Blame it on the snake.
That’s been a familiar theme for mankind for quite some time – but it came back up last week when an Oncor contractor accidentally destroyed a historical marker northwest of Decatur.On Thursday, Sept. 6, a worker was operating a skid-steer just off Old Decatur Road at the site of a marker commemorating the 1837 Battle of the Knobs. The marker’s location happened to be in the middle of a 160-foot right-of-way where Oncor is beginning to install its Riley-to-Krum 345kV transmission line.
According to Oncor spokesperson Sabrina Taylor, a crew was finishing the installation of construction gates when a snake got onto the skid-steer, crawled across the toes of the operator’s boots and startled him.
“He clipped the pole and the marker and knocked the marker off the pole,” Taylor said. “The marker was damaged.”
Oncor’s right-of-way for the line enters Wise County at the northwest corner and comes down almost to Decatur before angling northeast, then heading due east to Krum. Taylor said the company is going through now, clearing vegetation and installing gates and culverts so crews can get in and out during construction with cranes and other “very big pieces of machinery.”
Taylor said the marker was going to have to be moved anyway.
“It was an unfortunate accident, and we certainly regret that the marker was damaged,” she said. “We’re going to do everything we can to see that the marker is repaired and reinstalled.
“Where it was, it was right smack dab in the middle of where we’re going in and out with heavy equipment. We were going to have to relocate it anyway, but we certainly didn’t intend for this to happen.”
The shattered marker was taken to the Wise County Historical Museum, where Taylor said she planned to meet with Historical Society President Kerry Clower Friday morning.
“Oncor has agreed to pick up the marker and take it for repair,” she said. “It will be put back in a slightly different location, out of the way of the construction.”
Taylor said she also plans to meet with the property owner, Rosalie Gregg, and determine a different temporary location for the repaired marker.
Meanwhile, a new marker will be ordered from the Texas Historical Commission – also at Oncor’s expense – and local and state historians, along with the landowner and county officials, will be looking for a new permanent location, out of the way of the utility construction.
“Right now, it’s right in the middle of a real sharp curve in the road,” Taylor said. “If the state will approve the relocation, Oncor wants to make an improved area with a turnout, so that visitors to the marker could safely pull off the road.”
Taylor said moving a historical marker requires filing paperwork with the Texas Historical Commission and can be a lengthy process. She hopes to have the repaired marker reinstalled as soon as possible while that process takes place.
The new transmission line was proposed in 2009 to bring wind-generated electric power from West Texas to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. After a series of public hearings in Wichita Falls, Sanger and Bowie, the Public Utility Commission approved the route on Oct. 29, 2010.
The Battle of the Knobs occurred in November of 1837 between 18 Republic of Texas soldiers and approximately 150 Indians, leaving about 50 Indians and 10 Texans dead. The geologic feature of two “knob” hills just north of the marker serves as a memorial to the soldiers who were left on the battlefield.