Heritage, Volume 7, Number 1, Winter 1989 Page: 33
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Durazno Plantation is undergoing restoration.
The scenic site is where
Stephen F. Austin, colonizer of Texas,
intended to build a home for himself and
his bride, dying before he made his dream
Located in historic Brazoria County,
40 miles south of Galveston near Freeport,
Durazno is the latest labor of love for preservationist
Percival T. Beacroft Jr. Beacroft
also restored and owns Rosemont,
the childhood home of the President of
the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, in
Woodville, Mississippi. His preservation
holdings extend from New York to New
Orleans, Texas and Mississippi.
Durazno, a Spanish word that means
"peach," was built in 1840, and is described
by Beacroft as "a large rambling
Gulf Coast turn-of-the-century house
with big spaces, deep galleries and terrific
breezes that come off the Gulf... a home
valuable to the history of Texas." Only 50
yards from the Gulf Prairie and one mile
from the Gulf of Mexico, (it was built on
the very site Austin planned as his home)
it is one of the oldest plantations in the
oldest county in Texas.
It has a romantic, though sad story.
When Austin obtained the property, he
called it his "premium land." It was part of
a large land grant he received for colonizing
Texas. He planned to marry Mary
Austin Holley, his cousin, and was to deed
her 200 acres of Durazno tract as a wedding
present. He died in Columbia in 1836
before they were wed. In her diary, Mary
Austin Holley states that "young Joel had
cleared and developed the site." She describes
it as the place where she and
Stephen were to have their "paradise on
The young Joel to whom she refers is
William Joel Bryan, Austin's nephew,
who inherited Durazno from Austin and
established it as a sugar plantation. Bryan,
founder of the Sons of the Republic of
Texas, died at Durazno in 1903. Seven of
his children were born there. He was in
TIMOTHY ROAN PATOUT
William Joel Bryan inherited Durazno from his uncle Stephen F. Austin. Built in 1840, the house was
attached to the only existing log building on the property, which now serves as a kitchen.
the Battle of Bexar and Bryan, Texas, was
named for him.
While Bryan lived at Durazno, it was
the hub of political and social activity in
Brazoria County. "All the important
people of Texas came to Durazno to pay
their respects to the old patriarch, William
Joel Bryan," wrote Oscar Nation,
brother of Carrie Nation and publisher of
the Velasco World newspaper.
In the early 1920s Durazno was acquired
by Beacroft's uncle R.E.L. Stringfellow
a prominent Texas cattleman. It was renovated
after World War II by Mrs.
Stringfellow's sister, Pollye M. Beacroft
and her husband, Percival Beacroft.
Beacroft came by his love of history
from Nannie M. Stringfellow, an aunt
with whom he spent much of his childhood.
When he was 16, he bought a late
19th century Gothic Presbyterian
Church slated to be torn down, and had it
moved onto the Durazno property. "The
church came from Gulf Prairie Cemetery,
where Stephen Austin was buried in
1836," says Beacroft. "Later Austin's remains
were moved to Austin." Able to
seat 120, the church is suitable for weddings
and services today.
In March 1988, Beacroft began working
on the grounds, putting back into
place the original half-mile long road,
and restoring the formal entrance with its
two original brick gateposts. The late
1840 gates have entrance pillars with
three-foot diameter stuccoed brick decorated
with seashells. There are niches on
either side, which could have been places
for small boys to stand when they opened
the beautiful gates.
The 4,000-square foot house is made of
heart pine and cypress. The original structure
built in 1840 was partially demolished,
and the present home was rebuilt on
the site. However, incorporated under the
west part of the present house is two of the
original rooms and the original detached
The old brick underground cistern still
exists in the yard, adjacent to the original
1840 house and log carriage house. The
latter is also being restored. The original
plantation bell and sugar kettle are there
Visitors are impressed with the natural
beauty of Durazno, that includes many
large moss-hung live oaks on the property.
One spectacular tree has six trunks. Birdwatchers
are invited to visit the property
annually. "This area, and Freeport five
miles away, have probably the largest bird
counts of any place in the U.S.," he says.
"This is due to the Gulf Prairie."
Always a private home, Durazno will
be opened to the public in the future,
Beacroft says. "Reminding people of our
rich past is a responsibility felt by some of
us. Making our restorations more accessible
to the public, and telling the stories
of those who led the way, is really a way of
instilling patriotism in future generations."
(This article was prepared by free-lance writer
Annabelle Armstrong, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.)
HERITAGE * WINTER 1989 33
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 7, Number 1, Winter 1989, periodical, Winter 1988; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45430/m1/33/: accessed July 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.