Mason County News
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At the Top of Erna Hill
Wednesday, August 8, 2012 • Posted August 8, 2012

Now we have reached a point in time, which finally brings solace to the area of Erna around 1875, with the settlement well under way of the area from Mason to the west. Much of the area adjacent to the James River and Llano was established as cattle ranching operations not long after the end of the Civil War as many in the South could foresee the end results of the war. Captain Charles Schreiner came into the Kerrville area around 1850 when the County was established and later held ranching operations along the James River along with many other operators, including Jeffers, Gamels, Smiths and White & Littlefield along the Llano, in the rough, rugged areas, who came after the Civil War.

Fort Mason was established in about 1856 with Robert E. Lee as Post Commander. The post came into Confederate command in 1861 when the garrison withdrew as Texas joined the Confederacy but was rather inactive until the end of the war when outpost began to emerge to the West. Fort Mason became active and an outpost was established near what is now the Leon Creek Road about a mile south of 377, which was named Fort Little Britches. At that time, the flat east of the Creek road had a flowing stream of water most of the year, as did many other flats in the area.

Around 1866, a single person by the name of Spruell, who was John Spruell’s father of London fame, was mustered out of the Confederate Army in Georgia, which in most cases, was actually walking away and he headed for Texas. He traveled bare foot and arrived at the granite rock formations east of Streeter in the fall, about 1870 and spent the winter holed up in the rocks and eventually moved on to the Hungry Hollow area, which later became known as the Haystack Community, and he later, moved to the Saline area.

One family of three brothers engaged in ranching along the Llano at the mouth of the Little Saline and Big Saline Creeks were colorful characters and active in many ways. It was stated that they kept their cattle poor because each stole from the other on a repetitive basis. The hog was a common commodity of those in the community, as they ran wild, so to speak, as the range was open. One of the brothers had one ear missing and when asked how he lost the ear, his remark was “When you get caught stealing hogs, they would cut one ear off.” I think it was a mishap in roping a cow.

The settlement of the area began when Mason County was established in 1856 and shortly, Grit and Streeter became a community and by 1870, the Erna area began its growth to what in 1910, I estimated about 70 families lived within a 5 mile radius and the post oak flats were being cleared and farms were established. In 1882, there was a general trend by the State to establish schools throughout the area and generally placed them at about 8 mile intervals at Grit, Streeter, Haystack, Long Mountain, Leon, Saline, London and Red Creek, which I believe, was referred to as FROG POND School. The area to the south of what is now Hwy. 377, was sparsely settled and the Blue Mountain school was built in western Mason County south of the Llano near the present Kimble County line on FM 1871. One of our Erna Road residents, Doris Johnson, got her first teaching job at Blue Mountain at about 1938. She boarded with the Ollie Martins, who lived near by.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the predominant cash crop was cotton, so the land had to be cleared and the clearing was by hand. This clearing process was a winter time job so as an increase in acreage was desired, the only was to clear the trees was to hand grub which meant to dig down and cut the roots beneath the trunk so the tree could fall and then the trimming would commence. The wood was cut into firewood and corded up to dry for the next year. In fact, almost all residents had what they referred to as “WOOD LOTS” which supplied the wood for the coming years. As the trees and brush were cleared, then the plowing began which was a winter and early spring job. The tilling of the soil was not with a 400 HP John Deere tractor but with a single bottom turning plow in the early years, which you followed on foot guiding the horses. John Deere’s first farm implement was the turning plow and the Georgia Stock, which later developed into the horse drawn disc plow of one or more disk, as you had the horsepower to pull. Also, the disc plow had a seat on the plow so it could be ridden and modernization is in motion.

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