Byron Farmstead

COURTESY/BILL WARREN

A public meeting will be held about the historic Byron Farmstead that is within the Parker County East Loop project on Dec. 12 at Mary Martin Elementary School. 

A public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Dec. 12 to gain feedback about the Parker County East Loop project running through the historic Byron Farmstead property before the project moves forward.

“The Corps of Engineers has asked us to complete some environmental permitting effort that was above our original thoughts and we are working with them. We have a historic public meeting and the goal is there’s one property that we’re dealing with that has a historic house on it and farm,” Freese and Nichols Engineer Tim Sansone said at this week’s commissioners court meeting. “We are working with the previous landowners and the community to identify ways we can assist in maintaining the historic nature of that property.”

Parker County Historical Commission member Bill Warren said the Byron Farmstead, which is 85.5 acres, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The property is one of the few remaining outstanding examples of early pioneer life in Parker County. The East Loop, as currently proposed, will run through the property,” Warren said. “It is an important part of Parker County and Texas history.”

Warren provided some background about the property, which is on Meadowview Road off of Farm-to-Market Road 730 just past Tison Middle School.

“Charlie Byron was an English circus clown — among other things — who was performing in Hell’s Half Acre in Fort Worth when he heard his future wife, Ashley Attwell, singing at the Union Gospel Mission on Main Street. He missed that night’s circus performance and never returned. He became a minister and circuit preacher traveling around North Texas,” Warren said. “He and his wife purchased the land in 1902. The log cabin, which still sits where it was built, was constructed by Will and Ina Kerby in 1893 as a wedding present for their son and daughter-in-law. Mr. Byron planted three black walnut trees around the property to remind him of his native England. The trees are still there. He wrote the song, ‘Diamond In The Rough,’ which has been recorded by several artists, including Johnny Cash.”

Following Byron’s death in 1905, his wife Ashley obtained her teaching certificate while running the family farm and became a school principal, Warren said. All four of their children earned college degrees, to which she was adamant about.

“She had a student, Jim Wright by name, who called her the ‘imperturbable fem autocrat of the Second Ward (now Travis Elementary School).’ He became the Weatherford mayor and eventually Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives,” Warren said. “In 1925, two of [Ashley’s] sisters built a craftsman bungalow on the property. After a summer in the new home, Ashley decided she liked the log cabin better, so she moved back in and lived there until she was 100 years old.”

Warren said Ashley’s sisters then started a successful dairy business with 170 cows that operated from 1935 to 1983 on the property. Byron, Ashley and their four children are now buried in City Greenwood Cemetery

Sansone said once the public meeting is held and feedback is gained, they will move forward from there.

“Once the Corps of Engineers and Texas Historical Commission are on board, we’ll be able to continue that construction schedule,” Sansone said. “We do believe that should be obtainable within the first quarter of next year and so we’ll be continuing construction.”

The East Loop project will run from Interstate 20, Center Point Road, north and then west to connect to Ric Williamson Memorial Highway. It will go through U.S. 180, Farm-to-Market Road 730 and end at Farm-to-Market Road 51 at the Ric Williamson intersection.

As of this month, pavement for Phase 1 is complete and the Center Point Road traffic will be shifted onto the newly constructed pavement once the Texas Department of Transportation has completed a final portion of the bridge over I-20, according to Freese and Nichols’ monthly report. Texas Department of Transportation’s work is planned for Friday and after that transition, the contractor may tie in final driveways near the interchange and begin utility work near U.S. 180. This project is estimated to be completed in December.

But Warren is not too convinced by the statement to find a way to preserve the Byron Farmstead.

“‘Ways to maintain historic nature of the property’ does not give me warm and fuzzies that they are serious about finding an alternate route around the 85.5-acre national site,” Warren said. “We’ll see what happens.”

The historic public meeting will be held in the Mary Martin Elementary School cafeteria. Those who cannot attend the meeting, but wish to comment or participate in the process may contact Ann Keen at 469-647-4866 or annk@coxmclain.com.

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