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Lawrence Clayton

OLD STONE RANCH. The Old Stone Ranch is one-half mile south of the Clear Fork of the Brazos River on Walnut Creek in southwestern Throckmorton County. It was founded in 1855 by Capt. Newton C. Givens, who at the time was commander of a company of the Second United States Dragoons, stationed at nearby Camp Cooper. Ruins of the bake ovens ordered built by Col. Robert E. Lee or his successor for the short-lived relocation of Camp Cooper can still be seen near the site. The ranch is named for a house built of native stone completed probably in 1856 by workers gathered by Givens. Givens was an ardent hunter and possibly established the ranch as a hunting lodge, but his aim likely included raising cattle in order to sell beef to the army. Later he learned that it was considered a conflict of interest for commissioned officers to contract sales 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. Their daughter, Sallie Reynolds, who married John Alexander Matthews in 1876, left a record of the ranch in her book Interwoven. She describes the house as having two large rooms about sixteen by twenty feet with a fireplace in each end of the house. Double oak doors opened to the north and south. An entry hall served as a sparse bedroom when needed. One room had a floor of planks; the other had a floor of stone into which were cut cattle brands of the region. A small two-room house to the north served as residence for the young men and boys. About 200 yards northeast was a sheep shed. A smokehouse stood due west of the main structure; records show it once held a huge store of salted buffalo tongues. Fire swept through the buildings in the winter of 1879, when a ranching family named Millet occupied the premises, and with time the stones tumbled down. The property was transferred from the Givens estate to John H. Hancock of Austin and then was sold to the Reynolds and Matthews families in 1880. Judge J. A. Matthews gained control of the property in 1885, and in the 1980s it was part of the Lambshead Ranch.

On May 12, 1983, Watkins (Watt) Reynolds Matthews, operator of the Lambshead Ranch and long-time supporter of heritage conservation in the region, began the reconstruction of all structures at the site except the second section of the stone corral. The project was completed in 1984. Using Mexican stonemasons, Matthews followed the scant directions recorded by his mother in her book and old photographs of the structure made before the roof timbers collapsed. The stone floor in the south room is the original one. Even the large oak doors were reconstructed. Two bronze plaques engraved with lines from Interwoven hang on the wall of the house. The original keystone, with 1856 chiseled into it, was placed years ago in the chimney of the cookshack at the Lambshead Ranch headquarters but was returned by Matthews to the house. The stone house and outbuildings stand today as proudly as they did in 1856 when Captain Givens built this most unusual group of stone structures. A stone marker with a bronze plaque citing the date of construction and names of the members of the Matthews-Reynolds family stands on the east side of the house. Formal dedication was held on the site at the centennial of the Reynolds Cattle Company on May 5, 1984.

Frances Mayhugh Holden, Lambshead Before Interwoven: A Texas Range Chronicle, 1848–1878 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1982). Sallie Reynolds Matthews, Interwoven: A Pioneer Chronicle (Houston: Anson Jones, 1936; 4th ed., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1982).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Lawrence Clayton, "OLD STONE RANCH," accessed August 14, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/apo03.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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