The settlement dates back to about 1850 when a small group of families built a rough encampment at the junction of San Domingo and Dry Medio creeks, two miles east of the present site. On the road from the coast to San Antonio, the town prospered as a trading post and social center for the neighboring ranches. When the railroad passed the town in 1876, the town moved and changed its name to Walton.
In 1892, a colony of Norwegians settled in the area and changed the name to Normanna or "Home of the Norseman." For the next 60 years the community saw its fortunes rise and then fall. By the turn of the century, the town supported two doctors, two churches, a two-story schoolhouse, four general stores, a newspaper, a drug store, and a barber shop. The railroad built a depot and stockyards across the tracks from the town.
What the early settlers found on the coastal plains around Normanna were acres of fertile land covered with a tangle of mesquite, prickly pear cactus, live oaks, and a growing season that lasted 285 days a year. Cattle and cotton were king in the area until a local farmer convinced his neighbors to diversify into broomcorn. For years, housewives around the country swore by their Fortuna Brooms made in Normanna.
The Medio Creek Bridge west of town on County Road 101 was built in 1897 for less than $4,000. The bridge was a miracle of modern engineering at the time. The unique riveted-steel piers have withstood floods that devastated lesser bridges. The bridge and the automobile made it easier for the farmers to shop in nearby Beeville.
The town might have survived if not for a string of natural disasters in the 1940s . Storms blowing in 70 miles from the Gulf washed away people's dreams. Two fires destroyed most of the business district and many homes. By the time oil was discovered north of town, the population had dropped to less than 100. Now the community doesn't have enough volunteers to open its museum regularly.
If you enjoy searching out ghost towns, then get a county map of Bee County. Spend an afternoon driving the county roads to places like Orangedale, Candish, Cadz, Pawnee, or Caesar. In Mineral, a few miles northwest of Normanna, a resort once flourished around the mineral water springs.
Coming up this weekend...
Ottine Fall Fest honors the 105-year-old post office in the community at the gates of Palmetto State Park, Oct. 19. 210/672-3266.
Heritage Day Festival in Llano with a fair around the courthouse and free tours of the old jail, museum, and The Dabbs Hotel, Oct. 19. 915/247-5354.
Heritage Antique Show in Georgetown helps you start your own museum at San Gabriel Park, Oct. 19-20. 512/863-5598.
Fall Colors begin to explode late Oct. to early Nov. at Lost Maples State Park. For a recorded message on the progress, call 800/792-1112. East Texas boasts spectacular colors this time of year, too. Call the foliage hotline at 903/757-4444 or http://www.etta.com/etta
Hot Pepper Festival in Palestine gives farmers a chance to show off this year's crop and have a good time, Oct. 26. 800/659-3484. n