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Spur street signs a lesson in history — and a musical inspiration

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Drive the streets of Spur, Texas, and you’ll encounter a few place names that aren’t common in other cities.

No Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison here. No Nueces, Trinity, Colorado, Brazos. Not even the ubiquitous Ash, Elm, Oak.

Spur has a street nomenclature all its own, borrowed primarily from leaders associated with the early twentieth-century West Texas railroad industry that gave birth to the city in 1909. Daniel Willard, head of the Burlington Railroad, was an obvious choice to honor; Burlington itself holds pride of place as the name given to the city’s main commercial thoroughfare.

F. E. Clarity was a board member of the Fort Worth; Denver Railway (there’s also a Denver Avenue in Spur, too). Mr. Clarity also lent his name to the last operating railroad tunnel in Texas — which can still be visited along the Caprock Canyons Trailway near Quitaque, though the tracks have long since been pulled up and scrapped.

Comb the annals of Spur history and you’ll come upon financiers, agents, engineers, executives: D. B. Keeler; H. W. Cowan; A. D. Parker; Frank Trumbull, to cite a few. W. F. Sterley was general agent for the railroad. Carroll, Harris, Calvert, Hulen and Franklin are harder to locate in archives, but it’s likely they were railroad names as well.

Let’s apply a bit of imagination, however, and see if we can’t find another common denominator.

It was pointed out to me not so long ago during the Monday-night Spurville Folk Jam (7 to 9 p.m.; bring your guitar and join in!) that our gathering takes place at a suitable street address recalling Charlie “Bird” Parker. Why not?

And then we got to thinking about Hank Williams and Brenda Lee, Glenn Miller and Diahann Carroll, Erroll Garner and Aretha Franklin, Keith Green and John Cowan. The band Willard. (Some of those a stretch for you? Look ’em up.)

A few called for connections to first names. Lester Flatt, Iris DeMent, Jim Morrison, Chris Isaak, Ashley Campbell. (Yeah, we were trying to be eclectic.) So maybe Spur has a bright future as a music mecca, just as it once had a famed railroad past. Let’s pretend it’s so, anyway.

As for me, well, any city with a street sign recalling my 1970s country-folk favorite John Denver is all right in my (music) book.


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