Homesteading Nesterville: Dugouts and Vernacular Architecture on the Red Rolling Plains

By Jahue E. Anderson

John G. Hardin and his family huddled underground in their home as the wind howled across the rolling plains and snow fell. The family had bought land with a dugout on it a couple miles south of the Red River. They sought shelter from the elements, especially the icy wind.  The dugout, a rectangular hole in the ground, lacked a door. Hardin used canvas from the wagon to improvise one. As the family hunkered down, snow accumulated on the canvas door. Hardin’s milk cow roamed above ground on the snow-covered farmstead, searching for shelter and the hapless cow fell through the canvas sheet and into the dugout. It sat peering in confusion at the Hardin family. John Hardin later wrote that he gestured toward the hole and the cow climbed up the dirt stairs and ran across the field, dragging in tow the wagon sheet. Hardin sprinted after the milk cow to recover his door.[i]

John G. Hardin lived in a community of dugouts in Northwest Texas called Nesterville. In 1880 a small community originally called Gilbert (named after Mabel Gilbert) formed around a group of farmers near the location of Gilbert’s old homestead. The hamlet reported a population of 132 in 1880 and consisted of a small store and a post office. The Hardin family bought a 120-acre tract of land for one dollar per acre. The only “improvements” on the land were a dugout, a shed with a grass windbreak, and a 23-foot deep well. Hardin had all he needed, except for building materials. The family filed the papers with the Clay County clerk in Henrietta (Wichita County still being part of Clay County until its formation on June 7, 1882). “We all lived in dugouts,” one of the children recalled, “for there were no towns nearby from which to buy lumber.”[ii]

Such a community of humans, dug into the plains, struck a curious resemblance to prairies dogs and the prairie dog villages that filled the same landscape. The dogs poked their heads about in search of a meal but weary of becoming prey. Predators—rattlesnakes, wolves, coyotes, and hawks—lurked. The burrows not only performed a role as defense mechanisms against predators, but they also were well adapted to a Southern Plains environment. Year round, prairie dogs and humans retreated to their burrows seeking safety and relief from extreme temperatures, violent thunderstorms, and howling winds. For example, in the spring of 1879 one family had lumber hauled in from Dallas, and by April 1880 they had built a three-room box house on a 160-acre lot of land. That same year one Saturday night in April, “An awful rumbling roaring sound” occurred, emanating from a darkening and gathering cloud from the northwest forming a fierce tornado that flung the new home a half-mile across the prairie. Luckily the family had hunkered down in their dugout, which they “practically lived in…for the next two years and especially at night.” The cyclone set the entire family on edge. Family patriarch Ben Williams recalled:

I was out in the field plowing one evening and it began to cloud up in the northwest. It got near and darker…I got halfway to the house…[when] a keen clap of thunder out loose…It thundered again and we all fell in [the dugout] just like a bunch of prairie dogs and pulled the door down. All at once one of the kids squealed like a panther, and pointed to a big bull snake stretched out on the bank of the dugout.

Tornadoes terrified many plains settlers, literally ripping their homes off the ground and throwing them around the landscape. Furthermore, snakes, spiders, and even the unsuspecting cow might find itself sharing the same space as its human occupants.[iii]

If not tornados or northers, fire threatened livelihoods on the plains. One year Hardin purchased corn and hay to feed his livestock, placing the feed in a crudely made square pen. A fire burned the grain and pen to the ground. It was an expensive loss that left his livestock hungry. “I lost crib, hay, and shed,” Hardin recalled. “I had my dugout and well left, but not a dollar to buy any more feed.” Through all the elements, the dugout survived but all else seemed temporary and subject to random destruction.[iv]

American settlers like John Hardin lacked the building materials on the plains with which they were accustomed and so they made dugouts and pitched tents. But they considered these housing types transitional and temporary dwellings, meant only for an initial settlement phase. A desire for order and sameness dominated 19th century Anglo-American society and settlers displayed that order in this transition from dugout to the wooden-framed house. Furthermore, juxtaposing Plains Indians housing to American settlers in the region confirms this thesis. The culturally perceived need by “reformers” to “reform” Plains Indians housing put that desire for sameness and order on full display.[v]

Before 1873, log cabins did not exist on the Rolling Plains. Amerindians preferred grass huts, arbors, and lodges made of earth, grass, and animal hides. American settlers preferred wooden structures and log cabins familiar to their European antecedents. But when Americans settled beyond the Western Cross Timbers and onto the rolling plains of the upper Red River valleys, the use of log cabins halted as wood sources became scarce. The dugout evolved within this cultural and ecological context. From the immediate surroundings and cultural perceptions emerged dugouts, which combined dirt, log, rock, and canvas materials. Dugouts are folk housing (buildings based on mental images not blueprints) and these unplanned structures, those without blueprints and often improvised, reveal important interactions between humans and the environment. [vi]

For the most part, Texas and Plains historians have ignored domestic architecture.[vii] But, Texas geographers unlocked “ancestral memories and handiwork of common people” in their folk housing studies, revealing much about history, culture, and regional ecology.[viii] Texas geographer Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov, for example, emphasized folk housing as “key to culture history.”[ix] The historical and cultural geographers focused on the timbered areas of Texas. The Western Cross Timbers around modern-day Young and Montague counties produced enough timber to build sufficient numbers of log cabins. Log Cabins in the Western Cross Timbers have been widely researched and studied. Jordan-Bychkov pointed to the wide use of the dogtrot house type, a dwelling consisting of two rooms of equal size separated by a breezeway. Geographers also found what Fred Kniffen called the “I-house,” a two-story, one-room house with side chimney. These types were “well suited to the forested frontier.” [x]

Settlers built a variety of log cabins in the Cross Timbers with post and live oak. Builders preferred oak because of the length of the tree trunks and the fact termites dislike oak. People felled the green trees with broadaxes and peeled the logs. At first, cabins had dirt floors but eventually the occupants formed split-log puncheons to build floors for protection from the bare dirt. The settlers not only brought with them their folk architecture but also their peach trees, vegetables, corn, and livestock.[xi]

As settlers moved onto the plains, however, sources of wood became scarce and the housing types of the Western Cross Timbers halted before the immense open prairies. This is where the scholarship also halts and where this study begins. The environment forced potential homesteaders to deal with their immediate environment and local resources. Four major resources comprised a dugout. First, earth in the form of dirt, grass, and rock were readily available resources.  Secondly, canvas became more available on the Plains around the time of the Civil War. Thirdly, American Indians and Euroamerican hunters used hides for many centuries as building materials. And finally, the elusive and contested timber resources would be exploited, if they could be located.

To start, there was plenty of dirt and burrowing-in like prairie dogs made sense. So Hardin and his family, “like the prairie dogs of that section,” dug their homes into the red earth.  Dirt provided immeasurable amounts of insulation for winter cold while at the same time staying cooler underground during harsh summer heat. It provided protection during violent spring thunderstorms. Hardin’s dugout was about sixteen feet long and twelve feet wide and extended five feet into the ground—the fireplace had been cut into one of the dirt walls. Hardin did not build his own dugout. He acquired it in the purchase of the land. A cattleman might have built this particular dugout. Farmers followed behind that first wave of cattlemen and Hardin’s family represented the second wave of Anglo-American settlement.[xii]

The cattle barons and the cowboys referred derogatorily to this wave of farmers as “nesters” because they lived in dugouts. The cowboys, especially those on the Burnett Ranch in north Wichita County, called the community of Gilbert, “Nesterville.” The hamlet appeared to the cowboys as a small town of nesters—a Nesterville—with dugouts for schools, stores, and houses. Although applied derogatorily, the name was accepted by the community and used by its citizenry.[xiii] In reality, earth lodges made of grass and dirt looked like nests, and American Indians and Euroamericans had used them in the plains environment for centuries. The Wichita Indians built grass huts and the Pawnee made lodges of earth and grass. In the local region, indigenous people and whites used bear grass to weave baskets and make shingles for houses. From the creek people gathered wood poles to cover their dugout or arbor, using “bear grass” as shingles—wooden poles extended across the open top of the dugout forming a latticework on which was piled heavy layers of dried grass and mounded dirt.[xiv]

The half dugout made sense when building materials were not sufficient enough to construct an entire building above ground. Some settlers preferred rock houses to dugouts but rock, like wood, could not always be found. When settlers located adequate stone quarries or wood reserves, distances often made it impossible to move the rock or wood to the building site. For example, two settlers in Wichita County had built rock houses, but little building stone was left. So the third built a half dugout using what little was available.[xv]

Rock, dirt, and grass made up portions of the dugout, but also the settlers brought with them certain materials that became parts of the dugout. Thus their material culture played an important role. For example, in the years before and after the war many Americans became accustomed to canvas tents. Major Henry Sibley designed the “A” or wedge tent, which due to its size, weighted the army down. The army stopped using the tents in 1862, and they became widely available to civilians. Settlers brought the tents onto the plains, creating tent communities. One family, for instance, sewed together several tents and lived in them during the summer of 1885.[xvi] Railroad man Ed Bonham recalled that the city of Wichita Falls sprung from “right in the middle of a prairie dog village” and consisted of a “restaurant and two or three Tent saloons in 1882.”[xvii] Another early settler recalled one or two stores built of cottonwood logs and saloons “made of canvas.” Others called Wichita Falls “a canvas city.” On the north side of the Red River in Indian Territory canvas tents filled the new town of Lawton, leading the Comanches to refer to Lawton as a “tent city.”[xviii]

John Hardin and his family came into the area in 1879. They covered their wagons with heavy canvas sheets called tarpaulins that protected their goods from rain, sleet, snow, sandstorms, and northers. The Hardin family navigated their wagons through the Western Cross Timbers across Tarrant, Wise, Denton, Montague, and Jack counties and onto the Red Rolling Plains in Clay County. The Hardins brought with them three mules, one cow, clothing, linens, a dresser, bed frames, six chairs, a galvanized tub, and the “Standard” cultivator. After they fitted their dugout and farm with their goods they learned that the Red Rolling Plains environment provided certain limitations for their building strategies. But their cultural items worked to provide some answers like a canvas door.[xix]

Hides performed a similar function as the canvas tent. The Plains Indians used the tipi while buffalo hunters and skinners made animal hide lodges. For Plains Indians the tipi and arbor allowed for mobility. The Kiowas, for example, made brush arbors and tipis, common among many Plains Indian groups west of the Mississippi River. Arbor construction varied from small lean-tos to large elaborate structures, and for the most part Kiowas built the arbors with brush. Arbors provided shade and took advantage of breezes. Many Kiowas lived in arbors during the summertime to escape the heat of the tipi. When temperatures soared, much of the sleeping and cooking occurred under the arbor. Location became of prime importance when setting up this type of temporary dwelling. Bluffs and canyon land provided natural protection from the elements. The importance of the hide diminished overtime as the hunter and the American Indians eventually gave way to the farmers like the Hardin family with their canvas tents, but the American Indians would contest that transition.

The Hardin family eventually ran a business that flourished because it was located at this prosperous juncture between the Indian and white man’s worlds. And the Hardin business illustrated well the contested nature of the Red River border, especially in terms of hides and wooden resources. Hardin catered to the Comanche and Kiowa Indians of southwestern Indian Territory as well as the cowboys and cattlemen from north Wichita County. “The Comanches flocked to Hardin’s store,” claimed one early settler. Although Hardin profited from the trade, settlers claimed the Comanches came by “buying and paying for one article at a time—keeping Mr. Hardin busy. Some of the tribesmen would watch for an opportunity and take some of the furs from the store, returning a few minutes later to resell them to the proprietor.” Indeed, Hardin often criticized Comanches and Kiowas for stealing from his store. Yet, Hardin regularly stole from the Indians, never realizing the contradictions.[xx]

The resource the Hardin family stole from Indian lands was wood, the most contested resource on the plains. Many north Texans coveted the wood resources located on Indian reservations in present-day southwestern Oklahoma. The Hardin family, for example, contracted deals with rancher Samuel Burk Burnett to supply his ranch with large numbers of fence posts. Hardin obtained the wood from creek valleys across the Red River in Indian Territory. The federal government declared it illegal for non-Indians to enter reservation lands. Acquiring wood from native groups required official permits from the U.S. government. The authorities rightly believed non-Indian whites were stealing wood resources from the reservations.

Because he lacked the wood resources in his own country, Hardin trespassed into Indian Territory without permits to fulfill contracts to Burnett. Burnett knew that Hardin acquired the wood for his posts illegally. For example, it was documented that Burnett learned of a detachment of troops from Fort Sill heading through part of Indian Territory and sent two of his cowboys to warn Hardin, saving him from arrest and federal prosecution. Such reciprocal favors between settlers strengthened community ties and allowed white settlers to acquire wood resources from reservations illegally.[xxi]

The legal options for wood resources included dragging or hauling post oaks from out of the Western Cross Timbers, which some did. Others tried their luck finding sufficient wood in river and creek bottoms. At the western edge of the Western Cross Timbers the land formed an open expanse called the Red Rolling Plains. The Red Rolling Plains, bordered to the west by the Caprock Canyonlands and the High Plains were nearly treeless. Only a small number of trees and scrubby mesquites lined rivers or creeks. Early land and tree surveys reveal local river valleys as “unclothed by timber through any large part of its flow.” Explorer Captain Randolph B. Marcy described area watersheds after explorations in 1851 and 1854 as having “but few trees on the borders… [and in other cases] “entirely destitute of trees.”[xxii] No stands of forest growth oak could be found.

When the Hardin family originally settled in Wichita County, they negotiated with a man named Waller for his land, but more importantly for his wood resources. Waller lived in a dugout, or as described by Hardin, a large hole in the ground covered by a crude roof. More importantly, Waller had collected a pile of logs, a valuable resource on the plains, and Hardin insisted that the logs be included in the purchase but Waller refused. Both Waller and Hardin knew the wood was a valuable resource and Waller would not part with the logs. Hardin claimed he wanted the logs for use in the building of a home.[xxiii]

Settlers like Hardin preferred forest-growth post oak when building houses. In large portions of the upper Red River basin settlers could not find any trees other than cottonwood or mesquite, and mesquite required special treatment for building because insects and worms could reduce the wood to a pile of rubble. Cottonwood, oak, and pecan provided better hardwoods, but this type of timber was limited to alluvial valleys and never available at forest growth. Some cottonwoods did thrive near the edge of the Big Wichita River, but their numbers were limited.[xxiv] These cottonwood logs often roofed many dugouts.

Charles Goodnight, Samuel Burk Burnett, and John G. Hardin made their first homes in dugouts. But, when lumber became available, those who could afford it built frame houses. In Clay County, for example, physician Dr. F. Johnson built the first wood frame house and in Wichita County Burnett built the first wood framed home. [xxv] The Hardin family too built a frame house.[xxvi] What is even more telling about American culture was it wished to enforce that order onto other cultures—box houses and a matrix of towns and roads—on to the Plains Indians’ reservation lands. The Kiowas on the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache reservation lands stick out as an example. The U.S. government found the Kiowas resistant to acculturation. The Kiowas refused wire fencing from the government and for the most part hated farming. Furthermore the Kiowas refused to inhabit framed houses. Kiowas preferred tipis and arbors. Whereas Anglo Americans on the Texas side of the Red River wanted permanent log and frame houses, many of the Kiowas refused to live in wooden houses, instead desiring their own traditional domestic architecture. Imposing housing strategies proved difficult for the government and it took more than thirty years for the authorities to induce 801 Kiowa families into traditional American houses.[xxvii]

Dugouts and arbors gave way to bricks, mortar, milled lumber, and steel. A dugout once described by an architectural historian as a “primitive type of shelter” can be more accurately described as a transitional type of dwelling.[xxviii] Outliers of Wichita Falls—such as Vernon (Eagle Flatt) and Seymour—became settled by dugouts and then framed houses. By 1885 settlers found lumbered “box houses” common in Wichita Falls as the town became an agribusiness center and distribution point for building materials and people to the nearby towns. Lumber from Wichita Falls built the first house near Seymour in 1890. Families arrived in Wichita Falls where their furniture was unloaded from train to wagon. Some traveled from the Wichita Falls depot westward on to Vernon, bringing with them furniture and supplies for housing.[xxix] Settlers organized their natural surroundings—what American settlers perceived as wilderness, but what was really an ancient cultural landscape—into something more familiar and legible that fit their own cultural proclivities.


[i] Harry Howard Hayes, “John Gerham Hardin: Philanthropist,” (MA Thesis, Hardin-Simmons University, 1940), 37-38; and John Gerham Hardin, Life Story of John Gerham Hardin (Dallas, TX: Baptist Foundation of Texas, 1939).

[ii] Many settlers referred to their community as Nesterville, Texas. For example, settler S.B. Daniel claimed to be born in the Gilbert Creek community called Nesterville near modern-day Burkburnett, Texas. At his death, Gilbert had served in the county government in Fannin county, served as chief justice of Montague County, birthed twenty-four children, and owned 4,000 acres in Wichita County that would later become part of the Burkburnett oil fields. Mrs. H. Willis is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. S. P. Hawkins. This last quote is her quote. G.W. Darby was the seller of the property purchased by Hardin. Darby moved west to Eagle Flat (Vernon) where he was found in another dugout in the 1880s. J.P. Earle, History of Clay County and Northwest Texas (Austin, TX: Brick Row Book Shop, 1963), 3-5; Registration Sheet of S.B. Daniel, Historical Survey of Wichita Falls, Texas, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas. (Hereafter Dolph Briscoe Center for American History cited as CAH); Hayes, “John Gersham Hardin, 30-32; Johnnie R. Morgan, The History of Wichita Falls (Wichita Falls, TX: Nortex Offset Publications Inc., 1931), 26; Paul Watson, “Frontier Housing 1865 to 1890: A Theory of Housing Construction as Change and Continuity,” M.A. Thesis, Midwestern State University, 1967, 98; Mrs. H. Willis, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH. Mrs. Mabel R. Gilbert, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH; Louise Kelly, Wichita County Beginnings (Burnett, TX: Eakin Press, 1982), 5; Steve Wilson, Wichita Falls: A Pictorial History. Norfolk, Va.: The Donning Co., 1982), 29; Aaron Dodson, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH; and “Place Names in Wichita County,” Wichita County, Texas (1), Vertical File, CAH; J.W. Williams, Old Texas Trails, ed. Kenneth F. Neighbours (Burnet, TX: Eakin Press, 1979), 290; Michael Duty, Wichita Falls: A Century of Photographs (Wichita Falls: Midwestern State University Press, 1982),  6; Buckley B. Paddock, ed., A Twentieth Century History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas Volume I (New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906), 531-532; and “Diary of E.H. Alexander” in Wichita County (1), Vertical File, CAH.

[iii] Ben C. Williams, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH; “Prairie Dog Town History” Pamphlet, Museum of the Great Plains, Lawton, Oklahoma; Registration Sheet of Arthur C. Howard, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, Vertical File, CAH; and Del Weniger, The Explorers’ Texas: The Animals They Found, Volume 2 (Austin: Eakin Press, 1997), 134-136; George Wilkins Kendall, Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition: Comprising a Description of a Tour Through Texas, and Across the Great Southwestern Prairies, the Camanche and Cygua Hunting-Grounds, with an Account of the Sufferings from the Want of Food, Losses from Hostile Indians, and Final Capture of the Texans and Their March, as Prisoners, to the City of Mexico, Volume I (London: Wiley and Putnam, 1844), p. 192; J.L. Hoogland, “Sexual Dimorphism of Prairie Dogs,” Journal of Mammology, 84(4) (2002): 1254-1266.

[iv] Hayes, “John Gerham Hardin,” 39 and John Gerham Hardin, Life Story of John Gerham Hardin (Dallas, TX: Baptist Foundation of Texas, 1939).

[v] For a discussion of the search for order in Texas see David Montejano, Anglos and Mexican and the Making of Texas, 1836-1986 (University of Texas, 1986). In the United States, see Robert H. Weibe, The Search for Order, 1877-1920 (Hill & Wang, 1996). For a global perspective, see James C. Scott, Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 2-7, 201, 221, 304-306.

[vi] Terry G. Jordan, American Log Buildings: An Old World Heritage (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1985) and James I. Fenton, “Critters, Sourdough, and Dugouts: Women and Imitation Theory on the Staked Plains, 1875-1910,” in At Home on the Range: Essays on the History of Western Social and Domestic Life, ed. John Wunder (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1985), 29-31; Warren E. Roberts, “Folk Architecture,” in Folklore and Folklife: An Introduction, ed. Richard M. Dorson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972), 281-294; Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov and Mona Domesh, The Human Mosaic: A Thematic Introduction to Cultural Geography (W.H. Freedman & Co., 2003), 15, 59-61; Karl W. Butzer, Archeology as Human Ecology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

[vii] There are some theses, dissertations, and most importantly collected works of essays edited by John Wunder that provide good information on the day-to-day existence of a 19th century homesteaders and particular essays and chapters provide insight into dugout life. John Wunder, ed. At Home on the Range: Essays on the History of Western Social and Domestic Life (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1985), 29-31 and Paul Watson, “Frontier Housing 1865 to 1890: A Theory of Housing Construction as Change and Continuity,” M.A. Thesis, Midwestern State University, 1967, 353. Everett Dick, The Sod-House Frontier, 1854-1890: A Social History of the Northern Plains from the Creation of Kansas & Nebraska to the Admission of the Dakotas (Lincoln, Nebraska: Johnsen Pub. Co, 1954); Pam Conrad, Prairie Visions: The Life and Times of Solomon Butcher (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1991).

[viii] Quote from Terry G. Jordan, American Log Buildings: An Old World Heritage (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1985), 4;  E. Estyn Evans, “The Scotch-Irish: Their Cultural Adaptations and Heritage in the American Old West,” Essays in Scotch-Irish History, ed. E.R.R. Green (London: Routledge & Keagan Paul, 1969), 69-86;

[ix] Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov and Matti Kaups, “Folk Architecture in Cultural and Ecological Context,” Geographical Review 77 (January 1987): 52-75. Quote from page 52; Roger L. Welsch and Solomon D. Butcher, Sod Walls: The Story of the Nebraska Sod House (Broken Bow, Nebraska: Purcells, 1968); Fred B. Kniffen, “Why Folk Housing?” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 69:1 (March 1979), 59-63; Fred B. Kniffen, “Folk Housing: Key to Diffusion,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 55:4 (December 1965), 549-577; Fred B. Kniffen, “Louisiana House Types,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 26:4 (December 1936), 179-193; Jordan-Bychkov and Kaups, The American Backwoods Frontier, 108-109, 138-139, 146-147, 202-203; Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov, The Upland South: The Making of an American Folk Region and Landscape (Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia Press, 2003); Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov, “The Anglo-Texan Homeland,” in Homelands: A Geography of Culture and Place Across America, eds. Richard Nostrand and Lawrence Estaville (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 2002), 125-138; Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov, “The Material Cultural Legacy of New Sweden on the American Frontier,” in New Sweden in America, ed. Carol Hoffecker ( Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1995), 302-318; Terry G. Jordan, Texas: A Geography (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1984); Terry G. Jordan, Trails to Texas: Southern Roots of Western Cattle Ranching (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981); Terry G. Jordan, Texas Log Buildings: A Folk Architecture (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1978); Terry G. Jordan, “Early Northeast Texas and the Evolution of Western Ranching,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 67:1 (March 1977): 70; Terry G. Jordan, “Pioneer Evaluation of Vegetation in Frontier Texas,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 76 (1973): 233-254; Terry G. Jordan, “The Texas Appalachia,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 60 (September 1970): 409-427; Terry G. Jordan, “Population Origin Groups in Rural Texas,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 60 (June 1970): 404-405; Terry G. Jordan, “Population Origins in Texas, 1850,” Geographical Review 59 (January 1969): 83-103, 174; Terry G. Jordan, “The Imprint of the Upper and Lower South on Mid-Nineteenth Century Texas,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 57 (December 1967): 667-690; Terry G. Jordan, “Between the Forest and the Prairie,” Agricultural History, Volume 38 (1964): 202-216; Bella Bychkova Jordan and Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov, “Ethnogenesis and Cultural Geography,” Cultural Geography 21:1 (2003): 3-17; Terry G. Jordan, “Early Northeast Texas and the Evolution of Western Ranching,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 67:1 (March 1977): 70.

[x] Fred B. Kniffen, “Why Folk Housing?” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 69:1 (March 1979): 59-63 and Jordan-Bychkov and Kaups, “Folk Architecture in Cultural and Ecological Context.” Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov and Matti Kaups, “Folk Architecture in Cultural and Ecological Context,” 67.

[xi] Terry G. Jordan, Texas Log Buildings: A Folk Architecture (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1978).

[xii] Mr. and Mrs. John G. Hardin: Stewards Who Administered Their Own Estates (N.P. N.D.), n.p., SWC and Hayes, “John Gerham Hardin,” 30-37.

[xiii] Buckley B. Paddock, ed., A Twentieth Century History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas Volume I (New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906), 326; Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. “Charles Goodnight” http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/GG/fgo11.html (accessed November 19, 2008); Harley True Burton, A History of the JA Ranch (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1928; rpt., New York: Argonaut, 1966). Dorothy Abbott McCoy, Texas Ranchmen (Austin: Eakin Press, 1987); Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. “Burkburnett, Texas” http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/BB/heb14.html (accessed September 17, 2008); Frank X. Tolbert, When Roosevelt’s Uncle Ruled Red River Bottoms,” Dallas Morning News, September 2, 1976, Section D, Page 3. In 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt renamed the town Burkburnett after Samuel Burk Burnett hosted a presidential wolf hunt in Indian Territory.

[xiv] Fenton, “Critters, Sourdough, and Dugouts,” 29-31; Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov and Matti Kaups, The American Backwoods Frontier: An Ethnic and Ecological Interpretation (Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press, 1989), 108-109, 138-139, 146-147, 202-203; Elizabeth Skidmore Sasser, Dugout to Deco: Building in West Texas, 1880-1930 (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1993), 5-7; Earle, History of Clay County and Northwest Texas, 16; E. Estyn Evans, “The Scotch-Irish: Their Cultural Adaptations and Heritage in the American Old West,” Essays in Scotch-Irish History, ed. E.R.R. Green (London: Routledge & Keagan Paul, 1969), 86; Mr. and Mrs. John G. Hardin: Stewards Who Administered Their Own Estates (N.P. N.D.), n.p., Southwest Collection, Texas Tech University (Hereafter referred to as SWC); and Hayes, “John Gerham Hardin,” 30-37.

[xv] Daisy P. Ayers, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH.

[xvi] Watson, “Frontier Housing 1865 to 1890,” 88 and Ruby L. Smith, “Early Development of Wilbarger County,” West Texas History Association Yearbook 12 (October 1938): 69.

[xvii] Quote from Ed Bonham, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH and Mrs. Lula Lollar, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH. Lollar called Wichita Falls a “tent city.”

[xviii] Charles Clayborn Lindly, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH; Lulu Lollar, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH; Daniel J. Gelo, “‘Comanche Land and Ever Has Been’: A Native Geography of the Nineteenth Century Comancheria,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 103 (January 2003), 278.

[xix] Mr. and Mrs. John G. Hardin: Stewards Who Administered Their Own Estates (N.P. N.D.), n.p., SWC; Hayes, “John Gerham Hardin,” 25 and 30-37; Hardin, Life Story of John Gerham Hardin; Carl Coke Rister, Southern Plainsmen (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1938), 41-42; Mrs. S.A. Hawkins, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH; Mary C. Hardin, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH; and John G. Hardin, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH.

[xx] G.W. Darby offered Hardin the store and trading post that he had established. Darby had found the grocery business unprofitable because only poor farmers bought goods on credit, and he had no capital to keep the store stocked. Darby approached Hardin and, after offering a very attractive price, Hardin agreed to purchase the store. In the fall of 1880 Hardin paid Darby $50 for the log building and the remaining store stock. As a result Darby, who had been postmaster, automatically transferred the office to Hardin with the purchase. Hardin moved the log building the one-half mile to be placed next to his dugout. Hardin was now a grocer and postmaster, still living in his dugout on the plains and doing business out of his log store. Hayes, “John Gersham Hardin,” 39-43 and Postal reports from Hardin’s post office are found in the Postal Records Department at the United States Post Office in Wichita Falls.

[xxi] Hayes, “John Gersham Hardin,” 55; Aaron Dodson, Historical Survey of Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH; and Mrs. H. Willis, Historical Survey of Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH. Later Hardin and Hawkin befriended a Comanche headman, whom they called Chief Jack or Comanche Jack. Comanche Jack permitted the brothers-in-law to go into Indian Territory and get supplies of firewood.

[xxii] Del Weniger, The Explorers’ Texas: The Lands and Waters (Austin: Eakin Press, 1984), 43.

[xxiii] Hayes, “John Gersham Hardin,” 28-29.

[xxiv] Paul Watson, “Frontier Housing 1865 to 1890: A Theory of Housing Construction as Change and Continuity,” M.A. Thesis, Midwestern State University, 1967, 353.

[xxv] Fenton, “Critters, Sourdough, and Dugouts,” 29-31; Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov and Matti Kaups, The American Backwoods Frontier: An Ethnic and Ecological Interpretation (Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press, 1989), 108-109, 138-139, 146-147, 202-203; Elizabeth Skidmore Sasser, Dugout to Deco: Building in West Texas, 1880-1930 (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 1993), 5-7; Earle, History of Clay County and Northwest Texas, 16; E. Estyn Evans, “The Scotch-Irish: Their Cultural Adaptations and Heritage in the American Old West,” Essays in Scotch-Irish History, ed. E.R.R. Green (London: Routledge & Keagan Paul, 1969), 86. In a landscape barren of building materials common to Anglo-American culture, cattle baron S. Burk Burnett hauled the foreign but culturally symbolic materials, primarily lumber, from Fort Worth—130 overland miles to build the first framed home in Wichita County.

[xxvi] John G. Hardin, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH; Watson Jr., “Frontier Housing,” 95; and Hayes, “John Gerham Hardin,” 55.

[xxvii] Steven M. Schnell, “The Kiowa Homeland in Oklahoma,” Geographical Review 90: 2 (April 2000): 161; Benjamin R. Kracht, “Kiowa Religion: An Ethnohistorical Analysis of Ritual Symbolism, 1832-1987,” Southern Methodist University Anthropology Dissertation, Augusts 12, 1989 (2 Parts), pt. I 476-477, pt. II 1034-1036, pt. I 479-481, pt. I 483, pt. I 479. After investigating Indian agent records, anthropologist Benjamin R. Kracht assembled statistics on Kiowa housing from 1874 to 1901. The numbers illustrated the difficulty government officials had in convincing the Kiowas to inhabit frame houses. The numbers indicated that in 1874 nine families inhabited houses built for them, but by 1877 only two families used their houses. In 1879, 247 houses had been constructed for Indians, but by 1885 only 21 houses were inhabited. Kiowa settlement patterns established during the 1880s and 1890s had a more immediate impact on Kiowa bands causing many to become restructured. As the locus of power shifted from band to tribal headmen supported by Indian agents, the bands diminished in power. Instead of bands, distinct Kiowa communities crystallized in geographic locations, such as Carnegie, Mount Scott, Fort Cobb, Mountain View, Saddle Mountain, Anadarko, and Hobart. Over the years, the old band names gave way to names of geographic locations. For example, in Kiowa country, one might hear of Mount Scott Kiowa, the Rainy Mountain Kiowa, the Saddle Mountain Kiowa, and the Hog Creek Kiowa.

[xxviii] Sasser, Dugout to Deco, 5 and Watson Jr., “Frontier Housing 1865 to 1890,” 4.

[xxix] T.W. Boone, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH; P.G. Kildow, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH; and Mrs. Ethel Wright, Historical Survey, Wichita Falls, Texas, CAH.

Homesteading Nesterville: Dugouts and Vernacular Architecture on the Red Rolling Plains

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s