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Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Texas Ghost Town... and pigs

What's left of the once thriving town of Courtney, Texas

I went out "picking" with a picker buddy this morning... between the two of us we have about 75 years experience in the profitable pastime. Or potentially profitable pastime...

This morning we made a couple exploratory forays... one in some old abandoned shacks near Courtney, Texas, and then we scouted around Courtney itself. I reminded Johnny about the highly coveted "Courtney bitters bottle" and we decided to cruise around and try to find a likely place to dig.

The old ghost town of Courtney, named after Jared Groce's (considered the "Father of Texas Agriculture") daughter-in-law, sports only a little church where once there were a dozen or more saloons and other mercantiles. But her ghosts are profuse. Courtney boasted of cotton gins, dance halls, schools, artesian wells and even a bridge across the Brazos River. But gone now are the pioneer families like the Groces, Dunhams and McAlpines who settled here during the Republic days. There is no marker here for Robert Dunham, former resident and one of the unlucky captives who drew one of the infamous black beans prescribed by Santa Anna. He was executed in Mexico for his part in the Mier Expedition in 1843. There is a wonderful marker for Primus Kelly, a legendary slave who accompanied his master to war.. and brought him all the way home after he was wounded. You can read about him at the roadside park on HWY 6 between Navasota and Hempstead.

I'm told Courtney was a pretty wild place... Robert Dunham was not the last hellraiser, as a railroad camp ten years later provided lots of excitement before the Civil War, when the sprawling town was infested with gamblers, prostitutes and fortune seekers; The future founders of Navasota. The H. & T.C. Railroad established Navasota a few years later, and that spelled the beginning of its decline, which was almost complete by 1960. During the 30's former Texas Ranger and Grimes County Sheriff Duke Hudson, close crony of Frank Hamer, moved here with his family.

Our finds? Three young copperheads trying to hibernate and six large and fairly fresh hog skulls scattered here and there. Ironically, right in the middle of the old downtown district, where free-roaming hogs were once such a nuisance that they were rooting around everyone's yards and gardens and the roads... and terrorizing the neighborhood, disturbing the Baptists on Sunday night fellowships as they fought under the sanctuary, busting up floorboards. Not sure what all that means... if anything... but it made a good picture. Now that I take my camera picking, I always come home with something!

We found this concrete outhouse right on the tracks... If anybody knows what this was, please make a comment!

But the real find was this magnificant Sycamore tree. I'm sure this tree saw the original Courtney-ites hustling and bustling back in the 1860's. It may be one of the largest, and certainly one of the nicest shaped Scycamore trees in the state. We'll have to visit upon it again... and paint it.

1 comment:

Keith Rolling said...

The "Outhouse" you refer to in your article was actually one of the first phone booths in the area. There used to be a train station in Courtney at that very sight to load cotton from the river bottom farmers that lived in the area. The station was purchased and moved to another site in Courtney. It was remodeled into a house that burned down during a New Year's fireworks celebration a couple of years ago.