Monday, March 14, 2016

This Is Not The Cotswolds

With the racket of a trees going down around the Compound, I figured it'd be a good idea to drive off in search of Texas. And I found a bit of it, in Irene, Hill County.

The Post Office, Irene

Irene, named after a prominent townsman's daughter in 1878, was originally known as Zollicoffer's Mill, in honor of Edwin Zollicoffer, who settled there in 1848. At it's peak in the first two decades of the last century, the town boasted some 400 souls, the railway, a post office, a school, a store and as many as 10 businesses.

2nd Street, Irene

Today the railway is gone, along with the store, the businesses and most of the people, but the post office remains. You get the feeling, as you explore Irene, that it's really a farm which happens to have several houses on it. 

No Trespassing in Irene

Sheep graze across the road from an abandoned store, and round bales lay in lines in the sun behind the post office, which faces what looks like a cattle operation of some sort.

1st Street, Irene

That's not to say that the town's dead, or especially ruinous, despite the abandoned trailer home next to the Windstream junction shed. No, it's just very small and right there in the middle of the farms. Perhaps it is a farm, to all intents and purposes.

There's a small cemetery outside of town. It was sad to see the children's graves and I reflected on the character of the people who lived through the death of their infants. I feel they were made of stern stuff; I doubt that they had much choice in that.

I like Irene, even though it doesn't have a pub or a store.

God bless Texas,



LL said...

Not the Hamptons.

But there is a government job there (Post Office). And that one farm may be prosperous. If you drive along Route 66, which followed the railroad, there are a lot of towns like Irene. Usually there is a post office and there are skeletons from more prosperous times before the rust settled in. If there is a store, I always buy something, even if it's a candy bar (naturally out-of-date), just to do my small bit to keep the place open. When the town store closes and you're driving through and need something, it won't be there.

Did Emmett or Pelham do any better than Irene?

LSP said...

I haven't been to Pelham or Emmett but get the feeling that Irene was always a bit more prosperous. Pelham, the internet tells me, was founded by freed slaves, interestingly.

I might well drive out to them and then go on to Navarro Lake for a bit of fishing.

Anonymous said...

Who was Irene anyway?

LSP said...

All I've been able to find out is that she was the daughter of a "prominent townsman" -- but I'd be curious to know more.

Fredd said...

You'll notice the ADA approved handicap ramp going up to the front stoop of the Irene, TX post office (zip code 76650, population approx 170).

I would wager big money that this ramp has not seen a single wheelchair since its construction in the mid-1980s, at the cost of $12,477.00 (an estimate). But since it's a government facility, out here in the middle of absolute nowhere, it will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, so help me God. And it just goes to show you, Pastor, that you can't escape the long arm (with the attached ham fist) of the U.S. government regardless of where you try to hide.

And this is the place I will be calling home in the future. No, not Irene, but Hill Country.

BillB said...

The Handbook of Texas has this entry for Irene, Texas. Irene is reputed to be the daughter of one of the Armstrong brothers who lived there in the 1870's.

LSP said...

I was wondering if anyone would comment on the Government's ramp, Fredd... But I think you'll like the Hill Country.

LSP said...

I saw that, Bill, and wondered what she was like to have a town named after her. Curious.

Anonymous said...

Irene was a handicap, I'm pretty sure. She was very beautiful and the wealthiest man in Hill country wanted to marry her but couldn't so he named the town after her.

LSP said...

I'm pretty sure that that's how it happened, Holly.

Brighid said...

Find old graveyards interesting, taking rubbings and reading the histories. There is an old cemetery up in the mtns of Ideeho that has some of the most intricate iron work fences.

Fredd's moving to Irene's part of the country! Peace be with you Padre!

LSP said...

Thanks, Brighid, et cum spirituo tuo. It's quite a thing to visit these old country graveyards. Just a few headstones in the middle of the fields.

Fredd threatens to move a bit further south than where I am, within terrorizing distance of Austin...

God bless!

LNP said...

LP. Grew up on a black land farm/ranch there and lived there for almost 5 decades. I can recall the blacksmith shop with one of the most incredible blacksmiths there. A Navy vet that said he could mend anything but a broken heart. A bank that evolved into the Post Office in the corner brick building still standing there. Diagonally across was the Mobile filling station there where I once purchased gas for around 18c/ gallon. That attendant there was a WWI veteran. Said he witnessed one of the last public hangings in near by Ellis county as a young lad. Made a real lasting impression on him from all of the description that he shared. On the opposite side of the bank and on the other side of the community center was the drug store. The druggist/ store keeper sold from paper shotgun shells by the each to horse liniment and groceries. On the other end of the street was two small grocery stores. One in an old lumber yard office. There were four Churches there at one time also for God fearing people. It was a great place to grow up and even raise a family. A lot of my friends and acquaintances are buried at the Salem cemetery just south of there on fm1946. As a youngster there I can remember the folks there digging the graves by hand. Most were eager to come “spell you off” while digging. The school closed, train tracks were illuminated, the town pretty well dried up but great memories still remain!

LSP said...

Thanks for that, LNP.

There's more than a few towns around here like that -- a post office, grain bin co-op, a store or two, some houses and that's it.

WWI vets? No, they're gone, same with WWII, mostly.

I remember, in England, people talking about their service in the Great War. Good Lord, what a catastrophe. And some remembered what it was like before 1914 -- "It was all horses and guns, padre." And so it was.

They've gone now, rest in peace.