Moving History by
Governor Bill & Vera Daniel Historic Village
recent death of Bill Daniel of Liberty
removed from East Texas one of its
most colorful personalities, a bigger-than-life rancher and politician who, according
to one of his eulogists, "squeezed a lot out of life."|
Daniel, who was
90 when he passed away, was a member of a dynasty which produced Texas Governor
and U.S. Senator Price Daniel, Bill's brother.
Bill himself became governor of the U.S. Territory of Guam in 1961 through a presidential
appointment by John F. Kennedy.
But Bill Daniel is best remembered by
some admirers for one of the strangest events in East
Texas--the move of an entire town from Liberty
to Waco, a distance
of more than 200 miles, in October of 1986 during the Texas sesquicentennial celebration.
Daniel and his family lived on historic Plantation Ranch. Over the years,
he acquired more than two dozen historic buildings around East
Texas, restored them and established a frontier village on the ranch.
In the l980s, Daniel and his wife Vera donated the buildings, their furniture
and artifacts to Baylor University, where he graduated.
The caravan of
forty moving companies from six states, made up of nearly 100 vehicles, snaked
its way across the East Texas landscape
through Palestine, Mexia,
Groesbeck and dozens
of smaller towns, seldom traveling more than 20 miles an hour.
caravan of nineteen truckloads of more than 8,000 artifacts and furniture preceded
the procession of buildings to a site near the Brazos River on the Baylor campus.
The moving came with some restrictions from the Texas Highway Department.
No structure could be more than 18 feet tall, 24 feet and six inches wide, or
eighty feet long. Fortunately, the longest building in the village was a livery
stable measuring 74 feet. Visions of a quaint caravan of antique buildings snaking
across the landscape were dashed by another Highway Department regulation. The
two dozen buildings and their support vehicles had to be divided into five separate
caravans a mile apart, allowing for the passage of other vehicles on the roads.
Among the transported buildings were a 300-year-old water wheel-operated grist
mill, a one-room schoolhouse, a town hall, a potato shed, a hide house where animal
hides were cured, a log house where slaves lived, and twenty-three horse-drawn
Larger buildings, such as the town hall and livery stable, had
to be separated from their roofs or altered to permit the move down the highways.
At the time, the move was believed to be the largest ever made for an entire village
in the United States.
The Daniels bought Plantation Ranch in 1949, becoming
the fourth owner. The ranch's founder was Aaron Cherry, Sr., who came to Texas
in 1818, made friends with the Coushatta Indians and built his plantation home
on a bluff overlooking the Trinity River. Cherry's friends included General Sam
Houston and Captain Hugh Blair Johnson, Daniel's great-great grandfather and the
first alcalde (mayor) of Liberty.
When the Daniels bought the ranch, it had reverted to a jungle. "There
were vines and brush growing even in the plantation house, the fences were down
and wild hogs ran everywhere," said Daniel in 1986.
Over the years, the
Daniels opened Plantation Ranch for special parties for crippled and handicapped
children, bringing in such stars as Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Loretta Lynn and Hank
Williams to entertain.
Today, visitors to Waco
can see the village standing near the Strecker Museum.
Bill & Vera Daniel Historic Village Mayborn
Museum Complex, Waco,
1108 university Parks D.
Mon.- Sat. 10 a.m.
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August 7, 2006 Column|
Published with permission
Distributed by the East
Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman of Lufkin is a former president of the
Association and the editor of more than 30 books about East Texas.