recent death of Bill Daniel of Liberty
removed from East Texas
one of its most colorful personalities, a bigger-than-life rancher
and politician who, according to one of his eulogists, "squeezed a
lot out of life."
Daniel, who was 90 when he passed away, was a member of a dynasty
which produced Texas Governor and U.S. Senator Price
Daniel, Bill's brother. Bill himself became governor of the U.S.
Territory of Guam in 1961 through a presidential appointment by John
But Bill Daniel is best remembered by some admirers for one of the
strangest events in East Texas--the
move of an entire town from Liberty
a distance of more than 200 miles, in October of 1986 during the Texas
Daniel and his family lived on historic Plantation Ranch. Over the
years, he acquired more than two dozen historic buildings around East
Texas, restored them and established a frontier village on the
In the l980s, Daniel and his wife Vera donated the buildings, their
furniture and artifacts to Baylor University, where he graduated.
The caravan of forty moving companies from six states, made up of
nearly 100 vehicles, snaked its way across the East
Texas landscape through Palestine,
and dozens of smaller towns, seldom traveling more than 20 miles an
Another caravan of nineteen truckloads of more than 8,000 artifacts
and furniture preceded the procession of buildings to a site near
the Brazos River on the Baylor campus.
The moving came with some restrictions from the Texas Highway Department.
No structure could be more than 18 feet tall, 24 feet and six inches
wide, or eighty feet long. Fortunately, the longest building in the
village was a livery stable measuring 74 feet. Visions of a quaint
caravan of antique buildings snaking across the landscape were dashed
by another Highway Department regulation. The two dozen buildings
and their support vehicles had to be divided into five separate caravans
a mile apart, allowing for the passage of other vehicles on the roads.
Among the transported buildings were a 300-year-old water wheel-operated
grist mill, a one-room schoolhouse, a town hall, a potato shed, a
hide house where animal hides were cured, a log house where slaves
lived, and twenty-three horse-drawn vehicles.
Larger buildings, such as the town hall and livery stable, had to
be separated from their roofs or altered to permit the move down the
highways. At the time, the move was believed to be the largest ever
made for an entire village in the United States.
The Daniels bought Plantation Ranch in 1949, becoming the fourth owner.
The ranch's founder was Aaron Cherry, Sr., who came to Texas in 1818,
made friends with the Coushatta Indians and built his plantation home
on a bluff overlooking the Trinity River. Cherry's friends included
General Sam Houston and Captain Hugh Blair Johnson, Daniel's great-great
grandfather and the first alcalde (mayor) of Liberty.
When the Daniels bought the ranch, it had reverted to a jungle. "There
were vines and brush growing even in the plantation house, the fences
were down and wild hogs ran everywhere," said Daniel in 1986.
Over the years, the Daniels opened Plantation Ranch for special parties
for crippled and handicapped children, bringing in such stars as Roy
Rogers, Dale Evans, Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams to entertain.
Today, visitors to Waco
can see the village standing near the Strecker Museum.
& Vera Daniel Historic Village
1108 university Parks D.
Mon.- Sat. 10 a.m.
Book Hotel Here > Waco
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing
Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history, stories,
landmarks and vintage/historic photos, please contact