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Showing posts with label hometown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hometown. Show all posts

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Love's Lookout

Love's Lookout, Jacksonville, TexasJoe and I grew up in the same small East Texas town.  Jacksonville is located in Cherokee County surrounded by rolling hills and pine trees. The scenic overlook in the photograph (not mine, one I found online) is called Love's Lookout. The scenic bluff was used for the location of a large ampitheatre formed from  red rock, a WPA project. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Depression-era Works Progress Administration came to the hill in the 1930s and, using red rock mined from Cherokee County, built a park, picnic grounds and an amphitheater.

The ampitheatre was named to honor Wesley Love who in 1904 bought much of the surrounding area and planted a 600-acre peach farm. After Love's death in 1925, his wife donated 22 acres to the state for a state park. The state, however, failed to create the park and in 1934 the City of Jacksonville purchased an additional 20 acres and developed the two tracts as a city park. That's when the Works Progress Administration began its project.

In the Spring, dogwoods and other spring flowers are in bloom, making the setting even more beautiful. When I was a child, we often drove on the highway between Jacksonville and Tyler because both sets of my grandparents lived in Bullard, about halfway between those towns. Typically, scenes that are so familiar and frequently seen tend to be taken for granted.  Not until you are far away do you remember those sights and realize just how lovely they were.

There is yet another fond connection for our family with this place and its name. In 1982, we bought the home built by John Wesley Love and lived there long enough to research and write its history, receiving a designation for the significance of the home with a State Historical marker. By that time all acreage but the 3 acres where the house was located had been sold (or donated, as the land for Love's lookout is located), but the oaks and magnolias and pines that were there were  lovely reminders. When I did the research for the historical commission I learned that there were earlier connections between our family and the Loves.  My father and uncle once worked in John Wesley Love's peach orchards picking peaches.  Joe's father had done work inside the home as a painter.

When we do go back to Jacksonville, our itinerary usually includes a trip to the Bullard cemetery where so many of my ancestors were laid to rest. The highway is bigger and better, but the sides of the road are still lined with red dirt and pine trees.  There are still remnants of the watermelon colored crepe myrtles which were always full of summertime blooms.  And Love's Lookout still beckons us to stop and look across  a green valley.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jacksonville, Texas

Jacksonville (population 14,544) sits about 30 miles south of Tyler in East Texas and is surrounded by lush green forests nestled atop rolling hills. Some might find that strange because when I’ve spoken to people who don’t live here and I tell them I’m from Texas, their first comment is, “It’s so flat there.” What they don’t understand is that Texas has a diverse landscape and Jacksonville is one of those places that proves it.
Jacksonville was founded as a result of an Indian massacre. On October 5, 1838, the Killough family migrated to the area from Alabama and was attacked by a group of Cherokee Indians while preparing the land for harvest and building their homes. In total, eighteen were either killed or taken as captives. The few family members who managed to escape walked over 40 miles south, ending up in Alto, Texas and those who were taken as captives were never heard from or ever seen again. General Thomas Rusk brought the Texas Army to the area to search for those who committed the murders and one of his soldiers, Jackson Smith, while scouting along Gum Creek,  found a spot that was so beautiful he vowed to return and make his future home there. He did so nine years later.

 Jacksonville is a city with an exciting and unique history. Its story goes back to 1838, the year of the Killough Massacre, East Texas' worst Indian atrocity. The site of the massacre was about seven miles north of the current location. Eighteen settlers, including women and children, either were killed or carried away, never to be heard from again.

General Thomas J. Rusk brought the Texas Army into this area to search for the renegades who had committed the murders. One of his soldiers, Kentucky native Jackson Smith, was scouting along Gum Creek when he found a spot so beautiful that he vowed to return and make his home there. Nine years later, he did.
Jackson Smith built a house and blacksmith shop along the east bank of of the creek in 1847, setting up a post office at one end of the shop which took the name Gum Creek, after the little community that had grown up there since 1838. Soon after Smith built his shop, Dr. William Jackson built an office next to it. When Smith had a townsite and square surveyed near his home in 1850, Jacksonville, named after the two men, was born, officially replacing the community of Gum Creek in June of that year.
In 1872, the International-Great Northern Railroad was built through Cherokee County, missing Jacksonville by about two miles. Jacksonville inhabitants, aware that the railroad was crucial to the survival of the town, worked out an agreement with railroad officials to survey a new township along the railroad. In the fall of 1872, most of the original Jacksonville was moved the two miles east to its new location.
Within ten years, agriculture became the main focus of the local economy. Jacksonville was a leading center for peach production from the 1880s to 1914; thereafter, tomatoes became the primary crop until the 1950s. During this time, Jacksonville earned the title "Tomato Capital of the World." Livestock has always been -- and to a certain extent still is -- an important part of the economy as well. The production of plastics and polymers led industry from the 1980s through the '90s.
In 1945, when I was 4 years old my parents saved enough money to pay cash for a small frame house on the corner of Sunset Avenue and Pineda Street, which was my home until I was 17, graduated from Jacksonville High School and went away to college.  Some of the old photographs in this slide show I believe to be prior to 1945, but many were taken during the time that I grew up there.