Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Rural Gem - Mason, Texas

Texas Sized Topaz
I'm staying in Mason, TX now for a Habitat For Humanity build and will be here for another 12 days. The city of 2,186 people makes a claim to the title of "The Gem of the Hill Country." It has good reason for being called that as I learned at the free admittance Mason Square Museum located on the picturesque downtown square.

On display in the museum is the largest light blue topaz gem discovered in North America. Topaz is the State Gem of Texas and is only found in Mason.

Mason County Courthouse

I complimented the museum docent for the quality of the museum design. It contains far than the typical hodgepodge of local historical artifacts as is so common in underfunded, rural community museums. It does an excellent job portraying local history, both the good and bad. Some of the topics covered include:
  1. Fort Mason (1851-1869) where so many Confederate and Union Generals were trained including Robert E. Lee and Albert Sydney Johnson. Johnson was the highest ranking General on either side killed in battle during what southern partisans called The War of Northern Aggression.
  2. The migration of German immigrants such as John O. Muesebach that settled much of the Hill Country of Texas starting in the 1940's.
  3. Cattle rustling during the Mason County War, sometimes called the Hoodoo War.
  4. The Odeon Theater, longest running theater of west Texas built in 1928. On Saturday night Harpeth Rising gave a concert.

Mason County abounds in other attractions.
  • A golf course/baseball field/municipal park where I'm staying in my RV
  • Three other RV parks
  • Over 40 bed & breakfast inns and guest ranches
  • Two wineries
  • Six antique stores
  • Six artisan/craftsmen stores
  • The Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve
  • And a full complement of traditional goods and services sans Starbucks and McDonalds.
I have especially enjoyed the local Hill Country architecture. I love the use of natural brown limestone in classic farmstead construction. Every old farmstead and many city tracts had these elevated water storage tanks to no doubt combat drought conditions.

County Jail
Farm Outbuildings
Farm Barn

Reconstruction of Part of  Fort Mason That Sits On A Hill Overlooking Mason, Texas

Old Yeller Statue

Lastly, if you are a child of the 60's you are probably familiar with the sad tale of Old Yeller. The Disney movie of the same name is based on the book by local author Fred Gipson. A Mason statue at the public library commemorates the story.


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