Treasure Chest Thursdays: Mulberry Bower

It was during one of my visits home for the holidays in 1998 that I came across the “5 Generations” photo that I featured for Wordless Wednesday, 23 March 2011. That photo featuring my 97-year-old great-great-grandmother (Lula Routt Green) is what launched my research into my father’s side of my family tree.  Based on a few names he could remember, I was able to glean from the 1870 and 1880 census that Lula Routt, born 12 September 1867 in Chappel Hill, Washington County, Texas, was the daughter of Osborn and Sallie Routt.  Lula was born 13 years after slavery ended in Texas. Prior to her birth, her parents — Osborn and Sallie —  were slaves on one of the eight plantations in the Chappel Hill area.

So I turned to the Internet to find and connect with Chappel Hill’s Historical Society to learn more about the plantations in their town during the 1860’s. My email queries put me in direct contact with the town’s well-respected historians, Nath & Judy Winfield who sent  the email below:

Date: Tue, 25 Aug 1998 15:13:23  -500
Subject: Plantation Homes

Re: your inquery about plantation homes in this area:

Joseph William Routt, my maternal great grandfather, came to Washington Co. from Huntsville, Alabama in the mid 1840’s, bringing his family with him. He bought a tract of land between Chappell Hill and the Brazos River and began building a house. Before it was completed, it was blown down in a storm, whereupon he moved the location a short distance south and built again. I have a drawing of the floor plan, typically Texan in style, with a dogtrot and rooms on either side, one with a fireplace. The kitchen was a separate building about ten steps behind the house, with a large fireplace for cooking (My great grandmother bought her first stove after the War). When he became to old to raise cotton, Mr. Routt moved to town. My grandfather sold the property and moved the cotton gin into Chappell Hill. The house has been somewhat modified over the years and has been moved to the outskirts of Chappell Hill. I tried, unsuccessfully, to buy it at the time it was moved. The Routt Plantation was called “Mulberry Bower…”

Can you say — hit paydirt?!  HIT PAYDIRT! What are the chances of the great-grand son of the Slaveholder who may have owned and brought my ancestors to Texas would be sharing family history with me via email?!

All I can say is — WOW!

A few weeks later 16 September 1998, I received  the drawing  of the Old Routt House as well as a photo of  the house after a room had been added on the front porch in 1846:

Old Routt House Drawing, circa 1846
John W. Routt House, circ 1846

I cannot begin to explain the emotions I felt that day in 1998 when I actually saw this drawing and photograph of the house that I know my ancestors helped build, kept cleaned, and worked hard and long in the fields of the Mulberry Bower Plantation.

So what has become of this house since 1846? Well, a recent road-trip to the area revealed that the house still exist today and that it sits back along FM 2447 not far from the National Historic District of Chappell Hill, TX.

Routt descendants purchased another small 4-room house of cedar from a carpenter/sawmill owner in 1898. The house was enlarged with Victorian trim and two chimneys. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in Texas on February 20, 1985 (see below):

Routt House photo taken 20 May 2011

So if you have some Routts in your family tree, or slave ancestors who have connections with the Mulberry Bower Plantation, let me hear from you because – I’m Claiming Kin!