Saturday, January 24, 2009

Last Train to Clarksville

Winter Crows
6 x 6
Available at Deborah Paris Fine Art

I have had a number of inquiries about the workshops I am teaching in March and April that start with the question-where is Clarksville and how do I get there? Another popular question is whether this is the Clarksville of the Monkee's song Last Train to Clarksville. The answer to the latter tells you a lot about the answer to the former. Clarksville is one of the oldest towns in Texas, having been established in 1833. It has the oldest extant courthouse and the oldest newspaper still in print in Texas. At one time Clarksville was a thriving town and a center of the cotton trade in this part of the southeast. There were about 14 cotton gins in and around Clarksville and a cotton exchange on the town square. The railroad came through the north side of town with a depot, and number of storage facilities and grain elevators at its main crossing. The town's fortune's began to wane in the 50s, and at some point, not only did the train stop running, but the tracks were actually taken up. Not exactly a vote of confidence about the future of Clarksville. So, by the time the Monkee's wrote their song in the 1966, not only was there no train to Clarksville, there were no longer any tracks.

Lately though, things are looking up. A beautiful renovation of the historic courthouse was completed a few years ago, and the town square was renovated and refurbished with a Main Street grant last year. The beautiful old brick buildings are beginning to be restored and an art gallery opened on the square last year. Recently the block on the south side of the square which includes the old cotton exchange has been purchased with plans to renovate it. And, there is a lovely B&B in an historic home a few blocks off the square. Still, getting to Clarksville can be a challenge. Needless to say, there is no train. Its located in the northeast corner of Texas, so its within driving distance of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana and about a two and a half hour drive from either Dallas or Oklahoma City (the closest large airports).

For me, the landscape is the biggest draw- lots of rolling hills, fields, ponds, big oaks and tall pines and a slow pace to life that allows me to explore them all. The workshops will be held in my studio on our property- a comfortable, easy environment for learning and painting, both in the studio and outdoors. I am looking forward to sharing them with my students this spring. Both classes are limited to 8 participants and are beginning to fill. So, if you are thinking about signing up- don't miss the last train to Clarksville.


Suzanne McDermott said...

This painting reminds me of the late Van Gogh Crows in the Wheatfield!

Regarding The Monkees song, Last Train to Clarksville was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, and was a veiled protest of the Vietnam War about a guy who is drafted (and doesn't know if he's "ever coming home."

To quote Bobby Hart,
"We were just looking for a name that sounded good. There's a little town in Northern Arizona I used to go through in the summer on the way to Oak Creek Canyon called Clarksdale. We were throwing out names, and when we got to Clarksdale, we thought Clarksville sounded even better. We didn't know it at the time, [but] there is an Air Force base near the town of Clarksville, Tennessee - which would have fit the bill fine for the story line. We couldn't be too direct with The Monkees. We couldn't really make a protest song out of it - we kind of snuck it in."

Deborah Paris said...

Hi Suzanne! Yes, after we moved here and I started getting that question all the time, I did a little research on it and knew there wasn't any specific Clarksville in mind. Its just so funny that they even pulled up the tracks here!

Warren said...

The last train through Clarksville, Texas ran in 1996. The Texas Northeastern railroad pulled the tracks from Paris to New Boston out in 1998. Whe The Monkees wrote their song in the sixties the tracks in Clarksville were very much alive and well and at the time belonged to the Texas and Pacific Railway. It was part of the Bonham Sub of the TPs Trancontinental Division. There may have been some confusion about the line through Clarksville.. hope this clears things up!

Sharon Axline said...

I just stumbled across your blog and read this posting Do you currently live in Clarksville? My family is from there and have lived there for several generations. I remember visiting as a kid. It really is a great little town and I'm so glad it's actually starting to rebuild itself again.