The CCC Parks- Mother Neff State Park, Gatesville, Coryell County, Texas

Mother Neff, that’s a strange name for a park.

Mother Neff was the first State Park developed in Texas. The initial 6 acres of the park were donated by Isabella Neff the mother of the sitting Governor at the time, Pat Neff. Upon his mother’s death in 1921 Governor Neff named the park Mother Neff Memorial Park in her honor. He then donated another 250 acres to the park which with another three acres donated is the total area of this small facility. But at 259 acres there is a lot to see along it’s 3.5 miles of trails.

Noah and Isabel Neff bought 900 acres along the Leon River in 1852. The youngest of their 9 children Pat eventually became to governor of Texas. Isabel was always known as Mother Neff in the community and often invited townspeople to come and spend the afternoon along the river. It was a favorite meeting place for all types of social events.

when she died in 1921 Isabel Neff in her will donated 6 acres to be preserved as a park. Governor Neff later donated another 250 acres. It was originally called Neff Memorial Park as Texas didn’t have a state park system in 1921.

Company 817 of the Civilian Conservation Corps built the park facilities from 1934 to 1938 and it is on the National Register of Historic Places.

the rugged trails at Mother Neff.

Mother Neff lies almost entirely in the flood plain of the Leon River and a catastrophic flood in 2007 left a part of the park damaged. It was still closed.

One disappointing thing in Texas. When a park is damaged as the flood here or the fire at Bastrop it seems it never gets fixed and reopened. Texas has no income tax so the parks operate on the income they produce. They are mainly manned by a couple rangers and the rest is volunteer help.

Anyway I started along the trail to the Wash Pond. This was built by the CCC.

Wash Pond

The wash pond was built as a laundry facility and swimming pool although I don’t know that the dual use was a good idea.

The trail then climbs through a rugged area along a small canyon.

the bluffs along the canyon

Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president, but they don’t want them to become politicians in the process.

John F Kennedy

The trail then descends across the creek and up into the Tonkawa Cave. This area is believed to be once inhabited by the Tonkawa Tribe and this was used as shelter.

Tonkawa Cave

The Tonkawa it is believed, lived here about two hundred years ago. They were driven from the Texas Hill Country by the Apache. The Tonkawa were one of the most social Indians as they shared land and resources with the Caddo, Jumano, and Karankawa tribes. The Tonkawa entered into a treaty with Stephen Austin and were allies in the battles against the Comanche, acting as scouts and fighting alongside the Texas Rangers most notably in the Battle of Plum Creek.

In 1840 the Comanche were called to negotiate peace. The Texans demanded a return of all white captives including Cynthia Parker. The Comanche produced only two captives both children. The Comanche negotiators were told they would be held hostage until the other captives were produced. Nerves were on edge as the Comanches complained and shots began to ring out. All the Comanches were killed. This is known as the Council House fight.

Angered by these events Comanches under Buffalo Hump committed the “great raid” on Texas settlements. As they were heading back to the Llano Estacado they were met and cut off at Plum Creek by a combined group of Texas Rangers, Texas Milita and Tonkawa Indians. The Comanche were routed mostly because they were trying to herd so many stolen horses back to the Llano Estacado. Most of the horses were recovered.

Tonkawa Cave

Back at the main trail junction I went to find the Tower Trail. Here the CCC had constructed a picnic table.

CCC Picnic Table

The Tower Trail leads to the highlight of the park. The CCC built a combination water storage tower with an observation deck on top.

Along the Tower Trail
The CCC Water Tower. Notice again the dry stack method for the laying of the block

The view from the tower is now non existent as the trees have overgrown the sight line.

At Mother Neff they are re-claiming prairie as they are at several Texas Parks. So I headed that way to check it out.

the Prairie Reclamation Area.

Out here I also found the original dinner bell from the CCC days.

And the only real view of the day.

As I circled around the prairie I came across a pond.

Washita Prairie Pond

The park is small but there was a lot of stuff packed in it.

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