When it comes to traveling across long distances we really have it pretty good these days. Air conditioned cars with great radios and frequently navigation systems to lead us turn by turn to our destination.

Before we had navigation systems we had to rely on our map reading skills. Not to mention our skills at refolding the maps when we were finished. Then again they sometimes just got crammed back into the glove compartment.

Before we had automobiles people traveled on horseback or on foot, following wagon trails from one location to another.

Even before the settlers showed up with wagons, Indians and other early pioneers were blazing and marking trails with whatever was handy. In some cases something as simple as a tree.

And that is exactly the case just a few minutes west of Wichita Falls at Stonewall Jackson Camp No. 249.

Dave Diamond/Townsquare Media
Dave Diamond/Townsquare Media

Hearing about a Comanche Indian marker tree in the camp got us curious, so my coworker, his wife, their daughter and I all piled into the Conestoga Kia and headed out to Holliday, then South on FM 368. The United Confederate Veteran’s Association Stonewall Jackson Camp is located just South of the intersection of FM 1954 and FM 368 and has been there since 1897. Originally established to provide for widows and orphans of Confederate soldiers, the UCV also preserved relics, mementos and the history of service members, and provided a location for reunions and other activities.

It is there, at Stonewall Jackson Camp No. 249, that an unusually shaped tree was discovered back in 2010. The person who discovered it was an amateur historian and thought maybe … just maybe … it was a Comanche trail marker. So he got the Texas Historic Tree Coalition involved. They painstakingly researched the tree and the site and in the summer of 2017 the tree was officially dedicated as a Comanche marker tree.

Indian Marker Tree
Dave Diamond/Townsquare Media

The tree’s unusual shape is caused by bending the sapling over so that it would grow horizontally, strapping it down flat to keep it from bowing and locking the end into some immovable object. You can see the nose of the tree where it was literally pressed up against an object and grew into the hole. Frequently branches would grow straight up to the height of a typical tree of that variety, as is the case with this one.

Besides shape, there are other things that go into the determination as well, such as known Indian activity in the area, finding arrowheads and stone tools nearby and more. Marker trees were used to point out safe paths through rough country and to show the way to food, water, or other major landmarks. The Comanche have been in this part of Texas since the mid-1700s and most of the marker trees that we know about are 100 to 200 years old, so it’s had to tell what this one originally pointed to.

Needless to say, this old Pecan tree met the criteria and is now an official part of North Texas history. It’s also just a quick drive away, so tell your kids to switch off their video games and take them on a field trip to check out an amazing piece of history almost literally in our own back yard.

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