Landmark Texas ranch homes disappearing (1920)

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South Texas dotted with ranch houses very ancient, some of them built during rule of Spain over Texas

Three Rivers

One of the relics of former days, when all of south Texas was as unbroken ranch region, has just passed away by the burning of the ranch house owned by H B Crosby, situated near Three Rivers. This building in its time was, perhaps, the finest ranch home is all that region, lying between San Antonio and the gulf. It was built 47 years ago by John Campbell, who is well known to all of the old time cattle men in Texas. He hauled the lumber far across the country from St Mary. The residence was a two story structure with many large guest rooms.

Notwithstanding the long distance that the lumber had to be hauled, there was no stint of this material in the erection of the building. That it was most substantially constructed is shown by the fact that at the time it burned, it was in practically as good condition as when it was first built. During all the years that it stood upon the ranch, it had been kept in careful repair. In the days before the railroad, it was the stopping piece for many cattlemen and other visitors who chanced to be passing through this section. The hospitality of its occupants was widely known.

Many very old houses

It is interesting to note in connection with the passing of this old landmark that there are a few of the original ranch residences in south Texas still standing. In the counties to the south of here, near the Rio Grande, are some of these ancient structures that date back more than 100 years, perhaps longer. In some instances they have been permitted to fall into a condition of decay, while in others they have been kept up or rehabilitated along some of their original lines.

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One of the most interesting, perhaps, of these old time ranch homes is known as San Antonio Viejo, or Old San Antonio, situated in Jim Hogg county upon the ranch which formerly belonged to Manuel Guerra. The building is of stone, two stories, with a large Spanish patio. In architecture, the residence is of Moorish type. When it was built, it must have been a veritable palace, but for many years past it has been used as the home of Mexican cowboys and is badly out of repair. Nearby this ancient ranch home are the smaller houses of the servants. A feature of this little ranch settlement is a stone chapel where religious services were held for the benefit of the ranch folks.

Some built by Spaniards

It is stated that some of those houses were built during the period of the Spanish control of Mexico. What are now comparatively small ranches were then a part of vast feudal estates in the form of land grants that were given to favorites of the king in recognition of some daring exploration or feat of arms. There are several of these large land grants lying to the south of here in Texas, and upon each of them are one or more of the old grim looking fuedal type of residence.

Photo: Villa Finale historic mansion, San Antonio, Texas. Built in 1876, it was restored in the late 1960s. Photo by Carol M Highsmith via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, DC.

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