Friday, May 27, 2022

Preserving the past for the future

By Dawn Cobb

Beneath the trappings of an older ranch-style home off Quail Run in Flower Mound, a local developer discovered history from the 19th century in the form of an original 16 x 16 log cabin house built by William Gibson.

The discovery during a planned tear-down by developer Curtis Grant in May 2015 would lead to what is now a tourist attraction in Flower Mound – the Gibson-Grant Log House. He was prompted to take a look after learning a former owner had found a 1903 newspaper hidden inside the wall of a closet.

Denton County Judge Andy Eads recalled receiving the phone call after the developer found what appeared to be old log walls behind the drywall inside the house at 4860 Quail Run Road.

“It was one of those phone calls you do not expect but are excited to receive,” he said. Long a student of history, Judge Eads accompanied the Denton County Office of History and Culture staff to see the discovery for himself. “I knew immediately this would be a substantial piece of history, not only for the Town of Flower Mound but for Denton County as well.”

Establishing History 

History was hiding behind the walls of the Gibson-Grant Log House in Flower Mound.

With Denton County’s help, Dr. David Stahle, a professor and director of the University of Arkansas’ Tree Ring Laboratory, studied the logs, determining they were likely cut between 1857 and 1860. The dates fit with the timing of when the property was settled as part of a Republic of Texas land grant offered to settlers coming to North Texas. The land grants offered 640 acres to married men or 320 acres to single men, requiring the recipient to build a log cabin and cultivate 10 acres of the land.

Originally from Platte County, Missouri, William Grant had already relocated to the region. In 1854, he patented (platted?) the 640 acres in the area where Long Prairie transitioned into the Cross Timbers and built the cabin in 1860.

The Gibson-Grant Log House is one the oldest existing log structures remaining at its original location in all of North Texas.

Family Ties

During a Dec. 11 ribbon cutting to commemorate the cabin’s opening to public tours, Flower Mound resident Elaine Economidis sat amid the crowd. The cabin’s history also linked to her own family’s genealogy. Her son, Lt. Thomas Economidis, based in California, discovered Margaret Jane Gibson-James, William Gibson’s eldest daughter, was his 4th great-grandmother. In fact, his grandmother and mother knew Matilda Ethel James-Partin, one of Margaret Jane Gibson-James’ two children.

“I so appreciate that there are others who have put so much time into preserving my family history,” Elaine noted. “History is important in a general sense; but when it is your history, it means even more.”

In his research, Elaine’s son discovered a letter that was sent to Margaret from her sisters in 1879. It had been tucked away in a family Bible passed through the generations.

Sent on Jan. 25, 1875, from Denton town, Texas, the letter read:

“Dear Sister, We wrote to you a short time ago; but we have bad news to tell you this time; our dear brother Merritt is gone never to return to us no more. He died the ninth of this month after an illness of two weeks; his diseas(e) I think was many diseases working to gather (sic) as you know he had been afflicted for many years; this leaves us all in tolerable health and hope this will find you and yours enjoying the best of health(.) Nan and her family are well (;) as common she is with me today(.) We want you to come up as soon as you can(;) we would (like) you to come to see you very bad(;) this last stroke of kind providence makes us feel very lonely. A few months had only elapsed since we mourned the loss o(f) your son while again we wer(e) visited by the same hand by the departure of our dear brother(,) but let these afflictions only bind our little band the closer, and keep us on the watch for we know not th(e) day or the hour when we will be again called on to give the parting hand again; but if we are prepared the stroke will not seeme (sic) so hard but I will close for the present in hopes of hearing from you soon if you cannot come(.) so good bye for the present; we all send our love to you(.) From your sisters, Nan, Mattie & Mollie” 

The letter, written more than 145 years ago, carries the same familial tones one might see today in emails or social media – the sharing of sad news while hoping for a family reunion.

Preserving the Past

The Mound Foundation, a local preservationist group, and the county’s Office of History and Culture collaborated to restore the cabin to a triple-pen form with a back extension, which keeps the early historic changes to the original single-pen cabin. The site was regraded to improve drainage, a separate restroom facility was built and the existing frame shored up for preservation, among other improvements.

Denton County, in addition to guiding the Town of Flower Mound in the cabin’s restoration, filled the cabin with antiques suited to the time period and is assisting with volunteer recruitment, training and staffing for scheduled tours, special events and dates when the cabin is open for public tours. Denton County also assisted in researching the history surrounding the cabin’s construction and the area in which it was built.

Flower Mound Girl Scout Troop No. 4007 created an informational video about the cabin while a Flower Mound Boy Scout planted native wildflowers and built a sign.

A Thankful Tribute

During the December ribbon cutting, Judge Eads thanked developer Curtis Grant for going above and beyond when he discovered the original post oaks serving as the framework of the original portion of the ranch-style home.

“As a developer, he did not have to stop the demolition and notify us,” he said. “But the fact that he did serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving our history for the generations to come. We will forever be thankful to him for it.”

The Gibson-Grant Log House is open to the public, free of charge, on Fridays from 1-5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

For more information, visit www.flower-mound.com/gibsongrant.

Dawn Cobb is the Director of Community Relations for Denton County. She can be reached at [email protected] or by calling 940-349-4672.

CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette News Department

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