As the Lone Star population has grown over the decades, some formerly picturesque towns have morphed into homogenous bedroom communities that serve larger cities and have lost some of their small-town charms to big-box retailers and fastfood chains.
This is all fine and dandy progress in the name of economic growth, but if you want to see a little bit of Texas that’s still proudly steeped in its multicultural and historical roots, you can’t do any better than a drive to Marshall in East Texas.
Located in the heart of the Piney Woods, almost at the northeastern border of Texas between former oil boomtown Longview and the casinos of Shreveport, La.,
Marshall is a small town humming with arts, deep woods Boogie music and rich Texas history.
Start out your visit at the newly reopened Harrison County Historical Museum, which shares space with the Harrison County Courthouse. This building, built in 1901, is a beautiful example of Beaux Arts Renaissance Revival architecture, and under its golden dome sits an exhibit that spans 500 years of Marshall area history.
Uncover stories of Civil War history and the touching love story of Frank and Clara Starr, while admiring an array of period furnishings at the Starr Family Home State Historic Site.
In addition to displaying pride in their deep historical roots, Marshallites are making a serious investment in good health this year. A three-day event called “New Year, New You Health Fest 2014” will address topics such as veganism, exercise and heart health. Also scheduled are a vegan chili competition, a 5K run through the most picturesque parts of town, and a wine tasting hosted by Under the Texas Sun, a local wine and gift shop.
Whether you prefer Zumba, yoga, Boot Camp or CrossFit, there will be an event designed to help you get a good start on a healthier new year. Kickoff begins at the Marshall Civic Center on Jan. 17 and runs through Jan. 19.
So go east into the cool, dark evenings of Marshall for a sense of Texas’ rich and troubled history, stay for a jump start on a healthier lifestyle, and leave with a better sense of overall well-being.
There are quite a few bed-and-breakfast options in Marshall, each more charming than the last. Try Roseville B&B for its beautiful gardens and scrumptious, reservations only dinner seating or Three Oaks Bed & Breakfast for its Victorian furnishings and vegan breakfast options.
If you favor healthier grub, try Sweet Sabine’s in the courthouse square, where vegan and vegetarian options are as plentiful as the cupcakes and specialty coffee drinks . And if you’re staying downtown, they’ll deliver, even a lowly cup of joe.
Omar Shariff, father of the bouncy, Boogie-woogie music movement, died at his Marshall home in 2012, but his brief musical return to his hometown created a whole new generation of local fans who like to meet Wednesdays for Boogie Woogie Night downtown.