Our family was recently invited to an event unveiling a historical marker for the home in which we raised our two children; our home for just over 17 years.
The marker designates it “Parker County’s Oldest Historic Homestead”; built in 1854 by the William Woody family, originally from Roane County, Tennessee.
Details include how this family set out on foot in December 1846 with just a few possessions; the mother Elisabeth, having given birth six weeks earlier to a son. They walked for six months until they reached the spot where other family members had begun a homestead in Fannin County, Texas. The Woodys pitched in to assist in the building of this working farm then moved on to White Settlement where they resided temporarily while constructing their dream home on a tract of land overlooking and encompassing a lovely creek in the Veal’s Station community.
The result was a sturdy dogtrot style dwelling; still standing today after a few modifications over the decades, bringing it up to modern standards.
It consisted of two rooms, each containing a fireplace and separated by an open-air breezeway, the dogtrot portion of the design. An upper room, periodically rented to weary travelers as they passed through via wagon or stagecoach and later to students attending Parsons College, was accessible through an exterior staircase leading to a doorway.
Until 1995, the year we purchased it, the home had been owned and occupied primarily by members of the Woody family so after moving in, we discovered many characteristics of our new homestead, known only by the Woodys up to that point.
After the initial foundation inspection of the home's crawl space—also "questionably" referred to as a pier and beam foundation—our inspector struggled to pull himself out of the tiny trap door located in a closet floor in the original portion of the home. He was covered in cobwebs and a little sweaty but had a big grin on his face. "This house isn't going anywhere," he said. "I have never seen anything like it. Your house sits on fossilized logs and stacks of stone, but it is as solid as the day is long."
One weekend, we ran into some members of the local Archeological Society who had ongoing dig sites alongside the creek and on the back of what was soon to become Woody Creek Estates...the estates a vision of Chuck Fowler and Arvil Newby. They had partnered to renovate the home and plat the surrounding land, acquired by them at an auction. Many Indian hearth sites were discovered as the dig unearthed grinding stones and arrowheads; tools indicating food preparation in temporary campsites for the hunt.
We also found that the creek never ran dry during times of drought and that the water was always chilly indicating it was spring fed, possibly the reason the Woodys chose this spot to settle.
The well, utilized by our home as its only water source, ran cold as ice and was as pure as any commercially bottled spring water and it soon became evident that the Woodys had been fortunate enough to hit an underground spring at a depth around 100 feet, the result of prayer or good luck. As homes were newly built in our subdivision, this luck was realized as well after well consistently had to be drilled to 250 feet to the Paluxy or 400 feet to the Trinity aquifers.
The Woody luck continued when a tornado in our area downed trees and a utility pole in front of and behind our home. Emerging from the tiny underground tornado shelter, we were elated to find that the house itself sustained no damage. We were without electricity for 24 hours which when you consider the hardships endured by the pioneering Woody family, was not a hardship at all.
For the 17 years we enjoyed our estate—continuing to make improvements to the house, barn and land, raising a family and contributing to our community in various ways—I never really thought about how we were honoring the sacrifices made by this brave family with a spirit of adventure.
The historical marker put it all into perspective…how the Woodys traveled so far out of their comfort zones to expand horizons, paving the way for future generations. We have so much to be thankful for.
Lisa Owens writes a monthly column for the Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter. Her columns are inspired by true events. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.