Mineral Wells Area News

Driving the County

Driving the County
May 02
12:11 2023

By Stacy Blackburn / Mineral Wells Area News Special Contributor

Palo Pinto County Tour Gives People a Glimpse of Popular Historical Sites Again

The bi-annual Palo Pinto County Tour resumed this year after a brief halt due to Covid. This was our first time to take it and we had the best time! Due to time constraints we weren’t able to hit all the stops but hopefully next time we can. 

Our first stop (and our favorite) was Lover’s Retreat. What an amazing place! We had only seen it in old photos and postcards, some dating back to 1906. It’s a beautiful scenic site along the banks of Eagle Creek west of Palo Pinto. Lined on one side by large rock formations, with the old remnants of a suspension bridge spanning the creek, it’s no wonder this was such a popular site for large group reunions, revivals and tourists! We even got to drive on a section of the historic Bankhead Highway to get to the site! The main things that stand out are the bridge remains and a large indentation in the rock face on the opposite side of the creek, both of which are prominent features in the early postcards. We spoke with the owners who were there during the day and they gave us a little recent history about its unfortunate closing in 1969 due to the destruction of several of the historic structures by vandals. 

Next we drove back to Palo Pinto to check out the old Jail Museum. I hate to admit, even though we’ve been life long Mineral Wells residents, we have never visited this site. It was quite a pleasant surprise! It’s actually a complex of buildings including old original log cabins, the Jail and Black Springs Fort. The Jail, built in 1882, contains a large number of amazing historic items from all over the county. And at the top of a steep staircase in the back of the building, there is a trap door for the hanging of convicted criminals!

The 3 story stone fort was disassembled, each stone being numbered, then moved from Oran to the current site and reassembled. It’s not known when it was built or by whom, but it’s quite possibly the oldest structure in the county!

Our next stop was just a few blocks away, the First Christian Church. It was built in 1882 and is the oldest church building in the county! It served the congregation until 1988. It fell into disrepair and in 2010 was restored and is available for weddings and other events! We spoke with Barbara Upham who was there explaining the renovation. She along with her husband Bob Dempsey were responsible in getting the project thru the Palo Pinto County Historical Association. She even let us ring the church bell, which is original to the building! We also looked at a number of historic items in a display case inside the church, such as collection plates, bibles, fans and a communion tray.

We headed north on Highway 4 to our last stop, the community cemetery in Oran, formerly known as Black Springs. There were several people there to greet us and point out some historical graves. One grave holds the mother of Charles Goodnight and there were several Confederate veterans, an original Texas Ranger and many early settlers also buried there. A small family cemetery across the road had an interesting structure which we wrongly thought was a mousoleum.

Unfortunately we were unable to visit Worth Ranch. We also missed the recently renovated Crazy Water Hotel and Magpie Inn. We have had the pleasure of staying in both these places and they are amazing! 

If you were unable to take the county tour this year, you should definitely do the next one. It is an amazing experience and well worth the time!

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