Thursday, December 27, 2012

Obligatory holiday ghost town photo!

Taken at the townsite of Silver Lake on December 26, 2012. This old gas station sits close to the line that divides Van Zandt County and Smith County, which Silver Lake straddles.


I'll present a more complete picture of Silver Lake real soon. Best wishes to everyone for a happy and peaceful New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

La Reunion - A different sort of expedition

If you haven't checked out the December 19 edition of The Dallas Morning News yet, take a look at this article.

Joe Ramirez has been in contact with me a couple of times looking for the scant remains of the La Reunion ghost town west of downtown Dallas, and when he came across what might be the old DeLord homestead, he found he found the site in disarray just as I had in March. Suspecting that the site was being used as a meth lab, Joe tried in vain to get various Dallas organizations to pay attention to the old colony site.

That's when Joe led a small expedition to the DeLord homestead, as recorded in The Dallas Morning News.

I don't want to spoil the story, and besides, the paper would appreciate a few more on-line visitors. But please read it - the article's not too terribly long.

I'm happy that this blog played some part in shining light on a forgotten chapter of Dallas' history, and I'm proud of Joe for staying on the case and not letting this site fall through the cracks.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gilliland (Knox County) - December 2012 photos

Some ghost towns in Texas have long and detailed histories replete with tales of ambition, grandeur, innovation, and sometimes lawlessness and mayhem. And then there are ghost towns like Gilliland, which is located on Farm Road 1756 in north central Knox County, within an hour's drive from the Panhandle.

Gilliland December 2012 #01
Downtown Gilliland today

Located smack dab in the middle of nowhere, Gilliland never grew to any great size - boasting a reported peak of 120 residents in 1947 - but those that called Gilliland home worked hard to build it into a community that could take care of itself. The first white settlers to put down roots here established a community called Coyote, and their efforts managed to attract some Norwegian families from Bosque County, who migrated to Coyote in 1890. The community established its own school district on May 1, 1892, and opened the doors of its school in 1895, with Oma Aker serving as the community's first teacher. When Coyote resident O.M. Olson opened a post office inside his home in 1907, the post office was named after district judge W.A. Gilliland, and the name quickly stuck to the town itself.

Gilliland December 2012 #02
Abandoned and deteriorating general store at Gilliland

Gilliland December 2012 #03
Remains of Gilliland's garage

Gilliland December 2012 #04
A peek inside the disheveled garage

A cotton gin was built just outside Gilliland in 1910 and later modernized in 1936. Gilliland's population grew from 50 in 1925 to 120 in 1947, with the school, four businesses and one church serving the town's needs.

Gilliland December 2012 #05
Gilliland's abandoned gas station and grocery

Gilliland December 2012 #06
Closer look at the rusting Esso gasoline pumps (today, Esso is known as ExxonMobil)

Gilliland December 2012 #07
One of numerous derelict houses in Gilliland being reclaimed by the elements

The most important building in Gilliland appears to have been its school. Although small compared to many modern school buildings in Texas today, Gilliland's school featured numerous classrooms, a cafeteria, and a gymnasium that doubled as an auditorium for plays and assemblies. Over the years, the school absorbed other schools in the region, which undoubtedly contributed to the town's growth. In 1948, however, it was Gilliland's turn. The town's high school was transferred to the city of Munday, some 20 miles south of Gilliland, leaving the town with only a grade school that continued to operate until the school itself was closed down in 1975.

Gilliland December 2012 #08
Gilliland's school building as seen from the rear

Gilliland December 2012 #09 Weatherbeaten swingset at the Gilliland school

Gilliland December 2012 #10 Ingenious front gate to Gilliland's school - students can fit through, but cattle cannot

Gilliland December 2012 #11 Front door to Gilliland's school building

Gilliland December 2012 #12
Stage in the gymnasium, still outfitted for a school play

Gilliland December 2012 #13
Bleachers in the gymnasium

Gilliland December 2012 #14
Hallway between classes with rotting and deteriorating floor - walking on the floorboards is NOT recommended

The closing of Gilliland's school appears to mirror the fortunes of the town itself; in 1990, the population was reported as 103, but ten years later, the number plunged to only 25. Today, there may be even fewer than that.

Gilliland December 2012 #14
Front gate to Gilliland Cemetery

Gilliland December 2012 #15
Some of the numerous graves at the cemetery

Gilliland December 2012 #16
Memorial to World War I and World War II veterans at the cemetery

Gilliland December 2012 #17
One of Gilliland's denizens had a striking name

Gilliland December 2012 #18
Tombstone for a nurse

Gilliland Cemetery is approaching its sesquicentennial, and unfortunately some of the older gravestones have been damaged or disappeared completely. A couple of graves caught my eye in the far corner of the cemetery - the only known African-Americans buried in Gilliland. Whoever interred them apparently felt the need to not only isolate their graves from the general population at the cemetery, but also to stamp the word "Negro" on each of their headstones.

Gilliland December 2012 #19
Grave marker for Herman Williams

Looking back at the photographs I took of Gilliland, while I am proud of the images I've been able to share with you, there were so many more images of the ghost town I could have captured. I've been looking forward to visiting Gilliland for a long time, and while the chances are remote that I will ever set foot in the townsite again, if I ever do, I will definitely have to grab more photos of this small but proud town nestled in the Rolling Plains, just southeast of the Panhandle. Sometimes, the best stories come out of the smallest towns, and in the case of towns such as Gilliland, it's not just a matter of what the town has built - but also what it has left behind.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

From the Rolling Plains to downtown Dallas in 4 1/2 hours

Yesterday, I pushed all the way into Knox County during my first ghost town expedition in months, and after seeing some impressive sights and taking lots of photos, I raced all the way back to Dallas to catch a performance of Avenue Q with some old friends of mine, walking through the front door with only a couple of minutes to spare.

I did mention photos, right? I'll be sharing them with you sometime this week, and they will definitely be worth the wait. Can't do it today, though - too many errands, and I'm still feeling exhausted. The leg cramp that woke me up this morning didn't help. Please bear with me; the photos are coming really soon. I have some catching up to do on this site.