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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The County Farm

Participating in a hand held GPS club, Geocaching, I ran across a very interesting hide Southwest of the community of IKE on Farm Rd 878.
According to geocacher Gurubob
"This site was once an African-American prison farm. Many men lived and died here paying their debt to society. They worked this (some 300+ acres) and several other County farms. I surveyed the property a couple of years ago. During the survey an old man that had grown up on an adjoining property told me he had seen several men buried on this farm. Only a few of the graves have been established but, many are still unlocated."

Well the fact that Gurubob thought it was an African-American prison farm, may be a case of mistaken identification. According to a cemetery historical marker(N 32degrees 23.335 W096degrees 47.552) on 879 directly Southeast of the County Farm building ,
"ELLIS COUNTY FARM CEMETERY, "This fenced area marks the boundaries of what has sometimes been called the pauper cemetery, one of possibly three burial grounds on old county farm land that served as the final resting place for some Ellis County's poor farm residents. County officials purchase 450 acres between 1893 and 1895 to create the farm for the support and employment of the needy. The earliest death recorded at the facility was that of Albert Estes in 1890; the last was Dave Madison in 1946. Iron pipes driven into the ground once identified the graves of some of the other 73 individuals whose names are recorded in county records."

So I'm thinking that maybe there were poor blacks that work the fields but not any prisoners. Or maybe it is possible that some of the not so dangerous criminals were given the option to work on the farm. Whatever the case the site of the hallowed ground is in a tall grass field with a white rod iron fence boundary about 50 yards by 30 yards.

The building is made of brick and had electricity at one time. It has a main entry room and around ten small rooms. The small rooms are small. Like 10 feet by 6 feet but about 10 feet high. The bricks say "standard" on them. It appears the roof had a brick wall around it but is crumbling. It has a hallway that cuts the building in half longways. That does make it appear like a jail walkway. Above the doors is a wood rectangular frame. probably window you could open. The first time I had visited the place it seems like I remember seeing iron bars over one end window opening. If I ever find the picture I will post. It may be a faulty memory.

I ran into a nice guy (even though he is an Aggie fan) on a 4 wheeler while I was touring the building. He said his family has lived on the surrounding land for years and that his brother and him had camped in the dilapidated county building as kids. He always believed it was a prison farm. Apparently there were more buildings to the farm. It is still owned by the County because I read a "letter to the editor" of the Waxahachie Daily Light by Jimmy Simmons. Mr Simmons suggests that an alternative to the Ellis County's 53.875 million dollar facilities bond could be partial solved by building an "adequate facility" "on the county farm, for instance, for a relatively small amount." I found Simmons Letter to the Waxahachie Daily Light on Joey Dauben's Ellis County Observer.
UPDATE LINK: Blog for Ellis County Texas History: Update:The County Farm History Found


Anonymous said...

I wonder what that building was. Why don't they tear it down?

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