I know it’s been a couple weeks since I posted. I’ve been busy selling prints and doing general business stuff so I haven’t had the chance to post anything lately. However, this past week I finally had some free time and decided to make the most of it. So I picked a direction and drove.
I ended up on Highway 29 outside of Llano. The area between there and Mason is a lot of open ranch land, and there was very little traffic on the highway the further west I went. Heavy clouds loomed as I pulled over to inspect my map. Just up the road from me, I spotted a name: Castell.
Castell was founded by German settlers under the direction of the Adelsverein (Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas) in 1847. The town was named for the group’s business manager, Count Carl Frederick Christian of Castell-Castell.
I had to cross the Llano river to get to town. By the way, the Llano river is an excellent spot for fly fishing; one of few in the state.
Castell’s town motto.
The post office is still in use. It’s only open from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Monday through Friday.
The steeple on this church caught my eye from the road leading into town. Of course, I had to investigate.
A view through the window.
The Trinity United Methodist Church was founded by some of the many German immigrants that had settled in Texas. The original church was founded in 1852 and the present building was built in 1900.
It has a weekly average attendance of 10 people.
Notice how the right doorknob is shiny, while the left is dull. That’s because most people are right-handed and reach for the right knob; thereby effectively keeping it polished.
Forgiveness, heart, and Jesus, I understand. But chalk? Um.
The other side of the church. Methodism emphasizes support for the sick, poor, and suffering through charity. Many hospitals, shelters, soup kitchens, and schools were established by Methodists in order to follow Christ’s command to share the good news and serve people.
An outdoor sanctuary. Many old churches have these. Modern churches keep them inside with air conditioning and call them fellowship halls or something similar.
This one hadn’t been occupied for a long time; at least by humans.
The pulpit where the pastor gave his message.
A tiny, child-size chair sat on the stage.
This is probably where the choir sat while the pastor preached.
Those dents in the dirt are hundreds of paw prints. I’m pretty sure a skunk had taken up residence under the stage because I could smell it!
Some long abandoned bikes.
The church’s windows don’t open so it got stifling hot in there in the summer. The congregation would meet under this structure instead to hear the message. The sides are open to allow the precious breeze through. In the very back, behind the pulpit, large flaps could be opened to let in southern wind.
“Education for students in Castell may have begun as early as 1852, according to local oral tradition. Earliest written records indicate that the Llano County Commissioners Court designated the Castell school as District No. 6 in 1884, and the land was deeded for the school’s use six years later. Members of the community built a two-room schoolhouse, which was expanded to three classrooms in 1929. Castell school housed ten grades, so students wishing to complete their high school education did so in Llano, Fredericksburg, or Mason. Due to declining enrollment, the school closed in 1948 and was consolidated with the Llano school district, but the school building remained in use as a community center.”
The main entrance.
“Water lifters that brought water up from the well for drinking and other uses at the school. The old well was located on the northeast corner of the building near the historical marker.”
I looked for the well but it’s just a concrete slab now.
There were four doors inside this foyer. One was a bathroom, and the other three were locked. These screen doors were enormous! They were each about seven feet tall and at least three feet wide.
A different angle and a view of the bell tower.
Someone had power washed a cross into the sidewalk.
TRINITY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH CEMETERY
“The oldest documented grave in this burial ground, that of two-year-old Feodor Leifeste, dates from 1871. Two years later, Carl Lehmberg deeded land to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, setting aside this part of the property for a cemetery. Reflecting the area’s German heritage, the burial ground contains both marked and unmarked graves and historically served the Castell, Mason, and Llano communities. Burials here include those of German immigrants and their descendants, several ordained Methodist ministers, and veterans of armed conflicts dating back to the Civil War.”
This trip went from hoping to stumble upon anything interesting to actively searching for the oldest grave in the cemetery; that of little Feodor.
My view walking into the cemetery gates.
Gone home 125 years ago.
Iron railings like this, while ornate, actually served a practical purpose: to keep animals out. Generally speaking, iron fences after around 1875 or so were made by molds. You can often see the casting lines in pieces that were prefabricated. Before 1875, most of these pieces were hammered out by hand. Imagine the time and effort put into just one grave. Many of these railings disappeared during the World War 2 scrap drives. You can view a really cool slideshow about that here.
By the way, before we go on… I need to apologize in advance. Continue at your own risk.
GREAT BIG SPIDER ALERT
Honestly, I thought it was kind of cute. It was really shy and hid every time I came within a few feet. But this spider… Y’all, this spider was huge. One of the biggest I’ve ever seen in the wild AND its eyes were glowing. I mean… Anyway, let’s move on.
This minister died young. He could have been a victim of disease or possibly killed by Comanches.
I’m not sure exactly what was in this jar, but it looked like peaches. The grave was that of a man that passed more than 50 years ago.
A solid iron marker. Must have weighed at least forty pounds.
After wandering the graveyard for half an hour I finally found the oldest grave. I noticed that there were another seven children in the Leifeste family, almost all of which died before they were five years old. The cause was probably disease like cholera, yellow fever, or measles.
This just made me sad.
“Donated & Erected by Raesener Granite Wks 1942.”
Raesener Granite Works is still in operation in Llano today.
I wanted to stay in lovely Castell a little longer but real life was calling so I had to leave. This was the view before me as I drove away from town.
There were other things I didn’t cover here, like the Castell General Store and the bed and breakfast. But then again, I lean more toward things that are easily overlooked. Overall, the town of Castell reminded me a bit of Spectre; the little town in Big Fish. A hidden gem: a sleepy little place with a lot to offer anyone who wants to visit, explore, and appreciate it. Wherever you go and whatever you do, I hope you take the time to notice the little out-of-the-way things and enjoy them like I have!