The pioneer home site on military property is only three miles from the Groner Pitts National Guard Armory, but the trip takes a traveler back more than seven decades in time.
Representatives of four organizations made the journey early Saturday morning to continue an archeological exploration of the location where a pioneer Brown County family settled before or during the 1880s, and raised a family and crops until World War II began.
That’s when the U.S. Army bought the Lacy acreage and made it part of Camp Bowie.
“Nothing like this has ever been tried,” Frank Hilton of Brownwood, a retired Boy Scout executive and local historian. “We’ve got four organizations here helping with this project.”
Joining officials with the Cultural Resource Programs of the Texas Military Forces were a total of 24 representatives of the Brown County Historical Society, Boy Scout Troop 14 and the Central Texas Metal Treasure Club. Volunteers arrived at the home site as part of the observance of National Public Lands Day.
“This is something rather unusual,” said Kristen Wenzel, program manager for the Texas Military Forces Cultural Resources Program. “We don’t often have young people helping us out.”
Wenzel spent considerable time with the Scouts, showing them the skills required to examine archeological sites and explaining how to identify the source of different items they found. The volunteers were finding mostly metal objects, but a few pieces of glass and one broken piece of a china plate were recovered.
Wenzel assigned a number of key tasks to Scouts, who stayed busy using metal detectors to locate artifacts, mark the location with flags, and then bag and label the items. Another Scout handled a GPS device with ease.
Scouts participating in the project expressed an interest in history and science, but Andrew Chaney said he had an even deeper interest than that.
“I’m an archeology wannabe,” he said. “Do you have to go to college to do it?”
Wenzel, who answered that college is all but mandatory, had a bit of practical advise.
“You can always do archeology as a hobby,” she said. “If you want to make a lot of money, you might want to think about another career.” The state has a certification process for skilled non-professionals, she said.
“I think this was a good start,” Wenzel said as the volunteers began packing up after lunch. “We were able to get the GPS on several places. And we’ve found enough artifacts to catalog and display perhaps in your museum.”
A Department of Defense Legacy Grant was awarded the program to obtain materials and supplies for the volunteers, Wenzel said.
“We’ve been working to plan this project for several months,” Hilton said. “It took that long to apply for the grant.”
Wenzel said she hopes to return to Brown County next year for a similar project, perhaps at a site where Native Americans lived. The Scouts appeared pleased at the prospect.
“Everyone seems to like that,” Wenzel said.
The home site was first recorded in 1995, which found the small (24 by 30 foot) house’s foundation, surrounding wall, cistern and scattered domestic artifacts. It was investigated as part of a larger historical background research project in 2002. Hilton said it appears the home site is eligible for consideration for listing on the National Register. At least one intact check dam used for erosion control activities of the Depression-era Civil Conservation Corps may be helpful in creating a baseline for other evaluations of similar properties.
The military record shows that the site was located on the James Cotton Survey, and the property was awarded to Cotton by the Harris County Board of Land Commissioners in June 1845. He sold the land to C.A. Hopson and John I. Cain in July 1847, but they are believed to have been speculators who never lived there because they weren’t listed in the 1860 Brown County census. In 1882, the first year county land records are available, the 320-acre property on which the site is located was owned by S.E. Lacy.
Lacy and his wife, Effie, had at least three children, and by the 1910s their sons Frank and Will farmed several sites in what in now Camp Bowie. Frank and his sister Margery, who never married, were living there with their mother as of 1938; Will and his wife, Vera, lived nearby.
The site is located at the edge of a terrace above steep slope leading to the Lewis Creek flood plain.
Volunteers had recently visited the site to clear off tall grass and brush within the boundaries of the rock fence, which simplified the process of looking for artifacts. The short rock fence and a cistern that has not gone dry in years are the primary features remaining at the site.