Mapping the Red River Valley

Google Maps have been my constant companion since they were introduced back in the stone ages (okay, a few years ago). I can’t believe I ever did research without them, and I seriously pity the historians who came before me who didn’t have this kind of tool at their disposal.

I should mention that I’ve been a map fiend from way back, and have always used them extensively… but! The satellite pictures on Google Maps (and Google Earth) truly help me understand the geographical context of what I’m researching.

CaptureSpanishBluff

A snapshot of Spanish Bluff, the place where the Custis/Freeman Expedition was halted by Spanish troops in the early part of the 19th century.

History cannot exist without a grasp of the geography where events took place. The location, time, and space are all important factors in understanding why and how things happened. Sometimes, it’s not the easiest thing to picture… landscapes change, after all.

Let’s take at a photo I found on the Texas & Pacific Railway Historical Archive website:

denison tp tunnel

Denison, where this photo was taken, doesn’t look at all like it did back in its railroading hey-day. So I checked the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps to make sure that I am seeing the intersection of tracks correctly, as it seems the T&P tracks are passing underneath the MKT tracks:

CaptureSanborndenison

Using descriptions from the T&P site (behind Crockett and Hull Streets) and discerning the railroad bed from up in the air, I found the disused right-of-way on Google Maps. I made sure it was the right one when I traced it back to Bells.

CaptureDenisonKatylinemod

And, if you look closer, you can even spot a section of the stone wall from the old tunnel:

CaptureDenisonwall

Which is what I photographed when I visited Denison the other day:

Denison wall on old katy right of way

 

Looking at the photograph and the current condition of where the railroad used to be gives me a sense of how much Denison has changed over the years.

Then, there’s the question I had about something I saw from the air in Sherman, between Mulberry and Pacific Streets (south/north) and Willow and Lee Streets (west/east):

CaptureShermangoogle

It looked industrial (that wasn’t too far-fetched) so I decided to see what I could from old maps. First, I checked out the Bird’s eye map:

CaptureShermanbirdseyeCaptureSherman13

And then checked the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map:

CaptureShermansanborn

So, the bases I’m seeing are peanut and cotton oil tanks. Not earth-shattering, but at least I know what I’m looking at when I check out the ruins.

Another way to do this is to check city directories from the time periods, but since I don’t have them handy, I’ll use the maps to figure things out.

This kind of research is what goes on all the time inside museums, archives, libraries, bored people’s laptops at Starbucks, etc. Hey, it’s something to do!

Advertisements
Published in: on March 17, 2013 at 1:45 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,

While I was walking…

… through my hometown of Lewisville, Texas I was struck by my failure to bring the camera with me. Normally, I take my Canon everywhere I go, in the off-chance that I’ll find something interesting. And over the years, I’ve captured some incredible places and scenes that sent me deeper into their histories.

But it never even occurred to me to take the camera as I made my way through the Old Town area. As I passed by the old Huffines building, which was Lewisville’s first auto dealership, and stepped back in time as I entered the feed mill, which is the oldest, continuously-run business in Denton County, I wanted to kick myself for wasting a golden opportunity. Shoot,  I ride my bike around town quite a bit, and have not EVER taken photos to document my excursions.

I wonder if we all do that – we are so familiar with our every-day surroundings that we neglect them completely. We just tend to think that the old buildings will be there next year, too. And those people who remember what the neighborhood used to be like? They’ll be around next month, right?

Uh, no. People and buildings and history all crumble if we don’t take care of them. I don’t know if I’d call it an obligation to remind us to remember, but I will call it a necessity. And I’ve been very neglectful of these necessities.

So, while I get my camera out and ready to take a much-needed look at what’s right in front of me, I’ll post at least one photo of Lewisville that I found in my collection:

Inside this building which now houses a restaurant, Raymond Hamilton, who was once a member of the Barrow Gang, staged his last bank robbery.

Published in: on July 5, 2010 at 5:31 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: ,