Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lyndon B Johnson Ranch

Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park consists of two areas.  The first is the Johnson City District that highlights nine buildings which were part of LBJ's life while growing up, as well as some history about his family heritage.

Lyndon Johnson's father, Sam Ealy Johnson, moved his family from Stonewall, 14 miles away, to this house in Johnson City in 1913 when LBJ was 5 years old.   Johnson City was not named after Lyndon Johnson.  It was named after a nephew of LBJ's grandfather, named James Polk Johnson, who founded the town in 1875.


LBJ's mother, Rebekah Baines Johnson, was college educated and education was her passion.  She taught debate to neighborhood children, as well as her own.  During his Presidency, Johnson's administration passed more than 60 education bills.
Lyndon's father was a State Legislator for twelve years and LBJ, at age 10, was on the campaign trail with his Dad. By the time he was thirteen he was sitting with his father in legislative sessions.  It's not hard to see that Johnson's background shaped his important political decisions.

The LBJ ranch tour includes his first school house, a replica of the house where he was born, the family cemetery, the ranch show barn, and a ranger guided tour of the "Texas White House".

 This is the school house LBJ attended as a child.  It was moved from its original location to LBJ state park. LBJ returned here as President to sign the Elementary and Secondary Education Act into law.

 This is a reconstruction of the house he was born in.  When he was 5 his family moved from this house in Stonewall to Johnson City.  The original house was torn down and LBJ had this replica rebuilt as a guest house on the ranch.

 LBJ and Lady Bird are buried in this family plot on the ranch

LBJ passed many important environmental laws that we take for granted today. Between 1965 and 1968 he signed 10 major laws relating to the environment, such as the Clean Water Act, The Endangered Species Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Pesticide Control legislation, and many more.

LBJ wasn't satisfied with the usual guest book.  He had all the people who visited the ranch sign their name in wet concrete as a permanent record of their visit.

Three Apollo 7 astronauts, Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walter Cunningham, signing  friendship stones for LBJ

There are over 300 friendship stones at the ranch

The LBJ Ranch was nicknamed "The Texas White House because he frequently had cabinet meetings or advisers meetings during his stay at the ranch.  The grounds were equipped with sophisticated electronic equipment and an air strip for landing planes and helicopters.

The LBJ ranch house which overlooks the Pedernales River.

 View from the front porch

The back yard
This is the original limestone section of the house that was built in 1890.  It has been added on to multiple times since LBJ acquired the home in 1951.

The LBJ Ranch was donated to the National Park service in 1972 with the provision that it remain a working ranch and not a sterile relic of the past.  Today, the NPS maintains a herd of Hereford cattle descended from LBJ's registered herd and manages the land the same way LBJ did.   

The ranch raises prize Hereford cattle

Friday, February 8, 2013

Guadalupe River State Park

 From Goliad we moved north and west to Guadalupe River State Park.  The location here is between San Antonio and Austin with many interesting small and historic towns in the area that we wanted to investigate.

The first day we walked about 1/4 mile down to the river from the campground.  The campground has been moved from closer to the river bank to a plateau well above the high water level.  We had talked to some folks who had been here in the 90's when a flash flood had them evacuated from the campground with a loss of all their belongings.

 Stunning limestone cliffs on the opposite bank from a picnic ground

 The river looks blue in this photo, however in reality it is very green from the minerals in the water

There is a separate sections in the park for campers with electricity and water,  for tents only and one for picnics.  This is the playground at the picnic area.  Nearby is a Discovery Center that presents programs for kids every weekend.  Along the paths that line the river there are frequent cement circles with animal tracks imprinted in the slab.  A fun feature to spark kids interest

 For the very first time, we took the camper off the truck.  This allows us to go off for the day and not have to put everything away and close up the pop-up part of the camper.  We are really liking this.

The tenting area

more river views

Bald Cypress line the banks with root systems that look like Medusa. 

The park includes a preserve called Honey Creek.  Each Sunday volunteers offer a guided tour of the local vegetation and geology on the trail leading to the protected spring fed stream.  Our volunteers, two retired gentlemen one a geologist and the other a biologist, entertained the seven people in our group with interesting facts about plants, rocks, and soils.

  Honey Creek.  Unfortunately our trail did not continue as far as the cave where the spring originated.  Our guides said it was still being explored for passages deeper within the cavern.
Settlers in this area carried their water from this communial spring.

 Along the trail

Originally we planned to stay here for five days but we like the park so well, and there are so many interesting places near by, we extended our stay here until February 26.  So far so good, but we'll see if we can stay put in one place that long.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Goliad, TX

 Mission Espieitu Santo de Zuniga and Presidio La Bahia

This mission is the reconstruction of the original 1749 church, workshops, and housing buildings which were allowed to deteriorate after the mission was closed due to the loss of their cattle based economy.  The mission is on the grounds of the Goliad State Park.

Church interior

This section of a painted wall was found during reconstruction
Church alter

Displays in the reconstructed workshops

Downtown Goliad has a beautiful City Hall building.  The historical marker out front tells about the "hanging tree" in the yard where instant justice was carried out.  Trial in the morning, hanging immediately after.

The hanging tree

("The Fort of the Bay")

The Presidio, a short distance down the road from the mission, was original built in 1749 as a response to encroachment by the French into the Spanish areas of Texas. Most note worthy in its long history is the fact that the first Declaration of Texas Independence from Mexico was signed here in 1835 by 92 citizens.  It is also the site where more than 300 Texas fighters were executed by order of Santa Anna only one week after the famous Alamo.  The Alamo and the massacre at Goliad were the two events that spurred increased support for Texas' fight for independence.

Our Lady of Loreto Chapel was erected for the sole use of the soldiers in the fort.  This chapel has been in continuous use since the 1700s.  It is one of the only buildings in existence that has its original "groin vaulted ceiling" in place.  The remaining parts of the Presidio were restored in 1960

Interior of the chapel

The groin vaulted ceiling

That night we had great steaks cooked over the open fire.  The fire pits had built in grills that could be raised or lowered.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Indianola Ghost Town

On February 4, Marlin found a notation on the map for a "Ghost Town" that sparked his imagination. Indianola is currently referred to as a ghost town.  Now, I would expect to see some old dilapidated buildings or some kind of ruins at a place labeled "ghost town".   Arriving in Indianola it looked to be just another small, economically struggling beach town on a shallow bay.  The whole story of the ghost town called Indianola was told by multiple historical markers throughout the area.

Once a thriving port, rivaling that of Galveston, Indianola was also an immigration disembarking point for thousands of Germans coming to Texas for new opportunities in the late 1840's and 1850's.
The town suffered a heavy blow during a cholera and yellow fever epidemic in 1852, but the real demise of the town began with the hurricane of 1875 and was completed by the hurricane of 1886.  This last storm silted in the harbor to such a great extent that it could not be dredged and ships could no longer enter the port.  Many of the stately homes that survived were moved inland to towns like Goliad, Fredericksburg, and Victoria, Texas.  All that remains of that thriving city are the cemetery and many of historical markers.

All that remained of a life size statue of  LaSalle after the 1886 hurricane.  LaSalle, a French explorer, in 1685 established the first colony at this harbor in Matagorda Bay.  That colony was soon moved to Fort St. Louis.

The town history is posted on these signs along the beach road

A tombstone written in German.  Many stones in this cemetery were in German

A park along the beach