Durst Centennial Marker |
Photo courtesy Barclay
Gibson, December 2010
|Location - "From
Leona, take FM 977 about
2 mi. E to CR 142 (Durst Rd.), go N .5 mi. to gate on left, go W down dirt road
.3 mi. to Durst Family Cemetery" - Texas Historic Sites Atlas |
Centennial Marker Text|
DurstCame to Texas
Owner of the Old Stone Fort in Nacogdoches in 1835
Moved to Leon
County in 1844,
His wife being the first Anglo-American woman resident of
Born in Arkansas
Feb. 4, 1797
Died, Feb. 9, 1851.
Harriet M. (Jamison) Durst
Born in Virginia, Feb. 5, 1807
September 23, 1885.
County was my last county of the 17 or so contiguous East
Texas counties to see all the Texas
Centennial Markers placed in those counties back in 1936. Of the 145 markers
in these counties, I had been able to find and photograph 138 of them, so far.
There are seven Centennial markers in Leon County including the El
Camino Real monument in Normangee.
With two more markers yet to be seen, the directions to the John Durst grave marker
was east from Leona to
Durst Road. Then, north and through an open pipe gate. Follow the dirt road 0.1
mile to the Durst Family Cemetery.
Subject: Leon County - Looking for John Durst
No problem. I went up to the house
but there was no answer to my knock. Leaving a card in the door jamb, I followed
a dirt road. Up, over, around and through several deer feeders and turn-arounds.
Nothing. Another dirt road. Same thing. Then a third. I double checked my mileage
and checked to see if there were any other gates on the left or right. Nothing
else. This must the place. Time was running out. It was Friday afternoon barely
an hour before sunset and I had an appointment to see the Fort Milam Marker sixty
miles to the west near Marlin at sunrise
the next morning. This was my last chance to see all the markers in Leon County.
The other Leon County marker to see was about ten miles away. Maybe I could locate
it and still have enough time to come back to find Durst. The Baxter King marker
was supposed to have been set near the grave site but the weather and unpassable
roads back in 1936 necessitated that the marker be set near an intersection. Finally
found it and came back to find the family cemetery.
Still no one home.
The sun was nearly setting, and I went further on down the road. Found a house,
knocked on that door, and asked the man if he knew where the Durst Family Cemetery
was. "Sure," he said, "I'll show you." He got into my truck and said that it would
be easier to show me than to try to tell me where it was.
there was one more, barely visible, dirt road. We came right to the walled cemetery.
He told me the story of John Durst, and how he rode nearly a thousand miles to
tell of General Santa Anna's march north to Texas. Too bad the marker doesn't
mention this important part of Durst's life, as well as an important part of Texas
Side Story: A Mushed Landing in Leona
On the way back to his house, he pointed out a grass runway. I was stunned
not only that is very grassy, but that there were some pretty tall trees for a
plane to clear on take off and landing right at the end of the runway. He told
me the story of how a man was coming in for a landing when the wind shifted. The
pilot decided it would be best to go around for another attempt. The plane stalled
and, he said, 'the plane landed right in the top of that tree' and wasn't damaged
much at all. I couldn't see how a plane could 'land' in a tree like that.
The tree was maybe thirty feet tall and not all that strong looking. He said the
plane's weight kind of settled into the tree, and before long, the pilot and passenger
simply stepped out onto the ground, much like exiting a taxi. Amazing stories:
Missing the marker, knocking on a stranger's door for information, his taking
me to the marker, and his relating an airplane adventure to me. I asked him when
this happened and he said maybe around 1985. I thanked him for his time. He was
more than cordial, and appeared to have been glad to revisit the cemetery.
As you might suspect, I am interested in anything related to aviation, especially
accidents with happy endings. When I got home, I went to the FAA Accident Investigation
database. Simply entering the location as Leona,
Tx, and a date range of 1/1/1980 to 12/31/1989. Sure enough the incident came
right up. The final report was very close to the one related to me. On April 3,
1988, a Cessna 172 missed a landing on a grass runway and "mushed" into some trees.
This is the first time I have seen the technical aviation term for this type of
landing. A Mushed Landing. Wonder is this is covered in pilot training landing
techniques. Add to all that, I checked the plane's registration number. It was
recovered, repaired and is still flying today!
Gibson, December 2010
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