Brandon's Notepad

March 8, 2016

Where is Muriel, Texas?


Or perhaps the better question is, “Where was Muriel, Texas?”

The Back Story

I was looking at some old maps of the DFW Metroplex and was curious about what the landscape looked like before the behemoth DFW International Airport had been constructed. I was particularly interested in finding out how the roads used to connect from one side to the other, as there are now a very limited number of ways to cut through. And that’s when I saw Muriel, just a little circle bisecting an unnamed road in the middle of airport property. But where, exactly? And was anything left of it? I had to find out.

Map Analysis

To solve this mystery, I decided to employ one of my favorite map analysis techniques, the use of overlays. Basically, this means lining up the features on two different maps of an area for the purpose of comparison. When this is done using maps of different eras, it’s a form of map regression. This can be done in an analog fashion using tracing paper, transparencies, or even by simply laying one map on top of the other on a light box. The biggest problem is that the maps have to be exactly the same scale. Computers make everything easier, of course, and it’s very simple to import scans into layers using an art program and change the opacity (transparency) of one of the layers so that the other can be seen through it. For this analysis, I chose the undated “Dallas County and Tarrant County” made by the Ashburn Map company (c. early 1950s as best as I can tell) and a screen shot of Google Maps using satellite view. Here is the result:


It took a little trial-and-error, but I was able to match up enough roads to feel comfortable with the results. I focused on the neighborhood bordered by Hughes Road to the north, Watauga-Smithfield (now Glade) Road to the south, Euless-Grapvine Road to the east, and F.M. 157 (upon which S.H. 121 is built) to the west. Things don’t line up well as you move out from this location, but Fuller-Wiser Road (The ‘T’ intersection just below the word ‘SMITHFIELD’) is still in the right position, and Minter’s Chapel Road (most of which is now Airfield Drive) isn’t too far off. If the Ashburn map is accurate, this puts Muriel in the vicinity of the south end of runway 31L. Unfortunately, this leaves little chance that anything remains of this town or community in the way of buildings, though perhaps some other archaeological finds may eventually be unearthed.

Digging Deeper

Not that it would help establish the location, per se, but I did want to find some evidence that a place called Muriel did indeed exist in Tarrant County. I was able to find a couple of death certificates from 1904-1905 using that list Muriel as the place of death. It would appear that the folks at RoadsideThoughts found similar documentation.

There is hope, however, because guess what else in in the immediate area? Minter’s Chapel Cemetery! The Minter’s Chapel Methodist church was established in the 1850s, and remained in the same location (though rebuilt at least once) until the property was taken over by the new airport a little over a century later. At the time I wrote this, I have an outstanding request with the office of the descendant church for any information they may be able to share about Muriel.

UPDATE! Someone from the church responded to my phone call and in comparing notes, we discovered the following. First, she directed me to the article for Muriel in the Handbook of Texas. It confirms that Muriel and Minter’s Church (in all other cases referred to as Minter’s Chapel) are indeed one and the same. It was established in 1890 and there was a post office there from 1899 to 1905. She did mention that the 1890 census records no longer exist, so the only census that might contain information on Muriel’s residents would be the 1900 census. Second, she confirmed that the two people whose death certificates I found are indeed buried in the cemetery! James William Vine died on April 3, 1905, though his grave bears the middle name Washington, and Lula Florence Woodall (named Woodale on, probably due to a transcription error), whose maiden name was Page, died November 2, 1904.

February 17, 2015

Ten Discoveries That Rewrote History

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Ten Discoveries That Rewrote History
This is a short review of Ten Discoveries That Rewrote History, written by Patrick Hunt.

I picked up several books about archaeology at the library one day, just to get a high-level survey of the subject. This book was amongst them. I was totally in judge-by-the-cover mode that day and this one looked like an easy read. To be completely honest, I only ended up reading a few of the chapters all of the way through. Even so, I really enjoyed the parts that I did read. I agree with many of the reader reviews in that this is not (and is not intended to be) a deep study, but an introduction to archaeology through a survey of ten important finds.

I really like the format of this book! Each chapter covers a particular archaeological discovery. Keep in mind that the word discovery can be a verb as well as a noun. In other words, the chapter on the Dead Sea Scrolls doesn’t only describe the scrolls themselves, or what they contain, but how they were discovered. Sometimes the story about how an artifact was discovered is much more interesting than the artifact itself. Hunt’s style is one of storytelling and he doesn’t write using lofty language. His intent is to bring the reader closer to the point of discovery, to make the moment more real.

In my opinion, this book would serve as a great launchpad for student researchers interested in studying more about any of the ten discoveries covered. (And by student, I do not mean archaeology majors.) I also thought it served my needs well: a good read for someone just getting their feet wet.

Patrick Hunt is a lecturer at Stanford University who, by all accounts, really enjoys his work. He has reportedly suffered from broken bones, sunstroke, and other afflictions in the course of doing his research. According to his biography page, he also has a passion for composing music and writing poetry.

The discoveries discussed in the book are:

  1. Rosetta Stone (Egyptian History)
  2. Troy (Homer & Greek History)
  3. Nineveh’s Assyrian Library (Mesopotamia)
  4. King Tut’s Tomb (Egypt’ God-Kings)
  5. Machu Picchu (Inca Architecture)
  6. Pompeii (Roman Life)
  7. Dead Sea Scrolls (Biblical Research)
  8. Thera (Aegean Bronze Age)
  9. Olduvai Gorge (Human Evolution)
  10. Tomb of 10,000 Warriors (Imperial China)

A brief synopsis of each can be found in this short interview with the author.

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