Off To Salado!
Okay, next up...Salado!
Not long after our return from San Antonio, we decided it was once again time to journey a field a bit. This time, though, it wouldn’t be so far away, nor for so long. In fact, it would be right next door, and we’d be home in time for tiffin.
I’m not quite sure what a tiffin is, actually. I think it may be a small furry animal native to Guatemala. But, whatever it is, it’s early. I’m sure.
Anyway, one Saturday morning when we were sitting around wondering what the heck to do with ourselves, Martha said, “Oh, h*ll, let’s just go to Salado.” I said, sure, why the h*ll not? And the next thing we knew, we were flying up Interstate Highway 35 towards the little town of Salado.
Here’s a photo of Martha during one of our visits to Salado. This was in October of 2021 and I may have run it before (sorry). But, anyway, here she is, along with some pumpkins designed to make us homesick for New England.
If you look at a map, you’ll see that this is a small town just North of our home in Georgetown. It is only about a 20 minute drive, give or take depending, and just over 20 miles (that’s just over 30 kilometers for you metric types). It is, as I say, quite small -- the population is only about 2,394 people, according to Wikipedia, or at least that was true as of the 2020 census.
That’s actually up, by the way. While people have been living in the area for thousands of years (a Native American culture, “The Buttermilk Creek Complex,” seems to have thrived along a local stream as much as 15,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest known human settlements in North America), it only became a “town” in the 1850s.
And here’s the weird part. Salado happened because a local gentleman, Elijah Sterling C. Robertson, decided that the area really needed a college. So, he raised money and donated land, and the result was Salado College, along with a town...Salado...which was laid out around the school. In other words, town and gown were one and the same.
Anyway, the college lasted on and off from 1859 to 1885. It sort of faded out after that due to a lack of funds and students. But the town of Salado managed to thrive. It was on the Chisholm Trail and its famous cattle drives. Thousands upon thousands, maybe millions of longhorns went through the area.
Salado was also a stop for the stagecoach. It was thus a traveler’s nexus, an inland port, and, here to quote Wikipedia, by 1884 “ Salado had a population of 900, seven churches, 14 stores, two hotels, two blacksmiths, and three cotton gins.”
Ah, but it wasn’t to last. The railways came to Texas, but they didn’t come to Salado. The rail went North of the community, and South of it, but not to the town itself. Salado began to wither. By the early twentieth century, it was down to a few hundred people. By 1950, it was well into ghost town territory, with a population of just 200.
From there, it should have dwindled down to nothing and then, one day, been ingloriously removed from the maps as anything more than a historical marker. There are lots of such places in Texas, and more seem to appear every day. A factory closes, a mine shuts down, the retail businesses are shuttered, and it is only a matter of time before the town is gone...or, worse perhaps, suffers the indignity of becoming a bedroom village for some other, larger, still viable community.
But, from such fates, Salado was saved.
How it was saved, and why, is a story of some complexity...and I will tell it.
But not right now.
And not before I get the two of us to Salado, where we find ourselves among books and antiques of great splendor...
While we wonder if the Episcopal Church, in all its Anglo-Catholic-Baroque magnificence...
Won’t be, in the end...
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