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CONFEDERATE REUNION GROUNDS STATE HISTORIC SITE

CONFEDERATE REUNION GROUNDS STATE HISTORIC SITE. Confederate Reunion Grounds State Historic Site is located at the junction of Farm roads 2705 and 1633 about six miles southwest of Mexia in north central Limestone County. The park consists of approximately seventy-seven acres and was the site of the annual reunions held by Confederate veterans of the region from the 1880s until the 1930s. In 1888 Limestone County veterans held their first reunion at a local campmeeting grounds on the wooded banks where Jack's Creek flowed into the Navasota River. In 1889 the veterans officially established their own group as an affiliate of the United Confederate Veterans organization and were designated the Joseph E. Johnston Camp Number 94, United Confederate Veterans. The camp included an elected commander and some dozen officer positions. In June 1892 the group purchased the first of a series of tracts that would eventually comprise their reunion grounds at the verdant spot by Jack's Creek and the Navasota. In order to pay for the acreage, they parceled out more than 100 camping lots which were sold to veterans and their families for five dollars each. Construction of an octagonal dance pavilion began in 1893 and accommodated musical bands and dances at the encampment.

Held during the full moon each July or August, the reunions were grand affairs when veterans and their families gathered to reminisce and celebrate. Highlights of the events included speeches, bountiful meals, games, a carnival midway, and the firing of the Val Verde cannon—one of the spoils of the old Val Verde Battery. During their heyday of the late 1890s to early 1900s, the reunions attracted several thousand participants. With the coming of the Mexia oil boom (see WOODBINE FAULT-LINE FIELDS) in the early 1920s, the reunion grounds saw a flurry of increased social activity. Wildcatter A. E. Humphreys took an interest in the grounds and secured water rights from the Joseph Johnston Camp. He constructed a pumphouse there along with several small houses for oil company employees. Humphreys also built a bathhouse and a clubhouse for the camp. Dignitaries entertained at this POCO club, short for Pure Oil Company clubhouse, included Gen. John J. Pershing.

By the 1940s the reunions had faded with the passing of the last of the Confederate veterans of Limestone County. The camp became inactive until a group of concerned citizens spearheaded a drive to save the reunion grounds in the 1960s. In July 1965 a new and permanent charter was secured for the Joseph E. Johnston Camp No. 94. The Confederate Reunion Grounds were honored with a Texas Historical Marker dedicated in 1966 and a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. On September 1, 1983, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officially assumed control of the property. Confederate Reunion Grounds State Historic Site was operated as a day-use park and was overseen by the personnel of nearby Fort Parker State Park. Operational control of the site was officially transferred from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to the Texas Historical Commission by the Eightieth Texas Legislature on January 1, 2008. Facilities include the dance pavilion, playground, picnic areas, restrooms, footbridges, and a hiking trail. Other special features include the Val Verde cannon, a natural spring known as the Colonel's spring, the pumphouse, and other remnants of the oil boom days. Picnicking, swimming, and fishing remain popular activities. The Confederate Reunion Grounds State Park Historical Society hosts an annual bluegrass festival as well as a living history day at the grounds.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Laurie E. Jasinski, "The Fire of Memory: A History of Confederate Reunion Grounds State Historic Site" (unpublished report, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Cultural Resources Program, Austin, 2002). Joseph Johnston Camp No. 94 Collection, Gibbs Memorial Library, Mexia, Texas. Texas historical marker files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin (Joseph E. Johnston Reunion Grounds).

Laurie E. Jasinski

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Laurie E. Jasinski, "CONFEDERATE REUNION GROUNDS STATE HISTORIC SITE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/gkc07), accessed October 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.