We're staying an extra day at the KOA since it has cable and Sue needs to watch the finale of Dancing with the Stars. After a day of doing nothing on Sunday, we decided to go out and see what's in Weatherford and the surroundings today. Our first stop was the Doss Heritage and Cultural Center to see Rawhide, a longhorn steer with reportedly the widest horn spread of any longhorn according to Ripley's. He stuffed now and shares the museum with tipis, the first chuck wagon designed by a local resident, and a display focusing on a local star, Mary Martin who was Peter Pan on Broadway. We arrived at the Doss Center and found there were no cars in the parking lot. It appears that it's closed on Monday's. While disappointing, it was not a disaster, we drove over to the public library to see the statue of Mary Martin as Peter Pan. The statue was open.
With more time to kill, we headed over to Mineral Wells to see some of the roadside attractions in that area. On the way we passed signs to the Clark Botanic Garden. We decided to try our luck and it's open on Mondays if not crowded. I think the heat had something to do with the sparse attendance. I thought I would a good place to get some photos of wildflowers. Clark looks like is a mini-Longwood with formal gardens, arbors, fountains, pools and a couple of small lakes. Unfortunately, not much in the way of wildflowers were blooming. Some roses, bed flowers, and a few water lilies. Most of the wildflower pictures I got were along the roadway into the garden.
We went into Mineral Wells to the Famous Mineral Water Company purveyor of Crazy Water. The waters of Mineral Wells apparently have been making folks feel good inside and out since 1881. The legend in 1881, a women who suffered from dementia sat by the well all day drinking the mineral water and people slowly began to notice that the crazy old lady was not so crazy anymore. They said the well alleviated the lady’s “crazies” hence the well became known as the “Crazy Well” and thousands of people from all over the country flocked to Mineral Wells. A man named Ed Dismuke was told by his doctor that there was no remedy for his ailing stomach. Mr. Dismuke began drinking the magical water and before he knew it, he was restored to health. In 1904, Mr. Dismuke founded the Famous Mineral Water Company, selling and distributing the mineral water. Now, more than 100 years later, the store is still operating and people are still drinking Crazy Water. We stopped, but it closes early on Monday so no Crazy Water today.
Mineral Wells really died during WWII because of gas rationing. People couldn't get gas to make the drive to the city to visit one of the 21 mineral water companies operating. At it's peak there were 4 bathing houses, 7 wells and pavilions, 2 sanitariums, and 46 hotels and boarding houses. Now there are only a couple old turn of the 20th Century hotels and buildings that sit abandoned in town.
The economy of Mineral Wells was long dependant on the mineral waters, but when the tourists stopped coming it relied on the military base at Fort Wolters. Originally named Camp Wolters, it was an Army camp from 1925 to 1946. During World War II, it was for a time the largest infantry replacement training center in the United States. After the war, the camp was deactivated for several years. In 1956, it became the United States Army Primary Helicopter School and was designated a "permanent" military base and renamed Fort Wolters in 1963. In March of 1966 the post was re-designated Fort Wolters, a permanent military installation and U.S. Army Primary Helicopter Center during the Vietnam war. Many of the helicopter crews who served in the war were trained at Fort Wolters. The base was deactivated in 1973, the site is now used as an industrial park.
A site down the road from the Fort Wolters was selected to become the National Vietnam War Museum because of the presence of the helicopter training center. The museum is in the first phase of a multi-phase development. In addition to the Meditation and Contemplation Gardens, there is a memorial to the 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion that served at the Fort Wolters and in Vietnam at Camp Holloway in Pleiku, South Vietnam. There is a replica of a Memorial Wall that was built at Camp Holloway to commemorate the members of the Battalion that died while serving in Vietnam. There's also a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and a Vietnam-era Huey perched 20 ft in the air as if making a landing in Vietnam. The group has an ambitious plan with no set date for completing the planned building. It is privately funded and more information can be found at
. We didn't get into the museum trailer because it closed at 1:00 PM on Mondays.
We ended the day back in Weatherford at Pastafina for an Italian dinner. It was pretty good, but no pictures. We'll be moving on to Dinosaur Valley State Park tomorrow. Stay tuned.