CHEROKEE, TEXAS: Although it's the proverbial "wide spot in the
road", Cherokee has real potential. So far, folks have had a hard time figuring out
just what that might be.
LOOKING FOR LEMON SQUEEZER
Call us crazy. We actually decided to take a road trip
looking for places that have disappeared --
Algerita, China, Wallace Spring, Colony, Sloan and others.
Story & Photos by IRA KENNEDY
During the late 1800s these were vital communities where writers for the San
Saba County News reported the goings-on of their friends and relations. Today
most of these places don't even show up on maps. Talk about ghost towns. You'd
be hard-pressed to find buildings in most of them. Well, the truth is, the
turn-around destination for the trip, Richland Springs, nearly qualifies as a ghost
town. But more on that later.
o why look for disappeared places? The notion
began while reading the old San Saba County News. The humorous and
esoteric pen names of several "scribes" aroused our curiosity. We knew we
might not learn who they really were, but we could visit where they once called home, get
the lay of the land, and maybe stumble on a story.
I had no clue as to why they tried to conceal their
identities--I doubt of that was the point at all. I think they were just having some
There was Santa Claus and Regulus from Bend, Observer
from Harkeyville, Frontier wrote "Cherokee Locals", Cherokee also penned
articles from Cherokee; Gimlet provided articles on Lower Cherokee, Uncle Jim hailed from
Richland Springs; Tanta Bogus wrote for Latham, XXX was the scribe from Velma; Omnes from
Algerita; Bert Bleak from China, Eureka covered the community of Colony; Farmer Boy was
from Wallace Creek; and Lemon Squeezer from Sloan.
Our favorite here at the office is Lemon Squeezer,
whose real name was Jym Sloan. Patsy Marschall Steward, great-great-granddaughter of
John O. Meusebach--founding father of Fredericksburg--was kind enough to inform us of this
true name. Lemon Squeezer wrote an excellent article on "The Bloody Hands of
Alice Todd" currently available on Enchanted Rock
The Intrepid Day Tripper and I made our plans,
studied maps and early one September morning we headed out from Llano. Ms. Intrepid
was driving while I navigated. We had a copy of the Shearer map-book, Roads of
Texas, which is indispensable for such an adventure.
Before taking the trip I asked several old-timers in
the Llano area regarding the whereabouts of Lower Cherokee. They all said they never
knew Cherokee was ever big enough to have an upper and a lower. While poking around
in the Llano library I discovered the answer. Lower Cherokee was considered to be
the communities of Chappel and Bend. Both on Cherokee Creek downstream from Cherokee
From Llano we drove up Hwy 16 to Cherokee. A
good bit smaller than Richland Springs, it seems less like a ghost town, although there
are plenty of empty store fronts which hint of better times, now long past. The
Laundry, though short on customers, was open for business. Maybe that has something
to do with the bachelor population in these parts.
The town is named in remembrance of the Texas
Cherokee who, after they were expelled from their lands in east Texas, where attacked near
the site of this present community by an army of Texans on Christmas Day, 1839. (See a
History of the Texas Cherokee".)
There was once a college in Cherokee, commonly called
Cherokee College--which was the seat of higher learning in its day. According to the
Gray School and the Cherokee College, by Frank S. Gray, the school was
established as West Texas Normal and Business College by Professor Francis Marion Behrns
in 1889; the professor sold the school to Southwestern University in Georgetown in 1901
after which it became Cherokee Junior College. The state historical marker, however
indicates the school was opened in 1895-- it"closed in 1903 and buildings were used
by Cherokee Junior College. After 1921 by public schools. In 1945 fire
destroyed the old main hall."
History is filled with discrepancies, and these won't
be settled here. What is instructive is that this piece of central Texas, just a
century ago, was the West Texas Frontier.
Today, if you're driving through, about the only
places you are likely to turn to are the local gas station, and across the street, the
general store. We stopped to snap a few pictures and headed on to San Saba and the
Cactus Cafe for a breakfast of eggs over easy and, hopefully, directions to those places
now long gone.
Ms. Intrepid busied herself decoding the Sunday Los Angeles Times crossword
puzzle, I surveyed the restaurant looking for the oldest rancher in the room. As
fortune would have it, at a nearby table, five folks sat around over morning coffee.
Among them was an amiable looking old feller, a kinda clean shaven Santa Claus in a cowboy
I introduced myself, passed around copies of Enchanted
Rock Magazine and then told of my mission to locate all but forgotten communities in
the area. Again fortune smiled. One of the places that had vanished from the
map was Wallace Creek. Well, not the creek, but the community. It so happened
I was talking to Kenneth Wallace and he told me what I had already suspected.
There's noting there anymore, except the creek, and its had a hard summer.
"China?" he responded to my next question,
"There's nothing much there anymore. But if you'll turn back toward town and
turn left where they 're doing construction, go down to the
end of that road and turn left, before long you'll come up on an old suspension bridge
that crosses China Creek."
1: MOVIN' ON / PAGE 2: CHEROKEE
PAGE 3: SAN SABA & CHINA /
PAGE 4: RICHLAND SPRINGS
PAGE 5: SLOAN / THE MAP
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