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 Texas : Features : Columns : "Texas Tales"

Mystery Wall

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
Someone went to a lot of trouble to build the old stacked-stone wall hidden in a thick stand of yaupon and other brush on a Lee County ranch. That much is obvious.

But who built the wall, when they built the wall and why they built the wall are mysteries no one has yet been able to answer.

Douglas Boriack, owner of a heavy equipment business in Giddings, bought a hundred or so acres near the small community of Fedor about 23 miles west of Giddings in the mid-1980s. Some time not long after that, while using a bulldozer to tear down brush on his newly acquired rural property, Boriack spotted a lichen-covered wall made of heavy, iron-rich stones common in the area.

At first he intended to keep on bulldozing and take it all down. But then he decided to take a better look. He got off his yellow iron workhorse and started looking around.

The wall stood at least four feet high and extended about 200 feet on the flank of a round prominence overlooking a spring-fed creek. It consisted of about five layers of rock, one rock wide, carefully arranged so that it would stay put. And clearly it has. Concealed by brush and hackberry trees, the wall obviously has been there a very long time.

The German-settled Hill Country has plenty of limestone or sandstone fences, but this structure is more wall than fence. And stone fences are not found in Lee County.

"It's well-built," says former Highway Patrol Trooper Jimmie Luecke, a friend of Boriack's who left the DPS in 1980 to work heavy equipment during the Giddings oil boom. Now he ranches. "No amateur built this, but nobody in Lee County knows who did."

In an effort to learn more about the rock wall, Luecke asked another friend, Giddings attorney Randy Stewart, to look into the matter. Stewart could find nothing. Nor did the late Louis Knox, whose father John had been Lee County's surveyor for years, recall having heard his father - who knew every square foot of the county - ever mention such a structure.

Boriack knows of nothing else on his property indicative of early settlement - no old ruins, no old graves, no old trail. A school for blacks from the days of segregation once stood near the entrance to his property, but the stone wall is not near enough to that spot to have had any connection.

Sure, he's found a couple of pre-historic projectile points on his place, but the mostly nomadic Indians of Texas are not known to have left infrastructure.

The first Europeans to settle Texas, the Spanish, blazed a major thoroughfare (at least by 18th century standards) from Louisiana to San Antonio called the El Camino Real. The trail cut through what is now Lee County roughly along the route of present State Highway 21. According to Boriack, the mystery wall is about 10 miles from the intersection of SH 21 and U.S. 290.

The wall could be a previously unknown artifact of transhumance, a Spanish agricultural process of using a plot of land along a creek or river for both crops and livestock. They would build a wall parallel with the water to keep livestock from small farming plots along the stream. After the growing season, the animals would be allowed inside the enclosure to graze off the remnants of the crop. If that had been the case at this site, wood must have been used to close off each end of the / /-shaped area between the wall and the creek.

But the nearest known Spanish settlements were the San Xavier missions in what is now Milam County along the San Gabriel River.

American mustangers, characters like Phillip Nolan, slipped into Spanish Texas from Louisiana in the early 1800s and made a tidy profit capturing and selling wild horses. They kept their horses in corrals, but the stone structure on Boriack's property is linear with no right angles.

One thing for sure is that the wall predates the availability of barbed wire, which began crisscrossing Texas in the 1880s. Digging post holes would have seemed like play compared with stacking the heavy rocks someone used to build Lee County's mystery wall.
Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" >
November 2 , 2006 column
 
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