(An unexpected error occurred: #617065) (An unexpected error occurred: #617066) The Chisholm Trail Museum :: Latest News
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Upcoming Events
16th Annual Pioneer Days **Nov 15 and 16, 2019**
Tuesday, January 01, 2019
Nov 15 and 16, 2019 **FREE** Come and share some Western/Texas history with us! Cowboys, Native Americans, gun fighters, Civil.... More
CTOM Fall Concert at Market Square in Downtown Cleburne
Saturday, October 26, 2019
Reserve the evening of October 26th for the Chisholm Trail Outdoor Museum Fall Concert at Market Square in downtown Cleburne!.... More
2015 History of Wardville

The log structure at Wardville is the first courthouse in Johnson County constructed with logs drifted down the Nolan River in 1855 for a cost of $49.00. The courthouse remained at Wardville for two years until it was moved to the new county seat at Buchanan. During the War of Northern Aggression the courthouse was sold to raise funds for widows of Confederate soldiers for $55.00

The Courthouse served as court, church and even for a short while as the school. Interesting was that county taxes could be paid in money or home grown whiskey at that time.

The courthouse has survived two fires in its history. The first fire was in the late 1850s and then several years ago by vandals. This small building is still an official courthouse in the county. This is the oldest surviving log courthouse in Texas.

This building was returned to its original location just over a decade ago after being gone for a century and a half. The return of the courthouse marked the beginning of the rebuilding of the historic town of Wardville.


The Pavilion was the second facility built at the site at Wardville. It was originally thought to be a facility for country music venues. Indeed this has been done. Today the pavilion is a multi-use building. Many drop by for having lunch and looking over the lake. School children many times have lunch here when attending classes at the school. Several small church services have been held including dynamic sunrise services on Easter. We also have several historic wagons on display under the pavilion.

Next to the pavilion is a very unusual BBQ pit which is a small steam locomotive. A large number of briskets can be cooked on this very unique BBQ pit.


The Stage Station was built in 2008. The rock structure gives the outside appearance of an old stage station however, here you will find modern restrooms and air conditioning. Inside are numerous antiques that share various items of county history. The Stage Station is where small group meetings are held.

In front of the Stage Station is a very unique stagecoach. For the knowledgeable historian one might note the stagecoach seems to be somewhat larger when other coaches are studied. This is indeed correct. This stagecoach was built in the 1930s for the silver screen movies being made in Hollywood. You possibly may have seen this coach in several old Westerns. It was first used for a black and white movie starring a new young actor by the name of John Wayne in a memorable movie called suitably Stagecoach. Yes the stagecoach from John Wayne’s first hit movie Stagecoach is located at the Chisholm Trail Museum at Wardville. Gift shop inside.


The Osborne family had a large number of Blacksmith tools used by farms in the past century and donated those to the outdoor museum. So a small working blacksmith shop has been built and used over the past number of years. Sam Keller has been our resident blacksmith for many years and was recently joined by John Jobe to also demonstrate historic blacksmithing. There are plans to expand the size of the blacksmith shop that will offer more working area and displays. Many blacksmith items can be made for the visitor and numerous items are on display. We have on display horseshoes from the Fred Bursey collection, including Roy Roger's horse Trigger, Pancho Villa's horse, Siete Leguas, and Dan Blocker's (Hoss Cartwright/Bonanza TV show) horse. Chub.


The Mule Barn corral is an interesting addition to the museum. It was one of our earlier additions. In the mid 1850s the Johnson Stage Line ran from Cleburne to Fort Worth to Weatherford and back to Cleburne. Every 15 miles a way station was located to change the mounts. South of Wardville a station was located on the Freeland Ranch. Mules were used due to the fact that raiding Comanche Indians loved stealing horses however, they were not so fond of mules. They were claustrophobic and wanted to see outside while stalled. Therefore the shed used no chinking between the logs. This preserved original mule barn has been donated to the museum for visitors to view. This is indeed one of the historic, totally original, rare structures featured at the site.


The jail house doors were used in the Wardville jail in 1855. The square jail bars were used at the county work farm in 1885. These items brought into mind that it would be an excellent idea to build a period sheriff’s office at Wardville. One hundred year old lumber was donated from the rebuilding of the Liberty Hotel in Cleburne. Today a very period correct sheriff’s office is on site. The interior is truly as one would find an old west town of the period. A rope bed, shackles, stagecoach strongbox, and even a good bible to bring wayward cowboys back to the straight and narrow path offer reality to this historic setting. It is certainly not a place an outlaw would wish to spend his days.


What would an old west town be without our Native American influence? The indigenous Caddo Indians lived in wickiups. The area however was plagued occasionally by roaming Comanches and they indeed lived in teepees. Did you know the women of the Comanche could take down and then put one of these structures up in half an hour? I assure you we can not do this today. These represent true teepees with the advent of canvas materials. Earlier models would have been made with buffalo hides.


Two years ago we were approached by the Johnson County Herb Society about building a period-correct pioneer garden. Mrs. Pat Kriener leads this small group of gardeners. Pat is a state certified Master Gardener and works with the Log Cabin Village in Ft. Worth. These ladies have developed a period-correct pioneer garden. If you are looking for a display garden this is not it. The garden at Wardville looks and works like a garden would have looked on a farm or in a small community 150 years ago. You will find period flowers, herbs and vegetables scattered over the garden just as you would have found so long ago. For those who appreciate period-correct gardening this is truly an adventure.


When the courthouse was returned to its home the surrounding acreage had totally returned to nature. The cleaning process is still ongoing well over a decade later. In the removing of underbrush and trees a number of beautiful iris flowers were growing. A process of discovery found the graveyard that was located there. Jack Carlton searched the old records and found the names of people buried there as early as 1857.

A cemetery has been rebuilt to honor these early pioneers.

Phillip Nolan was an early pioneer who explored Texas around 1800. He was a man of legend. Phillip Nolan and his band were attacked by the Spanish near present day Blum and he was killed. A very old handmade headstone reportedly made by his servant was taken from the site and for many years was on display at the First State Bank of Rio Vista. This headstone was donated to the Chisholm Trail Museum and today memorialized nearby.


A small10' x10' rock house is on display at the museum. For years there was a square pile of rubble near the creek. There is some debate as to the origin of this. Jack Carlton always maintained this was the first home of Judge Wren. Judge Wren was the first judge in the county. Today we can not historically verify this to be true however this reflects the size and style of early homes built at Wardville typical of 150 years ago.


Originally Wardville was developed on 80 acres of land donated by William O’Neal for the town site. The land started from the banks of the Nolan River. A small creek with excellent water ran through the middle of town. This creek of course remains today. No record exists of an original bridge. In 2013, a wooden rope suspension bridge was built. Unfortunately, a very powerful storm uprooted the bridge in April 2015. It will be replaced at some time.


Records show a school was at Wardville in 1855. The original school surely was a log cabin yet no photos exist. In 2012, a project began to once again build a school. A school reflecting schools from 1840-1900 was designed. The one room school was designed to host 30 students. The interior is period correct. The school has no electricity. A wood stove is included with chalkboards, maps, desks and all materials as would be found in a period school.

In this unique environment school is taught to students today just at it would have been in 1868. Over 1000 students come to the school each year for a full day of class as they would have a century and a half ago. Classes include reading, writing and arithmetic in period style. Students from 8 to 85 can enjoy a feeling of education in historic times. McGuffy Readers and Blueback Spellers are the books used in this environment.

Jewelry vendor Cheryl Keller operates the new 'On The Trail' gift shop next to the Sheriff's Office/Jail. She makes interesting necklaces, moccasins, bracelets and other pieces from beads, leather, shells, feathers and turquoise.

Vendor D.C. Decker operates his store inside the Stage Station selling Arbuckle Coffee, the 'coffee that won the west.' Come in and hear the history of this coffee that made it's way west with the drovers and chuckwagon cooks along the Chisholm Trail.
Chisholm Trail Marker - Precinct 1 Commissioner
Feeder trails from Hillsboro and points east arrived here. Often the main trail north to the Kansas railhead would become overcrowded spreading several miles wide. At this point, the trail boss would send his most experienced rider ahead to pick.... Read More
Did you know?
The first herd to follow the future Chisholm Trail to Abilene belonged to O. W. Wheeler and his partners, who in 1867 bought 2,400 steers in San Antonio.

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