Thursday, November 17, 2005

Into the Borderlands, Part 2

Wherein Merriwether tells of the do-it-yourself cemetery, a search for a grist mill, another abandoned farmhouse, and the ashes of Magnola.

Down the road from Steward's Mill general store one finds the Steward Mill cemetery. Apparently people have been using this burial ground without proper authorization and so the cemetery owners have posted a sign to the right of the gate requesting people call before they dig.

The actual grist mill Steward's Mill formed around was supposed to be along the creek next to this cemetery. We followed the stream for quite some distance but could find no remains of the mill. A couple of spots along the creek looked promising but time had done a thorough job of wiping away man's work. I was hoping to see a millstone again. Once while snorkling in the Poestenkill Gorge in Troy, New York I found a large mill stone. As I poked at it a large eel swam out from under it and scared me half to death. According to my friends I shot straight up out of the water yelling "Eel! Eel!". There were no signs of eels (or copperheads) here.

Dissappointed we headed off down more Texas backroads in Jade Hawk. Less than a mile down the road we spotted another abandoned farm house.
We poked around and took some pictures. The floor looked pretty rotten so we didn't enter it.

It was time to try and find Magnolia, Texas. This town had been a shipping port along the Trinity River in the mid-1800's. Later it became a iron-mining town, then it just rusted away. There's a new town in Texas called Magnolia, but it's not the same place.

Clark had deduced Magnolia's location from assorted old maps and documents and had loaded this info into his GPS unit. We parked at an old slave's cemetery and headed into the woods. We followed a small stream to the Trinity River while keeping sharp eyes out for any foundations, odd clearings, old garbage, or out-of-place plants.

We found a few unnatural mounds and holes on our trek to the Trinity River, but we couldn't confirm that they were of Magnolian-origin. We searched the woods for quite a while, then focus on the bank of the Trinity River. It was an absolutely perfect day along a beautiful river.

We did spot an odd pile of rocks sticking out into the river. Could it be a jetty for loading/unloading the river boats making their way up to Dallas? It did not look like a natural structure with the straight edges and squared-off pond.

Using this 'jetty" as a a starting point, Clark and I headed back into the woods. This time we were somewhat more lucky. We came across a large area with much smaller trees than the surrounding forest. More interestingly (if you are an adventurer) were the scattered piles of ashes we found still scarring the forest floor. At fairly regular 40' intervals we'd find a pile of old ashes and cinder.

Some more pokings uncovered a few old bottles and even a square-hewn log. At this point Clark and I agreed we had quite likely found the remains of Magnolia, Texas and it was nothing but some ashes.

There's probably a lesson in there somewhere.

At that point we decided to return to the river. We made another interesting discovery there, thousands of fossils! The river was quite low and a layer of rock was exposed that was filled with fossilized shells. I'm not sure of the type or period from which they came.

Probably another lesson could be gained from the fossils. In some ways, this trip turned out to have a much greater effect on us than we originally expected. When we first set out we were just two guys looking to get away from civilization for a day. Eating lunch on the edge of a town dead for 50-70 years overlooking the remains of creatures dead 35-75 million years has a way of making your PBJ sandwich taste kind of funny. Abandoned farms, lost towns, ancient clams...what a wonderful trip.

After several hours we finally left the Trinity River and it's ghosts. Clark's gps unit lead up back to the slave's cemetery where we had parked. We wandered aimlessly around there a bit more reading gravestones from before the Civil War. Neither of us were quite ready to return to our lives in the air-conditioned, electronically enhanced, perfectly manicured suburbs. A dirt road beckoned and we answered with a flick of the wheel and a cloud of dust.

What the dust had once been I do not know...

Adventure! Excitement! Exploration!

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