A total of 871.873 acres comprises the land mass of Pecan Springs. Of that area, approximately one-third is forested, with the remainder being pasture. Pecan Springs boasts a wide variety of trees including several varieties of oak, elm, and ash, as well as plum, red mulberry, walnut, sugarberry, hackberry, rusty black haw, and willow. A large pecan grove grows in the northeast corner of the property, and is a defining characteristic of the ranch. Forestry experts have estimated that the pecan trees are between 100 and 150 years old. The trees are native pecans, but one of the property’s previous owners, Minnie Campbell, grafted paper shell branches on many of the trees.
In 1965 the Ellis County Prairie Soil Conservation District built a retaining dam in the northwest section of the property as part of an initiative to prevent soil erosion from overflow from Chambers Creek. As a result, the dam has created a picturesque reservoir that is abundant with fish. In the 1970’s, the Campbells purchased a small house in Austin and moved it to a location near the reservoir. By the time the Paups purchased the property in 2012, the house had fallen into disrepair from lack of use. Rather than razing it, they renovated the house and turned it into a comfortable retreat for themselves and their family.
The old homestead of the property stands on the southeast section of the property. The homestead includes a white frame house that is approximately one hundred thirty years old, a large barn, large chicken coop, and dairy barn. Wilson Dabney Sims originally built the homestead after he purchased the property in 1878. Later, his daughter and son-in-law, Minnie and L.R. Campbell, improved the property. Other supply and tool sheds are located in strategic areas around the property.
An abandoned rail line for the International and Great Northern railway extends across the southwest section of the property. The I&GN built this line in 1902 as part of a line that extended from Fort Worth south to Harris County. The railroad carried both passengers and freight. The company located its central depot at nearby Italy on the line that carried passengers from Venus to Waco. The Missouri Pacific Railroad purchased the I&GN in 1956. Its 1,106 miles of track made it one of the most important parts of the Missouri Pacific.i By 1970 The Missouri Pacific had abandoned many of the lines, including the line that traverses Pecan Springs Ranch.
iHugh Hemphill, “Missouri Pacific Railroad,” Texas Transportation Museum,http://www.txtransportationmuseum.org/history-rr-missouri-pacific.php (accessed April 5, 2015).