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Columns | "In The Pines With Dana Goolsby"

History On
The Brink Of Extinction

By Dana Goolsby
Dana Goolsby
Juan Antonio Badillo, a Texas born Mexican, otherwise known as a Tejano, was a surveyor who lived around Nacogdoches in the 1830s. He also owned a few parcels of land. One parcel of land Badillo is said to have owned is just west of Grapeland, Texas.

A two-story dogtrot style house, currently belonging to minor heirs, stands sturdy in the Rockhill area, beneath the pineywoods, on a curvy clay road. A native rock chimney can be seen on the left side of the structure. Although the structure is covered in boards, the cabin was originally hand-hewn from native logs a long, long time ago. In the left upstairs area the native logs, thick and massive, are still intact. Logs underneath the house are said to be entirely petrified, according to family members of the most recent inhabitants of the house.
Houston County TX - Juan Antonio Badillo's Cabin
Badillo's Cabin
Photo by Dana Goolsby, December 2010
Houston County TX - Badillo's Cabin native rock chimney
Native rock chimney
Photo by Dana Goolsby, December 2010
In recent years, following the death of the most recent owners, the house has been left unattended due to a dispute over property rights, yet the structure has not wavered. Underbrush and choking vines are beginning to encase the structure, however, the foundation is surprisingly secure. In some areas the cracks of the floor gape wide enough to see the logs and dirt beneath the structure, and in other areas natural light peers through the old tin roof and the chimney.

Badillo is believed to be responsible for the still-standing cabin, which could quite possibly be one of East Texas’ oldest structures, and the oldest standing structure in Houston County. According to legend and sparse records Badillo, also listed in some records as Antonio Padillo, left East Texas in 1836 and enlisted for six months of service with the new Republic of Texas. Badillo was among a small handful of Tejanos who died at the Alamo on March 6, 1836. It is believed that when Badillo decided to join the fight for Texas’ independence and travel to the Alamo, he deeded the Houston County property to the Sheridan family, with which he was friends.

As of today no one has proved that the structure was constructed in the 1830s, however, no one has proved that it was not. Other than the land’s abstract listing, Badillo’s name only appears once in a one-time ownership. There are very few clues to the fallen Alamo soldier’s history in Grapeland, Texas.

"There was just not enough record keeping then," said Maxine Moore, Chaiperson of the Houston County Historical Commission.

According to members of the Musick family, the most recent owners, Mrs. Musick at one time possessed the original deed to the property. But, in recent years, through tragic events the deed has gone missing.

According to Moore, Badillo was born in Texas. Upon arrival to the Alamo Badillo was made a non-commissioned sergeant in a cavalry company raised by Juan Seguin. Seguin was a rancher and Bexar political leader who opposed Santa Anna.

Badillo fought alongside Seguin in siege of Bexar in 1835. The battle placed San Antonio into Republic hands. Badillo accompanied Seguin back to the Alamo in 1836, and there he died while Seguin and his fellow soldiers were attempting to recruit reinforcement troops in neighboring towns of San Antonio.

Badillo’s land in Houston County became Sheridan property after his death at the Alamo. Two Sheridan daughters later sold the property to Marvin Lee and Billie Jean Musick. The Musicks lived on the historic property until this last decade.
Houston County TX - Family Cemetery
Family Cemetery
Photo by Dana Goolsby, December 2010
Houston County TX - Family Cemetery
Photo by Dana Goolsby, December 2010
Houston County TX - Family Cemetery Rock Fence
Rock Fence
Photo by Dana Goolsby, December 2010
Not far from the old dogtrot house is a rock-fenced family cemetery. A tombstone marks the graves of William N. (Bill) Sheridan and his wife, Mary Calhoun Sheridan. Bill was born in 1826, and died in 1918. Mary was born in 1837 and died in 1900. Other graves in the little cemetery date back as far as 1889.

According to Moore the cemetery is no longer a part of the dogtrot house property.

"The William Nugent Sheridan Cemetery is some 300 yds. S of the cabin and is on land and is on land currently owned by Darrell L. Burnett. He was the brother of John Sheridan. His exact grave site is unknown due to destruction by a timber company. His broken headstone is in the Augusta Cemetery at his wife's grave," said Moore.

"The Houston County Historical Commission would love to have this property," said Moore.

Moore explained that the Historical Commission cannot purchase property from individuals, but asserted that the commission is currently exploring avenues which could assist the historical commission.

"We are trying to start a program called Friends of the Houston County Historical Commission. They could purchase the property and would have control of the property," said Moore. Currently the property rights are in dispute. Moore is hopeful that the dispute can be resolved quickly in order to preserve some of the county’s oldest history. The property has been left to minor heirs, and common ground has not been reached with guardians of minor parties. Biological minor heirs to the property, as well as their guardian would like the property to be obtained by the Historical Commission in order to salvage their family history, as well as some of East Texas' oldest history. The Houston County Historical Commission desires to see the property maintained as well as a historical marker sign set in front of the property to commemorate one of the oldest standing structures in Houston County.
Houston County TX Rock with Lichen
Photo by Dana Goolsby, December 2010
Houston County TX Rock with Lichen
Photo by Dana Goolsby, December 2010
Houston County TX Rock with Lichen
Photo by Dana Goolsby, December 2010
The legend of Badillo, and his East Texas roots and lasting architecture may never be proven. Lack of records, and missing documents have left little room for fact check, however, Badillo did make a noble sacrifice during the battle of the Alamo.

Those interested in taking an active role in the Houston County Historical Commission in order to preserve the county's history are encouraged to get involved. For more information regarding the Friends of the Houston County Historical Commission call (936)-544-3255 ext. 238, or email hchc@co.houston.tx.us for more information.

© Dana Goolsby
"In The Pines With Dana Goolsby" January 1, 2011 Column
Reporter of The Grapeland Messenger

See also Juan's Cabin by Bob Bowman ("All Things Historical")
Alamo | Battle of the Alamo | Grapeland, Texas | Nacogdoches
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