Pecan Springs Ranch is located on the banks of Chambers Creek, a tributary of the Trinity River. The land features pastures and timbered areas, as well as hills, springs, and bodies of water. The Republic of Texas originally granted much of the property to Charles Merlin, an early arrival to Texas. It was later sold to Nicholas P. Sims and remained in the Sims/Campbell family for over one hundred forty years until its sale to Ted and Nancy Paup in 2012. The property is located on L. R. Campbell Road, named for one of the previous owners.
Pecan Springs is in a unique location where the Cross Timbers region meets Blackland Prairie and Post Oak Savannah. The Cross Timbers area has historical significance. Early travelers coined the region “Cross Timbers” because its densely forested area created a difficult barrier to cross between east and west. The impassable foliage forced travelers to either cut a path through the trees and undergrowth or to search for a break in the barrier where their wagons could cross. Diverse wildlife such as bear, white-tailed deer, mountain lions, bobcats, foxes, turkeys, and coyotes made their homes in the Cross Timbers. In addition, it was and still is a central flyway for annual avian migration. Many neotropical birds, waterfowl, and birds of prey pass through the area or winter there.i
The Cross Timbers was a well-known landmark, and travelers used it as a point of reference in their journeys. In 1778 one traveler remarked on the region in his journal, “The region from one river to the other, is no less bountifully supplied with buffalo, bear, deer, antelope, wild boars, partridges, and turkeys."ii In 1854 John Pope, while exploring the region for the Pacific Railroad described the region in glowing terms,
"….but by far the richest and most beautiful district of country I have ever seen, in Texas or elsewhere, is that watered by the Trinity and its tributaries. Occupying east and west a belt of one hundred miles in width, with about equal quantities of prairie and timber, intersected by numerous clear, fresh streams and countless springs, with a gently undulating surface of prairie and oak openings, it presents the most charming views, as of a country in the highest state of cultivation, and you are startled at the summit of each swell of the prairie with a prospect of groves, parks and forests, with intervening plains of luxuriant grass, over which the eye in vain wanders in search of the white village or the stately house, which seem alone wanting to be seen."iii
The altitude of the Cross Timbers is slightly higher than the prairies around it. Its altitude and dense growth acted as a dividing line between the Plains Indians and East Texas Indians. Its thick tree line and undergrowth provided excellent cover for Indians who wished to mask their movement. The Cross Timbers was also a good source of wood for various Indian tribes and later for pioneering settlers.iv
Even though Pecan Springs is located in the Cross Timbers region, the land also has characteristics of rich Blackland Prairie. Early settlers described the prairie as a vast, endless sea of grasses and wildflowers with sparsely scattered trees. Pioneers used the land primarily for grazing livestock, but later they turned the prairie into farmland. Farmers found that the fertile soil was well-suited for agriculture. It was especially good for growing cotton.v
Pecan Springs also has the distinction of being situated on the historic Shawnee Cattle Trail. Texas ranchers drove longhorns through this area on their way to market from the 1840’s until shortly after the Civil War. The prairie grasses provided cattle herds excellent grazing while Chambers Creek provided a welcome place to rest and water the cattle.
ii Texas Parks & Wildlife, “Cross Timbers and Prairies Ecological Region,” https://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/land/habitats/cross_timbers/ecoregions/cross_timbers.phtml (accessed April, 2 2015).
iv "CROSS TIMBERS," Handbook of Texas Online http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ryc04 (accessed April 02, 2015). Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association
v Texas Parks & Wildlife, “Post Oak Savannah and Blackland Prairie Wildlife Management: Historical Perspective,” https://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/land/habitats/post_oak/ (accessed April 2, 2015).