Heritage, Volume 4, Number 3, Winter 1986 Page: 30
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Watkins Reynolds Matthews
Rancher and Historical Preservationist
By Lawrence Clayton
(l/ are indeed is the individual
who has both the vision and
the means to preserve those things from
the past which are important to himself
and to others. One of these unusual individuals
is Watkins Reynolds Matthewsrancher,
cowman, historical preservationist,
and philanthropist. Watt, as he is
known to his many friends, has deep
roots along the Clear Fork of the Brazos
River north of present-day Albany, for his
family on both his father's and mother's
side were ranchers who helped settle
the area. His father, John Alexander
Matthews, married Sallie Reynolds, the
daughter of Barber Watkins and Anna
Maria Campbell Reynolds in 1876. They
had nine children, six girls and three
boys. Born in 1899, Watt is the ninth and
Among Watt's most significant activities
and contributions during his long life
are his efforts at historical preservation.
The main projects have involved five
structures on his ranch: the Reynolds
house, the Bartholemew house, the John
Houst dugout, the school house built on
the ranch in 1888, and his recent, most
impressive accomplishment, the Stone
Construction began on the Barber
Watkins Reynolds house on January 1,
1876, in Reynolds Bend on the Clear
Fork. The area around the house is rustic
but modernized in many ways. It serves as
the setting for the annual sampler of the
Ft. Griffin Fandangle performed in the
spring. Its location, a pecan-bottom river
bend near a tall bluff, is one of the most
serene in the region.
The Bartholemew house, built by
Nathan L. "Barney" Bartholemew, former
Throckmorton County judge and organizer
of the First National Bank in Albany,
was built in the summer of 1876. It
is located on the Clear Fork not a great
distance from the Reynolds house. Lumber
used for its construction was transported
by wagon about 150 miles from
Eagle Ford west of Dallas, the terminus of
the railroad at the time. This home
stands today as ready for use as it was in
the frontier era when it was constructed.
Watkins Reynolds Matthews, the man who has
left deep tracks along the Clear Fork of the
The dugout is a more recent structure.
Built by John House in the 1890s, it is set
into a low hill overlooking the Clear Fork
of the Brazos River bottom. The walls are
built of native stone, which makes it
somewhat unusual among dugouts. This
structure was restored to a habitable
condition in the 1970s. Mr. Matthews recalls
that the dugout, as originally constructed,
was occupied as late as 1912 or
1913 and then fell into disrepair.
The schoolhouse in Reynolds Bend was
built in 1888 by families living in the
area. Those involved in its construction
include Benjamin Franklin Reynolds,
Mart Dixon, Mart Gentry, and John Matthews.
Of the schoolhouse, Watt says that
it is as near a facsimile as he could arrange.
The construction method popular
during the period, involves one- by
twelve-inch pine planks raised vertically
with the joints stripped with one-byfours.
The schoolhouse stands on the
same foundation and is as nearly as possible
the same size as the original.
The Stone Ranch is Watt's most spectacular
accomplishment. The ranch was
founded by Captain Newton C. Givens
in 1855 along Walnut Creek in southwestern
Throckmorton County. The name of
the ranch derives from a house built of
native stone, completed probably in 1856
by workers gathered by Givens, who at
the time was commander of a company
of the 2nd U.S. Dragoons stationed at
Camp Cooper. Commander Givens was
an ardent hunter and possibly established
the ranch as a hunting lodge, but his aim
probably included the raising of cattle in
order to sell beef to the army. He died in
San Antonio in 1859.
Other families temporarily occupied
the structure, and in 1866 the Barber
Watkins Reynolds family and ranch crew
moved there. The house has two large
rooms about sixteen by twenty feet each,
with a fireplace in each end of the house.
Double oak doors opened to the north
and south. Any entry hall served as a
spare bedroom when needed. One room
had a floor of planks, the other of stone
into which were cut various cattle brands
of the region. A small two-room house to
the north served as residence of the young
men and boys. About two hundred yards
northeast stands the sheep shed; the
smokehouse lies almost due west of the
main structure. Records show it once held
a huge store of salted buffalo tongues, a
delicacy of the day.
Fire swept through the buildings in the
winter of 1879, when a ranching family
named Millet occupied the premises, and
with time the stone tumbled down. The
property was transferred from the Givens
estate to John H. Hancock of Austin and
in 1880 was sold to the Reynolds and
Matthews. Judge John A. Matthews
gained control of the property in 1885,
and it remains part of Lambshead Ranch,
so named because of an early English
settler, Thomas Lambshead of Devon,
England. It is still controlled by the Matthews
family, and Watt himself is manager.
The stone house and outbuildings
stand today as proudly as they did in 1856
when Captain Givens erected this most
unusual group of stone structures.
Matthews has devoted himself to the
maintenance of a lifestyle reminiscent of
pioneer days. The recently expanded
cookhouse on Lambshead Ranch serves
two meals a day to the cowboys who work
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 4, Number 3, Winter 1986, periodical, 1986; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45440/m1/30/?rotate=90: accessed March 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.