Sunday, February 13, 2011

Onwards to Langtry - Home of Judge Roy Bean

Needing much more Old West mentality than the civilized city of Del Rio can provide, we head to the northwest across what can best be described as a sagebrush desert. Some 30 miles northwest of Del Rio we come to Comstock, a ghost town, having some 300 residents, it doesn't appear to be faring extremely well. And, unfortunately, even it's buildings are not interesting enough to spend much time pushing my magic shutter button. Though it got its start as yet another railroad town in the early 1880's, it never grew very much and today, there is little left of that history. It does have an old cemetery, which is filled with far more people than live in the town today. It still features an active hotel, and, perhaps a couple of other businesses.

Moving to the northwest, we pass by the old townsite of Shumla, established in 1882 as a section station on the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway. Today all that is left is an old row of buildings which once served as a motel, service station, and store.
Then we're off to the Pecos River Crossing. High canyon walls dominate the last sixty miles of the Pecos River before it enters the Rio Grande River. The Southern Pacific Railoroad built the first high bridge across the Pecos River in 1891. In June 1923, the Texas Highway Department constructed an automobile bridge to replace an old canyon-bottom crossing, but, it was washed away in 1954. Two temporary low water bridges in 1954 and 1955, were also destroyed by floodwaters. This bridge was completed in 1957. It is 1310 feet long and is the highest bridge in Texas at 273 feet above the water level.

North of the highway bridge is an observation point where visitors can see the Southern Pacific Railroad in the distance. This was also the site of the town of Vinegarroon, where Roy Bean first set up a saloon in the area. When the bridge was complete, Bean moved on to Langtry. Situated on private property, neither the bridge nor the old townsite are accessible today.

Headed north once again we cross Eagle Nest Canyon. Down below on the southwest side of the bridge is a place called Bonfire Shelter. Tracing its history back more than 11,000 years, Bonfire Shelter is known as being both the earliest and the most southern bison jump site in North America. Bonfire Long before Native American obtained horses, they stampeded herds of bison off the edge of this cliff, which overhung a shelter of a box canyon that empties into the Rio Grande River near Langtry, Texas. The bridge is located just southeast of Langtry.

We then arrive at our primary destination -- Langtry, Texas, the long-time home of crazy Judge Roy Bean. The town got its start as a camp called Eagle Nest when the Southern Pacific Railroad was being built through the area. Judge Roy Bean soon arrived, after the nearby town of Vinegarron was abandoned and "set up shop" once again. He ran his court and his odd type of justice out of his saloon, which he called the Jersey Lilly, named in honor of Lillie Langtry, the actress of his dreams. Bean died in 1903 and is buried in Del Rio, Texas.

The town began to decline after the highway was moved to the north of the city and when the Southern Pacific Railroad moved its facilities away, the town nearly died, dropping to a population of just about 40 people. The town stays alive today due to tourism to the Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center and still supports a couple of businesses.

We have a great time exploring the many old buildings of Langtry, many of which are mostly on the ground. Then we're off to find its sad little cemetery. No longer used and falling into serious disrepair over the years, it still provides volumes in my imagination and shutter opportunities. We then make our way right to the edge of the United States, looking over the Rio Grande River to Mexico.
Then, its back the way we came, "home" to Del Rio.

1 comment:

Dusty Track said...

Following your trip and being right there with you. I love that part of Texas and really, really love the Big Bend park and area. If you enjoy and appreciate miles of "not much" and "nothing much" then you will really like that country. Being a proud native Texan, I always tell people they haven't seen Texas until they've been down around Big Bend.
Take care and thanks for the postings!