What stories???

Could this old house tell???

Hiding behind a screen of brush, and the remains of what could be a cedar, it is in the breaks below the Llano Estacado, where there is definitely farm/ranch land. When was it built? And what happened over the intervening years???

From this view, you can see that it was added on to at least once, if not twice. The original part of the house is on the right, with what almost looks like a beadboard exterior. I’m guessing it was build in the early 20th century. I wonder if the family grew, and they had enough money to add the expansion on the left. That section has ‘real’ 2x4s, and looked like it might have been two rooms.

Was it a ranch house or a farmhouse? There’s no way to tell. It was obviously well built (at least the main part), although the addition is pretty good too. I think it was built before electricity was run, as there are bits/pieces of wire still running from insulator to insulator on the front of the house, like some of the old places I’ve seen where they ran a wire through the wall into each room.

No idea where the well was, if there was one. There might have been a creek back in the day, a hundred yards east of the house. There might have been a pole barn behind it, but for what?

Strange thought run through one’s mind when I see old places like this in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and other places in the west.

Your thoughts?


What stories??? — 15 Comments

  1. Well, it has a soffit. So it’s probably from the 20’s or so. The old way of doing a roof, the rafter has a cut right on the end. It’s a stronger joint than the birds mouth they use now. My grandad showed me how to do that in the late 60’s. He was born in ’02. I wonder if the roof was changed during the expansion. The old windows have little eaves on them, the new ones don’t.

    The 20’s was a time of tremendous wealth, so maybe that was when the addition was added. That roof is still shingled, in the land of constant wind. WOW.

    My uncle told me about hanging bedsheets soaked in water over the windows to keep out the dust in the dustbowl. Dark at noon… That house lived through that out there.

    Dad told me of waking up with yellow jackets packed all around him in bed trying to keep warm when the weather changed… Seeing stars at night through the tin roof over his bed.

    Mom said she had a cup of water by her bed every night, and every morning it was frozen solid.

    They grew up in Greer County OK. Just a bit east of there…born in the 30’s… dirt poor.

    I’ve often stopped and listened to the wind out there near an old farm house. Wondered about the people and times…. just like you.

    • The 20s weren’t rich in this part of the world. The agricultural depression started when grain prices crashed in 1919, and a lot of people struggled even before the droughts of ’26-’27, then the 1930s. So I’d guess ranching with good water, and maybe selling something to market. Or a family member was a carpenter, and salvaged from people who’d given up with the drought of ’17-’18, using the timbers to make a more solid house for his own family. Lots of stories, no matter how you look at it!

  2. There are old ranch houses and the remains of such dotted across the desert Southwest. A couple I’ve been to could have been the set for John Wayne’s Hondo, back when they were occupied.
    Dogwood Springs house, by which a seasonal spring flows after every monsoon season, to the old Chinaman Ranch, dryer and dustier than a bowl of old dirt.
    Now all that passes through their doors are wind, rabbits, memories, and the occasional walkers of memory lanes not their own.

  3. STx- Good points. And I heard the same stories from my mother and grandfather. They lived in Texas during the depression. He was a railroad engineer/inspector ATSF and UP.

    TXRed- You’re right! And that’s one I really wish could talk!

    Kermit- Oh yes, they are scattered all over this part of the country and west. Thanks! We’ll do that.

    CP- Sigh… The wood is probably worth more than anything they could do to it.

  4. Looks almost like a Sears house. So I’d say somewhere around 1900-1920, abandoned during the Depression or Dust Bowl. Dry and far away from idiots allows buildings to slowly decompose.

    Thing is, that house being abandoned like that? Sure sign that at pre-big ag tech, the land wasn’t and won’t be usable. So unless someone moving there wants to be really really alone with no functioning garden or farm, basically either just hunkering down with what supplies one has brought, then the chance of making anything successful happen out there agrarian-wise is zilch. There is a reason that is abandoned.

    Maybe not even modern ag-tech can make the place worth farming or even gardening. Bet the water table sucks, too. Or the only get-able water is so full of mineral contamination that it’s practically poison or is poison.

    Which is what all the new ‘homesteaders’ are discovering. There’s a reason nobody has, in the past, made a go of the places people are now trying to homestead. Minimal usage ground, lack of natural resources, bad lighting (north side of a tall hill or mountain…) and a host of other reasons are why so many ‘new’ homesteaders fail.

    That, and lack of understanding of how hard it is to really make a hardscrabble homestead.

    That’s the real story of that building. A giant Caution sign to anyone arriving there. “Caution: Nothing here is worth working yourself to death over. This land will kill you before it gives up.”

  5. We have a lot of them in the South, except ours usually die from eventual water infiltration and resultant rot. i pass a number of them pretty much any time I’m out. I always wonder what happened that no one valued the place enough to save it.

  6. Whenever I see Llano Estacado (the staked plains) I think of the XIT Ranch of Texas. If this home was built in the early part of the 20th century it could well jive with when the XIT (dba: Capitol Freehold Land and Investment Company) was divesting itself of the three million acres it was ‘given’ in exchange for building a new Texas Capitol building. The above photo could well have been built by one of the new families starting their lives as new residents of Texas.

    If you haven’t read ‘The XIT Ranch of Texas and the Early Days of the Llano Estacado’ you should. It’s a real glimpse into a different time and the development of the West.

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