A Landing a Day

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Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco Shutups’

Tesnus, Texas

Posted by graywacke on February 11, 2010

First timer?  In this (hopefully) once-a-day blog, I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

Dan –  For the third time in the last five landings, it’s . . . TX; 131/162; 4/10; 3; 152.3.  Here’s my landing map, showing that I landed out in the middle of nowhere:

Here’s a somewhat broader view (today’s landing is to the west).  Off to the east is my recent Dryden landing (the first of my three recent TX landings).  That’s the Mexican border to the south:

You’ll note a number of small towns to the north of my landing.  Why I chose “Tesnus” for the post title, you’ll find out below.

Here’s my broadest view:

As expected, I landed in the Rio Grande watershed (35th hit).

Here’s an oblique GE shot.  Peculiarly, it seems as though this is a black-and-white picture.  Not that far to the east and to the west, the photos are in color.  Oh, well.

Back to my landing map – notice that just east of my landing, it says “San Francisco Shutups.”  Well, I landed in the San Francisco Creek watershed, and evidently, the San Francisco Shutups refers to the valley of the San Francisco Creek.  I could find nothing about the origin of this most-peculiar name.   What I could find is a breeder of Italian Greyhounds located in the valley.  Here’s a cut-and-past from their website (TexasItalianGreyhounds.com):

From the website, here’s some historical info about the breed:

The Italian Greyhound is the smallest of the family of gaze hounds (dogs that hunt by sight). The breed is an old one and is believed to have originated more than 4,000 years ago in the countries now known as Greece and Turkey. This belief is based on the depiction of miniature greyhounds in the early decorative arts of these countries and on the archaeological discovery of small greyhound skeletons.  Mummy dogs very similar to the Italian Greyhound (or small Greyhounds) have been found in Egypt, and pictorials of small Greyhounds have been found in Pompeii.

By the Middle Ages, the breed had become distributed throughout Southern Europe and was later a favorite of the Italians of the sixteenth century, among whom miniature dogs were in great demand. It is, in fact, due to its popularity in Italy at this time that the breed became known as the “Italian Greyhound.” From this period onward the history of the breed can be fairly well traced as it spread through Europe, arriving in England in the seventeenth century.

If you want a genuine Italian Greyhound, now you know where you can find one.

Moving right alongI found an article about Tesnus by Mike Cox (TexasEscapes.com).  Here’s a fairly extensive piece (both text and pictures) taken from this article.  This is worth the read, if for nothing else to find out how Tesnus got it’s name:

Tesnus, Texas is one of those ethereal ghost towns—except for a railroad siding and a sign, no physical evidence of it remains.

Fortunately for posterity, one of the few surviving former residents emailed me to share her memories of Tesnus, as well as providing a collection of family photographs showing where she had lived and other scenes.

Founded in 1882, the town (a stretch of the word) consisted of a railroad section house, houses for the section foreman and the water pumper, telegrapher’s house and a few other structures. In addition to its role in keeping the tracks maintained and the locomotive boilers full, Tesnus provided ranchers a way to ship their cattle to market.

First called Tabor, the railroad enclave lost that name when a post office application got rejected by Washington because a similarly named town already existed in Brazos County. Then Sunset arose as a fitting name for the place, considering the famed Sunset Limited passenger train came through each day. But nope, Montague County had a monopoly on Sunset, Texas.

Someone finally came up with a solution to the name problem that met the approval of the Postal Service, but more of that in a bit.

In 1945, the railroad installed a new man as signal maintainer at Tesnus. He arrived with his wife, who became the Tesnus postmistress, and five of their seven kids. (Two of their girls had married and lived elsewhere.)

The addition of this new family pushed Tesnus’ population up to about 20 people. Throw in the folks who lived on the surrounding ranch and the postmistress had a small, but consistent volume of mail to handle.

“Patrons came up the steps to the front porch and she served [them] through her bedroom window,” remembers one of the signal maintainer’s children.

Despite the occasional influx of additional railroad workers, not much ever happened in Tesnus. The most sensational crime was when the assistant telegraph operator went on a toot and shot up the Tesnus sign. Occasionally, a railroad bull (detective) or train crewman would throw a hobo off a train, leaving him temporarily stranded there.

“Mama would feed them in return for chopping kindling,” the former resident says.

One time a skunk did get in the chicken coop.

“I was supposed to hold the dog while Mama shot the skunk,” she says. “But he was bigger than I was and broke away. Got there about the time Mama shot, but the skunk sprayed her, my sister and the dog. Tomato juice helps, but nothing cures except time.”

When a train hit a deer and word reached town in time for the meat to still be fresh, her brothers went to the spot, field dressed it and cut it up for venison on the family table. Classic big brothers, they once barbequed a rattlesnake steak and tried to talk their little sister into eating it. While she didn’t fall for that, the brothers did serve her older sister grilled mockingbird one time, telling her it was dove.

Of Tesnus, she continues, “It was mostly a railroad town, in the middle of the Gage Ranch. There was a siding for trains to meet or pass each other and it was a place for the chugga puffers [steam locomotives] to stop for water, coal, and salt.”

OK, how did they finally come up with a lasting name for Tabor cum Sunset?

Proving again the power of simplicity, to use railroad metaphor, someone suggested switching the caboose with the locomotive and spelling Sunset backwards as in T-e-s-n-u-s.

But clever nomenclature is powerless against change. With diesel-powered trains needing fewer stops than “chugga puffers,” the railroad closed its operations in Tesnus midway into the 1950s.

When word got out that Tesnus would be no more, the town’s last postmistress had one last flurry of business mailing out last-date-of-service cancellations to stamp collectors across the nation.

The post office closed on June 15, 1954. The railroad razed all the structures it had there, leaving only the siding.

“Now,” the former Tesnus resident (Tesnusan? Tesnusite?) says, “when someone asks where I am from, I normally tell them I am not from anywhere, because my home town was torn down.”

So, here are the pictures associated with the above.  There was a rare snowy day back in the 1940s, which caused someone to break out the camera:

Here’s a sunny day shot of the kids playing on the “motor car:”

Here’s a picture of one of the last-date-of-service (6/15/54) post cards mentioned above:

Here’s the StreetAtlas map of Tesnus, showing that there’s nothin’ there:

It turns out that there is a geologic bedrock formation known as the Tesnus Formation.  FYI, a formation is a large-scale “mappable” bedrock unit.  It’s generally named after a “type locale,” where there is a good exposure of the rock formation, and where the geologist(s) who named the formation did his initial fieldwork.



The Tesnus formation was named by Baker and Bowman for exposures near Tesnus station, on the Southern Pacific Railroad east of Haymond, in the eastern part of the Marathon Basin.

The Tesnus formation is a great mass of interbedded sandstone and shale, in thin and thick beds, nearly barren of fossils except for a few plant remains in the upper part. In most places it attains a thickness of several thousand feet. In the northwestern part of the basin it is about 300 feet thick and is nearly all black shale, with few sandstone beds. In the southeastern part it exceeds 6,500 feet in thickness and is predominantly sandstonewith several prominent massive layers of white quartzite.

Here’s a picture of the Tesnus formation (with what I presume are a bunch of enthusiastic geologists):

I’ll close with this shot (with the Tesnus formation under the low plateau in the foreground):

That’ll do it.



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