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  Texas : Features : Columns : "Letters from Central Texas"

The Most Famous Bathtub in Coryell County

by Clay Coppedge
GATESVILLE - Thomas and Laquita Barton's house outside of town has the first bathtub in Coryell County, a hand-carved limestone classic. They don't make them like that anymore, and haven't for a long time.

Thomas Bone, a Tennessee native who came to Texas to live with his sister when he was five, began building the original house where the Bartons live now in 1872, using native limestone and lime for mortar. The man knew his way around a rock.

You can't tell the story of the bathtub without a little history on the house, and you can't tell about the house without talking about Thomas Bone.


Thomas Bone was a stone mason by trade and a good one. He hauled into Gatesville most of the rock for two courthouses (including the current one) and the rock jail. As a stone mason and a member of the Masonic lodge, Bone was the man who laid the cornerstone for the Coryell County courthouse. He built a stone archway over the entrance to his house and carved into it Masonic symbols.

The house today is a marvel of old and new. Laquita Barton was a decorator for more than 20 years and took some of her favorite features from houses she worked on for others and applied them to this house. The bartons doubled the size and were able to incorporate part of the stone from a two-story washhouse that Bone also built into the new part of the house.

The front of the house is divided into two parts, each one a mirror image of the other. The hallway leading to the back of the house was once a dogtrot.-

About halfway through a tour of the home you come to the most famous bathtub in Coryell County. The tub, like the house, wash house, rock walls and archway, is the work of Thomas Bone.

Bone had built a bathhouse not far from the residence, but when he went to New Orleans and saw his first bathtub he knew right then and there that he had to have one of his very own, but not at the exorbinat prices the New Orleans city slickers were asking. The frugal and self-reliant Bone determined he could build his own bathtub for a lot less than the $3 the highway bandits in New Orleans were asking.

Bone hand-chiseled what was for that day and age a standard-sized tub from a big piece of limestone. Later, when a small west side bedroom was converted into a bathroom, the stone tub was moved into the house and plumbed.

The rest is history.

Mrs. Barton says they still put the tub to good use with their grandkids from time to time.

In the world of bathroom fixtures, the bathtub is a a celebrity and an ageless wonder. When the Bartons were remodeling the house people would drive up their long driveway to gaze upon the old bathtub.

"They would drive off without saying anything to us," Mrs. Barton says. "They just wanted to see the bathtub."


A perhaps mythical bottle of whiskey is almost as much a part of the legend of the Thomas Bone house as the bathtub.

Thomas Bone had two sons, Bill and Dick, who reportedly liked to take a nip or two every now and then, especially if their father happened to be away from the property.

Such an opportunity presented itself one day when Thomas Bone left the house to go into Gatesville. He left his sons, Bill and Dick, in charge of the day's work. He returned home and caught the boys drinking but seemed to take it in stride.

"You boys go on," he said. "I'll finish the job." The elder Bone then took a trowel and sealed the whiskey into the wall.

The Bartons had the house's stone repointed and hoped to find the well-aged bottle of whiskey but did not. Presumably, it is there still. Just like the bathtub.
Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas"
December 15, 2004 column
 
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