Talking Trash and Texas History

Linda Jo Conn

The suggested “Let’s Get Outside!” ECRTMN chapter activity for the first week in January was to pick up litter at a roadside park or other public area.  Granted, it is not that exciting a task but with the Covid numbers still a concern, it was an activity that could be performed in solitude at any convenient time.    

Today was my day to “get outside”.  It was cool and overcast but fortunately, there was not an icy wind gusting from the north.  

After attending the hybrid ECR chapter board meeting in Cameron, I drove down FM 2095 to Gause and turned east on Hwy 79 toward the Brazos River and the Milam and Robertson County line. Just before the river, there is a pullover with a couple of granite monuments and a row of large crepe myrtle trees.  

One of the monuments commemorates the former site of the town of Nashville surveyed in the fall of 1835 as the capital of Sterling C. Robertson’s colony and named for Nashville, Tennessee, where Robertson and many of his colonists had formerly lived.  The location also commemorates the first Texas home of George C. Childress, the chairman of the committee who drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence.    

The monuments

The other monument was erected by the Texas Society of DAR in 1991 to commemorate the DAR Centennial Park.  According to the inscription: “In 1936 the Sarah McCalla Chapter DAR of Cameron created a park (about ¾ mile upriver) at the site of old Nashville to commemorate the Texas State Centennial.  The red rock DAR monument to the left was in that park which is now inaccessible.”  The red rock monument referred to was vandalized and is no longer on the site.  The inscription continues: “Sterling C. Robertson who is buried in the old Nashville Cemetery was moved to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin in 1935.” The monument commemorates the Centennial of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution 1890-1990.

I do not travel this highway very often, but when I do, I usually stop to check the site out.  Usually, there has been plenty of litter in the area, but today, there was not an inordinate amount so my workload was light. I found nothing exciting or valuable; just the usual beer bottles, aluminum cans, cigarette butts, and some miscellaneous paper items.  My haul was a Walmart bag stuffed full and a few large pieces of metal. I am intrigued by the mention of the Nashville cemetery and the former park.  I plan to do some research and will return to visit the cemetery in the spring.  

The haul of trash.

The area behind the monuments is now covered with rosettes of Texas Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) and it will certainly be worth the trip. 

Bluebonnets!

What’s Up with Our Chapter?

Hello! It’s been such a busy time for the El Camino Real Chapter that we haven’t had much time to update you.

Marsha May sharing all her birding information.

First, our 2020 training class has been meeting the past few Thursdays, and it’s going very well! We have over ten class members, and every single one of them is bringing amazing talents and knowledge to our chapter. The classes have been attended by many of our current chapter members, too, because there is so much to learn.

For example, last week we had Marsha May, a renowned birder and former Texas Parks and Wildlife employee, who told us so many things about birds that even the most experienced birders didn’t know. (I learned how their lungs work, where there are two air chambers, so when they breathe out, it’s the air from the previous breath!)

The classes are a great way for current members to get Advanced Training hours and also get to know our new class members.

Coming Up

Next week is our February Chapter Meeting, which will feature one of our favorite speakers, Dr. Alston Thoms. He is an archeologist at Texas A&M University, and he will present a program about the original peoples who occupied the land around the Rancheria Grande here in Milam County. Knowing who lived here before us really puts the area into perspective.

A map of the Rancheria Grande, which was near current Gause, Texas. We have members who own property there. This image is from this Austin American Statesman article. The article would be great to read in preparation for the Chapter Meeting.

On the Saturday after the chapter meeting February 15) will be a wonderful field trip opportunity for our class members and current Chapter members. We will visit the property of one of our members, near Davilla, and get first-hand information on the flora and fauna in our area.

BioBlitz!

Our iNaturalist team (Linda Jo Conn, Ann Collins, and me) has set up the FIRST of our BioBlitzes for February 22. We will announce the location at the Chapter Meeting, and it will appear in our weekly email newsletter, so stay tuned.

What’s a BioBlitz? It’s where a group of people get together and record as many entries into iNaturalist in a set area that they can. We are planning to eventually cover all the parks in Milam County, which is a big job, but will provide wonderful data about our county for researchers. We’re excited!

Art by Sean Wall, on my wall.

Farther in the Future

Carlton climbs a fence.

Our Vice President, Donna Lewis, is working hard scheduling speakers for the 2020 Chapter Meetings. We’re excited to be able to announce that our friend, Sean Wall, will be joining us for the May 14 meeting. He’s an expert on wildcrafting, edible native plants, and using what you find in nature in all aspects of your life. For example, he painted this picture of my dog, Carlton, scaling our fence using pigments he found around him.

The Saturday after the Chapter Meeting, Sean will return to Milam County to lead a nature walk at the Hermits’ Rest Ranch, to see what kind of edible plants are growing in the fields, wetlands, and wooded areas there. The wildflowers should be pretty that time of year, too!

We hope to see you at some of our meetings and events. Our Chapter Meetings are open to the public, by the way!

Let the Tours Begin

By Lisa Milewski

On Saturday, October 12, 2019 the Rancheria Grande Chapter of the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association conducted a tour of several significant, certified sites along the El Camino Real in Milam County. 

https://photos.smugmug.com/Milam-County-Historical-Commission/Milam-County-Historical-Commission-2019/El-Camino-Real-Tour-2019/i-g5QZxqm/0/094e64ef/X2/El%20Camino%20Real%20Tour%202019-27139-X2.jpg
Local history buffs John Pruett and Geri Burnett discussed county and trail history along the route. 

The tour started in Cameron at 9:00am and ended back in Cameron at the Milam County Museum at 5pm.   

Dr. Alston Thoms, Professor of Anthropology at A&M, and Dave Cunningham provided rich and insightful commentary about Sugarloaf Mountain and the surrounding area.

Dave Cunningham

The Tour began with an introduction by Dave Cunningham on the Sugarloaf Bridge as well as a brief history of the area.  Sugarloaf Mountain is privately owned and permission is needed for tours/hikes. 

Sugarloaf Mountain
Continue reading “Let the Tours Begin”

Reclaiming Mined Land

by Sue Ann Kendall

Our June Chapter Meeting speaker was Marty Irwin, who had a long and successful career doing range conservation for Alcoa and other companies who performed strip mining for coal in this area. After Gary Johnson introduced him, Marty shared some pretty fascinating details with us, so I thought I’d summarize them for any who were unable to attend. (I was so busy writing that I didn’t get my usual zillions of blog photos. Oops.)

So, here’s his Facebook picture, appropriately enough, with a large buck.

If I get any facts wrong, I apologize in advance. Also, note that his presentation wasn’t compatible with our laptop, so we all imagined what he was talking about as he went along. Thank goodness he was good at describing.

Mike Conner got his 1,000 volunteer hour milestone pin, too. Congratulations!
Continue reading “Reclaiming Mined Land”

Hiking the El Camino de los Tejas National Historic Trail in Milam County

By Joyce and Mike Conner

Figure 1: Part of the Previously Discovered Trail

On Saturday, March 9, 2019, thirteen students; their teacher, Dr. Nichole Wiedemann, from the University of Texas School of Architecture; and Steven Gonzales, Director of El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association (ELCAT), arrived at Cedar Hill Ranch in Gause to hike a small part of El Camino de los Tejas National Historic Trail.

Figure 2: Dr. Estell Meets the UT Students

There they met Dr. Lucile Estell who explained how she and the late historian Joy Graham worked to get the approximately 2580 miles of trail nationally recognized as the 19th National Historic Trail in the United States in 2004 and then subsequently worked to get signage placed throughout most of Milam County. (Dr. Estell has authored/co-authored several books including El Camino Real de lost Tejas (Images of America) and Historic Bridges of Milam County; and served on the board of ELCAT for many years since its beginning, including as president and vice-president.)

Continue reading “Hiking the El Camino de los Tejas National Historic Trail in Milam County”