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At the Top of Erna Hill
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 • Posted July 26, 2013

I am still doing research on the origin of the Leon Gin at Erna and will do the article soon. I have a picture taken in 1914 with about 30 of the local residents shown and I have almost placed a name with each of them and am waiting for confirmation as to the organizational status, if it is available. There was no evidence of the company formation filed with the State.

In the meantime, if you will remember, I made mention, about a year ago, of the post office (1890) and stage stop named Independence down the Leon from Erna of which Don Daniels made known to me some time ago. I was also told of the ruins about 20 years ago by James Johnson but never had the opportunity to visit the site until a month ago, when I had lunch with the land owner and was invited to make the visit to what he thought might be the ruins of the stage stop and post office of Independence, as I had described it in my former issue, so on June 16, my grandson, Aiden, and I accompanied him to what is believed to be the site. After viewing the site, I am satisfied that it is the remains of the post office and stage stop know as Independence. Aiden found the remains of an old metal canteen and we will offer it to the Mason museum. The way in and out is somewhat rugged and the area to the south becomes very rugged and not possible for stage traffic.

In the ruins of the building, there is still a fireplace standing with the rock walls crumbled around at what is, I presume, to have been the main room which was approx. 14 ft. sq. About 10 yards away, there were ruins with the rock crumbled in a circular pattern, about 10 ft. in dia. I can only guess that this must have been a grain storage building. No evidence of corrals could be determined but a rock wall ran southeast from the main building to a rock outcropping and these were larger rocks, 300 pounds or more, and not placed in a manner to act as an enclosure. The site, as for as layout is concerned, is rather well preserved.

I am not sure what stage lines came thru here but in studying the Mason and Menard County history, I find mentioned the Overland and Butterfield lines but neither confirmed which line served us. A route thru here originated in San Antonio and went west, possibly to El Paso or north. I studied the Pecos history and found that the Butterfield Lines operated from Ft. Worth west and crossed the Pecos River at what was named Horse Head Crossing, west of Crane. In studying the Menard Co. history, the stage line came from the southeast to what was termed Peg Leg Crossing on the San Saba River about 10 miles east of the present Menard.Therefore, I will assume that the Overland Stage ran from San Antonio northwest to west due to the fact that in the reign of Cap't. Hay’s as a ranger company from San Antonio in 1842, there was mention of traveling the Pinto Trace which was a popular trail used by the Indians and was a crossing on the Guadalupe River.

My assumption is that the line ran from San Ant., thru Comfort to Fredericksburg, Loyal Valley, crossing the Llano near Hedwigs Hill, on to Mason and to Independence. I have to stop here as I think that the line split at this point. There is evidence that a line went up Big Saline Creek west from London to a stop at Pete Weaver’s fortress about 6 miles west. This was a one room stone building about 14 ft. square, with small rectangular windows designed for defensive measures against Indian attack. The Weaver and Bannowsky families settled this area on Big Saline near what is a big spring near by. The Bannowsky cemetery is located near the Weaver Fortress. There is further evidence that a stage line ran west from here west as there are ruts from wagons cut in the exposed limestone near Cleo to mark the trail entering into the Coppers Creek bottom and continuing west to a known stage stop at Fort Terrett and on west, south of Crane, and crossed at the famous Horse Head Crossing.

In reviewing the Menard history, I find that a line served Fort McKavett before there was a town of Menardville and it crossed the San Saba at Peg Leg Crossing, there fore, I presume that the line ran from Independence to the Peg Leg(I learned last week that is still evidence of a wagon trail running over the divide between Franklin and Elm Creek Spring), traveled on the north side of the San Saba river to just below McKavett at the site of Scabtown and crossed at the One Mile crossing to Mc Kavett and left via the crossing at Milligan Draw to San Angelo and Fort Concho. Menard became a town about 1900 and became a shipping point when the railroad came in 1911. Peg Leg was a less know crossing of the cattle trails as it was to far west but it was the crossing for the Great Western Trail herds as the herds moved from the Yates on the Llano thru London on to Peg Leg.

The site of Independence is located on private property and I ask that no one try to find the property without consulting the owner. The site is located at the northern edge of what we describe as rugged country from this point on to the Llano and I am guessing that the stop was built near a plentiful supply of building rock. It seems that the trail stayed to the north of the rough country from Mason to London with deep sand as the problem most of that distance.

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