Southeast Texas Day 3

The town we stopped in for the night (Winnie, Texas) is not a county seat. Rather it’s just a census-designated place in extreme eastern Chambers County. The county seat is Anahuac, a small city about twenty miles to the west.

Once we got up and ready for our day, we embarked on the road west for Anahuac, for the first courthouse of the day. The town is located at the very northeastern corner of Trinity Bay, situated on the final stretch of the Trinity River, just south of Lake Anahuac. It’s proximity to several bodies of water and its marshy climate explain the reasoning behind Anahuac’s nickname, “The Alligator Capital of Texas.”

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The courthouse is very close to the river (its final stretch called the Anahuac Channel), on the western side of town. Constructed in 1936, this Moderne work is one of two Texas courthouse designs attributed to Corneil G. Curtis.

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Leaving the courthouse behind, we found a group of fisherman at the city’s canal (which stretches from the lake into the city). My grandfather was curious about the alligators in the area and asked the men if they had seen any in the canal. They said they hadn’t seen any alligators, just catfish. I noticed while stopping that their radio was playing “North to Alaska” the Johnny Horton song. Horton was becoming a theme for this trip…

We decided to see if we could spot any gators back in the Anahuac Channel. We drove back to the west side of town to overlook the Trinity, but all we saw were a few more fisherman.

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Our next stop was Liberty County, one county north. This was one of the state’s first counties, created at the time of independence from Mexico. Can you guess why the founding fathers named it Liberty? In Liberty, the county seat, stands the other Corneil G. Curtis courthouse in Texas. It’s larger than its sister building in Chambers County and also boasts an annex.

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 6.37.55 PMIt’s in a worse state than the other, though.

We didn’t stay in Liberty long before moving on to the north. Polk County, where the seat is Livingston, was next.

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The East Texas landscape between Liberty and Livingston

Some time ago, while planning routes on Google Maps, I came across a small neighborhood just south of Livingston where every road is named after a country music star. I was intrigued.

On the way down to Galveston, I remembered this community and realized that I’d have the chance to see it. Seventeen miles south of Livingston we stopped, and took a left on to “Hillbilly Heaven Road”, entryway to the community.

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It’s in a more dilapidated place than I had first imagined. In fact, most of the area’s street signs were flat out gone, as were the roads. In many places, a poorly maintained dirt road was all that remained.

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 Ray Price “Road”, Livingston, Texas

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 6.39.27 PMIn a few spots, the street signs remained. One of them was Johnnie Horton Road (another instance of Johnny Horton on this trip). Notice the handmade sign beneath the official one. If only people could have made these for all the roads missing their regular signs…

One side of the neighborhood was completely unaccessible. The road was out! Among others, some of the people honored over there were Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, and Patsy Cline. Needless to say, I didn’t get to see these roads. But considering what the side I did get to see looked like, I’m not sure I missed out on much.

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I was ready to leave at this point. Soon, we were out of this let-down community and back on the road for Livingston.

Our first mission in the Polk County seat? Lunch. We found a small cafe just off the square and sat down at a table directly next to the window with an excellent view of the courthouse.

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While we ate, a train passed through Livingston. I was surprised with how startling close it was. Turns out the railroad cuts directly through the Livingston square. This was a first for me. In fact, on one side of the square, the sidewalk ends and collides directly with the train track. Interesting.

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Once my courthouse photography was complete, we drove southwest to San Jacinto County. On our way down to the small county seat of Coldspring, we cut around the bottom of Lake Livingston, dammed on the Trinity River. In the summertime, lots of people flock to the area just south of the lake’s dam to play/fish in the river.

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Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 6.18.47 PMIt rained on the continuation of the trip to Coldspring, making it a “cold” and damp stop indeed. I bet I got ten new mosquito bites by just walking around the San Jacinto County courthouse.

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The day’s final stop, Groveton was fifty miles to the north, accessed by a maze of roads from Coldspring that all wound around Lake Livingston. I joked that we had seen “every side of the lake” by the end of the day. It sure seemed like it.

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Eventually, we found our way to Trinity County, named after the river. It was still raining, making Groveton another damp stop. The courthouse there was restored in 2011.

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Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 6.25.52 PMIt’s the most narrow courthouse I have seen to date.

Our route home passed through Houston County next (#137). I had first visited the Houston County seat, Crockett, in November of last year during another rainy day. Due to the rain, my pictures had turned out poorly. That was when I still used the built-in camera on my phone to photograph courthouses. No wonder the pictures were bad…

Now that I had a camera, I was confident I could fight through the rainy conditions and take some better pictures of the Houston County courthouse. That’s exactly what I did. We stopped in downtown Crockett for a few more pictures, so I’ll be sure to update that courthouse page accordingly.

Also in November, I had visited the Leon County courthouse in Centerville, Texas. That’s when I was lucky enough to run into Judge Byron Ryder and get a personal tour of the second floor courtroom. The courthouse was closed today, limiting me from seeing the beatufiul interior, but I wanted to stop and get some more pictures of the exterior anyway now that I had the camera. Just like Houston County, we stopped here as well.

From Centerville, we got on I-45 and headed north for home. For dinner, we made a quick stop in Corsicana where I used the camera to get another good shot of the Navarro County courthouse from afar.

After that, we hit the road and were home before too long. It was some trip!

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