Friday, December 30, 2011

The Historic Johnson City Settlement

On December 10th the Historic Johnson City Settlement was open in the evening, as part of the area Christmas festivities. We enjoyed the evening tour and then returned a few days later for pictures of the outlying buildings and property.

In 1856, prior to the establishment of Johnson City as a formal city, Jessie Thomas Johnson and his younger brother Samuel Ealy Johnson Sr. (Grandfather to our 36th president, Lyndon B. Johnson) purchased 320 acres of property located 12 miles North of the city of Blanco. At that time Blanco was the source for goods, and was a days ride through hostile Indian lands. The brothers built a one room cabin (the right half of his structure), and began establishing a cattle driving operation. Samuel joined the military and fought in the Civil War until its end. He married Eliza Bunton in 1867 and they moved into the one room cabin the brothers had built. In 1868 another room was added (the left side of the cabin). This style of cabin was popular for the times and is called a dogtrot cabin. The name is derived from dogs passing through the center and enjoying the shade there. In states further south they are often referred to as possum trot cabins! The open center served as shade, storage, and interestingly, as an early form of cooling the home. The breeze would channel through the shaded area between the two rooms of the cabin. In the Winter the open dogtrot would be closed-up thereby adding warmth and an additional room.

This is the original right side of the cabin. The door goes to the porch on the backside of the cabin. At the foot of the bed is a large fireplace. The chinking between the logs at the time would have been clay and sticks.

This is the same room looking out the door to the front of the cabin.

This is the room in the left side of the cabin. It has a large fireplace to the left, as you enter the room, and is set-up as a kitchen. The couple only had one child while living in this cabin, but went on to have 9 children. They lived here from 1867-1872.

This barn is one of the original structures built in the 1850s by the two brothers.

Samuel and Jesse Johnson established one of the largest cattle driving operations in 7 counties. From 1870-1873 they drove several herds of cattle in a season. The herds of cattle ranged from 2,500-3,000 head each.

This is the water cooling house where fruits and vegetables would be preserved. Check out the extra nice windmill design.

This is the view from the back porch looking toward the barn and windmill. With a decline in the cattle market, Samuel and Jessie got out of the cattle driving business, and sold this property to their nephew, James Polk Johnson. In 1879 James offered the property to the local settlers, as a location for establishing a formal community. By popular vote of the settlers, it was decided that the newly established community would be called Johnson City in his honor.

This barn was built in a popular German architectural style in 1884 by John Bruckner. The stonework, arched entry, and doors give it an aire of belonging with a castle. This structure sits next to the original cabin.

Here is a look at the back of the barn.

Now that you know the individual features, here is an overview entering the property. It is a very serene place to visit. It has free admission and is open to self guided tours.

There is a nice museum on the property with lots of pictures. The Historic Johnson City Settlement is well worth visiting.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas At The LBJ Boyhood Home

During the month of December the LBJ boyhood home, the LBJ Ranch, and the Historic Johnson City Settlement are decorated for Christmas and open on a few special evenings for viewing. Typically they only have daytime tours.

This is the LBJ boyhood home. All the oil lamps you'll see are electric, but are very nice replicas. The home was built in 1901. The Johnson's moved to this home in 1913. Lyndon was 5 years old at that time. He lived here for most of the years up to 1937. His father Sam Ealy Johnson, Jr. was a state legislator, and his mother, Rebekah Baines Johnson, was one of few college educated women in the area. Lyndon had one younger brother and three sisters.

This is they entry. To the right, you step into a central dining room with a fireplace and large dining table. I was so busy going to all the rooms that come off every wall of the dining room, that I forgot to get a picture of it.

As you step into the dining room, there is a door to the left going into Lyndon's 3 sister's bedroom.

Across the dining room from the girl's room is the parent's bedroom. Through the doorway at the back of the parent's room is Lyndon and his brother's room.

At the back of the dining room, you enter the kitchen. To the left of the kitchen is an entrance to a large screened-in porch. To the right of the kitchen is a screened breezeway leading to the bathroom.

The house seems to have existed at a time when plumbing was just beginning to be brought into homes. There is a bathtub, but no toilet or sink. There is a nearby outhouse.

The boy's room is accessable through the bathroom or parent's room.

The living room is located to the front of the house. You would access it by stepping from the entryway into the dining room and going to the right. It is a very pleasant home.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Johnson City Christmas Lights

During the Christmas season, Texas Hill Country has what is called, The Trail of Lights. Below is a map of the communities involved. Each community goes all out decorating.

We are located at the junction of Highway 290 and 281.

One of the first spectacular displays of Christmas lights you'll see in Johnson City is this lighted grove of trees on the Pedernales Electric Company's property. The picture doesn't do justice to how amazing it is. Each tree is fully wrapped in lights right out to the small branches. We're told that when it's time to remove the lights, they are cut away.

Another great display is the complete lighting of a small downtown park.

Here's Texas Santa with a cowboy hat, big Texas shaped belt buckle, cowboy boots, and a horse pulling the sleigh!

The grand lighting on the courthouse and carriage rides around town top off the festiveness. The lights and carriage rides run from the day after Thanksgiving until January 1st!

On the edge of town is a private homeowner that fully decorates his long driveway and home. He welcomes the public to enjoy his wonderland. The pictures don't do it justice, as we had to take them through the truck windshield, as we moved along with the flow of visitors.

His home is what you see all covered in white lights. Check out the total wrapping of the trees in lights. We still have Marble Falls, Burnet, and Fredericksburg to travel to for Christmas lighting. Wow, I never knew Christmas without snow could be so festive!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Let Christmas Begin!

In central Texas there is a tradition of lighting the courthouses for Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving we attended the ceremonial turning on of the downtown Blanco Christmas lights. There was caroling at the courthouse square and the flipping of the switch!

Stores all around the square were decorated, open for shopping, and offering tasty goodies.

A small park across the street from the courthouse is lit up like a wonderland.

It's a fun walk amongst the lights that succeeds in putting a person in the Christmas spirit. Check out Santa holding a lasso!

We checked out the Redbud Cafe on the square. It serves deli style foods and beer.

It's a nice place to enjoy live music, the company of friends, and some libations.