Plain is one of the major ghost towns included in T. Lindsay Baker's
first ghost town book Ghost Towns of Texas
deteriorating home of the dean of Belle Plain college, the ruins of
which still stand some 200 yards behind this structure.
- Photo courtesy
Noel Kerns, September 2007
in a Pecan Shell
Named after the first first child born here (Katie Belle Magee) the
town was established on state school land in 1876. A man named Nelson
Smith platted the town carefully, even designating a commercial district.
Smith and others had great hopes for Belle Plain's future - which
probably doomed it from the start.
County was organized in 1877, Belle Plain won the election for
county seat - essentially dooming its rival - Callahan
Belle Plain was on a roll. New arrivals as well as deserting Callahan
City swelled the population. The towns hopes were underlined with
numerous permanent stone structures - including the Belle Plain College
- the ruins of which still stand.
former Dean's residence at Belle Plain College
Photo courtesy Erik
|Belle Plain College,
Photo courtesy texasoldphotos.com
1879 the town got it's own newspaper and success was all but assured.
The population reached a respectable 400 people by 1884, according
to the Handbook of Texas.
Along came the Texas and Pacific railroad. It built through Baird
- essentially doing the same to Belle Plain as Belle Plain did to
Baird became the county
old Callahan County Jails originally in Belle Plain, now in Baird
Photo courtesy Charlene Beatty Beauchamp
The newspaper moved to Baird
and even the stone jail was dismantled (to be remantled in Baird
where it eventually became a Boy Scout meeting place.
The region then went through a hard winter in 1884-85 immediately
followed by a drought. Somehow the college managed to hold on until
By 1897 only a store and a few diehards were left to keep the post
office open until 1909 when it too closed.
The detailed county map of Callahan
County shows a cemetery
marked Belle Plain.
|Ruins of the
First (1877) Callahan County Courthouse in Belle Plain.
1930s photo courtesy TXDoT
We did not get pictures of Belle
Plain Cemetery, it was about a mile south of the location of the
College. The pictures we got were the main college building and what
I believe is remnants of the Dean's house. - Lexie
Nichols & Jordan Gibson, February 09, 2009
| Texas Centennial
county seat of Callahan
County, 1877-1883. The first unofficial county seat was Callahan
City where the commissioners court was organized, July 30, 1877,
and several civil and probate cases filed by an invalid election,
October 13th, and a valid election, December 9, 1877 Belle Plain was
selected. On January 16, 1883, the county seat was located at Baird.
About one mile
south of Belle Plaine College
| Historical Marker
Residents of the
short-lived community of Belle Plaine were burying their dead at this
site as early as 1878. Although the presence of unmarked graves suggests
earlier possible usage, the oldest marked grave, that of sixteen-year-old
Virgil Hill, dates to that year.
Belle Plaine residents informally established a community cemetery
here on vacant land. The graveyard was located within a larger tract
of land that was owned by the state until 1861 and later by several
railroad companies. Its last private owner, the Texas & Pacific Railway
Company, purchased the tract that included this graveyard in 1879
when it anticipated routing its railroad through Belle Plaine. However,
in 1883 the route was changed to pass through nearby Baird.
In response, the railway company deeded the cemetery property to Callahan
County the following year.
Though the community of Belle Plaine had declined by 1909, burials
have continued to take place. Those interred here include area pioneers,
their descendants, and veterans. The historic burial ground remains
an important cultural resource in this area.
| Belle Plaine
Cemetery Historical Marker
Photo courtesy Barclay
Gibson, December 2009
Graves in Belle Plain
Dear TE, I ran across [your magazine] as I was googling Belle Plain,
Texas and thought I would share a story about that ghost town.
My great grandfather was born in Belle Plain in September of 1887
at the height of BP's success. His name was Burney Lafayette (Bun)
Burney's grandfather/mother - my ggg-grandparents are buried in
the Belle Plain cemetery.
Both of their headstones are still standing to this day. Their names
as engraved on the stones are: D.H. Gist (David Hamilton Gist d.
1894) and Pamela Gist d. 1893. They came to Belle Plain from Kentucky
between 1870-1880. DH was a saddler and a farmer in Belle Plain
and the kids and grandkids worked on farms there too as I understand
it. DH and Pam Gist had many children that they also brought to
BP including my gg-grandfather and Burney's father Nathaniel Lafayette
After Belle Plain died, Nathaniel took his family including Burney
(Belle Plain native) and moved to the Red River area mainly Vernon
and Quanah. Burney's
son, my grandfather was born in Vernon. His name was Burney Lafayette
Gist Jr. or B.L. as he known by. Anyway, their are still many Gist's
in the Abilene,
Texas area that are descendants of DH Gist from Belle Plain
(who are no doubt all kin to me).
Anyway, the reason I wrote y'all was that I have direct ties to
Belle Plain and appreciate the photos you all have placed on the
web. They are a glimpse of my family history and I wanted to say
thank you! I have been trying to get a free weekend so I can drive
out there and see my ggg grandparents graves and clean their headstones,
etc. Just thought y'all would appreciate my little story about Belle
Plain, Texas. - Benton Gist, Kennedale, Texas, January 11, 2008
Baird & Belle Plain, New Jail
I recently reviewed your site and was very interested in the information
about the New Jail in Baird.
My mother (Nora A. Reed Bridges) was born in that jail in 1897.
Also, two brothers were born there. My maternal grandfather, J.M.
Reed was the jailer and my grandmother cooked for the inmates. They
moved from there to the Haskell
area where my grandfather was a blacksmith and deputy sheriff. -
James R Bridges, June 04, 2005
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing
Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history
and recent/vintage/historic photos, please contact