Idea For Dogwood Trails
Was Born Over Coffee
In the Spring of 1938 Charles W. Wooldridge and the late Eugene R. Fish had midmorning coffee together one day, and the idea of Texas Dogwood Trails was born.
The two had taken drives the day before, to see the early Spring flowers. Never, they agreed, had they seen dogwood in such beauty as it was that year.
One remarked, "We ought to have a Dogwood Trail." And it went from there. Before the day was out they had contacted the Herald-Press and asked about publicity in newspapers of nearby cities, to let the city folks know there was dogwood to see at Palestine. And, joined by others, they put up printed cardboard markers, to guide out-of-towners to displays of dogwood in woodlands along country roads.
It was before the day of Surfaced farm-to-market roads, and dogwood and visitors alike were browned by the dust of Anderson County's red clay when an estimated 1,090 people, coming to Palestine from Dallas, Fort Worth and other cities, toured the roads the following Sunday. All told that Spring, about 20,000 toured the "trails," and the true nature lovers among them liked the event, dust and all.
Improvements were made during the next two years, and the numbers of people who accepted Palestine's invitation to the free wild flower show doubled and tripled. During the same time backers of the event, now organized into the Texas Dogwood Trails Association, discovered a beautiful stand of dogwood, on hilly land just north of Palestine. and obtained easements from owners to lay out a trail through it.
The first crude track was cut by volunteers. By that time Wooldridge had been transferred to Dallas by Texas Power and Light Company, but Fish, the late Earl Pierce, and others hacked their way through the woods so that visitors could see dogwood in a completely natural setting. The years 1940 and 1941 brought scores of thousands to Palestine.
There was an interruption during -World War II, when gasoline rationing and a federal plea against unnecessary travel brought cancellation of the Trails. However, during the war years the late M.A. Davey, Palestine oil man and a lover of nature, made Texas Dogwood Trails and the park that serves as its centerpiece attraction a permanent institution. He bought the land containing the finest stands of dogwood and gave it to Anderson County, dedicated as a public park.
At the end of the war the Dogwood Trails promoters went back to work. C.A Manley, then commissioner of Anderson County Precinct One, made an offer to Lester Hamilton. "You find a route through the woods where we can build a road, and I'll build it." Hamilton spent days walking through the underbrush, marking a trail that wound several miles through the dogwood stands.
Manley then brought in road equipment and graded and surfaced a road that has delighted hundreds of thousands of people.
Many enthusiasts return year after year to tour Texas Dogwood Trails, eat picnic lunches on scores of concrete picnic tables, to wade in clear streams through the park, and to drive through other scenic sections of Anderson County.
And every year, after they have toured the trails, many visitors return to welcome booths manned by volunteers to say "Thank you."
Texas Dogwood Trails is truly a unique civic undertaking. It has taken the name of Palestine, as the "home of hospitality," across the entire United States.
Postcard Of Trails Touring the Dogwood Trails was a popular pasttime during World War II. This postcard was given out to tourists during that period, and is used courtesy Palestine Chamber of Commerce.