Heritage, Volume 15, Number 1, Winter 1997 Page: 11
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"site", they document the area with extensive
field notes based on their trained observations,
along with photographs, maps,
and limited subsurface testing. Depending
on the nature of the site, other professionals
might be called in to help in the analysis
and in the evaluation of significance. Archaeology
thus frequently leads to further
work by historians, architects, geologists,
archivists, curators, oral historians, historical
archaeologists, folklorists, and other
In the case of Muleshoe Bend, the archaeological
survey revealed the location of
several historic habitation sites. There were
no standing structures on any of them, but
their probable presence was identified by
scatters of historic debris. When the sites
were recorded and compared to early maps of
the bend, especially one compiled in the
1930s prior to the construction of the Marshall
Ford Dam that impounded Lake Travis, they
corresponded exactly with known house locations.
Fortunately for researchers, the map
also included the names of families who lived
in the homes in 1936.
Were it not for the role
archaeology plays in the
and protection of sites,
the cultural chain (at
Turner Farm)could have
been broken long ago.
Given the area's relatively recent history,
agency officials realized there was a
strong possibility that former residents might
be located and interviewed about life on
the bend. Such oral history interviews, they
knew, could enhance the archaeological
record of the area, while also adding substantial
information about its cultural and
social history. In the broader context, the
interviews would provide insights into
settlement patterns along the Colorado
River in the flood-prone years before the
development of the Highland Lakes.
The historical research of Muleshoe
Bend thus proceeded on two fronts: one
entered on the archival record of the land
and the other on the reminiscences of the
people who made it their home in the
1930s. Both were enhanced greatly by the
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Detail of a 1936 map of the Turner Farm area showing local roads, the Heffington residence (far right), and
another house, then unoccupied (top center). Map courtesy of the Lower Colorado River Authority. Page
10 photo: This circa 1930's photo shows members and friends of several Turner Farm families gathered on
the porch of the Johnson place, the home of the overseer. (Photo courtesy of Nona Mae Tatum Gilley.)
capable assistance of Madolyn Frasier, a
devoted historian who has a particular interest
in the settlements of the Colorado
valley, and by Marlin Tatum, who had
lived in a number of the homes on the
bend. Courthouse records showed, and oral
histories confirmed, that Muleshoe Bend
was historically known as Turner Farm. It
was part of an agricultural community
formed in the late 19th century by George
S. Turner, a former Travis County rancher
who moved to Marble Falls in Burnet
County around 1890. There he became a
prominent businessman, with interests in
banking, ranching, and farming.
Turner's farmenterprise along the Colorado
River in Travis County centered on a
tenant-based, or sharecropping operation
of cotton production. This was not "ideal"
cotton land in terms of geology or climate;
it certainly did not fit the stereotype of
expansive Mississippi delta farms so much
a part of the American myth about the
heyday of cotton. Turner Farm in many
ways represented a western limit of the
crop's viability, especially in the era before
the advent of tractors and improved dry
land farming techniques. But, it was nonetheless
a contributing part of the Southern
Cotton Belt at a time when cotton was
king. So strong was the fiber's economic
realm in the state in the decades after the
Civil War that it could reach even into
marginal areas if people were willing to
HERITAGE * WINTER 1997 11
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 15, Number 1, Winter 1997, periodical, Winter 1997; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45400/m1/11/: accessed January 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.