Confederate Reunion Grounds Mexia, TX under threat

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Rusk County Avengers

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Not exactly a battlefield, but a Confederate Veteran reunion site for many years, and Texas State Park seems to be endangered.

Its not a site I myself am very informed on. I've always heard of it for a reenactment held there every year, (excuse me "enactment" as there was no battle there), and as site for Confederate Veteran Reunions. I first heard of the park being endangered back in May, when a friend asked me to try and attend the reenactment, (Sep. 27-29 2019), because they needed as much support as possible. I was told then that there were plans being pushed to change the name and focus of the park, and turn it into some experiment in exotic botany with it being turned into something of a flower and exotic plant park of some sort.

But as of last night, I learned of other goings on. It seems the State of Texas has cut off funding because of low attendance, which was already a miniscule amount, and now the park is in danger of shutting down, or their battle enactment which brings in the most attendance ending. That being said, an effort is now underway to get as many Sons of Confederate Veterans Camps to donate money to the park in this part of Texas.

Does anyone here know anything of this to shed more light upon it? If so please share, I'm only sharing what little I know. Also if anyone doesn't want to see this site shut down let it be known!

Lets discuss this.
 

James N.

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I think one problem for this park has always been its obscure and out-of-the-way location. It's neighbor Fort Parker State Park has a similar problem.
 
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James N.

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Fort Parker is a genuine historic site, but nothing actually remains from its very brief period of existence, ca. 1836. Its claim to fame was the fact it was the scene of a vicious massacre of its inhabitants by a wandering band of Indian raiders who also kidnapped one of the daughters, a six-year-old girl who eventually became a wife of Comanche chief Peta Nocona and mother to his son Quannah. During the Civil War a raid on a Comanche village "freed" Cynthia Ann and her daughter Prairie Flower, but the infant soon died and was quickly followed by her mother who was unable or unwilling to adjust to her former lifestyle. Much later, after Quannah learned his mother's background, he too adopted what had been her surname, becoming the famous chief Quannah Parker, terror of the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles until his friendship with cattle rancher Charles Goodnight and subsequent treaty with the army. Unfortunately, the only trace of the original fort has been a clumsy Depression-era reconstruction based solely on speculation on what the stockade fort *might* have been; later in the 1960's that was replaced by a similar one due to insect damage and dry rot.

As I recall, based on a visit around that time, the only things to see at the Confederate Reunion Grounds were an archway over the entrance drive and possibly a picnic pavilion, both of native stone. The little there is at these two sites, though of some historical importance and moderate interest, likely doesn't justify their expense and upkeep as far as the State is concerned. A similar site here in East Texas is the so-called "Honeymoon Cottage" of Texas Governor Jim Hogg in Quitman. Hogg was the first native-born Texas Governor and evidently unbelievably popular around the time of his term ca. 1900, but is probably best-known today for the cavalier way he named his daughter Ima! (Contrary to popular legend, there wasn't also a daughter Ura.) The small State Park containing a replica of the "cottage" as well as the 1869 home of his Confederate veteran father-in-law which was moved to the site was given to the city of Quitman ten or twenty years ago and is also therefore no longer a part of the Texas Parks System.
 
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NH Civil War Gal

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I think, if one wanted to really try to save the Confederate Reunion Park, especially if it is in an obscure and out-of-the way place is, you'd have to find out how much documentation there is on how many reunions there were, when was the last one, how many used to come, did anyone really famous come or regularly come, etc. and try to tie into why is it meaningful today to keep it.

The reenactment is a secondary thing and it sounds like that needs a boost and needs to be a more regular thing than once a year or become part of a history timeline event, which seems to be pretty popular now, at least in the eastern part of the country.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Fort Parker is a genuine historic site, but nothing actually remains from its very brief period of existence, ca. 1836. Its claim to fame was the fact it was the scene of a vicious massacre of its inhabitants by a wandering band of Indian raiders who also kidnapped one of the daughters, a six-year-old girl who eventually became a wife of Comanche chief Peta Nocona and mother to his son Quannah. During the Civil War a raid on a Comanche village "freed" Cynthia Ann and her daughter Prairie Flower, but the infant soon died and was quickly followed by her mother who was unable or unwilling to adjust to her former lifestyle. Much later, after Quannah learned his mother's background, he too adopted what had been her surname, becoming the famous chief Quannah Parker, terror of the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles until his friendship with cattle rancher Charles Goodnight and subsequent treaty with the army. Unfortunately, the only trace of the original fort has been a clumsy Depression-era reconstruction based solely on speculation on what the stockade fort *might* have been; later in the 1960's that was replaced by a similar one due to insect damage and dry rot.

As I recall, based on a visit around that time, the only things to see at the Confederate Reunion Grounds were an archway over the entrance drive and possibly a picnic pavilion, both of native stone. The little there is at these two sites, though of some historical importance and moderate interest, likely doesn't justify their expense and upkeep as far as the State is concerned. A similar site here in East Texas is the so-called "Honeymoon Cottage" of Texas Governor Jim Hogg in Quitman. Hogg was the first native-born Texas Governor and evidently unbelievably popular around the time of his term ca. 1900, but is probably best-known today for the cavalier way he named his daughter Ima! (Contrary to popular legend, there wasn't also a daughter Ura.) The small State Park containing a replica of the "cottage" as well as the 1869 home of his Confederate veteran father-in-law which was moved to the site was given to the city of Quitman ten or twenty years ago and is also therefore no longer a part of the Texas Parks System.
Oh I'm aware of Fort Parker.

As for over in Quitman, (where there is a similar pavilion to the one in Mexia), I'd say it is exceptionally run down and mismanaged. When I was last there it appeared Governor's Hogg's "Honeymoon Cottage" was in bad need of repair, is never open except for once a year during a festival IF they feel like it I was told when I wanted to see it, and his Father-in-Law's house is way back somewhere and you wouldn't know it was there unless you were looking for it, and might be fooled into thinking it was a rundown private residence. Texas Parks System's give away to Quitman looks to me like a royal screw-up that has endangered the buildings.

When it comes to historical preservation, I'm pretty ashamed of being a Texan. Very, very few average Texans give a darn about our own history, and in some cases, (like my demolition contractor, later politician Father) love to destroy our history. Plus what history is preserved is usually memorialized to the point they destroy all traces of the history there, (San Jacinto comes to mind). Texas has an exceptionally bad record in history preservation, and corruption in the State Government does not help, ("Battleship" Texas and millions of dollars appropriated for repairs paying more than the market price and not doing a thing other than pumping water out for years).

As for Mexia, from everything I've seen, this looks like a maneuver to put something more modern minded there simply because of the word "Confederate" in its name. There's a lot of other sites that get less visitors, and more minuscule history that are being left alone, yet the one with "Confederate" in the name gets the axe. If there's smoke there's fire to me.
 
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Rusk County Avengers

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The reenactment is a secondary thing and it sounds like that needs a boost and needs to be a more regular thing than once a year or become part of a history timeline event, which seems to be pretty popular now, at least in the eastern part of the country.
Well in Mexia/Confederate Reunion Ground's case the reenactment is vital to them. Its a dog and pony show near as I can tell, but it brings in the most people for the year. They have many other programs not CW that brings folks in, but from what I can tell the reenactment is their bread and butter. The main issue seems to be, the complete axing and withdrawal of their funding puts it, and subsequently the park in danger.

I'll admit, there's a lot of folks in the SCV who make beating my head into a brick wall look inviting when they talk history. Off subject, but last night the guest speaker was a relic hunter who was billed as an archeologist and his alarming lack of knowledge of CW history drove me crazy! Spouting **** off about his rather impressive collection like, "This triangle shaped pin was for General Banks's Indian Scouts during the Red River Campaign." or "This is a T.Miller button they were specifically made for the Texas Rangers." **** like that drives me bonkers! Especially because him being billed as an expert everyone laps it up! Then when I do a speaking gig about something, I don't know a thing to everyone because everything I say is contrary to what such past "experts" said along with me not being 60 to 70 years old, or wrote a book that ain't worth the paper its written on! Funny part is, it happens all the time, and there's an older man, retired reenactor, who is a genuine expert, and the SCV around here recognizes him as the best of the best, and is always wanting him to get involved again, and he refuses too, and he was one of my two original mentors, and he has told them don't come to him, go to me and it touched me when he said I knew more than him once, but they refuse too because what I say doesn't match up with what's seen in old westerns or other "experts" versions of history. I have a love/seething hatred relationship with the SCV, but there still a great organization with good people, even if I have to suppress the urge to strangle someone.

But I digress, (I might be developing issues...) the SCV is doing an impressive job of standing up to help out around here with this funding issue in Mexia.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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I feel for @Rusk County Avengers. I sure know what it is to have a love/seething hatred relationship with an organization.

I was wondering if the word Confederate had anything to do with it, which is a shame. But I am also SHOCKED that Texans aren't more proud of their history! I have one Texan living in my water precinct (I work for a water precinct in NH) and I've met a couple of others, and I don't think I've ever met people more "state proud" than Texans! I've even talked CW history with my older Texan in the water precinct and he doesn't think much of the Texas Terry Rangers, btw :sneaky:.

But, we've seen this in spots around New England. It was disguised under "Urban Renewal" in the '60s and early '70s and beautiful buildings and a lot of our wonderful railroad depots are gone. But we have strip malls with mattress stores in their places and that's supposed to make it better.

Unfortunately, Walt Whitman was a big voice in this in the 1870s and wanted to "tear it all down" and he managed to help be the voice that helped tear down some of the early Colonial homes in Boston. Sigh...
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Oh no denying we're proud of Texas. No other Americans have the State Pride of Texans, (though I've known several Virginians that'd give us a run for our money). But most, not all folks in Texas have no use for preserving old buildings or sites. Plus there's sites like San Jacinto and the Alamo that are big must go destinations, but the idea of preserving the sites as they were is alien, to many folks want them modernized, or over memorialized to the point you can't get a picture of what it was, or do a better job of doing something than someone else did with their stuff, (the gigantic cenotaph at San Jacinto that obliterated the core of the battlefield is a prime example), and if that doesn't happen the preservation and advertising of the places will be half way done.

If the State tries to rejuvenate a site, (like they're doing now with the Alamo), its usually very bad news. First the plan was to rebuild it, then it was to hire a German company to rebuild it out of glass, and last I heard the plan was rebuild it as it was, move the big monument to the defenders, and have almost ZERO focus on the Siege, and instead focus on Hispanic heritage there, and Indian heritage although nothing noteworthy at all happened with that focus with a Mexican company coming in from Mexico to do the work. Plus costs kept getting padded, and I suspect corruption involved (I've seen and grew up in Texas politics from behind the scenes it happens A LOT).

We're a people of extremes, we'll either do a real good job, or astounding job of screwing it up there's no middle ground most of the time.
 
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Polloco

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I had the pleasure of visiting these grounds years ago. I recall something about Gen. Stephen D. Lee attending one of their reunions, I think. I sort of thought even back then it's days were numbered. The younger generation just don't care much about " minor" history. It's like alot of people who tend to shun things that have the word Confederate on them.
 

WJC

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At some point, there has to be a recognition that not every historic site can be- or should be- saved. Perhaps being a UCV reunion site is not enough to merit saving.
 
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WJC

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Perhaps, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't try. But that also means GAR sites are endangered as well, if there are any left.
Thanks for your response.
It is not a question of 'taking sides'. It is a question of limited resources.
Decisions must be made, often just before the developer unloads the earth-moving equipment. I submit that it is better to focus on assuring that sites of true historical significance are preserved and properly maintained than to attempt to save interesting, but less significant properties.
 

James N.

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Oh I'm aware of Fort Parker.

As for over in Quitman, (where there is a similar pavilion to the one in Mexia), I'd say it is exceptionally run down and mismanaged. When I was last there it appeared Governor's Hogg's "Honeymoon Cottage" was in bad need of repair, is never open except for once a year during a festival IF they feel like it I was told when I wanted to see it, and his Father-in-Law's house is way back somewhere and you wouldn't know it was there unless you were looking for it, and might be fooled into thinking it was a rundown private residence. Texas Parks System's give away to Quitman looks to me like a royal screw-up that has endangered the buildings.

When it comes to historical preservation, I'm pretty ashamed of being a Texan. Very, very few average Texans give a darn about our own history, and in some cases, (like my demolition contractor, later politician Father) love to destroy our history. Plus what history is preserved is usually memorialized to the point they destroy all traces of the history there, (San Jacinto comes to mind). Texas has an exceptionally bad record in history preservation, and corruption in the State Government does not help, ("Battleship" Texas and millions of dollars appropriated for repairs paying more than the market price and not doing a thing other than pumping water out for years).

As for Mexia, from everything I've seen, this looks like a maneuver to put something more modern minded there simply because of the word "Confederate" in its name. There's a lot of other sites that get less visitors, and more minuscule history that are being left alone, yet the one with "Confederate" in the name gets the axe. If there's smoke there's fire to me.
You're semi-mistaken about the park in Quitman, which I pass on almost a weekly basis. It's considered most important as a long-time site for what the town promotes as the Old Settler's Reunion which is held annually. On most weekends there are people in the park, children playing on the gym equipment. The "cottage" DOES go for long stretches needing paint, something that began when it was still a unit of the Texas Parks during a time of funding neglect. The 1867-period house appears to be in good condition, and I'm glad it isn't more obvious, so as to draw unwanted attention. It's surrounded by a period-style garden and is open to the public on a limited basis. There's also a relatively new walking or nature trail in the woods behind the house, though I don't know how popular it is with the locals. Another feature of the State Park is also still in use, and that's a small trailer or RV camping area. Although admittedly relatively little of that is truly "historical" it all adds up as reasons the park will likely be preserved.
 
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Dave D

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The Confederate Reunion Grounds was established on 70 acres of land purchased in 1892 at the junction of Jack's Creek and the Navasota River approximately 4 miles west of Mexia (pronounced muh-HEE-ya or may-HEE-ya), Limestone county, Texas. The original dance pavilion and a cannon captured by Confederates at the Battle of Val Verde, NM are still on the grounds.
[ https://visitlimestonecountytx.com/confederate-reunion-grounds/ ].

"During the week of the full moon each August, members came to the encampment for reunions, living in tents or summer houses. Entertainment ranged from dancing and listening to orations at the pavilion , to swimming and fishing in Jacks Creek or the Navasota River. Special trains were run for years from Ft. Worth, Dallas, and Houston to handle the families and friends of the Limestone County veterans visiting the reunion at Jacks Creek." (from National Historic Register)

Less than 5 miles up the Navasota river is the Booker T. Washington Park, also called the "Juneteenth Grounds". Estabilished in 1898 on 30 acres at what was then called Comanche Crossing, it is where ex-slaves and their families commemorated the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas on June 19, 1865. [ https://visitlimestonecountytx.com/booker-t-washington-park/ ]

"On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger of the Union army landed at Galveston and issued a general order declaring that "in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free." Popularly called "Juneteenth" and observed as Emancipation Day in Texas, the date is celebrated by the Blacks in Texas as though it were a national holiday." An annual Celebration is still held at the park. (also, from National Historic Register)

The National Register of Historic Places nomination docs for each site can be found here ->
the Reunion grounds : https://catalog.archives.gov/id/40972844 (pdf, 32 pages) and
the Juneteenth grounds : https://catalog.archives.gov/id/40972846 (pdf, 15 pages).
 
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