9.18.2009,9:08 PM
Have Cup Will Travel: Part Eight
Packing up camp gear and loading the bikes, it was time to continue on. This time just the three of us. One place I had wanted to visit was Ball Knob Cemetery. Here was a connection with the Butterfield Stage Trail of the mid-1800's. Interred there were members of the two families that had built and managed a stage stop in the immediate area: the Connely Station. This station was in between the Davidson stop (in Montague Co.) and the Earhart station (Jack County; now on private property and which we visited).

Here are buried the Connely father and son, along with other family members. Interestingly, several spelling variations of their surname exist: in county and census records, Butterfield stage trail historical records, and even on the headstones. But then, what's in a name?.......

The stage stop was managed by Connely Jr. (under the prone headstone) and one of the Ball brothers. From piecing together records and personal documents, I learned that one of the Ball boys and Connely Jr were boyhood buddies. One source briefly claims that the Ball and Connely families adventured and settled into the Wise County area together. And, as legends go, one of the offsprings from each family married, permanently joining the two families in their descendants. After the Butterfield stages were long gone, Connely and Ball built and managed a large cotton gin for the area. Ball Sr. dedicated a tract of his land for a cemetery, in which his wife was laid to rest. But he himself was laid to rest in another tract of land which he dedicated and deeded to the town of Decatur: the cemetery outside of town.

Ormsby, one of the first stage customers that navigated the entire route from St. Louis to California (the only one to really complete the entire trip on the first run), relates his meal at the Connely station one morning in 1858:

"The station was a log house, haphazardly thrown together. Inside the twenty square-foot structure, the travelers were met by two men living a grubby bachelor's existence. The coach arrival was unexpected, and the men scrambled to get breakfast ready.

When the food came, it was served on the bottom of a candle box. The little breakfast club seated themselves on upside-down pails. There were no plates, only tin cups for coffee, and not even a suggestion of milk or sugar. The only "edible" was a short cake, baked on coals. Each man broke off a piece and smothered it with butter using their pocket knives. . . To add to the ambience, the host reminded them to 'hurry up before the chickens eat it.'"

Somewhere, within the LBJ Grasslands preserve and near the town of Sunset, was the Connely Butterfield Stage Station. Near the ghostly remains of the town of Hood, on top of that beautiful prairie, a stage coach ran with a team of mules on its way to the Connely's. If you stand quietly, you can almost hear and see them. Their ruts have been replaced by gravel, but the trails remain the same. A trip through time.

Next: I'm buried here?

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posted by Macrobe
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