EL CAMPO AND BEYOND: We were fast losing daylight in El Campo
but I couldn't resist a few downtown pictures. In Nada I stopped in front of Leo's
place for a pic, then homeward bound on I-10.
AFTER THE CAMP -- NOTHING
Story & Photos by IRA KENNEDY
The New York, Texas and Mexican Railway converged at Prairie Switch.
Dubbed the "Pearl of the Prairies" thousands of cattle were shipped from there
to San Antonio every year. But the Mexican cowboys, disinclined to such poetic
musings, switched the name to El Campo -- "The Camp" and the name stuck.
Further up the road is Nada, which means "nothing"
in Spanish, but its name isn't about nothing -- more on that later.
l Campo, being a cowboy campsite, was a town without buildings until
1889 when the general store opened, then in 1890 a post office was built and El
Campo headed for progress. Six years later a fire nearly wiped out the town but that
wasn't holding them back. By 1900 the community had 130 businesses and things were
looking up. For a little while anyway.
A year to be exact. In 1901 another fire took
out a large section of the El Campo business community. Seems fires are something of a
tradition in the Coastal Prairie. Anyway, El Campo must have taken a page from The
Three Little Pigs because after the second fire folks started building everything out
Before visiting El Campo
Ms. Intrepid and I took a little detour to Blessing some 15 miles to the south. It
was here sometime around the "El Campo Fire of 1901" a rancher, Jonathan E.
Pierce, started pondering the possibility of a rail terminal on his ranch. First, he
granted right-of-way to the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway and once the
deal was done he decided to name his new town "Thank God". The U.S.
Post Office wasn't any too keen on that name so in 1902 Pierce settled for the name
"Blessing". Then he set aside 640 acres of his ranchland for the town, where he
built Hotel Blessing and a brick bank, both of which still stand today.
Entering El Campo, Ms. Intrepid
took Nigel the Land Rover on a few laps around the square while I walked about taking
pictures and, as you can see, most every building is brick. But that's not the
really interesting part. Seems at every turn there is a mural. In fact you can
take a tour of the dozen or so Murals of El Campo. ( Oops. I forgot to mention the half dozen Murals of Palacios.)
Judging from the styles, most of the murals were painted by Dayton Wodrich.
Unfortunately, none of the pictures on the websites do the murals justice -- you'll
just have to see for yourself.
We were wearing out the
daylight and pointed Nigel the Land Rover north toward home. I'd picked out another
curiosity on the map -- a place called Nada.
How towns come up with names doesn't seem to follow
any rules at all. From such wanna be places as Eden and Utopia to El Campo which it
isn't The Camp anymore, logic is elusive.
Then you have towns like Nada. Originally named
Vox Populi (from Latin vox populi vox dei, "the voice of the people is the
voice of God"). I reckon, when the people (or God) finally spoke up the name
was changed to Nada. It was was intended to be Najda from the Czechoslovakian word najda
Maybe the people had one idea
(Najda) and God had another (Nada). Maybe folks couldn't spell. Maybe it was
named by the Czechs and put into print by Mexicans. Maybe the situation was hopeless
to begin with. Who knows? But I'm sticking with Nada and its Spanish meaning
because it lives up to that reputation. Apart from Leo's Place there were only two
or three other buildings plus an old gin along the road. All on one side of the
highway, just like Pandora. You have to respect a town that most Texans consider
Nothing and do nothing to change the name.
Well, Ms. Intrepid, Nigel the Land Rover and I
made it to The Coast and back all in one day. We haven't decided on our next trip
but I'll be the first to admit that we'll have to head that way again.
PAGE 1: INDIANOLA
/ PAGE 2: PORT LAVACA
PAGE 3: PALACIOS / PAGE 4: EL CAMPO
/ MAP / 3-D PIC
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