Category Archives: Travel

Jacksonville, Texas — Tomato Capital of the World

Customized concrete tomatoes in Jacksonville, Texas, the “Tomato Capital of the World.”

Jacksonville, Texas, was once known as the Tomato Capital of the World in the 1930’s. The town still celebrates its tomato history with a Tomato Fest the second Saturday each June with many activities, including a tomato eating contest, tomato peeling contest, tomato packing contest, best home grown tomato contest, tomato archery — you get the picture! All things tomato. More than 200 vendors sell tomatoes.

A metal flamingo and a concrete tomato hang out at a Jacksonville, Texas, restaurant.

Visitors can take a tour of the at least 175 concrete tomatoes throughout the city, which were sold to businesses and other institutions in the city by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce to promote its tomato history.

It’s fun to see how each business and public office decorated its tomato, each of which weigh 665 pounds. A Dairy Queen tomato looks like an ice cream cone, a business with a tropical decor decorated its concrete tomato to look like a beach ball, the McDonald’s tomato looks like a box of french fries. Other businesses feature their logos on the tomato.

Love’s Lookout Park is north of Jacksonville, Texas, and is worth a visit, especially if you’re on your way to or from Tyler. The park features a landscaped rest stop, a great view and concrete tomatoes.

About Jacksonville, Texas, Tomato Fest.

See more tomatoes at Love’s Lookout Park, north of Jacksonville.
Love’s Lookout Park.

Jacksonville, Texas, Tomato Capital of the World.

Jacksonville, Texas, the Tomato Capital.

In the fall, this Jacksonville produce stand featured tomatoes along with pumpkins.

Click on the thumbnails to see a full size of each photo.

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The Hoggs of Texas

The Jim and Sallie Hogg Honeymoon Cottage is located in the Governor Jim Hogg Park in Quitman, Texas, which was the first home of Governor and Sallie Hogg (Sarah Ann Leannah Stinson).

Americans might not know the names of many governors from states other than their own, especially not from decades ago, but Governor James Stephen “Big Jim” Hogg (March 24, 1851 – March 3, 1906) of Texas could be an exception. Hogg was known to be a great governor, but non-Texans might recognize his name from the name he gave his only daughter: Ima.  Some joked that he had a second daughter named Ura, but Ima had only brothers, who had ordinary names — Will, Mike and Tom.

Ima’s name was taken from The Fate of Marvin, an epic poem written by her uncle Thomas Hogg.  Ima (July 10, 1882 – August 19, 1975) didn’t like her name, and had no middle name, so she often used only her first initial.   As soon as he heard of his new granddaughter’s odd name, Ima’s maternal grandfather raced to his son-in-law’s house to protest, but Ima had already been christened. She never married and kept her last name until she died.

Ima Hogg, around 1900, from Wikipedia.

Ima was known as “The First Lady of Texas.” She was an American society leader, philanthropist, patron and collector of the arts, and one of the most respected women in Texas during the 20th century,  Her father  was a lawyer, state attorney general and the 20th Governor of Texas.  He was the first Texas governor to have been born in Texas and was governor from 1891 to 1895.  I first thought of writing about Jim Hogg when I saw a highway named after him near Tyler, Texas, which I often visit.  Other places in Texas are named for him, too.

 Jim Hogg County in southern Texas is named after him.  There is a Jim Hogg Historic Site near Rusk, Hogg’s birthplace.

In 1906, Governor Hogg asked that a pecan tree be planted at his grave instead of a traditional headstone, requesting that the seeds be distributed throughout the state to make Texas a “Land of Trees”.  His wish was carried out and this brought more attention to pecan trees. In 1919, the 36th Texas Legislature made the pecan tree the state tree of Texas.  The Texas town of  San Saba claims to be “The Pecan Capital of the World.”

Governor Jim Hogg became his political career in Wood County, a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 41,964. Its county seat is Quitman. The county was named for George T. Wood, governor of Texas from 1847 to 1849.

Wood County Courthouse, Quitman, Texas.

 

To learn about the Hogg family’s contributions to the state of Texas, as well as what Ima thought about her unusual name, click on these links:

About Ima Hogg of Texas.

About Texas Governor Jim Hogg.

About Governor Jim Hogg Park in Quitman, Texas.

Jim Hogg Historic Site, Rusk, Texas.

About The Jim Hogg Highway, near Mineola, Texas.

Another famous name associated with Quitman, Texas, is the actress Sissy Spacek, who was born in the town and has a street there named after her.

A street in Quitman, Texas, is named for the actress Sissy Spacek, a native of the town.

Click on any thumbnail to see a larger size of the photo.

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That’s a Lot of Bull

Three cowboys round up bulls after their purchase at an auction in Texas.

Cow looking for relationship:  Loves sunset strolls in the pasture, adores hay breakfasts at dawn, enjoys afternoon naps in the shade of an oak tree, likes hanging out with my friends around the water tank.

Finding the right bull for a cattle herd isn’t quite as romantic as that.  Sale brochures list the bull’s assets, which include parentage, size of various body parts, weight and statistics on various aspects of parenting success.  Looks do count, too.

Livestock trailers are lined up at a cattle auction in Texas.

I recently went to a cattle auction at a ranch in northeast Texas, where about 80 bulls and 80 cows were auctioned.  Buyers can read the details about each bull and cow online, in addition to a large, informative brochure.  Each animal has its own video, which is displayed on several screens in the sale barn when the animal comes up for auction. The auction is a labor intensive endeavor, including the auctioneer staff, the barbecue lunch crew for the meal beforehand, people who create the extensive marketing materials, crew to care for the animals and cowboys to round up and load the animals.  Buyers come from hundreds of miles away.

Four auctioneers take bids at a cattle auction in Texas.

Bulls for sale at an auction in Texas.

 

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Why Is There a Ship Hanging in a Church?

Aarhus Cathedral Votive Ship Poster

Aarhus Cathedral, Denmark, Votive Ship.

In many churches in Scandinavia, you’ll see a ship hanging from the ceiling, a symbol of how important the sea is to the Nordic people. The ship reflects an old Nordic tradition of giving offerings for the protection of loved ones at sea and is a reminder of those lost at sea. The ship models are often called votive ships.

The ship model in the Aarhus, Denmark, Cathedral originally served another purpose — it was among those created (probably in the Netherlands) to show Russian Czar Peter the Great what the ships he ordered would look like. The cathedral’s ship (dated 1720) is named Enigheden (English: Unity). The ship carrying the model, however, sunk near the northern coast of Denmark, a reminder of the dangers of the sea. The model survived in good shape and was purchased by Danish fishermen as a gift to the cathedral, which is the largest church in Denmark. The Aarhus Cathedral model ship is also the largest votive ship in Denmark.

Akureyri Church Interior, Iceland Photo Print

Ship model hanging in Akureyri Lutheran Church in Akureyri, Iceland.

What is a Votive Ship?

More Photos of Aarhus Cathedral Ship.

About Aarhus Cathedral.

About Akureyri Church.

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The Smallest Church in Iceland

Silfrastadakirkja Church in Iceland Photo Print

 

Driving around Iceland, you can see many small churches on the hillsides, mountain slopes and next to farm buildings.  On a visit to Iceland in August 2017, we saw this small church, Silfrastadakirkja, in northcentral Iceland.

The current Silfrastadakirkja Church was built in 1896, replacing the old church from 1842 that now is in Arbaejarsafn Museum in Reykjavik. According to a description I found of this church, this “new” church is thought to be one of the smallest if not the smallest church in Iceland. It is also octagonal, which is unusual. It sits next to a farm house. In the foreground is a hay field with hay bales wrapped in plastic to protect against moisture. A heavy fog hangs over the mountain behind the church.

Like many of the small churches in Iceland, Silfrastadakirkja is white with a red roof. Blue is also another popular color for church roofs. Despite the similarities, each Icelandic church has unique features.   In addition to the old churches, there are several new ones built in contemporary designs.

 

Silfrastadakirkja Church in Iceland Photo Print

Locations of Churches in Iceland.

 

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A New July Fourth Tradition — Picking Blueberries

Blueberries are worth getting soaked to the skin. My friend Pat invited me to pick blueberries with her at The Berry Patch in Cleveland, Missouri., early on the morning of the Fourth of July. It was fun, despite the rain.

My friend Pat invited me to pick blueberries with her on July 4th at The Berry Patch, in Cleveland, Missouri, which is about 20 minutes from where we live. I’d heard about the farm years ago, but had never visited so I was glad for the invitation.

The forecast called for rain, but we decided to go anyway.  Rain started as we drove, but optimistically we continued, thinking that at least we’d have the place to ourselves. Wrong.  There were about fifty cars parked there when we arrived at 7:25 a.m. The farm opens at 7 a.m. For some, picking blueberries on Independence Day is a tradition. Since blueberries are only available for a few months — several types of blueberries are planted to stretch out the season — July 4th is a good reminder to get to the farm.  You can rush home with your blueberries to add them to a red white and blue dessert.  Pat said that because of the rain, the crowd was actually quite thin.  When it’s sunny, you have a lot more competition for blueberries.  There are many bushes, however.  The Berry Patch is the largest berry farm in Missouri.  There are 30 acres of blueberry bushes and four acres of blackberry bushes. A store sells jams, syrups and baked goods, and there is a playground area for kids, and picnic tables for picnic lunches.

Thunder crashed when we got out of the car, but fortunately we didn’t hear much thunder or see lightning afterward.  It did rain a lot, though. After a while, you forget the rain as you pick pick pick those blueberries.

The Berry Patch provides white buckets with a plastic bag liner.  They provide twine so that you can attach the bucket to your waist so you have two free hands to pick.  After about two hours of picking, I picked almost six pounds and Pat almost nine pounds.  She had two buckets.   I bought some blueberry jam and blueberry syrup, too.

As we climbed into the car, we were soaked to the skin, but I was so glad we ignored the weather report. I hope to make blueberry picking a July 4th tradition. I may even go again this summer to replenish my supply.  I’ve already eaten two cups of blueberries today.

Thank you, Pat, for a fun morning.

 

The Berry Patch Facebook Page

The Berry Patch Website

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The Ugliest Courthouse in Texas

The Titus County Courthouse was built in 1895, but currently looks nothing like its original brick exterior with a large bell tower on top. The building underwent a couple of modernistic renovations, one of which earned it the title of “Ugliest Courthouse in Texas,” although there are other contenders. In the 1990s, the building was restored to its 1940s Art Deco – Moderne appearance. Now I think it’s starkly beautiful.

The ugliest courthouse in Texas? Yes, definitely we needed to put the Titus County Courthouse on our field trip list.

On a recent trip to Texas, family members and I were looking for interesting historical destinations in northeast Texas.  Visiting courthouses usually takes you to scenic and historic areas in each county.  There are 254 counties in Texas, so there are a lot of courthouses to visit. A quick search online in our desired area found several notable destinations.  One place stood out: The Titus County Courthouse in Mount Pleasant was named as The Ugliest Courthouse in Texas. (There are several contenders to that title, according to several websites devoted to Texas.)

Actually, the Titus County Courthouse didn’t look that ugly in the photo — just dramatically changed from its original appearance when it sported a brown brick exterior and a large bell tower.  Bell towers on top of courthouses fell out of favor when they began to fall during high winds during severe Texas weather, so they aren’t usually a feature on Texas courthouses in modern times. The Titus County Courthouse, built in 1895, is the fifth courthouse building in Titus County.  The current courthouse underwent a couple of  renovations, including one that did look hideous, but the building was restored in the 1990s to its 1940s appearance of Art Deco and Moderne, which I think is attractive.  One quirk is that a loudspeaker blasts music, news and commercials from an area radio station in the area around the courthouse.  One website noted this, and we discovered it was true.  It was a Sunday and otherwise quiet in the courthouse neighborhood.

Mount Pleasant is a Texas Main Street City.

Titus County Courthouse, Mount Pleasant, Texas Postcard

Titus County Courthouse, Mount Pleasant, Texas.
Photograph by Catherine Sherman.

Click on these thumbnails to see full-size photographs.

We also discovered one of the most beautiful courthouses in Texas, the Old Harrison County Courthouse, which I’ll write about in another post, and also include other Texas courthouses.

Old Harrison County Courthouse, Marshall, Texas Postcard

Old Harrison County Courthouse, Marshall, Texas Postcard.
Photograph by Catherine Sherman.

 

 

 

 

 

Titus County Courthouse: The Ugliest Courthouse in Texas

254 Texas Courthouses Website.

Texas Courthouses.

A Link to Several of My Courthouse Photographs in Colorado, Kansas and Texas.

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