County Alfonso Steele Roadside Park
did a house get built in a park donated to the State of Texas?
A Roadside Park Mystery
ghosts know history better than us and they're not talking." - Rushin
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Rushin Steele, July 2004
In July of 2004 we received an interesting email from Rushin Steele,
great-great-great-Grandson of Alfonso Steele, the Last Survivor
of the Battle of San Jacinto. His letter is reprinted below. After
the letter we have attached the solution to the mystery - as unearthed
by Anne Cook, Librarian for TxDoT's photo library.
I became troubled and a little heartbroken the other day by a site
that pretty much sums up the entire misfortune of my family's name
and history. My dad took me to a place that not many of my family
know about. He wanted to show it to me before he passed so that I
could show my children.......if it manages to survive that long.
First a little history....
There have been many small write-ups on Alfonso Steele
as being the last known survivor of the Battle at San Jacinto.......even
though there has been some controversy that he wasn't.
He wasn't if you count the two boys who didnít participate in the
fighting. These two were pulled out because of their youth. Even though
they were teenagers, they appeared much younger. One stayed back to
protect women and the other was a doctor's assistant. Since they weren't
technically in the battle, many historians have overlooked them or
didn't believe their stories. But they were still Texas Volunteers
and that should count either way.
Being the last to die of old age isn't the best claim to fame, but
in later years these three men (like old men joking around a table)
met at veteranís meetings and argued about who would outlast who.
Alfonso was also one of the first settlers in Limestone
County and his wife (Mary Ann Powell) was direct kin to the Parkers
of Fort Parker. Mary Annís mother's maiden name was Parker and she
was a second or third cousin to Cynthia Ann Parker.
For some reason the Steele's aren't listed with the other families
on the Limestone County Courthouse memorial for being one of the first
settlers in Limestone County.
There is a Simms family listed [on the memorial] in huge writing,
although there is no proof of a Simms in Limestone County until The
After years of fighting, only last year was the Steele name spelled
correctly for a sign over the former ďSteelĒ Creek.
Alfonso's son, Alvarado Steele laid the first brick
for construction of the Limestone County Courthouse and on that brick
was a plaque with his name for his heroism during the Civil War. That
brick was later removed and replaced with a plain brick...yet there
was no damage to it and in fact it had even survived a fire that burned
most of the courthouse.
Back to the reason for this letter and to continue the story of
my recent trip with my dad :
One of the
Rushin Steele, July 2004
One of the
Rushin Steele, July 2004
were outside of Mexia, Texas, fairly close to Fort Parker on a road
that had been part of the old original highway.
My dad told me to turn into a particular driveway that went up to
a brick house. As we were turning in, there were a set of old picnic
tables and benches spread out in front and back of this person's yard.
Most are now in pieces.
We got out......with me arguing with him because thereís a big NO
TRESSPASSING sign and I'm thinking we're going to be shot or have
dogs unleashed on us.
(The house turned out to be empty.) So we walked over to this pile
of high grass covering a rock.........and on that rock was a plaque
that stated that this was a Texas State Roadside Park Donated to Texas
and was "dedicated to the Memory of Alfonso Steele." (1936 was the
date on the plaque.)
My Grandpa told the story a hundred times of it being the first Roadside
Park and how he never rode in a new car but one time in his life and
that first time was on the way to the ceremony for Alfonso in a 1930
Ford with his wealthy uncle. There was a story of this same uncle
stealing the plaque that very next week on his way back to Dallas
and a new plaque being put back six years later. That would move the
the time line from 1930 to 1936, but there's no proof of this except
for stories. My dad thinks my grandpa had his dates wrong and that
the plaque was never stolen. I really don't care about stories unless
there are facts to back them up.
Regardless of it being dedicated to my great-great-great-Grandpa,
it was like a slap in the face seeing the park in this condition.
Why is there a house right in the middle of [the park]? I'm sad about
it because there's probably nothing I can do to save it so my children
can see it.
I found your site by accident and read the story written by Mr. Bowman.....I
thought it was ironic that he has both a story of The
first State Roadside Park and a story of The
Last Known Survivor of the San Jacinto Battle. I'm sure his stories
are correct with plenty of proof, but I have noticed that history
can be changed or forgotten totally within the blink of an eye. One
lost, stolen or burned document or one number printed wrong by accident
or intentionally. Or a story that you would like to believe so bad
to be true because it hits so close to home.
Only ghosts know history better than us and they're
not talking. There is one other thing that Alfonso was known for by
friends and family - it took him almost two years to recover from
the near-fatal bullet wound to the stomach during the battle. During
that time he learned to play the fiddle.
Thanks for your time.
- Rushin Steele
plaque mounted on the rock
Photo courtesy TXDoT
Ms. Cook's email:
There are four roadside parks currently part of the Texas highway
system in Limestone County. The park in question, dedicated to Alfonso
Steele is no longer maintained by the state. I talked to LaVonza Barkouskie
with Limestone County maintenance TxDOT. She described the location
of this park as being on old state highway 14. The Texas Highway Department
(now TxDOT) sold that property to W.B. Moore. The deed transfer was
recorded March 6, 1964.
I found a photo of the marker in a file in the Photo Library printed
on April 17, 1941. On the back it says:
in park so. of Mexia
Dist. 9 4-E
When I scanned the photo to read the marker, the top part says
THIS SITE WAS DONATED
FOR PARK PURPOSES TO THE
STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT
The rest of the marker is very hard to read, I think it says
LIMESTONE COUNTY IN MEMORY OF
ALFONSO STEELE LAST SURVIVOR OF
BATTLE OF SAN JACINTO FIRST
SETTLER OF THIS COMMUNITY
suggestion from the editor:
Since so many Texas counties are searching for historic ties, here
is an opportunity for Limestone County to acquire one for practically
nothing. No building to restore, no road to build and there is already
a marker in place (although it might need a good cleaning).
Even though the property is now in private hands, the expenditure
of county funds to reclaim this roadside park would seem to be in
Could we hear from the Limestone County Historians? - EditorA
Steele Roadside Park Forum
Alfonso Steele was my great, great grandfater and lived in Thornton,
Texas. I saw Rushin Steele sent an e-mail about the abandoned roadside
park in memory of Alfonso. How do I find Rushin Steele and how do
I find out if there are any descendants left in Thornton or Limestone
Co.? - Betty Ware, May 07, 2006
© John Troesser