It was the dream of Joseph James Barton to have his elegant, two-and-a-half-story house anchor a new town that was secured by a railroad depot and train. Although with much effort to make the town a reality, it didn't last. The Barons' home was the capstone of a planned community on a railroad line that never came through.
Joseph and Mary Barton moved with their family in 1891 to take advantage of low land prices in West Texas and advancing railroad lines. Barton and two uncles bought 50 sections of land and started their TL Ranch about 33 miles north of Lubbock. In 1897, Joseph stayed behind to tend the ranch while Mary moved to Plainview so the Barton children could attend school.
In 1906, news came that a railroad line to connect the Santa Fe at Hereford with the Texas and Pacific line at Colorado City would pass through his TL Ranch property. By 1907 land values on the South Plains skyrocketed, with acreage selling for 10 times what Barton had paid for it. The land boom gave him the idea to develop a town with a post office, lumberyard, mercantile, hotel, church, school and, as the centerpiece, a beautiful home. He started selling land to settlers and business people and the town of Bartonsite developed.
By 1909, the town had attracted 250 people and was supporting a hotel, lumberyard, church and school. Barton turned his efforts to building the elegant home he envisioned for his family. He purchased plans for the home for $45 from Modern Dwellings, a magazine published by the George F. Barber Co. of Knoxville, Tenn. The Queen Anne-style house the Bartons selected had five rooms on the ground floor, five rooms on the second floor, plus two indoor bathrooms, a mansard-style roof and a widow's walk. A large porch with Tuscan columns wrapped around the front and one side of the house.
Most of the building materials were shipped by train to Amarillo and hauled by wagon to Bartonsite. Other items were purchased at the Bartonsite lumberyard. Doorknobs, locks, mantels and mirrors were acquired from mail-order companies.
Modern features included running water in the kitchen, sliding doors, built-in closets, acetylene (carbide) lighting, and a milk-and-meat cooler at the back of the house. The tall, spacious attic was used for storage.
At this same time, many of the ranchers who had survived drought, blizzards and the Panic of 1893 began moving out of the harsh region. They sought good grassland for their cattle and a less severe climate. Then, to make things worse, in 1909 the Santa Fe company completed its line from Amarillo to Lubbock, running through Abernathy, about 8 miles east of Bartonsite.
Joseph Barton saw the inevitable demise of his planned community, and no doubt with a heavy heart, he helped move the town's businesses to Abernathy. The church went to Cotton Center; the store and post office remained in what was left of Bartonsite to serve settlers who bought and moved onto Barton land. The big house was the only home left. In 1921, Bartonsite dissolved when the post office shut down. The Bartons, like other ranchers, had to make changes to survive. The herd size was cut and crops were planted.
In the 1920s, Jack Barton, a son of Joseph and Mary, went into partnership with his father raising sheep and cattle. The arrangement was abandoned in the early 1930s. Jack and his wife, Josephine Waddell, bought the Barton homestead. Jack cultivated the land, growing cotton and grain. Jack died on Oct. 20, 1967. After his death, Josephine, who appreciated the National Ranching Heritage Center's dedication to historic preservation, bequeathed the house to the NRHC. She died in February 1974.
Joseph Barton's dream may not have come true in his lifetime, but ironically, when his house was moved from its original location in Bartonsite to the NRHC, it was placed not far from a Santa Fe depot and locomotive. He might have been pleased to know that.