A decade ago County Progress featured an article on a grandfather and granddaughter who endeavored to visit every Texas County.
A Journey Complete
Traveling Duo Visits Final Courthouse
Nine-year-old Annabelle Thaddeus has achieved what most Texans never do in a lifetime. She has visited all 254 counties in the Lone Star State and had her picture taken into front of every courthouse.
The odyssey began for the San Antonio youth and her grandfather, Charles Parish, two years ago. They started their 17,000-mile journey across the state in Kerr County in August 1999 and finished up in Bell County in August 2001.
The traveling duo covered 14,000 miles by car and 3,000 miles by air, flying to El Paso and Amarillo to visit clusters of counties in Far West Texas and the Panhandle. The total number of travel days logged was 44. One of their whirlwind outings, which took place during school vacations and on weekends, took Annabelle and Charles to 43 counties.
Grandfather Charles, or D’Daddy as Annabelle calls him, said he was amazed at how “important counties were and still are.” Just as in the early days of the state, citizens continue to go to the county seat to record important events, such as births, marriages and deaths.
Annabelle said she was struck by the varying landscape of the state and how it can “look different in 10 miles.” She also said she enjoyed seeing how every county was different.
When she started this adventure, Annabelle said she didn’t know what a county was. Along the way, she was able to learn about local government, the history unique to each county and, in many cases, the lore that has been passed down through the years.
Highlights for Annabelle included the Bandera County Courthouse, which she described as “pretty,” and the automatic flagpole that goes up and down with the sun in Loving County. Annabelle also said she listened intently to Eastland County’s tale of “Old Rip,” the famous courthouse toad, and enjoyed having her photo taken with two Harley motorcycle riders in Rockwall County.
Charles said he was surprised at the amount of road construction they encountered in their travels and at the number of prisons throughout the state.
Before they began traveling, grandfather and granddaughter sent letters to each county judge detailing their plan. Throughout her travels, Annabelle was able to meet more than half of the state’s county judges.
Eleanor Holmes, Limestone County judge, said Parish is “the most devoted grandfather I’ve ever seen.”
She said Annabelle has had quite an opportunity to see the state and find out about the “government closest to the people.” The judge said she wishes more children could have the chance to meet elected officials across the state to find out that they are as unique as the communities from which they are a part.
Gov. Rick Perry, who admits to visiting only 150 counties, welcomed Annabelle to Austin in October on the completion of her statewide goal. Perry praised Annabelle for her “pioneering, adventurous spirit” and officially recognized her as a “Texan second to none.”
During the visit with Perry, a “light bulb” went off, and the duo started planning the next adventure. Annabelle and Charles now have set their sites on the United States. During the next three or four years, they want to visit all 50 states and meet all of the governors.
Although the two have closed the book on their Texas saga, Parish said he hopes to turn the experience into an interactive video or CD to help other children learn about counties.
“If you ask most children, they don’t know about counties,” he said. From that opening, a discussion can grow into other areas, Charles said, such as how different people dress, the types of work they do and on and on.
What drives a grandfather to give up his free time to educate and celebrate with his only granddaughter?
“I just love being with Annabelle,” said Charles.
For a complete look at the travels of Annabelle and her grandfather, go to www.isnapm.com. (Today visit www.countycourthousephotos.com/about-us.htm.) Originally printed in the January 2002 issue of County Progress.
Today Annabelle is a sophomore at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where she is majoring in economics. Her favorite memory from her trek across the Lone Star State is the duo’s journey to the Panhandle, where the pair hit all 26 counties in one trip.
“Over the course of the trip we ended up on television and talked to the author of the “Hank the Cowdog” books over the phone in the Ochiltree County judge’s office,” Annabelle recounted.
The experience was “an excellent lesson in follow through,” she explained. “We set out a goal and really made it happen, even though it was an extremely ambitious goal. We did something together that none of my friends were doing and I had an experience that I’ll remember forever.”
Charles has been a city councilman in Terrell Hills, a suburb of San Antonio, for 24 years.
“We are building a new city hall, and I hope to serve one more term to see it to completion,” Charles said. Incidentally, according to Charles the city has a very good relationship with Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.
Looking back, Charles said his favorite aspect of the experience was simply being with his granddaughter.
“One time we would stop at her favorite restaurant, and the next time we would stop at mine,” he remembered. “Annabelle always picked a McDonalds, and I always picked the local favorite where all the old guys would be in the corner telling lies about how rich they were!”
Also, as they traversed the state, Annabelle would read the almanac and learn all about the county where the pair was headed next.
“When we were coming up to Loving County, Annabelle said, ‘D’Daddy you ought to live here….nobody died last year!’ I explained that medical examiners probably come from surrounding counties!”
After receiving their award from Gov. Perry, Annabelle wanted to visit all the states to meet their governors. Charles and Annabelle met New York Gov. George Pataki, Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and Gov. Bill Richardson. However, air travel and finding time in the governors’ schedules became difficult.
Charles continues his photography, taking wedding and family photos.
“I love to ask children about their county and share with them what Annabelle and I did in their county,” he said. “Perhaps it has inspired other grandparents to get involved with their grandchildren in a similar project.”