Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Daniel Kalder visits Peyton Colony (Blanco County)

Author and ghost town afficionado Daniel Kalder has posted a terrific video documenting his recent visit to Peyton Colony in Blanco County, founded by freed slaves who called the site home for generations. Check it out! (And yes, I've been there, too, although I need to go back someday.)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ireland (Coryell County/Hamilton County) - March 2013 photos

A lot of communities in Texas became ghost towns because railroad tracks were never laid anywhere in the vicinity of these sites. Ireland, however, is an example of a town that gained a railroad, then lost it.

Ireland, which straddles the Coryell/Hamilton county line about 16 miles northwest of Gatesville, got its start as the rural community of Hamco, which took its name from the first letters of each county. In 1911, however, the St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company (better known as the Cotton Belt Railway) ran a line between Gatesville and Hamilton that ran right through Hamco, which blossomed into an actual town through the work of the Mid-Texas Improvement Company. The locals then petitioned for a post office to be named in honor of John Ireland, a former Texas governor. The post office was granted, and Ireland was born in earnest.

Ireland March 2013 #1 photo DSC03177_zpse1b75999.jpg The handsome train depot at Ireland, now on private farmland

Ireland March 2013 #2 photo DSC03178_zps68d3c8c7.jpg A closer look at the depot

The new town attracted cotton farmers who were eager to sell their crops to European nations, where World War I drove up prices for agricultural commodities. Ireland's population swelled to 400 by 1921, when a two-story brick schoolhouse was built on the county line to replace its previous wooden frame schoolhouse. In addition to the school, Ireland now boasted a bank (also two stories) with $20,000 of capital stock and a chamber of commerce as well as three churches, three general stores, a drug store, a restaurant, and several other businesses.

Ireland March 2013 #3 photo DSC03186_zps8133147e.jpg A general store in downtown Ireland

Ireland March 2013 #4 photo DSC03188_zpse3821b0b.jpg Another general store that converted into a gas station

Unfortunately for Ireland, agricultural prices collapsed in 1921, making it harder for farmers to realize a profit on their crops. Then the Great Depression hit in 1929, and Ireland's downward spiral was now unstoppable. Families who couldn't sell their land often had it foreclosed by the banks. The Cotton Belt Railway stopped passenger service to Ireland in 1936, finally pulling up its tracks in 1942. By the end of World War II, only 40 residents remained.

Ireland March 2013 #5 photo DSC03182_zpsc8797d58.jpg Foundations and vault of the bank in Ireland

Ireland March 2013 #6 photo DSC03179_zps206ffbbf.jpg A closer look at the vault

Ireland March 2013 #7 photo DSC03189_zpsc6ae5bbd.jpg Historical marker designating the location of the schoolhouse, which was finally demolished in 1984

Ireland March 2013 #8 photo DSC03199_zpsd999c01a.jpg Front steps and foundations of the school, now on private property (Thanks to Jamye Carr for discovering this)

Ireland March 2013 #9 photo DSC03197_zps0a3fd5ce.jpg Table inscribed with JUNIORS 31 just outside the school (Thanks again, Jamye)

Ireland March 2013 #10 photo DSC03195_zpsa3d717ac.jpg A water cistern (?) behind what may have been a gymnasium for the school

Ireland March 2013 #11 photo DSC03204_zpsef0dda3f.jpg A state marker at Ireland Cemetery

Ireland March 2013 #12 photo DSC03211_zps9b5caa3a.jpg This tree stands vigil over Ireland's dearly departed

Ireland March 2013 #13 photo DSC03206_zps9499b65a.jpg Various gravestones at Ireland Cemetery

Ireland March 2013 #14 photo DSC03209_zpse21f06a0.jpg Resting place of Ella Stewart, wife of W.R. Stewart

Ireland's post office managed to linger on until 1970, when it became a rural branch of the Gatesville service. The population grew to 60 in 1990 and stayed there for at least 10 years. A recent estimate says that there may now only be 20 people living at the townsite. One of the churches has also been converted into a private residence.

Today, Ireland is a quiet place, farmed and ranched by the few diehards who stayed behind, and friendly dogs play amongst the building foundations that straddle Farm Road 932 on the county line. Jamye and I truly enjoyed our visit to this once-promising Texas ghost town, built on cotton and the railroad, but doomed by outside forces beyond its control.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Exploring ghost towns - with a friend

Phew! I just got back in town from Coryell County, where I've been running around for the better part of Saturday with my friend Jamye Carr. We had a lot of fun exploring The Grove, which I visited before back in August of 2010, but this was Jamye's first time to visit this historic and picturesque Hill Country ghost town. And yes, the town well still has water in it to this day. We made sure to check closely this time.

Afterwards, we paid a visit to Ireland, which straddles both Coryell County and Hamilton County. We discovered the downtown area, the cemetery, and the remains of the historic school in Ireland. (It must have been historic - Texas erected a historical marker in its memory.)

I'm very happy that this was my first ghost town expedition with a running buddy, and we're already looking forward to our next expedition together. I will share my photos from Ireland soon, but as many of you know, I've been swamped with work and other commitments lately, and right now I'm just flat out tired. Going home to relax and adjust myself to Daylight Savings Time. Spring forward, remember?

Have a great weekend, everyone!