ANDREWS, Texas —
The J.S. Means Ranch House is one of the oldest homes in Andrews County. Its story didn't start in the heart of the city, but out in the vast, open country.
“The Texas government was trying to bring people out here into the frontier in the early 1900s, late 1800s,” Legacy Park and Museum board member Edward Saldivar said. “They would give them land if they were homesteading it. So, they would homestead at a quadrant of four sections, which this house sat on one.”
Chris Tom, another board member, knows a thing or two about the area and its history.
“So this was just a kind of wasteland out here, and some tough people moved out here and decided to run some cattle,” Tom said. “And then lo and behold, some oil was struck in the late '20s, in 1929 here in Andrews County, and it changed the economy forever.”
In fact, Tom’s family once lived in the home.
“We moved and leased the ranch from the Means family in 1924, and they moved off to Fort Worth and we've operated it,” Tom said. “My great-grandad lived in the house, then my granddad and then my dad from there on. And the house was moved here in 2010 to keep from vandalism out there. Where it was at it, it was kind of isolated, so it was moved into town and now is going to be a museum.”
Now the ranch house is unlocking the stories of Andrews’ history.
“So the bunkhouse was there for cowboys that would come in and help,” Tom said. “They work around on the ranch. And so, it was a place for them to stay apart from the family that was living there and working there. And so, everybody would get together in the mornings, have breakfast and turn out and go work cattle and do what needed to be done.”
While the walls and floors are shiny and new, the home is not only a piece of history, it will house it too.
“The plans for it is to display artifacts from Andrews County, and that includes a mammoth tooth and medals from people in town that served in the early wars,” Saldivar said.
That road to where Andrews is today wasn't easy. A replica chuck wagon sits by the home, representing the hard life of settlers.
“It wasn't running down to the grocery store,” Saldivar said. “You made your, ground your own wheat or whatever to make your bread that you got to make, and over a Dutch oven. You know, you start from scratch. That is genuine scratch.”
And this piece of history almost didn't make it.
“So my granddad didn't want the original wagon, so it went to his brother,” Tom said. “But he said he spent some of the worst days of his life behind it. Because he was only five years old, having to sleep out on a saddle as a pillow. So, my grandmother talked him into having a replica built of it. He didn't much care for that, but he got in line and took it as his own.”
A piece of a story that will be shared with the next generation.
“To expose them to the life, up until the '90s, what we did without cellphones,” Saldivar said.
A home that that tells the stories of Andrews’ history.
"Really, really special, you know, leaves all the generations that have came before us just something,” Tom said. “And impact knowing that they're going to be honored and remembered by having this here. It's really special."