Lucia Hernandez Russell, my sister Frances Doncaster Zepeda, and myself
Rosemary Doncaster Fierro in July, 1955 when we lived in Casa Piedra
with my dad Charles Edward Doncaster and my great grandmother."
- Rosemary Fierro, Jan. 18, 2015
a Pecan Shell
for Rock House, this ghost town is a bit of an anomaly. It
appears prominently on the Official State Highway Map for 2010,
but yet there is no road leading to it. The 1998 County Maps of
Texas by the same Department of Transportation do not show Casa
Piedras, even though the county maps are traditionally more detailed.
According to the Handbook of Texas Online, "a winding unpaved
road leads there from Plata,
ten miles to the North." Plata doesn't show on either the state
or county map of Presidio
County. Here's roughly what the Handbook of Texas Online says
about Casa Piedra.
A man by the name of Domenicio Mata built a rock house there in
1883. Something must've been happening there for by the year 1900
there were about 50 families in residence. A school was started
in 1906 and a woman by the name of Lucia Hernandez Russell
is given credit for its founding. The Russell and the Vasquez
families made up nearly the entire population.
The town throve until the early 30s when they got hit with a double
whammy of drought AND depression. The railroad (Santa Fe) came in
1930 which was just in time to make it easier for the town folk
to leave. By 1933 there were only 10 residents left and most of
them were probably seriously considering leaving.
They closed the post office in 1953 and the only store closed in
1957. In 1968 there was a reported population of 21 people who all
found something better to do than sit around and play dominos in
Photo courtesy Ron Duckworth, 2002
in the 1940s
to school where one very sweet teacher taught all the grades. I
don’t recall her name. The children were supplied cans of peanut
butter to spread on tortillas they brought from home. Evaporated
can milk was mixed and passed around to all, at lunchtime.
My sister and I carried sack lunches and traded our sandwiches and
fresh fruit for some of their peanut butter and milk.
We played school yard games, “Tag” and “Red Rover Come Over” during
recess. We learned some Spanish and they learned some English. They
were the best mannered children and made us welcomed there. We were
sad to leave.
I can’t recall any buildings but the school. We rode in a pickup
truck with two little girls from Plata.
Their father, named Gus, was a section hand for the Santa Fe Railroad.
Our father knew him and his family. We, four girls, were the only
children there and so glad to be friends. All told, Gus and his
wife were the parents of nineteen children, some already grown.
We spent a good Christmas there. We shared Mother baked cake to
trade for squash and vegetables from Gus and his family. Daddy was
a hunter and fisherman. He always shared his bounty with his neighbors.
We were monetarily poor, but so rich in the things that count."
on a West Texas Paint Train in the 1940s
to Casa Piedra
Plata, Texas is at the
south end of ranch road 169, south of Marfa.
Rand McNally U.S. Road Atlas, West Texas map, shows Casa Piedra
on a dirt road south of road 169 that continues onto the "River
Road" just east of Presidio.
Page 114 of "The
Roads of Texas", Shearer publications, locates both towns and
the roads and the ex Santa Fe (now South Orient) Railroad. By the
way we understand the rail line is now being rehabilitated and a
couple of months ago the rails looked as though a train or two had
Also AAA Texas maps show Casa Piedra and connecting roads. - Dale
Gunnar, January 21, 2002
Casa Piedra, Texas
I am a direct descendant of Lucia Hernandez Russell of Casa Piedra.
She was my great grandmother and we fondly referred to her as Mamma
Chia. The Russell family helped settle Presidio county and the Vasquez
family, who are our cousins, own the actual "rock house" and yes
there is a museum in it. The reason it still appears on Texas Maps
is because there was a U.S. post office there. On my great grandmother's
property stands the two-room schoolhouse mentioned in one of your
posts. My father, William Edward Russell the IV, went to school
in that building until the eighth grade as did his two sisters and
many of his cousins. He then went to high school in Marfa
as the school only went to the eight grade. One of his teachers
not only taught my dad, but also taught my brother and me. Education
was a hallmark of my great grandmother and several of her daughters
became teachers and three of her great granddaughters are educators.
I was the organizer of the reunion in 2001 mentioned in another
one of the posts on your site. We had 150 family members attend
and that was just a drop in the bucket of relatives connected to
what others are calling a ghost town. I haven't met any ghosts down
there, but Mamma Chia sure had a lot of ghost stories to tell us
as children. I have many, many fond memories of Casa Piedra because
my grandparents owned and occupied the ranch behind the rock house
and my brother, sister and I still own the ranch along with my two
Aunts and their children. There is so much more to tell about Casa
Piedra, I could write a book. Hmm, maybe I will! - Karen Russell
Holmes, July 18, 2014
I lived in Casa piedra with my greatgrandmother Lucia Hernandez
Russell in the 1950s. After my mother died my father, sister and
me moved to live with my grandmother to help care for us. I have
very special memories of my years there. - Rosemary Doncaster Fierro,
June 16, 2013
Whoa there! There are plenty of the Russell and Vasquez family still
around. There was a family reunion in Marfa
not too long ago and we were well represented. I spent many a summer
on the ranch with my grandmother. The museum is in the old post
office and has some interesting artifacts of the families in the
area. I'll send more information as I dig it up. - Joe Lopez, AKA
Pepper Russell, June 08, 2006
My son and
I visited both Plata
and Casa Piedra in June, 2001. They both are way away from anywhere.
The road is mostly graded dirt and now continues beyond Casa Piedra
all the way to Presidio.
Only ruins remain of Plata.
It is well worth a look-see. There is a historical marker there
to explain the history.
Casa Piedra is an oasis worth the stop. There is only one house
and someone lives there. The place is well maintained and shaded
by large trees and there are picnic tables for visitors to rest.
No one was home when we were there but you could tell the residents
welcomed visitors. They even have a small museum in a room in the
front of the house (we peeked through the latched screen door)...
- Ron Duckworth, Arlington, Texas, March 16, 2002
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