Oct 09 2015
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Part 5

Continuing to examine the unique aspects of Llano County from PAST years and in PRESENT times brings the project alphabetically to the letters "P" through "R."
"P" is for PECANS. Our neighboring county, San Saba, which was created by the State the same day as Llano County on February 1, 1856, is known as the "Pecan Capital of Texas." What earned them the right for this title are the hundreds of pecan trees that grow along both sides of the Colorado River, which forms the county's north-northeastern boundary. Except for a tiny part of southeastern Llano County, our eastern boundary is also formed by the same Colorado River. This area of the Colorado also had hundreds of pecan trees growing on both sides of the river. A relative of mine reported in his later years that one particular tree on his property yielded 1200 pounds of pecans per year, and another one nearby produced almost as many. Where are these pecan trees today? Only stumps remain, if anything at all. When Buchanan Dam was completed in 1937, the basin of the lake filled, taking with it most of the pecan trees. If not for Lake Buchanan, Llano County could also have qualified as the "Pecan Capital of Texas."
"P" is for PRESERVATION. We are fortunate to live in a county whose citizens have shown great interest in preserving our county's heritage. These people are zealous to rediscover the story behind the development of our county as well as to preserve our historic buildings and homes. The facades on every space in all four blocks around the courthouse square have been attractively restored with many of the interiors retaining at least some of the building's original architectural features. Except for a few spaces on the lower north side of East Main and lower west side of Ford (Bridge) Street, the same is true for these blocks off the square. Much the same can be said about the north side of the town of Llano, the most recent being the old Iron City Saloon's restoration for use by Hutto-Dalchau Insurance.
The greatest preservation project in Llano County was restoring our county courthouse to its original glory. The intent here was to recreate the building completed in 1893 as close to its original stature as possible. The project was extensive, but it was well worth the effort because today we have one of the more unique courthouses in Texas. It is one of only a few built before 1900 that has been restored in its entire original style—others have added wings, physical changes, etc. The architectural style of the original cupola, which had been slightly altered, was also recreated. For our efforts, the Texas State Historical Commission and other Texas agencies gave extensive, praise-worthy recognition to Llano County for its successful preservation goals. A project is currently underway to also preserve and restore the Llano County Old Red Top Jail, which was built in 1892. So far, we have successfully been able to save our bridge across the Llano River, which provides much character and flavor to our city.
"Q" is for QUEEN BEE. It's exciting to have the story of a former Indian captive attached to Llano County's heritage. Most counties in Texas had no captives. Since Central Texas was on the frontier for a long time, and the Indians visited more frequently, there were a few other area counties, especially Mason County, which also had some captives. Llano County had three captives who lived among the Indians for various lengths of time--Malinda Caudel, Lee Temple Friend, and Wash Wolfe. As more evidence becomes available, this author is inclined to think Annie Victoria McDonald, a girl about age seven, who had come to the area of present Buchanan Dam to live with her Banta-McDonald grandparents, was also taken captive in this locale. This cannot be proved, even through her descendants, but regardless, it is known that as soon as she was purchased from the Indians ten years later by Levi V. (Lee) Arnold, she was returned to her former home in this area. Her Indian name was QUEEN BEE. She and Lee married in 1881 and lived on the Arnold Ranch on the Llano County side of the Colorado River. Her story is somewhat shrouded in mystery, but as it unfolds, it is also one with many interesting facets, even an unexpected romantic touch. Considering she lived with the Indians for ten years—she was 17 when she was returned—she appears to have been able to cope with the return to white civilization much easier than most other captives did, even those who were held captive for much less time. Although her marriage to Mr. Arnold did not last long, Annie soon married a man from Blanco County, Johnny Leinenweber, and the couple lived many years together, mostly in the San Angelo area, raising a good sized family.
"Q" is for QUAINT homes. Many of the German homes built in the early days qualify as "quaint," especially those currently scattered in and around the community of Castell. In recent years, it has become popular to restore these types of older homes rather than to destroy them. The number of quaint houses in the town of Llano is increasing more and more, especially on the north side of the river. Many older homes on the fringe of the original Railroad District have been transformed from run-down, vacant housing to attractive, livable pieces of real estate with clever design ideas and color treatments. If you haven't noticed this trend, drive on the streets behind the Badu House and Cooper's Barbeque to observe the significant changes. A few older larger homes north of the river have also been upgraded, such as the old Bruhl home overlooking the Llano River behind The Beverage Barn and the home now occupied by the Wilson's. Most of the homes, however, are much smaller, taking on the character of "quaint cottages."
"R" is for RIVERS—two rivers, to be exact. Many counties in Texas, especially in the Panhandle and West Texas, have no access to a river source. Very few counties in the State of Texas are blessed to have two rivers flowing in their county. The Colorado River forms most all of our eastern boundary, and the Llano River flows through the entire county, right down the middle. These rivers have served as a drawing card to this area since prehistoric times when the Native Americans located along their banks. As these small bands evolved into specific Indian tribes, the juncture of the two rivers at present day Kingsland-Lake L.B.J. became even more important since the area became the extreme southern range of the buffalo. Accounts show even East Texas Indian tribes visited here in search for the buffalo.
The first settlers in Llano County, who were the Germans in 1847, chose the Llano River as their place of residence. Likewise, the first Anglos, who arrived in the early 1850's, settled along the Colorado River. Even today, these two rivers are responsible for much of the economic success Llano County enjoys.
"R" is for RV Parks. Llano County is increasing every year as an attraction for tourists. Our county's beautiful terrain has always been an incentive for outside visitors. For many years Texas has been the winter residence of large numbers of people from northern parts of the United States who desire to escape the long-lasting cold and freezing conditions in their homeland. Known as "Winter Texans," originally most of these visitors chose the sunny and warm South Texas, referred to as "The Valley." However, over the years, many of these same families have begun to choose areas, such as Llano County, as their winter homes. The political, social conditions and problems along the Texas-Mexico border have deteriorated to the point they pose safety issues. Llano County has been chosen because of its unique characteristics in addition to its scenic attractions and acceptable climate. Our county's leaders have worked hard to host numerous events throughout the year that have appeal to outside visitors. Many who come bring their recreational vehicles, motor homes, campers, etc. and stay several days. They take advantage of the shopping opportunities provided by our boutiques, antique places, etc., food eateries, live music entertainment, and the special events, which are broad in scope, eventually offering something to meet everyone's individual taste.
About two weeks ago, in anticipation of this article, I drove through the Riverway RV Park plus the ones at Robinson Park and Badu Park. The spaces were almost all filled, amounting to approximately 70 different types of recreational vehicles. Seeing these parks filled with visitors any time of the year is a great indicator that Llano County has something unique to offer them or else they would have gone elsewhere. It always surprises me to see how many of these park spaces continue to be filled even during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
"R" is for ROPERS. Although Llano County has historically always had numerous ropers, the area now serves as an attraction for many of the world's champions. As a kid growing up in Llano, several families (such as the Eppersons and Nixons of Valley Spring) were considered top-notch calf ropers for many years. It wasn't until a little later that team roping was added to the skilled events. Today, the world champions are mostly known for their skills as either a header or healer in the team roping competitions. The ones who have resided in Llano County built first rate roping arenas equivalent to those used in national and world competitions, such as the one in Las Vegas. Since local facilities meet the proper standards, Llano County has become a frequent host of PRO roping events. Our recently completed Events Center now serves as host for frequent such competitions.
SOURCES: THE CATTLEMAN MAGAZINE (Hazel Oatman Bowman—interview with Jim Maxwell prior to completion of Buchanan Dam; GEM OF THE HILL COUNTRY (Wilburn Oatman, Sr., pp. 71, 78); LLANO CO. FAMILY ALBUM (p. 220); COBWEBS & CORNERSTONES (Almond & Franklin, p. 89); prorodeohalloffame.com.