Friday, April 24, 2015

Along the Chisholm Trail and Restaurant Review

Pink Indian Paintbrush
There are no firm records about when Jesse Chisholm was born, but researchers seem to agree that it was around 1805 or 1806. The son of an Irish farmer and an Indian mother, Jesse established himself as a trader and scout. Although he is best known for the Chisholm Trail, he spent his life developing trading posts among the Plains Indians. Once the Civil War ended, he settled in Kansas and improved a trail that had been used by the military so that it would accommodate the heavy wagons he used to carry the materials he traded. This road (Chisholm’s Trail, re-named Chisholm Trail once the cattlemen began using it) went from his southern trading post near the Red River, to his northern trading post near Kansas City, Kansas. This road became important to Texas cattle ranchers when their trail drives were blocked by local Missouri farmers in an effort to keep tick infestations out of local herds. This meant that the cattle drives had to be re-routed to an area near Red River Station in Texas. The first herd to use the Chisholm Trail belonged to O. W. Wheeler. He brought his 2,400 steers from Texas to the Abilene, Kansas stockyards, paving the way for some 5,000,000 head of Texas cattle to reach Kansas using the Chisholm Trail.

The Chisholm Trail runs through Johnson County, Texas and this is where the Chisholm Trail Museum is located. The museum is on the site of the first Johnson County Seat,
Wardville and Chisholm Trail Signs
Wardville. Named after Thomas William Ward, a hero of the Texas Revolution, Wardville was on its way to becoming a bustling town when it was found that it was not close enough to the geographic center of the county to be the seat. A new election was held, making Buchanan (Buck Hannon), a community five miles to the west, the new county seat. Although only in existence from 1855 until 1857, there are still artifacts from Wardville preserved at the museum site. As with the town, the Museum sits on the west branch of Noland's River, about five miles west of Cleburne, TX. Along with information about the trail, there are several buildings including a blacksmith shop, a school house, the old stagecoach office, the hotel, and the jail. The docents are interesting and entertaining; each knows a great deal about the area and is happy to tell stories and answer questions. There are also local artisans who continue the practice of blacksmithing and beadwork. We had a delightful time wandering through the buildings, talking to folks, and learning about the original residents.

Cleburne is Johnson County's third county seat. So what happened to Buchanan? As luck
Chisholm Trail Museum
would have it, county lines were re-drawn to make room for Hood County. This changed the center of Johnson County so that Buchanan was no longer within six miles of it. In yet another election, county residents chose Camp Henderson (later re-named Cleburne) as the County Seat. Cleburne is also the site of the production of the first major document of the agrarian revolt, the Cleburne Demands; rural farmers formed a group to bring their issues to the state legislature with the goal of getting help with farming problems. Even though Cleburne was primarily an agricultural center, the facility opened by the Santa Fe Railroad in the late 1800s helped to diversify jobs and to make this town grow. Cleburne is now a suburb in the DFW Metroplex and the second largest town in the county.

I hadn’t seen the Johnson County square in a while and I wanted to see what had changed in this little town since I’d last been there; it has changed a lot. The Chisholm Trail Museum was a pleasant diversion and there were several restaurants around the square that attracted our attention (for information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews).

What we did…
Three and one-half carrots
The Chisholm Trail Museum (2929 West Henderson Street, Cleburne, Texas, 817-648-0989) is just off Highway 67 and just southwest of the Texas Health Harris Methodist 
Top: Tepee, School House and Windmill
Bottom: Stagecoach Depot
Hospital at Cleburne. You’ll need to pay attention or you’ll zoom right by the access road if you’re on the highway. There is no fee for the outdoor exhibits, but there are jars around for donations. It was well worth our time to see each of the buildings, read the information cards and talk to the docents. I particularly like the school house with its McGuffey Readers, wooden desks, and replicas of dunce hats. The kids that were visiting on the day we went loved the Indian tepees and decided they could live in one if they had a blanket to sit on. The grounds, themselves, are lovely and there are areas for picnicking either on the bluff above the river or down under the oak trees. There is a fee for the Big Bear Native American Museum, although it is quite reasonable and the exhibits are interesting. There are a couple of small shops with souvenirs and a place to get a cold drink.

What we ate…
Three and one-half carrots
The Purple Turnip (104 N Pendell Ave, Cleburne, 817-558-6927) was and was not what we expected. It is sort of a tearoom, but the menu appeals to elderly gentlemen, young
Top: Deluxe Burger, Purple Turnip
Bottom: Caesar Salad, Fruit and Sandwich
mothers, police detectives, and a variety of other locals. The prices and the food are very good. Dave had the Deluxe Burger that came with some of the best bacon he'd had in a long time; it also had a side of potato salad that was equally good. The meat was the size of the bread and the vegetables were fresh. Vince and I had the Bacon, Tomato and Mozzarella sandwich. It was a nice twist on the usual BLT. I chose the fruit as the side and he chose the Caesar salad. The fruit was average, but he said that the Caesar salad was very good, especially with the freshly grated cheese. The sandwiches were more than we could possibly eat with the thick slabs of cheese and the very fresh tomatoes. We also got to sample the thick-sliced bacon and were as pleased with it as Dave was with his. The waitresses seemed to know many of the patrons and all had a good sense of humor. Service was good, although the restaurant became very crowded between the times we entered and left.  There was a brisk take-out business going on, so the cooks behind the counter were working hard to keep things moving. 

Texas Bluebonnets
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