Calera, Texas Farm-to-Market Road 3078 (old US 290),
northwest of Toyahvale

 

In Calera, a long forgotten community, not even documented in the comprehensive Handbook of Texas, sits an adobe and rock church. Freshly lime plastered, it looks so new that it could be from a set of a Western movie. But the small church northwest of Toyahvale is the historic Mission Mary, recently restored by the Calera Foundation.

Inside the air is still and there is a pleasant smell of dust and devotional candles. Soft light filters through rafters and two wooden benches invite contemplation. The community of Calera, meaning “lime kiln” in Spanish, built the chapel in the 1920s. Father Brocardus, a circuit priest originally from the Netherlands, drove to the mission once a month from Fort Davis in his Model T.

In its heyday, Calera had a population of about 90 people, mostly Mexican Americans who worked as farmers or ranchers. The area was watered by Phantom Lake, which dried up in 1983, long after most of the population had left.

Behind the church’s restoration is Kate Vigneron, a certified Alexander Technique teacher and the owner of the Tennessee Walking Horse institute. Born in Louisiana, Vigneron spent twenty-nine years in France; she now owns the 4,000-acre Madera Hills Ranch near Toyahvale, which is also the home of the institute. Vigneron formed the foundation in 2002, and the foundation restored the church in 2003. It’s now non-denominational and open to everyone.

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