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Barnes’ Prairie Wood Plantation Home

September 25, 2019 - 00:00
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Georgian James W. Barnes arrived in Texas in the early 1840s to set up a 900-acre plantation a few miles southeast of Fanthorp, now Anderson, along what is now known as FM 1774.

Barnes first endeavor was to erect a roof over the heads of his family. Soon, in 1842, he had a two-story 12 foot by 14-foot log house with a fireplace. Each story was a single room.

As Barnes began to join in community and political affairs, his home over the next 16 years began to also take on a new life growing into a distinct Greek revival style plantation home he named “Prairie Woods.”

The east, two-story log portion was remodeled and embraced into the two-story family home by 1858, 16 years following the original log home.

Seventy-five years later, in 1932, the National Park Service of the Interior Department conducted an Anderson area summary of Grimes County’s early historic homes. By this time, Barnes had died in 1892, and his wife, Carolina (Carrie), living with a daughter in San Antonio, died in 1901.

The Barnes’ grandson, Allen G. Hill, was living at the “Prairie Woods” home in 1932 . The summary stated, “Originally the headquarters of a 900-acre plantation, the house, in its neglected state, still reflects the dignity of the period in which it was built.”

The summary continued that “Although remodeled from an earlier log structure, the finished two-story structure is a good example of the characteristic plan and form of the Classical Revival Period, though now neglected, the condition is poor, needs paint and repair inside and out. Only three of the seven rooms are used today (1932). Settlement and leaning of the east large chimney threaten to endanger the whole structure of the house.”

The basic floor plan featured “a first-floor large central hall with rooms on either side with entrances at both ends of the hall for air circulation. An enclosed stairway led to the upper floor where, at the time in 1932, were three rooms being used only for storage. Electric power had recently been introduced. The home was situated on a rounded hilltop, allowing an attractive view across the countryside.”

Again, in the year 2000, just 19 years ago, the “Prairie Woods” home was featured in the book “ Early Texas Architecture,” published by Gordon Echols with the Texas Christian University Press. An interesting note is made that the “walls of the construction are insulated with cotton seed and attached cotton fibers.” That begs the question of was that a common practice locally with cotton being the basic crop at that time period?

In the year 2000, Author Echols states, “the house is in a rather poor state of repair, but the current owner is in the process of restoring it to its original condition.” The owner at that time was Oliver Hill, great grandson of Barnes, who then died in late 2005. The property is still owned by descendants of Barnes.

Barnes, over his lifetime, served Texas as a Civil War Confederate General and, among other achievements, was a strong promoter of railroads.

(Written by Betty Dunn, Two Rivers Heritage Foundation.) Visit www.tworiversheritagefoundation. org for more information or to become a member)