Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

 

Mather Cabin From Gabriel Mills Texas
now in the Old Settlers Park in Round Rock, Texas


cabin as it was in Georgetown in the 80's
       view  larger picture
          view historical plaque

          
           note detail at the log ends and chinking between logs
construction details


    
The cabin was moved and now resides in the
Old Settlers Park in Round Rock, Texas

MATHER - CABIN

Marker Text
This cabin originally stood on property in the Gabriel Mills area owned by Samuel Mather, a miller and blacksmith. Built in the early 1850's from squared logs and hand-hewn limestone, it housed church, school and Masonic Lodge meetings before it became a dwelling. Emile Jamail, then owner of the property, donated it to the City of Georgetown in 1975. As a community project to celebrate the Bicentennial, it was moved there and restored. By 2004, the cabin was deteriorating rapidly, and lack of City funding prompted a decision to demolish it. In keeping with its objective to save County heritage, the Old Settlers Association assumed the task of moving and restoring the cabin as closely to its original condition as possible. Samuel Mather (1812-78) served as postmaster (1858-63) and Worshipful Master of Mount Horeb Lodge No. 137 at Gabriel Mills. He was father of the noted Indian fighter, Andrew Mather (1851-1929.

CABIN FROM MATHER MILLS AREA
By Clara (Mrs. Don) Scarbrough, Georgetown 1976

A simple pioneer log cabin, built near the village of Gabriel Mills about 1850-54, was moved to Georgetown January 11, 1975, and was restored in 1975-76 as the town's Bicentennial project.

The property upon which the cabin was originally built belonged to the following: The State of Texas, which patented it to Thomas Howe of Travis Co., assignee of John Carothers, on June 6, 1848 Rowe sold 4428 acres out of this John Carothers Survey to Samuel Mather for $2400, Aug. 17, 1850. Mather sold 450 acres of the tract to Benjamin K. Stewart for $280 on July 3, 1853. On Jan. 23, 1863, Benjamin K. Stewart and his wife Sarah deeded 450 acres "with improvements" and "appurtenances" to E. M. Hurst of Travis Co. for $2,000. Hurst is not known to have lived on the property. On March 17, 1870, Hurst sold the 450-acre tract to William P. Smart for $600.00. On May 1, 1907, W. P. Smart and wife Mary F. executed a deed of trust to John Robert Casbeer and N. G. Allen for 273 acres of the land, but Allen withdrew from the partnership because of his health, and somewhat later Casbeer took over all the property.  After Casbeer died, his widow, Cassie, and other heirs--Avis Casbeer Vinson and husband, R. E. Vinson; Alta Casbeer Jennings and husband, Walter B. Jennings; and James Robert Casbeer--sold the property to Neal Douglass, June 2, 1953. The same year, Neal A. Douglass and wife Patricia declared a 200-acre tract, on which the log cabin stood, as homestead.8    Neal A. and Patricia K. Douglass sold the property to Emile Jamail of Austin on Jan. 7, 1972. Mr. Jamail and wife, Nancy, still own the property at this time.

The log cabin was built in the early 1850s, probably in 1854, although it could have been as early as 1850.

The site of the cabin was a mile from the village of Gabriel Mills, first settled in 1849. Before then, the place was frequented by Indian tribes whose encampments dotted the area. (It was upon one of their middens that Mount Horeb Church was built in 1856.) The cabin was on a rise just above the alluvial plain of the North San Gabriel River, and near a small branch and good spring which provided pure water. Timber was also abundant and even today, walnut trees are harvested from that vicinity for cabinet makers. The first settlers found plentiful wild game for food. Joseph Hutchison Love, a centenarian of the area, said that a man named Walter Hobbs built the one room cabin in the early 1850s. A strong oral tradition in the Gabriel Mills community states that this cabin was used for Masonic Lodge meetings for a short time prior to 1856. Since Hobbs never owned the land, he must have been hired to build the cabin. Its location and size match the one built in 1854 and described in Lodge records. Samuel Mather had owned the site 1850-53, Benjamin K. Stewart in 1854, and both were known to be concerned with education, the church, and the Masonic Lodge, and could have cooperated with the handful of settlers to put up the school-church in 1854. Deed records show that these two men contributed generously toward building a larger school-church-lodge in 1856. It should be added that another tradition calls the room Mather's log cabin, which could mean that he built it or had it built as early as 1850. However, his strong leadership role in the community and particularly in the Masonic Lodge, which met in the cabin, might have led to the designation.

Of the persons associated with the cabin, Samuel Mather is the earliest and most prominent. He was born Oct. 8, 1812, in Northumbria, Tyne, Scotland. He and some of his family migrated to America and Samuel Mather went to Louisiana, where he was a member of Sam Houston Masonic Lodge No. 32 at Shelbyville, on Dec. 18, 1846. He married Sarah Parker Smith in Middleville, Ga., in Aug. 1847, and in 1849 they came to the site which would become Gabriel Mills.  As the first settler in that frontier location, he is said by descendants to have lived in a dugout for a time. Eleven children were born to the couple between 1850 and 1872, including Andrew "Andy" Mather, born June 11, 1851, who became a well known Indian fighter and Texas Ranger. In 1852, Mather built a water powered grist mill on the bank of the north Gabriel, patronized by people as much as 50 miles away. Mather also set up a blacksmith shop near his mill, and was often visited by Comanche Chief Yellow Wolf, who once brought him silver ore to make into ornaments. Yellow Wolf offered to show Mather where the ore could be found, but Mather de­clined to leave his family. On Sept. 17, 1853, Mather and six others trained in Masonic rites met in the "lodge room" of his mill house to organize a Gabriel Mills chapter. Mount Horeb Lodge No. 137 was chartered Jan. 18, 1954, and the Lodge continued to meet in Samuel Mather's mill house lodge room.

A history of the Mount Horeb Lodge has valuable information in the identification of the log cabin recently restored. It states that in 1854 a small log house, 14 x 16, was erected about a mile from the village of Gabriel Mills to serve as a community church and school. In July of that year, "a heavy freshet" washed away the Mather mill and lodge room, so the lodge asked for and received per­mission to meet in the recently-built school and church. "Here in this small house, on a dirt floor, those golden hearted men & masons met around a crude altar until the early part of 1856." (In 1856, Mather and Benjamin K. Stewart each gave 25 acres of land where their boundaries joined to Mt. Horeb Lodge and on this site a two story frame building was erected by the Lodge. The ground floor was reserved for school and church services, the second floor for lodge activities.)  Harold Asher of Gabriel Mills, descendant of pioneers there, and Emile Jamail, present owner of the land, have both been told by old timers of the area that the cabin meant as a school and church, where the lodge met for a time after the 1854 flood, was the same cabin which was moved from the Jamail place in 1975.

Samuel Mather remained prominent in community affairs at Gabriel Mills and in the Texas Grand Lodge. Mather brought slaves with him to the settlement and they are credited by Mather's great grandson, Charley Mather, with building most of the rock fences around the village. Several such fences remain on the Jamail place in 1976. Among his many accomplishments in the Masonic Lodge, Mather helped charter San Gabriel Lodge No. 89 at Georgetown, the county seat, in 1851; he held more than a dozen appointive offices in the Texas State Grand Lodge; was elected to the State offices of grand Junior harden in 1859, Grand Senior Warden in 1859, Deputy Grand Master in 1860, and Most Worshipful Grand Master in 1863, the highest office in the state organization. He also held offices in his home chapter and at San Gabriel Lodge at Georgetown, Comal Lodge at New Braunfels (1864), and Cibolo Lodge at Selma (1875). Mather was the first postmaster of Gabriel Mills, serving from 1858 until he moved away in 1863.

A newspaper article in 1863 carried the story that "Samuel Mather, civil engineer, David Richardson, Galveston news, Dr. Theo Koester, New Braunfels, formed a body corporate and secured a charter for the Texas Paper Company," buying out the paper mill called Hallkamp Mill in early years, then Thomas Mill, and later known as Camp Landa. The new company owned the land between the forks of the Comal and Guadalupe rivers, and presumably used timber from it at the mill. One of the streets in that locality was named Mather. 18 On May 17, 1878, "Capt. Sam Mather, of Atascosa County, an old Texan," died at the home of a daughter near Mountain City in Hays County. He was buried in the Kyle Cemetery.

The family of John G. Stewart of Tennessee arrived at Gabriel mills March 5, 1852, to settle. J. G. Stewart (1809-1875) built a three room log cabin whch became the first store in the village. He put up a two story rock store about 1855, using the lower floor as the post office and store, and the upper story as a Grange Hall, where game suppers and other social gatherings were held. Two genealogists of the Stewart family are certain that Benjamin K. Stewart (who purchased the log cabin site from Mather) was a close relative of J. G. Stewart, but they have lost track of the B. K. Stewart line. It has been noted that B. K. Stewart gave 25 acres of land to Mt. Horeb Lodge, and that he sold his property nearby in 1863. We have found no record of him after that time, and he is not buried in Gabriel Mills cemeteries. C. C. and B. H. Stewart, sons of J. S. Stewart, also were active in the Mt. Horeb Masonic Lodge.

Nothing is known about Walter Hobbs except the report of Joseph Hutchison Love that Hobbs came at an early date to Gabriel Mills, traded two mules and a horse for some land there, and was engaged to build the cabin which stood in 1975 on the Jamail place. Hobbs specialized in building cisterns, and was killed by a dynamite explosion at Mahomet in Burnet County.

William P. Smart (1844-1939) came to Texas with his parents in 1851, settling on the North Gabriel River several miles above Gabriel William P., the fifth of twelve children, served in the Confederate Army. According to descendants, his father purchased the land formerly belonging to Samuel Mather and Benjamin K. Stewart for the son, Wm. P. Smart, who made the cabin into what the family called "honeymoon cabin" for himself and his 15-year-old bride, Mary Blackwell. The land was purchased in 1870; therefore, it is believed that the second log room was added at this time and that the dirt floor of the original room was finished with a wood floor. Their five children were born here and the family moved to Burnet in 1890. Meanwhile several frame rooms were added to the two log rooms, as the children grew.

John Robert Casbeer (1867-1941), a nephew of W. P. Smart, was born and reared near Liberty Hill and never did live on the property he acquired from Smart. Casbeer farmed, quarried, and was a constable, cotton weigher, and county commissioner. The Gabriel Mills property was rented or leased a portion of the time Casbeer had it, and for about twelve years, his daughter, Alta Lucinda Casbeer (1900-still living) and her husband, Walter Jennings, lived in the cabin-home .

Neal A. Douglass was a photographer for the Austin American for many years. He and his wife now live near Tow, Texas.

Emile Jamail and his family reside in Austin and he is in the contracting and real estate business.

The cabin restored in 1975-76 was 14 x 16 feet in size, built of hand hewn squared logs of an extremely hard wood. Tradition says it is walnut, but experts have not been able to corroborate this. The limestone fireplace and chimney was also hand hewn; it stood at the north end of the room. The square notch typical of all southern states was used on the ends of the logs, and the notches were so perfectly fitted that nothing, was used to fasten the logs together other than the notches. The four walls of the original cabin, as well as the fireplace and chimney, had remained intact from the 1850s until 1975. The log room and another chimney which were built considerably later, had fallen by 1975, as had the roof of the entire house. The original floor was probably dirt, but later round cedar logs were added as floor sills, and these logs were also in fine condition in 1975. All materials were available on the premises. Logs were shaped by the hand adz, a tool blacksmith Mather could have made. Round holes across the outer wall on the south side indicate places where poles could be fastened to form a support for temporary lean-to. No nails could be found which were used in the original structure, but square nails appeared to have been used when other rooms were added.

Dr. Duncan Muckelroy of the Texas Historical Commission and National Register staff noted with particular interest that notches for rafters had been cut at two different levels--the lower ones for rafters of the original room and the higher ones cut when two logs were added above each of the four original walls in order to raise the roof and provide space to shed off for another log room to the east. This shed room and chimney are believed to have been added after 1870, for there was a marked difference in the weathering of the original log walls as contrasted to the two top logs added for the shed room rafters. Dr. Muckelroy estimated that something like twenty years would have elapsed to result in the distinct differences in weathering. W.P. Smart probably added the second log room, and later another (frame) room on the east, a shed room on the north, and a small room south of the original log room. Mr. and Mrs. Walter Jennings added sheet rock walls and floor to the inside of the original lop room.

In October 197h, Mr. and Mrs. Emile Jamail, owners of the cabin, stated to members of the Williamson County Historical Commission and the Georgetown Bicentennial Commission that they did not plan to restore the cabin and that,  since the roof had fallen, the remainder of the room would deteriorate rapidly unless repaired. The Jamails wished to see the cabin preserved and were willing to present it to the Georgetown Bicentennial Commission to be moved into town and restored. An agreement was reached and plans were made for the move. Mrs. Clara Scarbrough, Bicentennial Heritage Committee chairman, and students from industrial cooperative training, classes of Georgetown High School numbered and photographed the logs, and on January 11, 1975, the same classes with the aid of a City of Georgetown truck, moved the logs to town. The new site for the cabin was selected at the corner of Austin Avenue and 16th Street on property owned by the City of Georgetown and maintained by Georgetown Lions Club as a half-block recreational area. Although the original cabin stood on un-mortared rock footings, a more substantial foundation was planned. Concrete footings were set in the ground up to ground level, and the original rock piers were set on top. The cabin walls were again raised on Feb. 12, 1975. Subsequent restoration steps took place in the remainder of 1975 and early 1976. The cabin logs have been treated several times with preservative, as has the wood shingle roof. The City of Georgetown now owns the building and is responsible for its upkeep.

Besides the early roles of the cabin as a home and probably a school-church-Masonic lodge meeting house, since its move it has served as a training, laboratory for the industrial classes who have studied techniques of construction and restoration of such a cabin and who have volunteered most of the labor involved in the restoration. The major exception is the stone chimney which was moved and restored by a competent stone mason. The cabin is now in excellent condition, and is a fine example of pioneer log rooms and is located where other historic buildings could be placed nearby. It can also be utilized on special occasions as a meeting place for small groups.

         The Georgetown bicentennial Commission wishes to commemorate this cabin whose history is closely tied to a distinguished pioneer, Samuel Mather, because it represents a typical pioneer log building, used either as school and church or as a home in the 1850s and because it is now located where it can be seen and appreciated as a remnant of the past.

 

Please Note: The cabin has been moved to its new location at the Old Settlers Park in Round Rock, Texas.

complete write up with footnotes PDF

 

view more Historical Markers in Georgetown

view more Historical Markers in Round Rock

view more Historical Markers in Williamson County