Ghosts in Texas

Monday, January 23, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

To Big Bend and Back, Day 19  

SAN ANTONIO, Texas— At last.  In Del Rio this morning, we found what we had sought in vain in Lajitas and Terlingua.  A commodity that is easily taken for granted, often not even considered, except when you desperately need it and can't locate one.  Yes, we're talking about an automobile vacuum cleaner.  We must have brought at least 40 pounds of grit with us from southwest Texas and finally this morning, we were able to shed most of the layers of grime inside the car.  Ahhh!  We can even breathe better without coating the inside of our lungs with dust.

Leaving Del Rio, we had to remind ourselves to head east, not west on US-90.  Our first stop was in Brackettville (pop. 1,876) at the Seminole Indian Scouts Cemetery.  The Black Seminole Scouts were descendents of Seminoles and free blacks or runaway slaves who made their way to Florida and lived with the Seminoles there.  The scouts were recruited by the U.S. Army to protect the Texas frontier settlers from hostile Native American tribes in the area.

Seminole Indian Scout Cemetery
During their service from 1873 to 1881, the scouts played a decisive role in the Indian campaigns, yet not one of their number (around 50) was killed or seriously wounded.  Four scouts were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor in action against an enemy force, and all four are buried in the Seminole Scout cemetery along with other scouts and their progeny.  Many of the descendents of these courageous men still live in southern Texas and northern Mexico.

But we want to see the village!
Another place we wanted to visit just north of Brackettville was Alamo Village, a complete replica of a western frontier town built for the filming of John Wayne's 1960 movie The Alamo.  The "set" has played host to more than 200 additional feature films, TV movies, mini-series, documentaries, commercials and music videos, including one of our favorite movies, the quirky Barbarosa, starring Willie Nelson as a legendary outlaw and Gary Busey as a green cowboy-wannabe who hooks up with him.  But alas, our visit to the village was not meant to be.  We found the gates padlocked.   Unlike in the movies, no amount of shooting at the locks would remove them.  (Maybe we should have used something besides a camera.)

East of Brackettville, we passed another Border Patrol checkpoint.  The agent confirmed by inquiry that we were both U.S. citizens and waved us through.  Later in the little town of Knippa, we saw an agent standing on a tall platform next to the railroad tracks, visually inspecting rail car contents as a long train crept slowly past his watchful eyes.


Just west of San Antonio, we detoured to the site of Old D'Hanis.  Established in the spring of 1847, D'Hanis was settled by 29 Alsatian families, some of the hundreds of families recruited to emigrate to the Republic of Texas by colonization agent Henry Castro.  The colony thrived, a post office was established, and, in 1869, St. Dominic's Church was built.

St. Dominic's Church
Though it thrived as a stage stop on the San Antonio-Rio Grande road, the town suffered when the railroad bypassed it.  In 1881, tracks were laid a mile and a half to the west.  Over the next few years, the businesses, citizens, and post office relocated around the train depot, an area which came to be called "New D'Hanis," and later simply D'Hanis.  All that remains of the old settlement are the church ruins and the cemetery.

Our last stop of the day was the Quihi Dance Hall at yet another Texas ghost town.  Also one of Castro's colonies, Quihi was the target of repeated attacks and eventually the town was disbanded in the 1880s.  However, the Alsatians and their descendents continued to live in the area.  In keeping with their European heritage, residents formed the Quihi Schuetzen Verein (later the Quihi Gun Club) in 1890.

Quihi Gun Club
More social organization than shooting club, the group has grown to more than 1,000 members across Medina County and most weekends the hall is the site of social gatherings.  Dances are held twice a month and draw participants from far and wide.  Unfortunately for us, there was no dancing at this tin building under the moss-draped ancient oaks on a Monday afternoon.

DAILY STATS:
  • Started in Del Rio, TX; ended in San Antonio, TX
  • Weather:  Partly Cloudy to Sunny, 40° to 69°
  • Miles driven:  231          (Trip total:  3,413)
  • States: 1 (TX)          (Trip total:  6)
  • Letterboxes found:  4         (Trip total:  81)
  • Leaf-carrying ants:  892
  • Guys walking on the roadside with dog and stroller:  1
  • Grumpy people in Brackettville:  4
  • Pounds of dust removed from car:  43
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