White buffalo in Snyder
White buffalo in Snyder (Photo By Gerald E. McLeod)

County courthouse yard art around the state is some of the most eclectic statuary available to the general public. There are 254 counties in Texas and at least 60 have a monument to some fallen hero or local icon, ranging from modern art in the park across the street from the Tarrant County Courthouse in Fort Worth to cowboy cutouts on the lawn of the Sterling County Courthouse in Sterling City.

By far, the largest percentage of sculptures on courthouse lawns consists of monuments to veterans and soldiers of the Confederacy. In the early 1900s several stonecutters in Chicago, Georgia, and New York supplemented their mail-order headstone business with renditions of Johnny Reb; usually done in gray granite.

A flourishing business in biographical statuary began as immigrant stonecutters began moving to the state. The Paris (Texas) Marble Works was one of the earliest Texas companies to expand their monument line. After the blocks were quarried outside of Llano for the state capital, German-born sculptor Frank Teich continued the local rock industry almost single-handedly when he opened his studio there. Austin's Elisabet Ney and San Antonio's Pompeo Coppini carved remarkable monuments from stone and gave respectability to the early Texas art scene.

One of the most popular themes around the state is monuments to cowboys and settlers. In Ballinger stands a beautiful memorial by Coppini to Charles Noyes, a cowboy killed in an accident while working cattle. Bandera County has produced more national and world champion cowboys than any other county in the world and erected a monument to the seven local cowboys who have won the belt buckles. The county courthouse also has a monument to local settlers that is a bronze plaque mounted on an oblong rock that looks like ... well, a big, red turd. In Mason, on the east side of the pecan tree-shaded courthouse lawn is a statue of a cowboy and his horse by a local artist honoring area cowboys and cowgirls.

Texas heroes are well represented on the state's courthouse lawns, usually in the county that was named after them or where they lived. A larger-than-life statue of Jose Antonio Navarro fills the entrance to the courthouse in Corsicana in Navarro County. An imposing likeness of Republic of Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar looks down from a pedestal in front of the courthouse in Richmond, where he died. The courthouse also has a monument to renowned frontier scout Deaf Smith.

The tiny northwest Texas town of Anson commissioned a statue of Anson Jones, the last president of the Republic of Texas, and a bust of longtime congressman from the area, Omar Burleson. David Crockett is honored in Ozona, the county seat of Crockett County; James Bowie has a statue in New Boston, the seat of Bowie County; and Juan Seguin leads a charge from his steed in the Guadalupe County seat of Seguin.

Not all of the heroes were famous men. Granbury recently installed a bronze monument to a favorite schoolteacher. The citizens of Hamilton put up a simple marker honoring a schoolteacher who died saving her pupils from an Indian attack. A fireman's memorial erected in Corsicana in 1918 was probably purchased from a catalog. On the Burnet County Courthouse grounds is a life-sized statue of Sheriff Wallace W. Riddell, Texas' longest-serving sheriff in 1980.

Of course, Texans have their fun-loving side, too. On the Henderson County Courthouse lawn in Athens is a statue commemorating the local fiddlers' contest held on the last Friday of May since 1921. Stephenville has a black-and-white cow proclaiming Erath County the dairy capital of Texas. Famous for its dinosaur tracks, there are imprints of footprints incorporated in a gazebo outside of the Somerville County Courthouse in Glen Rose. The last white buffalo in Texas was killed north of Snyder, and they memorialized the event with a statue at the Scurry County Courthouse. In Floresville they have a giant peanut and in Seguin they have a giant pecan. No monument is stranger than the courthouse cornerstone in Eastland that once held Old Rip, the horned toad whose mummified body can be seen through the courthouse window.

645th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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