Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990 Page: 16
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ag o f o h o t Fa t Ra . Da b A , 1968.
Drawing of first one-room house on the Fawcett Ranch. Drawing by Abe Moreno, 1968.
Taming the Devils Country
The Evolution of a West Texas Ranch Complex
By Solveig Turpin
H istory, architecture, and
archaeology come together in
that romantic era known as the
Early West often meet is that
romantic era known as the Early West. In
the movies, the transition from prehistory
to history is a glamorous time, fraught with
violence and daring, where the noble
savage met the frontiersmen who, more
often than not, were aided and abetted by
the stirring presence of the U.S. Cavalry.
In reality, the domestication of the West
was accomplished by the ingenuity and
toil of thousands of determined and hardworking
settlers who turned prairie and
desert into farms and ranches.
The evolution of one turn-of-thecentury
ranching complex, the Fawcett
Ranch, has been reconstructed through
oral history and documentation of its
architecture and layout. The series of
events that turned a wilderness into the
equivalent of a rural hamlet transpired
repeatedly along the many frontiers of
Texas but rarely is such a complete record
preserved both in living memory and
Among the many young men who
sought to make their fortunes by "going
West" was Erasmus Keyes Fawcett, an
16 HERITAGE * SPRING 1990
orphan from Natchez, Mississippi. In 1883,
as an eighteen year old herder, he signed
on to drive 3000 sheep to the Devils
country. Working for George Ames, he
earned the kingly salary of $15 a month.
When he and his companions reached the
Devils River, they established their camp
in a rock shelter overlooking the springfed
flow of the river (See Heritage, Fall
1987). When paid off, Fawcett chose to
take his salary in the form of livestock and
homesteaded a tract at Dolan Springs. He
continued to live in the rock shelter while
building a cabin on higher ground. There
he remained, amassing more property
through trade and purchase, until 1902
when he married Frances Baker, daughter
of another pioneering family who settled
at Bakers Crossing of the Devils River.
Two factors influenced the choice of a
new home site. The ranch had grown to
60,000 acres so the headquarters were centrally
established to permit control of the
thousands of sheep and goats pastured on
Fawcett lands. Windmill technology
enabled them to move away from the river
to a high and dry spot on Dolan Creek, an
intermittent stream. The structure of a
28.5 Eclipse railroad pattern wooden windmill
still stands adjacent to a newer metal
Aeromotor mill. Three rock tanks and a
large earthen pond served as reservoirs
and watering troughs dot the entire headquarters
area. The pastures were laid out in
cells that emanated from the headquarters
so the stock was drawn in to feed and water
and to monitor their condition and
The newlyweds built a one-room
house of barrel staves and plaster, roofed
with sacahuiste and warmed by a single
fireplace. Later improvements included a
cement slab floor and cedar shingle roofing.
The plaster used in this and later buildings
was reduced from local limestone in a
nearby kiln. A second structure was soon
added. This three-room house, constructed
of wooden posts and then plastered,
contained the kitchen, storeroom, chicken
coop, and a lean-to carriage shed.
By 1916, the Fawcett family had
grown to the point where a larger home
was needed. This hewn limestone structure
is the core of the modem ranch house.
Originally, it contained the kitchen and
two bedrooms. In 1932, the next section
was completed, separated from the first by
a dog trot. The addition consisted of a new
kitchen, large dining room, living room,
bedroom, and bathroom. The house was
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990, periodical, Spring 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45428/m1/16/: accessed August 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.