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Now located near
Stony, TX on the Marquis property in western Denton Co. (Rt.1 Ponder, TX), the two-room cabin is sitting in a slight slope. It kind of makes you feel
like you stepped into time when looking at it, even more so when going inside.
Bill Marquis, a history buff and restoration contractor, had noticed the cabin back in 1986 located on a nearby property and was wanting then to
restore or move it. In 1995 he rescued it from a certain death by fire and obtained permission to remove the cabin--which he did--piece by piece to his
property about two miles away. He restored it with loving care during the evenings and weekends.
What he hadn't been able to use of the original cabin he "created" from other old looking wood, maintaining all the historical features as close as possible. All this work was purely for the love of history, and the costs of restoration came out of his own pocket. The photos above were taken in October of 1996.
By mid-May of 1997, Bill had finished the roof and was starting on the stone chimney located on the right as you face the cabin. Once the chimney was finished, he added flower beds around the front and sides of the cabin edged in the same type of stones. A stone fireplace with a heavy wooden mantel had been completed also. Several special-made glass windows were added as well as the front doors. With the addition of a stone sidewalk embedded with fossils, the work was nearly completed.
The cabin is open to the public as a museum so others can visit, get a real life feel of a by-gone era and see Bill's display of arrowheads, coins and other artifacts that he has dug up over the years. There are also period memorabilia in the cabin that lend a feel of "living" to the cabin--you can almost smell the stew cooking.
In 1999, a split-rail fence was added around the cabin. Now when visitors come by they have a place to "hitch their horses". Bill is collecting donations to get three historical markers. For sale is a wonderful print of the cabin drawn by Bill's wife, June Marquis that will help with the markers. Bill also restored The Christal-Burnett School House which is sitting in the heart of Ponder, TX.
The Christal Cabin or now Vaughan-Christal Cabin is thought to be the oldest house in Denton Co. When Bill did some digging through the local historical records he found that a man named Reuben Vaughan sold the cabin and the land in 1853 to Silas Christal for $500. Originally, the cabin was built about 1839--making it older than Denton Co. itself. At that time the cabin actually was in Wise Co., when the boundaries changed, the cabin became part of Denton Co. It's probable that someone before Rueben Vaughan built the cabin. In 1859 Jeremiah and Burk Burnett lived with the Christals; by 1860 they moved to their own place. Silas added the left side of the cabin in 1879.
For a gorgeous site to see native Texas wildflowers,
visit the cabin in April and May. The area surrounding the windmill is as
wonderful as visiting a botanic garden with all the colors, sizes and shapes of
flowers and plants growing in harmony among the rocks and trees.
Silas Christaland his wife, Elizabeth Burnett, a 1st cousin 2 x's removed of Burk Burnett who later became the noted rancher of the 6666 Ranch, moved with their 12 children from Macon Co. MO to settle in Denton (Wise) Co. Here he built, nearby the cabin, a grain mill on the east bank of Denton Creek to process the wheat that was well suited to grow in the area or process corn, according to another story. This mill came to be known as Christal's Mill. By providing a very useful service, Silas Christal helped to open the western part of Denton Co. to settlement although there were still an occasional Indian raid and two of Silas' sons were later to become casualties of one of these possible raids. Go to the Christals or see the Christal Descendants for more on the Christals.
One day in the fall of 1862, the four oldest sons, Richard, Ishom, John and James set off on a buffalo hunt further north to supply the families with meat for the winter. All but James was married and none have been on a buffalo hunt before and had no one along to advise them. Everything was thought to be fine including the weather and camp was made near the Wichita River.
Richard and John noticed a herd of buffalos moving towards the camp and decided this was an opportunity coming their way. Little did they know that this wasn't normal behavior for buffalo after they settled in, unless something or someone had disturbed them. Probably thinking they could make several easy shots, they told their brothers they would return shortly. Not long after that--shots were heard and those in camp thought Richard or John had succeeded in their goal.
Time passed and it grew dark, still no sign of Richard or John. Ishom and James became worried and decided the brothers were lost and needed help in finding their way so they built up the fire and even fired their rifles to guide them in. All night they waited and when morning came Ishom and James rode in the direction they thought their brothers had gone.
After some time they found a handkerchief that belonged to John. Later tracks in a river bed showed evidence that the brothers had been there, but along with those were moccasin tracks. This doesn't always mean that these were tracks of Indians since others often wore moccasins.
Several days were spent searching for their brothers to no avail. Being both tired and heartbroken, Ishom and James broke camp and set off for home. When they arrived they quickly told their tale and a large band of men joined in a renewed search. After some time the camp site was located where they broke up into groups to speed the search. Many miles were covered without seeing any other sign of the two missing brothers.
To this day, it's still a mystery as to what happened to Richard and John Christal. (Richard does share a headstone with his wife, Emily Morris, in the IOOF Cemetery in Denton, TX. It's presumed to be in memory since his body was never recovered; although why a death date of February 3, 1862 is listed is another mystery).