a city, died and nearly faded away, then began to slowly come alive again as a small community.

Ghost towns are more a phenomenon in the west than the east for several reasons. Their history, including cause-and-effect, is complex. It touches on history of the environment, economics, politics, and culture. But it also ties into world history. History of western towns was most characterized by boom and bust economies. Ironically, that remains in Texas to this day. Texas is a paradigm of old and new history in constant flux, more so than any other western state. New England history is so much easier to trace and understand despite it being generations older. ;-)

My special interest in ghost towns is the effects they had on the local environment and the course of the environment after people left the towns, including what townspeople left behind. Nevertheless, I quickly realized that in order to understand the course of environmental history, I also had to learn about the people that lived there (and still do). It has greatly enhanced my understanding of he people that live in Texas today.

I really enjoy visiting and photographing the ghost towns here in Texas.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2010
Messages
132
Location
Alvord, TX
#9
I really enjoy visiting and photographing the ghost towns here in Texas.
Know where this little town is?



It almost went to what I would call a ghost town, no one living there anymore. It got down to about 5 people in the 70's. When I was a kid (60's)this store, with the porch falling down, was still open and the pump was used by people to wash their cars.

Across the (new)highway there was an old two story hotel right next to the train tracks.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
#10
Know where this little town is?



It almost went to what I would call a ghost town, no one living there anymore. It got down to about 5 people in the 70's. When I was a kid (60's)this store, with the porch falling down, was still open and the pump was used by people to wash their cars.

Across the (new)highway there was an old two story hotel right next to the train tracks.
Don't know what it is, but would sure like to!
Your description almost matches Greenwood in some respects, but it is not a ghost town. In fact, the store/cafe is quite lively on Saturday nights :mrgreen:
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
5,846
Location
Exit. Stage West.
#12
That picture is downtown Park Springs, Wise County.

Off Highway 101 between Sunset and Chico.
The Butterfield Stage Trail went through there somewhere. Been searching for the station near there for over a year. ;-)

(There was also one in the NE area of the Grasslands near Sunset, manned by a man named Connelly/Conolly/various spellings. Found headstones of several of his family members, and those of the man he partnered with; all in Ball Cemetery, but the son moved away after the the stage was terminated during the outbreak of the Civil War. The other station was near Cisco in between two creeks, before the station on Hog Eye Prairie, which I have found and visited.)
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2010
Messages
132
Location
Alvord, TX
#13
Grew up in Sunset, but I don't remember any stories about the stage line.

My dad will be 89 in Aug. I will ask him what he remembers about it.

He is/was big in arrow heads and old indan camps.
 
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