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Trinity Standard - Local News

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Stories surrounding Trinity County's "Goat Island" remembered
Trinity Standard -


Lake Livingston, one of the largest reservoirs in Texas, consists of 83,000 surface acres and stretches well into Trinity County. The lake is home to a variety of marine wildlife, a hotspot for fisherman, and is at the heart of many memories shared by area families. In Trinity County, it's also home to two islands that are the center of local legend and speculation. In Sebastopol, TX, an unincorporated community in Trinity County, a 19-acre island can be seen from the Hwy. 356 bridge, with lush greenery that spans from one side to the other. Years ago the land was named "Goat Island" due to the aggregation of goats that live there today, and have for years. It's rumored that the Trinity River Authority who owns the land put the goats out there to control the vegetation, however, Mark Holton, a representative of Trinity River Authority, said that isn't the case. It's likely, Holton said, that the goats ended up on the island when the lake started coming in, because it was a high point of land that would keep them out of the water. Aside from being a home to goats, the island is also a common spot for swimmers to rest, or boaters to stop. Perhaps more interestingly, it's where local author Guy E. Powell claims Aztec Indians lived prior to their legacy in Mexico. Powell's book, "Latest Aztec Discoveries", hypothesizes that Trinity County – Goat Island and Bird Island, in particular -- was the home up North Aztecs often referenced to Hernán Cortés after his invasion of Mexico. The book is well known by residents of Trinity County, many of whom have stopped by the Trinity library to read; and some of which have explored the islands on their own and claim to have found Native American artifacts. The book sets forth an array of evidence, primarily by matching geography and land markings to descriptions Aztecs made to Cortés; and much of which can be cited by locals who have an invested interest in Lake Livingston – where they spent childhood summers or caught their fish as adults. One such resident, Rankin Ramsey, 55, has spent plenty of time fishing in the area. About twenty years ago when lake was low from a drought, he said, he even found arrowheads on Bird Island, which is just North of Goat Island near Camp Olympia. Bird Island – named for birds swooping down at its visitors -- is known for what Powell and locals believe was a sacrificial stone used by Aztecs. The stone is large, smooth, and described by Powell in "Latest Aztec Discoveries" as around six feet long and two feet in width. Powell also noted that it had what appeared to be a drain hole, and he believed it was used in religious practices. According to Trinity County law enforcement, there haven't been any human sacrifices or major crime on the islands since that time, aside from occasional nudity and public intoxication. John Raiford, 51, is the Chief of Police in Groveton, TX, and a distant relative of Powell. He has a few memories around the islands of his own. "I remember tubing around there a lot one summer," Raiford said. "When it was time to take a break, all you had to do was nose up on Goat Island. The goats wouldn't bother you." He also has fond family memories of his dad attempting to catch bass in the area, and occasionally catching him instead; or the time the family Dachshund, "Hot Shot", leapt from their boat to tree a squirrel. "He barked for about twenty minutes," Raiford said. "All the while, we kept fishing." Fun summer days aren't all Raiford remembers when he thinks of the islands, however. There was a feeling they gave him, he said, that wasn't comfortable. "You get the distinct impression you are being watched," Raiford explained. "And that feeling doesn't leave until you do. The hair stands up on the back of your neck." According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, pottery has been found around Lake Livingston that dates back 2,200 years, and likely belonged to Paleo- Indians, the first people to inhabit America. That doesn't mean Aztecs didn't find the area later, though. Powell found clues that pointed to Aztec culture in other areas around Lake Livingston as well, including drawings in caves, hieroglyphics, tools, and carvings. To visit Goat or Bird Island, visit Trinity County, and remember that both are only accessible by boat.


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