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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.

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.

S.jpg (7677 bytes)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 fun.
       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 Archives.
       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 proper.
laundry1.jpg (27330 bytes)        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 "Brief 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.

       While 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 hat.
       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
TurnA.jpg (4971 bytes)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."  


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