The Texas Tourist Camp and Petrified Wood Gas Station stand like relics from that by-gone era on the east side of Decatur, an old Chisholm trail town which used to be the site of the Decatur Baptist College (now, it’s the Dallas Baptist University). The complex consisted of a gas station, five cabins, and a café. Today, only the café serves its original purpose.
It actually began as a campground on the edge of town. In 1927, owner E.F. Boydston, realized that money could be made as people began travelling for leisure, so he added a gas station, and in 1929 opened the Texas Lunchroom for hungry road trippers. In the early 30’s, Boydston built cabins with garages to offer more comfortable settings. To REALLY spruce things up, his brother Nolan put petrified wood (quarried from around the area) on the exteriors in 1935. The tourist court became an attraction in its own right, and remained popular throughout the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s for locals, travelers and college kids.
As typical North Texas history goes, Bonnie and Clyde supposedly stayed in one of the cabins for a few nights. Since the Texas Tourist Camp didn’t make guests sign a register, and the couple used the back roads into Dallas constantly, the claim may not be too far fetched.
Sadly, the Texas Tourist Camp went the way of juke boxes and poodle skirts. As Interstates began bypassing whole towns, it slowly began its demise. First, the Texas Lunchroom closed in 1964… about ten years later, the cabins shut their doors for good. The gas station remained open until 1989.
In 1992, some enterprising souls bought and remodeled the Texas Lunchroom, renamed it the Texas Café, and now cook up hamburgers, chili, and apple pie. The Boydston living quarters are insurance offices, and the gas station serves as an office for the remaining family.
Gose Trees Planted in 1861
402 W Walnut St, Decatur, TX
Remnant of bois d’arc hedge which encircled the log cabin of Stephen M. Gose (1824-77), early justice of the peace, blacksmith, and leader of Methodist church, who came to Texas from Missouri in 1859. The spiny trees, planted 1861, served as a barrier against prowling Indians.
The tree was used in the hedge rows of cattle farmers prior to the advent of steel, barbed wire fencing. They would have been planted them a few feet apart, in straight rows and the limbs would have entangled themselves together making an impenetrable hedgerow, by cattle or man.
This usage of the tree led to one of its names; Hedge Apple. It primarily grows in the South Central States of the US. However, the Hedge Apple can still be found throughout the Farm lands all over, especially in old fence-rows where the seeds have resisted modern farming and planting and all efforts to eradicate the nasty tree.
The word “apple” is quite misleading. The tree yields a fruit unlike many; a bumpy, green, 4-5 inch ball that resembles a green brain. In Louisiana, the kids referred to the fruit as “monkey brains”. A very fitting description, actually; I am told they throw them at one another. This fruit is completely inedible, as it has, inside of it, a liquid that has the texture of latex paint, a rather unpleasant odor, that will irritate your skin if it gets on you.
The older generation would use the fruit, cut in half, laid around the foundation of their homes, to repel insects naturally. These would eventually break down into a soft, slimy mess and rot. Simply repulsive is the only description I can come up with for the entire affair.
By all standards of the outside world, the tree is useless. Repulsive. Completely un-inviting. With the advent of barbed wire and fence posts, modern day insecticide, the tree was rendered useless. The thorns are even laced with a sap that will leave a terribly painful sore if one is pricked by their needle sharp tip and the wood is so hard and dense and resistant to rot, the best use for it was to cut it down and saw it into fence posts, which was the end result for thousands of the trees around the end of the 1800’s. Some of those fence posts are still found and used today, as they have weathered the harsh conditions for more than a century.
The modern day arborist would advise you to stay away from the very idea of this tree when considering what you might plant on your property as its reputation is horrible. It drops its seedlings everywhere, which thrive in almost any condition, and are virtually impossible to kill out. It is the epitome of the nightmare tree.
The name Bois d’arc came from the French settlers when they realized the Osage and Comanche Indians used this tree, almost exclusively, for making their bows. The grains run very straight on short sections, and the wood is flexible and very hard and resistant to cracking. It is extremely strong and will last for years under the pressures of bending as a bow. In fact, the popularity of the wood for bows was so great that many Native American tribes would travel hundreds of miles to acquire the wood to make their bows. “Bois d’arc” means “bow wood” in French.
So, on the inside, behind all of that bad, nasty tree, there is a particular strength and heartiness to the wood that cannot be found in any other wood on this continent.
A town square is the heart of the community, an intimate grouping of old-fashioned buildings that still have a very relevant purpose. It is a place that is not only an architectural gem, but a hub that welcomes long-time residents and newcomers alike.
The square creates an intimate area to do business, shop and eat. Coming to the square is an experience. Sure you may not find a parking space right out front, and you certainly cannot drive through anywhere, but that is the purpose. We still need to meet up with friends, connect with neighbors, slow down and stroll. When was the last time you visited Decatur Town Square?
It has been a banner year! D Magazine recognized our square in its November issue “10 Great Day Trips to Small Towns around Dallas”. Many are discovering it! The square will continue to evolve as it attracts unique business that adds to the experience that is Decatur, and many people are working hard to make sure that it not only stands out but thrives! Come on down and see what you have been missing!
They have a rewards program for coffee drinks – 10th one is on them!
In the evening they offer beautiful craft cocktails such as Moscow Mules, Irish Coffees, Whiskey Sours, Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. Special touches such as the use of Toschi brandied cherries and locally made ginger beer set their cocktails apart.
They have wine by the glass, but the shop offers exceptional wines by the bottle that are truly elegant and delicious and they are all under $45 a bottle!
They use traditional Chinese and Japanese vessels that are unique to any other shop to brew their craft teas. The special attention to the tea allows for an exact temperature and no bitterness.
Their special holiday syrups include eggnog, barrel-aged peppermint and maple brown butter cortado
They have a fantastic black iced tea with free refills
They will soon offer Tiki drinks such as Mai Tais and Pina Coladas.
They do have some food! Most popular are their blueberry and avocado pound cake muffins as well as cookies, pies and biscotti. Have you heard of Primo’s Tacos? They are to die for and available here in the mornings!
They offer a discount for first responders, veterans and people who work on the square
Ten more reasons for you to make Trinity Street Coffee Bar your new obsession!
During the throes of the Great Depression, desperate times led to desperate, reckless activities. Texas became a hotbed for criminals. The most notorious being Bonnie and Clyde, but a bank robber was making quite a name for himself thanks to his ambitious wife. George and Kathryn Kelly were residing on Mulkey Street in Fort Worth at this time. George was known by his big-time nickname of “Machine Gun” Kelly. Kathryn, hoping to promote her husband’s status in the criminal world, encouraged him to plot a kidnapping.
On the evening of July 22, 1933, an innocent game of bridge among friends was suddenly interrupted. “Machine Gun” and his long time partner, Albert Bates, held up oil magnate Charles F. Urshel and friend Walter Jarrett with his famous machine gun. While they were only interested in Urshel, they ended up leaving with both men as their helpless wives looked on.
Charles F. Urshel was first married to Flored Slick, sister of Thomas Baker Slick, Sr., who discovered the vast Cushing Oil Field in Oklahoma earning him the title “King of the Wildcatters.” Slick died in 1930 and after Flored’s death Urshel married Slick’s widow, Berenice. Their combined fortunes made them one of the wealthiest couples in Oklahoma City. Urshel, in Kathryn Kelly’s mind, was their ticket to the big time.
Walter Jarrett was soon released, but Charles Urshel was taken to a remote farmhouse in Paradise, Texas where he was held blindfolded for nine days. He was forced to write his own ransom note for $200,000. His kidnappers had not counted on Urshel’s determination and keen memory. He memorized with vivid detail every aspect of the ordeal. He was able to recount the weather, patterns of plane flight, times, directions and voices even though he was blindfolded. He also made sure to leave fingerprints on every surface he could reach.
After the ransom was paid by a close business associate, Urshel was freed on a rainy night in Norman, Oklahoma with only cab fare in his pocket.
J. Edgar Hoover, hoping to improve the reputation of his agency, took a particular interest in the case. It would be the first time to put the new Lindbergh Laws into action. Due to pressure from Hoover and the incredible amount of detail Urshel was able to provide, FBI agents found the hideout in short order. The farm, being used as a safe house for bank robbers, was owned by Kelly’s in-laws, Robert “Boss” Shannon and wife, Ora. All told, the case would lead to twenty-one convictions including a life sentence for “Machine Gun” Kelly. When finally captured unarmed, he famously yelled, “Don’t shoot G-Men” thus coining a new nickname for FBI agents still in use today. The trial took place in a packed Federal courtroom and would be one of the first ever filmed. Hoping to put the ordeal behind them, the Urshels moved to San Antonio for the remainder of their lives. Paradise Texas would forever be associated with one of the most notorious bank robbers of all time.
Many are familiar with the story of the “Moth Man”, but how many know he supposedly made an appearance in Wise County? In June of 2003 a postal worker witnessed deer being chased by two glowing, red fireballs about the size of basketballs on County Road 3673.
After re-telling her harrowing experience to co-workers, the site was visited and evidence of damage due to high heat was found. The next day the postal worker narrowly missed being involved in a fatal wreck at Highway 114 and Highway 51. When shown a picture of the “Moth Man” she immediately identified the creepy figure as the one she had witnessed the day before.
Further adding intrigue to the story is the fact that a person named Turner is involved in every case of a “Moth Man” appearance. Such was the case with the Wise County incident. Hmmmmm.
Without a doubt, it is a new season at the Center for Animal Research and Education in Bridgeport (C.A.R.E.). After experiencing several devastating deaths of beloved animals this past year, there is now much to celebrate – BABIES!! On a recent visit, a peek around a corner reveals a tiny four-month-old tiger. Baby Zara has recently found a forever home at C.A.R.E. Weighing only twenty-seven pounds, far smaller than typical for her age; this little one is fascinating to watch. Her big paws indicate how large she will one day be as she happily splashes water out of her pail. A nearby Clorox bottle with many small indentions proves how sharp her teeth are. She is spending time indoors while a green-stick fracture to her leg heals and what a set-up she has! At the time of our visit, she was watching Finding Nemo on her big screen TV. Finding a type of bedding she cannot destroy is quite the feat. She was already on her third bed of the day, but that one was holding up pretty well so far. She has completely destroyed others in a matter of seconds! Interestingly her enclosure is filled with stuffed animals that she loves on without ruining. She is genetically quite hyper and finds it hard to settle down. Zara has been raised alone, but Heidi Krahn, director of the facility, thinks she might benefit from a friend and is actively looking for another tiger to fit the bill. This baby is lovingly watched over by caretakers that willingly stay all night with her. During our visit Bagheera the house cat came strolling through with no fear whatsoever only to show her great displeasure of the new resident. We also witnessed contented purrs during a bonding moment with Heidi’s son. She is not a pet, however. As soon as her injury heals, she will be outdoors in an enclosure.
Meanwhile, a fairytale is being played out in the lemur house. To understand how amazing this story is you have to understand how lemurs think. They are incredibly social primates that form a troop with an alpha female as the leader. The troop is very bonded with rules unique within their troop. Fast forward; a lady shows up with a three-month-old almost dead baby lemur weighing just 97 grams(approx. birth weight). Heidi was very hesitant to take the baby because a lemur raised by people is not a lemur. It does not know the rules. Knowing the little one would either die from malnutrition or be unaccepted and killed by the troop, she set about to save her. Little Momo was fed two drops of soy formula every thirty minutes around the clock eventually moving to a blended mixture of milk, cheerios, Activia yogurt, banana and aloe vera juice. She began to thrive, and slowly, slowly Heidi commenced to introduce the baby to the troop consisting of Rita, the alpha female, Mrs. Stewart, and Mort. The moment of truth was the scariest day Heidi had experienced. She knew the troop could very well kill little Momo, but luckily Rita’s motherly instincts were deep-seated. Momo jumped on Rita’s back, and she has been a part of the family ever since. As we rounded the corner to the lemur house, Heidi called out, “Rita show us your baby.” What happened next was nothing short of magical! Out dashed a lemur with an impossibly small baby clinging to her back. Momo now weighs 420 grams, but she is still so tiny. We watched in awe at the interaction and tricks of this baby, her lack of fear often leaving us nervous and even gasping! She has gone from near death to acrobat extraordinaire. There are still hurdles to face. When she turns a year and a half to two years old, there could be problems, but for now, it is an unheard of happy ending. While an alpha female has been known to take a baby from within a troop, there has never been an instance of one accepting an unrelated baby from outside the troop as her own. The lemurs at C.A.R.E. are unusual to begin with because they love people and they love each other. Such happy news for some of the earth’s most endangered species.
Making our way down the hill, we come upon a staked section in a serene, secluded area with incredible views. This will be the home for two mountain lions coming from the Dallas Zoo. A campaign has already begun to raise the money for what will be the most costly venture that C.A.R.E. has undertaken to date. The beautiful enclosure will feature a glass room for visitors to observe and eat as well as suites to spend the night while offering these two lucky mountain lions a fantastic habitat to call home.
Here is the fundraising page for their incredible new home:
As Heidi ignores all road blocks and continues to work tirelessly to provide a meticulously maintained and loving environment for the beloved animals entrusted to her, we celebrate this new season with her and all those involved in making C.A.R.E. the remarkable facility that it is.
With the opening of the new Fit-n-Wise facility next to the hospital many different options for exercise are now available. Looking to mix up what has become boring? Maybe even try something a little unusual? How about PADDLE BOARD YOGA??!!
Imagine floating weightlessly while staring at a crystal blue sky dipping fingers and toes in the pool as you stretch on what looks like a giant blow up mattress. You will be coaxed into various positions by the calming and patient voice of the instructor. Don’t be deceived, though! The workout is strenuous and balancing is hard!! Just as your muscles have serious feelings about being stretched any further and you have to dig deep to finish wispy clouds start to appear followed by a sliver of moon producing an immediate calming effect.
You may or may not be experiencing regret for not having worked out more, but at the end of the challenging routine you lay back practicing deep breathing surrounded by a perfect Texas sunset. What more can you ask from exercise?
Please call their front office for the latest class schedule. (940) 627-2708
Open the door to 112 W Walnut and find yourself enveloped by the enticing aroma of vanilla from Sweetwater Café & Bakery, but this building is much more than sugar and spice. No building on the Decatur Town Square has had a more diverse history. Prior to 1880 Absalom Bishop, “father of Decatur,” built a home on the site for his and his son-in-law, Edward Blythe’s families. The home was large and often protected early settlers from moonlight Comanche raids. The family ran a mercantile store called Bishop & Blythe from 1859-1879 all while being instrumental in organizing the territory into a community, changing the name from Taylorsville to Decatur and making it the County seat. After the store went bankrupt in 1879, J.J. Lang purchased the lot in 1881 and erected a new stone structure. The first floor became a grocery store called the St Louis Store, and professional offices including the dental office of Dr. D.H. Payne were upstairs. Perhaps the most unusual occupant was announced in 1893 when the Decatur Ensor Institute for the treatment of liquor, morphine, cocaine, and tobacco and cigarette habits opened for business. The building burned in December of 1893. Lang’s daughter re-built and a billiards hall touted as “a pleasure resort for gentlemen” occupied the space in 1904. Through the early part of the 1900’s as the community grew and evolved the building’s occupants changed to meet new needs serving as a repair shop, millinery store, variety store and a dry goods store. In 1933, at the height of the Depression, Dunn’s Hardware opened. Thomas J. Dunn and son, John Thomas Dunn, first leased their space later purchasing the building in 1940 from the Bellah family. World War II was a struggle for the business as Dunn’s son was in the Navy and all his salesmen left town. Dunn persevered, modernized the building, and added a new store front in the 1960’s. Despite all the hardships, Dunn’s Hardware had a remarkable 57 year run in this location. The hardware store closed in 1991 and then in 1993 the metal slip cover was removed to return the building to its current historical status. Carol Ann Carson purchased the property in 2004. Next time you are waiting for your pancakes, let your mind wander and try to imagine citizens from the early days of Decatur strolling through the doors of this historical building going about their daily business and picture a square so full of people you couldn’t stir them with a stick.
“There are two special occasions each year in Decatur ~ Christmas and Reunion.” Sue Cocanougher
As temperatures inch toward 100 degrees one word enters Decaturites minds-REUNION! Most know Reunion as a county-wide tradition with a carnival atmosphere. Approximately 140 permanent cabins placed throughout a grove of trees come in all shapes, sizes, and vintages. There is even a castle! Many Texas towns have something similar to Reunion, but Wise County is one of the oldest. The ritual is a little hard to describe to outsiders. As Rosalie Gregg from the Wise County Historical Society says, “You have to see it for yourself.” Cabins lie dormant all year until the week before the anticipated event at which point observers hear the sounds of weed eaters, smell the scent of cleaning products and see the sight of old mattresses being flung out in a pile of trash. Most with just screens and no running water, the glorified shanties holding lifetimes of memories become home for a week. The week’s festivities kick off as the cabins are decked out in their finest to fit the chosen theme for the year. The observance of Reunion has been a part of many people’s lives for as long as they can remember and it’s the tradition that brings them back year after year. Multiple generations of families flock to the campground drawn by smells of barbecue and fair food and the flashy rides lighting the night sky. Children skip ahead of parents and grandparents with wide-eyed excitement. Some come for the live music and dancing while others come looking for major bragging rights from winning the giant “Put Yo Money Where Yo Mouth Is” washer tournament. On the hottest, dustiest week of the year, everyone knows that Reunion is here!
Joe Wheeler Park, named after the only general to serve during wartime in two different forces, has been home to the oldest recurring event in County history since 1896. In the 1860’s under the harvest moon Confederate veterans would occasionally gather in covered wagons around bonfires to reminisce with old comrades before the scramble of the fall harvest. They would talk unceasingly about the glory days of the South sometimes inviting the venerable pioneers to join them. The meeting was known as the Ex-Confederate Reunion and was held to aid the old and disabled soldiers. Gatherings were carried out in several different places such as Chico and Cold Springs before settling in Decatur. In 1883 the name was changed to Old Soldiers and Settlers Reunion. People would bring blankets and sleep out under the grove of trees. Many would stay up all night telling stories and children would wake up to the sound of hushed conversations and fiddle music. For some, this was the only time of the year that they left home. The Rock Island excursion train full of merry -makers would pull into the station where stagecoaches waited to shuttle them out to Reunion. The old rebel yell signaled the new arrivals to the grounds. Civil War battles were re-enacted, and fiery political speeches were given. Five thousand attended in 1881 in celebration of the anniversary of Captain George Stevens’ victory over hostile Indians in 1874. In the late 1890’s large crowds came to hear admired politicians such as Governor Charles Culberson and Congressman Silas Hare. Over 10,000 people came to hear one of Senator Joe Bailey’s famous speeches championing conservative causes. By 1900 Reunion, held the last full week in July, lasted for three days. The first day honored old settlers. The second day was devoted to remembering Confederate veterans. The third day honored the sons and daughters of Confederates. As many as 12,000 would gather at the Courthouse and parade to the campground. Men were decked out in top hats, linen dusters, checkered vests and high top button shoes while women wore long skirts with multiple petticoats, mutton sleeves, bustles and knee-length button and lace shoes all under the blazing July sun. It was a time of remembrance, to swap stories, share food and unite the community. By 1908 the re-enactments came to an untimely end when Grady Helm had to have his arm amputated after cannon backfired! In 1909 the park grounds were leased for 25 years. Later, campsites were leased and improved by participants. The Wise County Old Settlers Association was formed in 1904. Reunion was extended to one full week with visiting during the day and scheduled events in the evenings. Each generation has tucked away memories of past Reunion’s and added their touch to new ones. In the 1920’s Popcorn, peanuts, lemonade, and brass bands filled the campground as well as the “Flying Jenny” which was a homemade wooden merry-go-round which whirled in a horizontal circle while the feet were left dangling. The first permanent campsite was established in 1937 by Mr. and Mrs. T.G. Rogers. In 1943 the last Confederate soldier, Calvin Newton Workman, died. Hence the name was changed to Wise County Old Settlers Reunion. The present pavilion, the third to occupy the encampment, was built in 1948. A children’s playground was added in 1953.
The old settlers would find little today to remind them of the origins of Reunion. While much has changed over more than 150 years of its history, Reunion still unites the community as it did in the beginning by greeting friends and neighbors young and old alike.
Cliff D Cates, in his 1907 book about Wise County, makes the following dedication:
“Dedicated to the Old Settlers of Wise County whose memories and faces I am profoundly gratified to perpetuate.”
Reunion is about memories. Many more faces have made their mark on Wise County since 1907, and we continue to be profoundly grateful to all those who have gone before to make Wise County the great place that it is.
On a small, non-descript street just off the Decatur town square sits a little white house bearing a coveted historical marker paying homage to S.W. Tilghman. Who was Mr. Tilghman and what made him important to Decatur, Texas?
As Pioneers moved west, they made do with tools and materials indigenous to the area when building their homes. Log cabins and sod houses were the norms. By 1900 the typical American home was less than 1,000 square feet. While indoor plumbing and electricity were available, they were not common. Porches were a must for the hot Texas summers. Dog-trot houses were prevalent for their large breezeways in the center of the home. Americans, while borrowing from historical styles such as Greek and Roman, were at the same time fashioning a style that would become uniquely American with an emphasis on comfort. Most towns now had sawmills making gingerbread trim, columns and cornices available. Even simple frame houses made use of architectural elements. Neat and orderly homes portrayed a sign of progress and new wealth attracting newcomers to the community. Rapid expansion was creating the need for housing in Decatur!
As far as it is known, S.W. Tilghman was the only carpenter inthe early days of Decatur. He was known for his quality workmanship hand carving all the woodwork in his homes. Tilghman was born in 1846 in Tennessee and arrived in Decatur like many settlers of this time by wagon train in 1870. Two years later he married a native of Decatur, Eliza Bland Miller. He purchased land from M.W. Shoemaker in 1882 for his family home. He built a story and a half farmhouse framed in oak with cypress weatherboarding. Floor joists were hand-hewn oak and installed with wooden pegs. All square nails were used in its construction. Lumber came by way of mule train from Jefferson, Texas. The railroad was still too expensive, and economics usually prevailed with the early settlers. The original estate, bordered entirely by a white picket fence, included the farmhouse, a stable and lot for horses and buggy, double outdoor toilets and a tank tower with servant’s room. The residence consisted of seven rooms, three large porches, two fireplaces, two parlors, a dining room and a kitchen. Tilghman incorporated elements from his native Tennessee such as dormered windows and large front porches. The home has remained, from the time of its construction to present, on the original lot thus qualifying it for historical recognition. No walls have been removed, rooms are still the same size, and ceilings are the same height despite additions of indoor bathrooms in the 1930’s and central heat and air in the 1950’s. A set of antique Dresden plates belonging to S.W. Tilghman was used for the inspiration for wallpaper and rugs during the period of remodeling. The home maintains some of the family’s original furniture.
Tilghman had several children who move away from the area, but his son, R.C. Tilghman (Bob) who was born in 1875 learned the skill of carpentry from his father and remained in Decatur to work in partnership with him. S.W. Tilghman passed away in 1913, but Bob continued to build houses until his death in 1948. As a tribute to the Tilghmans’ skill and the integrity, many of the homes they built are still standing.
In 1890 a two-story Victorian house was constructed at 301 South Hill for Judge Patterson who was a large landowner on the square and a much-honored citizen of Decatur. He served as District Judge for the 43rd District for 24 years. They also built a Victorian folk home located at 1005 N. Trinity for Dr. D.H. Payne who practiced dentistry on the square until his death around 1934. That same year they built homes for D.W. Frazer, furniture store owner and Tax Collector, at 300 E. Shoemaker, and homes for Leon Starnes and R.H. Barney at 401 S. Miller and 302 S. Miller respectively.
In 1903 the Tilghmans began a two-story Victorian home at 305 E. Shoemaker for D.J. Penniger, owner of Penniger General Merchandise on the square.
1904 saw the completion of an Arts and Crafts home for wealthy banker and First National Bank board member, Tom Yarborough at 1004 E. Main.
Because of S.W. Tilghman’s master carpentry, we still have a small glimpse into the lives of the people who first madeDecatur into a thriving community. His homes stand as time capsules of a way of life that has disappeared for neither the tradesmen nor the materials are available today to recreate these one-of-a-kind abodes. We are grateful for the expertise and vision of our early settlers and feel reassured that the stories these homes hold will continue to be told to future generations.
Bill Marquis has always loved anything old…old buildings, old objects, old people. He loves telling stories and anything that tells a story. He makes his home on land that was part of the original legendary 6666 Ranch. He makes his living restoring and creating. He humbly states that it all came out of “common sense.” He appreciates hard work and acknowledges the old way of doing things is just better and well worth the effort.
This man whose background is as impressive as his collections and his profession seems larger than life. He is the son of a man who was once picked by General Patton as one of his top five marksmen sent to hunt down Hitler. His father never found Hitler, but he did find his pistol and carried it for the rest of the war.
Visitors to this amazing property will first notice the unusual fence made out of antique tools and implements which leads to even more unique arched gates designed by the Marquis. The land sits on the Balcones fault which runs all the way to Austin, Texas. Marquis extracted Ammonites which are fossils of an extinct group of marine mollusk animals that lived anywhere from 240 to 65 million years ago from his land. The fault makes the soil rich in these fossils which are ribbed, spiral shell forms. Marquis designed and laid patterns in the gates, some resembling flowers, even working with petrified wood and gastroliths (grit swallowed by dinosaurs to help with the digestive process creating smooth, round stones). His wife, June, laid the brick for the gates. She used pavers from Thurber, Texas that were originally from the Fort Worth Stockyard. A man purchased the bricks to build a home, but every time it rained the smell of many years of cattle manure trod into the pavers assaulted the senses. It seems fitting that they found a home here.
Among flourishing gardens and a meticulously groomed landscape is a giant, spherical rock. Every garden needs a meteorite, right? There is quite a story attached to this one. Legend has it that in 1886 the meteorite was glowing up in the mountains near the little town of San Carlos, Mexico. It was removed and placed in the center of the city with benches around it. People would sit in front the meteorite for healing. Marquis would regularly take hunting groups to the Big Bend area of Texas which is very near the little town. One year he was guiding a group of five couples, and they visited San Carlos. It had been a challenging year of drought, and the 104-year-old patriarch of the town made it known that he would be willing to sell the meteorite. Leaning on a cane, the old man agreed to deliver the meteorite to Texas for $400. Marquis gave him a $200 deposit and set a date to meet him never really expecting the old man to show up. Low and behold on the date arranged six Mexicans in an old truck with poles holding the rock appeared. They dumped the giant stone and drove off. People came from all over to watch the spectacle. Marquis had arranged a dual tandem trailer with a diesel truck for transport, but ten men could not get the rock on the trailer. It took two years to find someone with a semi that was willing to pick up the meteorite. The driver informed Marquis that the rock weighed over 80,000 pounds requiring three backhoes to remove it from the truck. The chunk of debris seamlessly blends into the beautiful landscaping like it was always meant to be there.
Historical buildings also dot the property. Marquis restored a 16×16 cabin built in 1836 where Burk Burnett was born. The Burnetts were forced to relocate to this area after the Jayhawker War in 1859. In front of this cabin, an original Bois D’Arc post from the 6666 Ranch is worked into the split rail fence as well as some pieces of Bill’s famed barbed wire collection.
Stony Texas was a prominent place before the railroads. Located halfway between Decatur and Denton it was a perfect stopping place. Marquis began to realize there were just a few buildings left in Stony and each year another one was being destroyed. He gradually moved what remained of the town to his property to restore. His first project was the Stony Baptist Church built in the 1870’s which now houses his woodworking shop.
The last store in Stony constructed in 1912 was set for destruction. Marquis was determined to save it so he moved it in 2 days fearing someone would come along and demolish it. The ceiling had completely fallen. He restored it to reveal an exact replication of a general store at the turn of the century complete with a hornet’s nest for good luck. The store had originally housed the post office, a barber chair, pay phone and meat market. The original meat counter survives. The barber chair that is now on display was the chair that Clyde Barrow sat in every week while in prison to have his hair cut. Original shelves are home to an astounding array of vintage grocery tin and wooden boxes. His most valuable tin, he is told, is an Edward G Robinson pipe blend tin because it was produced without his permission.
A few years ago, American Pickers of The History Channel fame heard of Marquis’ many collections and came for a visit. The hosts were fascinated with his General Store. Bill did not sell them anything, but he was happy to share his historical information with Frank and Mike.
Sadly our time with Bill flew by. He has many more stories to tell, and I could listen to him for ages. Many thanks to Bill Marquis and his lovely wife, June, for sharing their little piece of paradise with us.
There is no way even to begin to categorize Bill Marquis –except extraordinary. Listening to him talk is like learning from a Master. He is a self-taught restorer of historical cabins all around Texas. When asked how he learned to restore things he merely answers “common sense.” Bill has a great appreciation for anything old. He is an avid collector happily showing accumulations of branding irons, old doors, and vintage tins. His barbed wire collection numbering 11,000 put him in the Cowboy Hall of Fame. He is a historian who knows boundless information about Texas history and geography. He is a beekeeper using hollow logs for hives like the old people from Greenwood (where he grew up). The bees produce a lot more honey this way. He makes beeswax candles that require dipping eighty times. He is a craftsman of exquisite furniture. He also designed and constructed the gates at the front of his property. Bill artfully displays his many collections on the walls of his home and workshop as well as his fences. His lovely wife, June, is an artist in her own right creating original Western watercolors and pencil etchings. She is also an amazing horticulturist. Bill has been a surfer as well as a game and bird watching guide for celebrities in the Big Bend area of Texas. A kind and patient man always ready with a story or joke, he never tires of repeating all the many facts that are part of his wealth of information. This man is incredibly hard working, and to see what he accomplishes in a day is mind boggling. Bill is doggedly determined once almost getting into a fistfight over trying to save the last store from Stony, Texas. After spending time with Bill, you realize there would never be enough time to learn all there is to him. It may seem like Bill Marquis is a tall tale hero, but he is, in fact, the real deal. Come to the Antique Western Show and Sale at the Decatur Civic Center on April 8th and 9th! Just the opportunity to meet Bill Marquis is reason enough to come!
“The rhythm and timing of the movements of glassmaking always have been and always will be fascinating. A good deal of the process is standard procedure with a certain amount of innovation” Herman Rosenzweig
Every once in a while history comes alongside community. While communities are often associated with like-mindedness, when residents are unafraid to branch out, their locality becomes richer, more diverse, and open to new ideas. The group is willing to be touched by experiences of hope and perseverance from ordinary people fighting to keep their dreams alive.
In the late 1950’s a glass maker in Athens, Texas was out of room for expansion and looking for a new location. He sent inquiries to towns within a hundred mile radius to see if any would be interested in a new industry. Decatur responded favorably and Texglass, Inc., owned by Herman and Bertha Rosenzweig, moved to town in 1957. The couple purchased three acres from CL Dodson and equipped with sand from Ardmore, lime from Chico, and soda ash from Houston set out to make handmade tableware. The glassware was crafted in their signature thumbprint style in an opulent array of colors such as amethyst, ruby, emerald, and amber. Here the small factory, when in full production, produced up to 600,000 glasses per year.
How did Texglass come to pass? What brought an Austrian Jew to Decatur, Texas? There is so much more to the story of the small factory that operated less than twenty years.
Herman Rosenzweig was born in Austria in 1901. The son of a hand-carved furniture maker, he had an affluent, Orthodox upbringing-playing piano and attending engineering college in Vienna. He started a glass factory in Vienna, but at the same time, Hitler was launching his attack on Eastern Europe. Herman, under threat, left just in time. He first went to Athens, Greece. There he was employed by a glass factory all the while working for the Underground helping Jews escape to Palestine. His supportive employer often covered for him keeping him out of jail on multiple occasions. Herman sent money for his mother and seventeen-year-old brother to go to Palestine. His mother was already interred in a concentration camp where she would later die. His brother made it as far as Northern Italy before being transported to a concentration camp and was not heard from for many years. He eventually ended up in the United States as a displaced person
Needing to move on, Herman would next work as a chemical engineer in both Egypt and Palestine. By the early 1940’s Herman had made his way to New York. He was introduced to Bertha Heiden, a first-grade teacher also from Orthodox Austrian parents, in 1944. Herman kept seeing Bertha under the ruse that he needed help with his English. His wife would later say that both his reading and writing of English was impeccable. They married at her mother’s home on March 26, 1944. After they married, Herman worked in Canada for a while. In 1948 the couple went to Mexico City. Rosenzweig felt Mexican glass workers were superior as they saw the ancient tradition as an art.
Herman had plans to open a new shop in San Antonio but was diverted to Athens, Texas. He would have made a lot more money going to work for a large company as a technologist, but he was determined to be his own boss. After realizing his Athens facility was no longer conducive to his work, Herman began to look for a new location. His biggest concern was if the community would support an influx of Mexican workers. Decatur was not only willing but enthusiastic to take on the new industry and all it entailed. Texglass, Inc. operated in a non-descript tin building just over the railroad tracks. There was never a sign because they ran out of money. The Rosenzweigs started with twelve employees mostly from the American consulate in Monterey, Mexico. They would eventually have twenty-five on their staff. Some of their workforce stayed many years and became very involved in the community. Relatives of former glassblowers and plant supervisors are still in the area. Ten salesmen were chosen to represent Texglass wares which included pitchers in different sizes, vases, decanters and several sizes of glasses all over the United States and Canada. Advertising was mostly word of mouth because the industry was so new in Texas. Salesmen would set up displays at the State Fair of Texas and take orders. Texglass sold to A. Harris (precursor to Sanger-Harris) and even sold to a Parisian department store.
Herman Rosenzweig was short and stocky with a distinct accent. He had been a glassmaker all of his life working with the engineering and chemistry of glass. After coming to Decatur, he designed new iron molds and a burning machine that substantially reduced production time of the glass. Herman encouraged tours of the factory passing on his love of glassmaking. It pleased him to see children on their bicycles peering in windows to get a glimpse of the glass blowing process. He had a great helpmate in Bertha. After teaching school for 18 years, she now ran the office like a school room. He considered her invaluable. While Rosenzweig loved his employees, he had a distinct European mind-set that prevented him from socializing with his workers. Bertha, never having children of her own, showed great affection for the workers and was known as “Mom” by Texglass employees.
The glass factory was hard work and long hours. The Rosenzweigs believed every few cents that came in was worth it. The 2600 degree furnace was kept going twenty-four hours, and Herman would often be at the factory at midnight to monitor the tank. Emptying the tank to change the color of the glass was tedious and time-consuming. Only at Christmastime would they would turn off the tank, and all the workers would go home to Mexico for vacation.
Herman had plans to open another factory in Bowie for industrial purposes. This shop would have manufactured glass beads for highway paint. He also longed to make exquisite glass lamps similar to ones he would see in high-end advertisements. Sadly, these endeavors were not to be. He became ill and died in 1965.
Bertha continued the business that they started together for another four years. She had great pride in her husband and his beloved profession. A life-saver for her was the black notebook Herman kept with all the formulas for the glass that he developed. Toward the end of her time at Texglass the factory was only selling from stock. The company was sold in 1969, and she stayed for a six-month transition. Bertha was delighted to see that the new owners wanted to continue what Herman had started eventually making lovely glass lamps.
Bertha was able to live comfortably in retirement due to reparations from the Austrian government for property that was confiscated from her husband by the Nazis. While Herman was alive, they attended Temple in Fort Worth. After her husband’s death, she developed a fast friendship with Father Michael from the Catholic Church in Decatur and often enjoyed attending mass. Bertha continued to live in her home on N. Cates until her death in 2001 at the age of 95. Her funeral took place in the Catholic Church in Decatur.
Texglass, Inc. closed almost forty years ago. Some do not know it ever existed. Many fondly remember “Buddy” and “Aunt Buddy” Rosenzweig for their generous gifts and love for their friends and neighbors. The glass, sometimes known as Decatur glass, is still available on eBay and in antique stores as well as in a few barns, attics and closets in Wise County. Herman Rosenzweig’s life was upended by Nazi invasion. He never talked about things that hurt. He is remembered saying, “Don’t be sorry for me. I’ve had a wonderful life. Forget the past and go on with the present”. Decatur allowed him to continue his passion for creating beautiful glass. In the same way glass takes on color; our community is deeper, richer and more vibrant from the influence brought by the Rosenzweigs and their remarkable life.
Valentine’s Day plans? Need a get-away? Your wedding party needs a place to stay? Know someone who does? Decatur’s best kept- secret is the Courthouse Suites Bed and Breakfast. Three beautifully appointed rooms, each with a distinctive atmosphere, offer warm hospitality for those wanting to escape the hectic city.
The “Dean Martin Room” provides a living area with a mid-century vibe perfect for channeling your inner “Mad Men” character. This, the most expensive room, offers sweeping views of historic downtown Decatur and the beautiful courthouse.
The “Seclusion” room or the “Honeymoon Suite” offers peaceful, airy accommodations decorated in soothing tones and allows the highest level of privacy due to no outside windows. A luxurious soaking tub beckons for relaxation.
The “City Slicker Room,” also affectionately referred to as the “Bunkhouse,” is well-liked as well as the least expensive. With games lined up to play and even a saddle as an ottoman, this rustic, cozy space feels as if you have been invited into someone’s living room.
The suites are all very comfortable and welcoming. Larger parties can be accommodated by opening doors between the rooms making it an ideal location for bridal parties.
Tall ceilings and restored hardwood floors, as well as many original architectural elements such as glass door knobs, push- button light switches, and mail boxes add touches of character.
Scott and Sandy Kostelecky are the enthusiastic new owners of the Bed and Breakfast. They enjoy going the extra mile for their customers. Scott is even learning to perfect a heart made out of Hershey kisses for the bed in the “Honeymoon Suite”!
Amenities include en-suite bathrooms, kitchenettes, a balcony off the back of the building, and lofts in two of the rooms. There is even a half bath in the hallway in case someone in your room is taking too long! The Kosteleckys have recently partnered with Sweetwater Bakery to offer breakfast for their patrons.
Combining history, comfort and good old- fashioned service make the Courthouse Bed and Breakfast the perfect stop in Decatur.
Situated on a quiet 27 acres in Bridgeport, The Center for Animal Research and Education is an animal lover’s paradise. It is a sanctuary, which by very definition is a place of refuge and safety. Large, well-kept enclosures resembling giant playscapes dot the property. Made secure by the plentiful pipe from the Bridgeport oil fields, they are filled with toys, platforms, caves and even Christmas trees. It feels like a home. C.A.R.E, as it is more commonly known, is a non-profit organization born in 2003 out of a need to rescue, rehabilitate and provide long-term care to mainly large cats including tigers, lions, leopards and cougars. The Center is run by Heidi Krahn, a passionate lover of big cats. She lives on the property and rarely leaves. Saving these animals is her calling, her life’s work. For twelve years C.A.R.E. was a 100% volunteer organization. The facility now has one paid employee, Rachel as well as four interns who come from all over the world.
Visitors are first met by Dahlia, a three-legged Guanaco. She resembles a llama but is quite rare. She was a couple of weeks old and only twenty pounds when she was brought to C.A.R.E. with a broken leg. The leg eventually had to be amputated, but Dahlia has adapted wonderfully. She has surprising balance and can run as well as her four-legged counterparts. Dahlia did need a friend, however. Yolo is a shy llama, not very social with people, but she loves Dahlia, and she loves her. Theirs is a friendship born out of a need for companionship. Charlie Doubrava, a Decatur teen, built their enclosure as his Eagle Scout project, proof that the community generously supports this organization.
Moving along to the soft sounds of chuffing and the occasional roar, we come to the home of the geriatric leopards. Twenty -year- old Raven, a beautiful, black leopard with piercing yellow eyes and Tawny, a gorgeous seventeen- year- old cougar are spoiled rotten in their heated pens piled high with comfortable bedding. They are thrilled to be in out of the cold. You can tell by their purrs! C.A.R.E. is very fortunate to have these elderly cats whose lifespan in the wild is only about 10-12 years. Newer statistics suggest a tiger only has an average wild lifespan on 8 years. Their cats have lived upward of 20 years!
Once outside, we meet Cassie, the cougar. She has a wonderful habitat, complete with a rope bridge, ramps, and platforms she scales up and down with ease. Cassie loves to play ball. You will often see Cassie carrying her ball in her forearms walking on her back feet. She then carries the ball up the ramps or slam-dunks it in her hoop.If she feels jealous because others are getting attention she immediately starts talking and starts exhibiting her gymnastic abilities. In the last few years, Cassie has become quite the internet sensation with her adorable squeaks for attention!
Nearby are bobcats, Max and Mia. Because they were both so young when rescued, they have been placed together and are so happy to have each other. While the two used to look nothing alike, they can now almost pass as siblings.
Max’s story is unfortunately a common one for young bobcats. His mother was shot and a game warden found him orphaned. He took him in, and then relocated him to a wildlife refuge. The refuge asked us if we could give him a permanent home. By this time he was too habituated to people to be rehabbed and released. Bobcats are incredibly adaptable and live in a variety of environments. The bobcat is vital to controlling pest populations – and eats anything from small rodents to deer.
The lions are majestic. Mwali and Noel live in an enclosure at the front of the property. Heidi says Mwali is the most magnificent lion she has ever seen. He has been very sick recently, and the mysterious illness has taken its toll. He is under -weight and his once beautiful mane is thinning and matted. Heidi feared they might lose him, but under her watchful eye and due to the excellent care he is receiving, he is returning to his former glory.
Tigers, both orange and white, seem to come from all directions, each anxious for Heidi’s attention. She has a fascinating bond with her big cats. She speaks their language and loves on them all while maintaining a relationship “through the fence.” While it is obvious they all adore her, they are still large, strong and unpredictable. To get any closer would just be crazy. JP, a needy orange tiger, follows Heidi as she introduces us to more big cats and tells a story about when an errant duck found itself in Flash’s enclosure and terrified the giant white tiger.
At first glance, the lemur enclosure appears empty. Since these primates originate from Madagascar, they cannot handle cold temperatures. Although the day is very brisk, Heidi lures the cuties out with the promise of blueberries. The slight creatures are exceptionally entertaining albeit high maintenance. They only eat fruits and vegetables which have to be cut up for them. Their enclosures require temperature control and must be cleaned twice daily. Our brief encounter is fascinating. It is disconcerting to see such human-like mannerisms exhibited. While the lemurs did not stay out for long, their uniqueness left us wanting more.
Local farmers and owners bring either dead or dying cows, horses and chickens to the property. They are killed humanely if need be and then stored in a large freezer on the property as food for the cats. No healthy animals are accepted-big cats would not eat healthy specimens in the wild. It has a very “Circle of Life” feel to it.
A cemetery on the property commemorates the deceased with plaques. The area feels very reverent and leaves you knowing that these animals have been well loved. When an animal passes away, Heidi orders a complete pathology to help in continuing to provide utmost care.
Heidi is passionate about her charges’ health and future. C.A.R.E. provides an excellent, controlled environment for study and minimally invasive research. She partners with the National Institute of Health to study disease and longevity. Of particular interest is the fact that white tigers are very prone to Melanoma due to having both extremes of melanin. C.A.R.E. has lost several white tigers to this type of cancer. Together with the N.I.H., the Center is working to isolate the gene.
Heidi is very smart and very willing to discuss tough, ethical issues facing the likely will become extinct cats. Recent studies show there is not enough genetic diversity for tigers to survive more than 20-30 years. People want to argue ethics relating to these animals, but the reality is that there are not answers to many of the questions. The arguments could go on for days, but that is not Heidi’s focus. She intends to provide love and long-term care to those that have been entrusted to her. She worries about immediate needs such as water. Especially during times of drought, water is a vital concern. Each enclosure has a pool for the big cats to cool off in during the warm months. It takes all day to fill them because current wells are shallow; it is too expensive to drill deeper wells. She also worries how all her charges will handle the upcoming frigid temperatures, but realizes they will just have to get through it.
The organization participates in Wish List Wednesday through Amazon. Supporters are awesome and most wished for items are snapped up immediately. Still, ongoing needs are great. Adoptions are available for all the animals. The animals do not leave the C.A.R.E. facility; the money helps with each animal’s needs. Big cats can be adopted for $100 a month and lemurs for $50 a month. Sponsors are typically very involved with their animal. One individual has been sponsoring for 14 years, and even moved to be closer to her tiger. Another sponsor comes weekly to see the lions.
Always thinking of new ways to obtain funds, on September 2nd Heidi opened two luxury suites that overlook both the tiger and lion enclosures. The $1,000 per night suites offer an adult only, 24-hour big cat immersion paired with meals, massages, and opportunities to feed the animals.
The need is always there. Just weeks ago C.A.R.E. became the new home for four juvenile tigers being from Florida. Two girls, Shaanti and Naya and two boys, Nadal and Divali, are the new stars of the show. Their feet had never touched grass; they had never seen the sky. To say the babies are enjoying their new home would be an understatement! To stand at the fence and watch them is pure joy! You can not only see and hear their happiness; you can feel it. Heidi is ecstatic to welcome a new generation to C.A.R.E.
C.A.R.E. is a place to come for perspective. You leave self-centeredness at the front gate. You can ponder what is happening to the earth…how our choices will impact the planet going forward. Visiting this sanctuary is a magical experience that allows the mind to wander. No matter what is going on in your life, you can find peace among these beautiful, loving creatures. You feel grateful for Heidi and her determination to provide a haven for these endangered animals.
For tour and donation information please visit:http://carerescuetexas.com/
“Saving one animal won’t change the world, but it will change the world for that one animal” Vicki Davis
Every morning as he started work on the “Greetings from Decatur” mural on the east side of the square, Greenwood artist Rick Duwe took time for prayer.
“I’d lay my hand on that wall and say, ‘God, paint this mural through my hands,’” Duwe said, adding: “‘and let everybody like it, especially Mark Moran.’”
Moran, a local real estate developer, commissioned the mural as part of a larger effort to beautify downtown using local talent. The mural is on a wall next to a 12-foot tall steel sculpture of two suspended dice by Bridgeport designers Jake and Daniel Hayhurst and Kris Hibbitts on property shared by a recently resurfaced parking lot.
For Duwe, a longtime Wise County resident, the mural is a way to preserve the historical identity of a quickly-growing community.
“I think it’s inevitable the Metroplex is coming our way,” he said. “To have something creative for the town is fun for the town and people. It’s interesting and good.”
Duwe said the mural is based on a similar painting in Austin, which is styled after a series of postcards from the 1930s.
“Mark told me he wanted it like the one they have in Austin,” he said. “I said, ‘Well I haven’t seen that.’ So I Googled it.”
The two scoped out the wall for the prospective mural, deciding on 12 by 27 feet. The dimensions were later increased to 14 by 32 to better fill the wall.
After the initial planning session, Duwe drew several sketches of the mural, eventually graduating to a painted prototype.
“This painting was geared toward 12 by 27 [feet],” he said. “So when it went bigger, I had to redraw the whole thing to make it fit.”
Duwe then projected a transparent outline of his mural onto the wall to trace. From there, he said the process of shading the mural was simple. Duwe’s son, Dave, assisted in filling in the lines.
“It was sort of like a coloring book,” he said. “Austin’s mural is very simple. Mark told me he wasn’t looking for detail.”
Also like the Austin art, a local landmark is portrayed in each of the letters of the town’s name. Decatur’s seven letters include depictions of the Waggoner Mansion, a scene from the Chisholm Trail cattle drive, the Woody cabin, the Wise County courthouse, the petrified wood gas station and the Wise County Heritage Museum, which formerly housed the Decatur Baptist College. Duwe said he and Moran brainstormed a list of recognizable landmarks to include in the mural.
“We’ve lived in Greenwood for 31 years, so I kind of had an idea of what was iconic for the town,” Duwe said.
“The ‘R’ has, as Austin’s has, a Texas flag on the last letter,” he said. “It was just something to fill in that space. We couldn’t think of another strong landmark that’s easy to recognize.”
Recently, Duwe said he’s focused more on painting nature and landscapes, but he’s also painted murals for Slidell and Chico school districts.
“I’m more of a realistic-type painter,” he said. “And it’s hard for me to do something in a graphic-illustrated way. When it comes to the mural, I thought I wanted to put down the values – the darks and the lights. So that’s what makes things look real is you have the proper shades of color in the shadows and in the sunlight. I told Mark, I said, ‘I want it to be not just good, but special.’”
Before he started painting, Duwe said he worked with Moran to add a cement and fiberglass layer over the wall’s original brickwork to make a better canvas for the mural.
After the painting was finished, he said he added white paint to several areas to offset the mural’s more aggressive colors.
“I did put some washes on that blue. I might have covered it twice,” he said. “That faded it out some. I faded the reds, maybe even the dice, too because it subdued them.”
The end result took around three gallons of paint and about four weeks to complete. Like the prayer he said before each day’s work, the finished product is straightforward and effective.
“It was the idea to keep it simple,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of background color, and as long as you can keep your lines fairly straight around your letters, it’s simple to do. God gave me a lot of good weather to do that.”
Much has been said about small town, Southern hospitality. In Decatur, Texas it is real and embodied in Memory Lane Mercantile proprietor, Jennifer Smurthwaite. Jennifer sees hospitality as her gift and gifted she is.
Upon entering her store, patrons immediately feel welcomed and appreciated. She has a warm and easy way with people. It is extraordinary in this day and time to have someone go out of their way to make a shopping experience unique. She encourages shoppers to slow down and take their time in the store often offering coffee and suggestions for other places of interest. She forms relationships and gets to know customers…even at times giving out her cell phone number.
Generous and supportive to the town that helped raise her children, Jennifer exudes a love for Decatur. By featuring local artisans and providing a meeting place for various activities, she is helping to build a better community.
Beautiful window designs and fabulous collections to shop from are enticing, but Jennifer is the true find in Memory Lance Mercantile.
You may walk in Memory Lane Mercantile a stranger, but you will leave a friend. Now that’s hospitality!!
Are you familiar with J. Riely Gordon? Chances are, if you have not heard the name you are a least very familiar with his work. Riely, a nationally recognized architect from San Antonio, Texas, was most known for his 18 beautiful Texas courthouses erected between 1883 and 1898. You guessed it! He was the architect that designed our very own Wise County Courthouse. Built between 1895 and 1896 our courthouse was deemed architecturally perfect by the design community. The Texas pink granite beauty became the crown jewel of the Decatur Town Square. We are in good company as the Texas State Capitol is also made out of pink granite. Why pink granite? The stone is beautiful and unique, but it may have had more to do with the fact that Texas is home to the second largest granite deposit in the world.
The Decatur Town Square, which was laid out in 1857, was now ready to take its place in Texas history.
We want to pay tribute to Decatur Town Square’s history as well as applaud its revitalization
Great things have happened ~ Great things are coming
People in small towns, much more than cities, share a destiny ~ Richard Russo
There is so much more to the Wise County Courthouse than “just a pretty face.” Any building that was erected in 1896 and still in operation today must harbor some secrets. A recent tour through covert doors and up winding staircases turned up these little known facts:
County Court Law #1 has only had three Judges – EVER
A trustee from Mineral Wells served his eight year sentence performing carpentry work in the Courthouse. He matched all the woodwork in County Court Law #1 to the original 1896 window frames. What he was able to achieve is simply amazing. The Trustee built everything in the room except the chairs around the table. He even constructed a wall clock.
The original second floor steel doors that fended off attacks from marauding Indians are still housed in the attic.
Three people have died in the building.
The original crank that wound the tower clock remains in a safe within the building.
The steel beams are still labeled and numbered. The beams are bolted as no welding equipment existed in 1896.
The original lightning rod survives in the attic.
The doors in the basement are all rounded so as to provide more protection. For this reason, the basement is used as a shelter. Pamphlets regarding survival from a nuclear fallout were found in one of the closets.
The Courthouse leaks like the Titanic when it rains.
A tunnel once existed from the Courthouse to the jail.
Up until twenty years ago, all former records were stored in the attic of the Courthouse. A firm was hired to go through all the documents and determine what needed to be kept. Ultimately almost everything was sent down a chute from a window on the second floor to a shredder below.
Pigeons love our Courthouse, and they poop – A LOT
As I made my way on uncertain paths weaving between past and present, I came across history and intrigue. What I found most enjoyable, however, was listening to the passion of the tour guide as he lovingly tells the stories of this beautiful, old building. I am reminded that without a caretaker, the treasures will not survive. Wise County owes a debt of gratitude to those that care deeply for and make every effort to preserve our magnificent courthouse.