Friday, December 30, 2011

The Historic Johnson City Settlement

On December 10th the Historic Johnson City Settlement was open in the evening, as part of the area Christmas festivities. We enjoyed the evening tour and then returned a few days later for pictures of the outlying buildings and property.

In 1856, prior to the establishment of Johnson City as a formal city, Jessie Thomas Johnson and his younger brother Samuel Ealy Johnson Sr. (Grandfather to our 36th president, Lyndon B. Johnson) purchased 320 acres of property located 12 miles North of the city of Blanco. At that time Blanco was the source for goods, and was a days ride through hostile Indian lands. The brothers built a one room cabin (the right half of his structure), and began establishing a cattle driving operation. Samuel joined the military and fought in the Civil War until its end. He married Eliza Bunton in 1867 and they moved into the one room cabin the brothers had built. In 1868 another room was added (the left side of the cabin). This style of cabin was popular for the times and is called a dogtrot cabin. The name is derived from dogs passing through the center and enjoying the shade there. In states further south they are often referred to as possum trot cabins! The open center served as shade, storage, and interestingly, as an early form of cooling the home. The breeze would channel through the shaded area between the two rooms of the cabin. In the Winter the open dogtrot would be closed-up thereby adding warmth and an additional room.

This is the original right side of the cabin. The door goes to the porch on the backside of the cabin. At the foot of the bed is a large fireplace. The chinking between the logs at the time would have been clay and sticks.

This is the same room looking out the door to the front of the cabin.

This is the room in the left side of the cabin. It has a large fireplace to the left, as you enter the room, and is set-up as a kitchen. The couple only had one child while living in this cabin, but went on to have 9 children. They lived here from 1867-1872.

This barn is one of the original structures built in the 1850s by the two brothers.

Samuel and Jesse Johnson established one of the largest cattle driving operations in 7 counties. From 1870-1873 they drove several herds of cattle in a season. The herds of cattle ranged from 2,500-3,000 head each.

This is the water cooling house where fruits and vegetables would be preserved. Check out the extra nice windmill design.

This is the view from the back porch looking toward the barn and windmill. With a decline in the cattle market, Samuel and Jessie got out of the cattle driving business, and sold this property to their nephew, James Polk Johnson. In 1879 James offered the property to the local settlers, as a location for establishing a formal community. By popular vote of the settlers, it was decided that the newly established community would be called Johnson City in his honor.

This barn was built in a popular German architectural style in 1884 by John Bruckner. The stonework, arched entry, and doors give it an aire of belonging with a castle. This structure sits next to the original cabin.

Here is a look at the back of the barn.

Now that you know the individual features, here is an overview entering the property. It is a very serene place to visit. It has free admission and is open to self guided tours.

There is a nice museum on the property with lots of pictures. The Historic Johnson City Settlement is well worth visiting.