Deep in the heart of Texas, surrounded by miles and miles of green grass, red earth, mesquite and juniper trees, windmills, pump supplies, and peanut driers, the tidy town of Hamlin (pop. 2,124), “Home of the Pied Pipers,” is full of charming folks and streets lined by locust trees.
Eighteen miles southeast of Hamlin, at the junction of US-180, sits Anson, named in honor of Anson Jones, the last President of the Republic of Texas. Anson was also a stop on the legendary Butterfield Stage U.S. Mail route that ran between St. Louis and San Francisco from 1858 to 1861, but these days it feels more like a stage set for The Last Picture Show, with handsome blocks of brick-fronted buildings forming a square around the stately Jones County Courthouse at the center of town. Anson is still a center for the local cotton industry, but its main claim to fame is the Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball, described in an 1890 poem by William Lawrence “Larry” Chittenden and recently revived by country-folk singer Michael Martin Murphey. In 1985 Murphey recorded a hit song also called “The Cowboy Christmas Ball,” after which he helped recreate the annual dance here in Anson.
You can see almost all of Anson by driving through on US-83, but if you want to see a scale model of what Anson looked like during its 1900s heyday, or simply want to learn a little something about Texas, stop by the Anson-Jones Museum (1300 Ave. K, 325/823-3096, Sun. 2pm-4pm, free), across from the courthouse.