In Stonewall, Texas, the Lyndon Baines Johnson State Park is right across the Pedernales River from the LBJ Ranch, which is a segment of the Lyndon Baines Johnson National Park. Confusing? Yes. But it’s well worth sorting out.
The LBJ State Park and Historic Site is a day use area with picnic tables, a swimming pool, and nature trails. But for us, the focal point is the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm where life slows down and steps backward to 1915 in an old farmstead under live oak trees. No electricity. No running water. The volunteer interpreters, women in long calicos and men in overalls, take on the daily chores of a Texas-German family living on a Hill Country farm. Some chores are seasonal, such as planting a garden, canning vegetables and fruits, butchering, and making lye soap. But day-to-day living means the cow has to be milked, the hogs slopped, and the eggs gathered. Naturally, all farm animals have to be fed. Dinner—the noon meal—is cooked and the house is cleaned, butter is churned, cheese is made, and laundry is scrubbed and hung on the line to flap in Hill Country breezes.
The Sauer-Beckman Farm is authentic, settled by Johann and Christine Sauer and their four children in 1869. The family prospered with good crops. By 1885, the Sauers had built several stone buildings near the original rock and log cabins. Their family also grew to include ten children. A daughter, Augusta Sauer Lindig, serving as a mid-wife in 1908, delivered the first child of state representative Sam Ealy Johnson, whose family lived across the Pedernales River from the Sauer’s farm. That child, Lyndon Baines Johnson, grew up to become the 36th president of the United States.
The Beckmann family acquired the property in 1900. A good cotton crop in 1915 provided money for Emil and Emma Beckmann to build a new barn, to add a frame room onto the old rock structure, and to construct porches connecting to a lovely Victorian house covered with fashionable pressed tin. Weathered rail fencing defined boundaries around the barns and out buildings for the milk cow, a sow and her piglets, plow horses, a few sheep, and a flock of chickens.
In 1966, Edna Beckmann Hightower sold the site to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Lyndon Baines Johnson had the idea of preserving and operating the farm as though it was still the early 1900s. He surmised: “How are youngsters going to know about early Texas life if we don’t show them?”
Archeological surveying and restoration work started and the farm opened to the public in 1975. Since then, the farm remains forever a small piece of Texas as it was at the beginning of the 20th century. Time stands still when one of the interpreters says: “Welcome to my parlor.” When observing the canning or the cheese making, they often overhear guests’ remark: “That’s just how Mama did it!”
Because the Beckmann’s prospered, the Victorian house is filled with furnishings that might not have been found in every Texas farm home at that time. Each item in the house, including a collection of period clothing and a hand crank sewing machine, is inventoried and archived with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Tours of the complex, including the Sauer-Beckmann Farm with its smokehouse, the Beckmann’s home, garden, and the original log house last approximately an hour. No entrance fee is required, but donation boxes are available. Individuals and families can take the tour on a first-come, first-serve basis.
For more information: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/lyndon-b-johnson
Traveling in their motorhome several months each year, Arline and her photographer husband, Lee Smith, make their permanent home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. She currently is a presenter for Workamper Rendezvous, sponsored by Workamper News. Arline has dozens of magazine articles published, as well as five books: “Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure” (now available on Kindle); “Road Work II: The RVer’s Ultimate Income Resource Guide”; “Truly Zula; When Heads & Hearts Collide”; and “The Heart of Branson”, a history of the families who started the entertainment town and those who sustain it today. Visit Arline’s personal blog at ArlineChandler.Blogspot.com