George Jowell, according to a history of north and west Texas published in 1906, was a "Texan of the purest water." His father, James Jowell, served with Capt. Jack Hays' Texas Rangers during the Mexican War. George came to the Republic of Texas when he was 4 and was 15 when his family moved to Palo Pinto County in 1855. George served with the 14th Texas Cavalry during the Civil War.
George often joined with the townsfolk of Palo Pinto in a stockade across the street from the courthouse for protection when Indian attacks were foretold. In 1870, he married Leanna T. Dobbs and moved 15 miles out of town. He pursued his ranching career and knew the situation his family might have to face when he took his herds to market.
The story is told that one night in 1872, while George was away on a cattle drive, the horses began neighing and the cattle moved about restlessly. Leanna Jowell remembered her father, who had been scalped and killed earlier in the year, so the encounter with Indians was still fresh on her mind. She grabbed her baby and, with a hired hand, rode hard to a neighbor's house. When she returned, she found her home burned to the ground.
George was determined to build a home that would withstand further Indian intrusion. He hired a stonemason to construct a two-story rock house. When completed, the two-room house had rifle slits above the main door to protect a horse corral in front of the house. These openings were cut on an angle so an arrow could not enter. A trap door was cut in the first floor ceiling and a ladder was kept nearby so the family could climb to the top floor, pull up the ladder and be safe. A wooden outer staircase was added after the threat of Indian attacks had passed.
Stone and cedar provided material for construction. Limestone was likely quarried at Rock Creek, three-quarters of a mile northwest of the house. It was used for lintels and the walls. Sandstone, softer and easier to cut and shape, was substituted when craftsmanship was important, such as in the corners and sides of windows and doors. The craftsman's tool markings can still be seen. The interior walls were covered with a plaster of lime, sand and horsehair.
The Jowell house was dedicated Aug. 4, 1979, after the 90 tons of stone were marked one by one, moved several hundred miles and reassembled at the NRHC.