Heritage, Volume 11, Number 2, Spring 1993 Page: 24
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Historic Tour of
Buffalo Gap Historic Village
Buffalo Gap, Texas
By Juanita Daniel Zachry
The old stone courthouse/jail in Buffalo
Gap attracted Dr. R. Lee Rode and wife,
Ann, the first time they saw it in the early
1950s. The stone building, which was
Taylor County's first courthouse, stands on
the west side of Old Town, a sector designating
the original town of Buffalo Gap.
The town became the first county seat of
Taylor County in 1878. The courthouse,
built in 1879, today is the oldest public
building in Taylor County.
At their first viewing the Rodes were
impressed with the sturdy condition of the
old structure. The native sandstone blocks
each have a Civil War cannon ball between
the joints. None of the blocks were missing,
and the windows, which were the original
ones, were repaired where needed. A narrow,
steep stairway led to the second floor.
The holding cell for violent prisoners and
the runaround for less violent ones were
separated by bars. A hangman's noose
dangled from the ceiling at the top of the
stairs with a trap door beneath. Both floors
were packed with a hodge-podge of old
record books, photographs, and miscellaneous
memorabilia. Few of these were
documented. The elderly owner, Ernest
Walter Wilson, discussed the history of
many of the artifacts with the Rodes on
their frequent visits to the Museum, which
Wilson called The Buffalo Gap Museum.
The Rodes had recently moved from
Houston to Abilene, 14 miles north of
Buffalo Gap, where Rode had begun a
In 1977 the Rodes bought the Buffalo
Gap Museum with only an old store, the
courthouse/jail, a log cabin, and the home
of Marshal Tom Hill, Abilene's first law
officer, on the grounds.
The Rodes had a definite plan in mind.
They would set up a pioneer town and
change the name of the museum to Buffalo
Gap Historic Village. Each year they
planned to restore one building, and afterward
add one building each year until
they had a village reminiscent of pioneer
life before the turn of the century. The
buildings must be original structures used
in Taylor and adjoining counties. They
must be restored in an authentic manner,
preserving the old architectural style of the
period in which they were built.
The stone courthouse/jail was structurally
sound, but the plaster was falling from
walls and ceilings. This was replaced and all
surfaces painted on both floors. Along the
wall of the first floor are pictures of the men
who have served as sheriff of Taylor County
since it was organized in 1878. In a long,
glass enclosed case, are official
commissioner's court minutes and tax receipt
books. Replicas of the original benches
are in place in the courtroom where visitors
may sit and view an informative film on
this sector of West Texas.
Upstairs a "prisoner" is positioned in the
violent holding cell. Memorabilia of early
The home of Abilene's first law officer, Marshal Tom Hill, after renovation, at Buffalo Gap Historic Village.
24 HERITAGE * SPRING 1993
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 11, Number 2, Spring 1993, periodical, Spring 1993; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth46808/m1/24/: accessed August 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.