The Campbell Ranch

In his will, W. Dabney Sims divided up his land among his children with the provision that it was to be kept in the family. Patrick received the portion of land that included the Merlin survey with the house that his father had built. Minnie, W.D., and Lou Ella all received their portions as well. In 1906, Minnie married Lee Robert Campbell, and they farmed the property that Minnie had inherited. The 1910 census indicates that they resided in Waxahachie, but L.R. farmed their land.

A Time of Transition

Unfortunately, Lou Ella Sims Siddons and her husband experienced financial difficulties, and were on the verge of losing the land she had inherited. In order to keep the property in the family, Minnie arranged to buy Lou Ella’s portion. On October 2, 1915 she purchased 458 4/10 acres of land from Lou Ella and her husband for $8,000. This investment proved to be too great a financial stretch for Minnie and L.R., and they found themselves in the same financial quandary. They began selling off small tracts, holding on to as much as they could. However, an unforeseeable crisis in the form of the Great Depression ended Minnie’s hopes of keeping all the land. In the end, she lost Lou Ella’s land as well as her own. The last large tracts of land were sold in 1933 and 1934 to Traveler’s Insurance Company and Union Central Life Insurance Company.i

In 1917 the United States entered World War I, and once again Ellis County sent its men off to battle. Patrick Sims registered for the draft on May 31, 1917. His card gives a vague physical description of him being tall, of medium build, with blue eyes and light hair. His occupation was a self-employed capitalist and charity worker. His military experience was a single year that he served as a private in the Texas A&M ROTC.ii Patrick did, in fact, serve in the U.S. Expeditionary Forces in Europe. The 1920 census records that after the war he lived in a boarding house on College Street in Waxahachie. Patrick stated that he was a retired farmer with a “hand all gented.”iii It is uncertain what this precisely means, but it is obvious that he had injured his hand in some way. The Campbell family maintains that Patrick was injured in the Great War and may have been exposed to mustard gas.iv By 1930, Patrick returned to live on his property in the house on the Merlin survey and resumed farming. This year’s census confirms that Patrick was a veteran of World War I.v

Patrick’s brother-in-law, L.R. Campbell, also registered for the draft. By the time of his registration, September 12, 1918, L.R. was married and had one child, William Dabney Campbell. At the time, he was living on his land and farming. His card gives the general physical description of medium height, medium build, blue eyes, and black Fortunately for L.R., the Armistice was signed two months later on November 11, 1918, so he never had to serve in the trenches of the Great War.

After World War I, Ellis County experienced a time of growth and prosperity. Increased agricultural production, especially cotton, led to a “Golden Age” period of affluence. New advances in farming equipment allowed farmers to plant and harvest more crops with greater ease. In 1929, the first combine came to Ellis County. This invention combined reaping, threshing, and winnowing of grains into a single job, and represented a significant financial investment. Patrick and W.D. Sims were among the first in Ellis County to purchase and use this new advancement in mechanized farming.vii

The Campbells

State censuses provide much valuable information about L.R. Campbell and Minnie. In 1910, L.R. and Minnie lived in a house in Waxahachie, even while he was working the farm. The residents of their home included their son, William “Bill” Dabney, Minnie’s mother, and an Aunt C.W. McManus. By 1920, they had moved out to the property near Italy on Bell Branch Pike and were farming there. The residents living with them were their son, L.R.’s parents, and two aunts. L.R. worked as a general farmer while his father worked as a poultry farmer. On August 26, 1924, L.R.’s father, Rev. William Campbell, died and was buried in the Waxahachie City Cemetery. Rev. Campbell’s wife, Lucy, went to live with their oldest son in Houston, where she died on April 24, 1930. She was brought back to Waxahachie to be buried next to her husband.

In 1926 L.R. and Minnie relocated to Highland Park in Dallas where they bought a home. Instead of farming, L.R. worked as a farm agent and later a salesman for P.H. Whiting & Co.viii while Minnie wrote for a magazine.ix Their son, Bill, spent his senior year of high school in Dallas and graduated from Highland Park High School in 1927. He went on to attend SMU, and graduated from there in 1931. In 1936, Patrick Sims died. In his will, Patrick bequeathed his land which consisted of the Merlin survey to the Campbells. As a result, L.R. and Minnie relocated to Ellis County and returned to farming on the homestead Minnie’s father had built.

Bill remained in Dallas after his parents returned to Ellis County. On November 7, 1941 he married Mary Ethel “Patsy” Gannon. One month later, a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor pulled the nation into the worldwide conflict that became World War II. After a year of marriage, in December 1942, Bill entered the military and served in an anti-aircraft artillery division. He was stationed in the Pacific Theater on Saipan in the Marianas, and was discharged on May 31, 1946 at the rank of first lieutenant.

After Bill returned to Texas, he and Patsy relocated to Amarillo where they became involved in the community. Bill served on the boards of the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA Eldon Durrett Memorial Scholarship Committee, and he delivered meals on wheels for many years. He also served for a time as president of Comco Insurance Company and vice president of Southwestern Investment Company.x Patsy was a member of the Amarillo Junior League and active in the Amarillo Art Force, Amarillo Symphony, Garden Club, the Amarillo Opera, and other civic organizations. She was also involved in founding the Globe News Center for the Performing Arts and received the Golden Nail Award for her contribution to the arts.xi

L.R. and Minnie continued to live in the home that her father, W. Dabney, built on the Merlin survey. L.R. and Minnie were active in their church, the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Italy, where Mrs. W.R. Guyer recalled that L.R. at one time served as the Sunday School Superintendent.xii Minnie Sims Campbell died on November 28, 1959 of a coronary thrombosis.xiii L.R. passed away less than a year later on August 10, 1960. They were both buried in the Waxahachie City Cemetery.

Bill and Patsy Campbell lived the rest of their lives in the city of Amarillo where they raised four children: William Dabney, Jr., Pricilla, Patricia, and Ward Gannon. Even though they did not reside on the Ellis County property, they continued to take an active interest in it. They held family gatherings and work days on the property, and they kept the Sims house renovated and in good condition. The family typically resided in the old homestead during their visits to the property. In the 1970’s the Campbells bought a small parcel of land that was part of the original De Spain survey. This purchase gave them direct access to Farm to Market Road 876 for an alternate entrance. In 1965, the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board built a soil conservation dam on this parcel, which led to the formation of the current lake on the property.

Since the family was growing, they needed more space for their corporate family visits. Therefore, they purchased a small house from Austin and moved it onto the De Spain property. They built several additional rooms on this house to provide more sleeping space. Bill entertained the hope that he might someday return to the Campbell Ranch to live and work; however, that plan never came to fruition. In the meantime, Campbell Ranch was leased out as pasture for cattle. Bill passed away on December 12, 2008, and Patsy followed on January 24, 2013. The property of the Campbell Ranch was left to their children.

The naming of L. R. Campbell Road

For years, the locals in the area unofficially called the road that ran past the Campbell Ranch Bell Branch Road, but it was not named on any official document or map. In 1991, the county began giving official names to rural roads as part of the uniformed addressing project for the 911 emergency response system. Usually, the county named rural roads based on a well-known ranch or resident that lived on that road. Therefore, it was suggested that the road be named L. R. Campbell Road after the last owner of the Campbell Ranch who farmed the land. Since a Campbell Road near Maypearl already existed, the initials L.R. were used to differentiate between the two roads. County Commissioner Dale McClain agreed with the suggestion, and officially renamed the road L. R. Campbell Road. This act recorded L.R. Campbell’s legacy in cartography. To the north of Chambers Creek, L.R. Campbell Road becomes FM 876, and the current Bell Branch Road intersects from the west with L.R. Campbell Road.xiv

The Ranch Passes to a New Family

In 2012, the Campbells sold the Ranch to Ted and Nancy Paup. After surveying the property, they renamed the ranch after two of its most defining characteristics: the springs on which the original homestead was built and the old pecan grove. Since they purchased the land, the Paups have provided a great deal of care to Pecan Springs Ranch. They renovated the house located at the northern entrance to L.R. Campbell Road and they reseeded the overgrazed pastures with prairie grass. A new family now enjoys spending time together, fishing and caring for the land that has been the home to others before them. The legacy has been passed into new hands.

Many thanks to Ms. Terri Roberts, B.S., M.A., for her historical research contributions about Pecan Springs Ranch and Ellis County.  Her graduate thesis research paper, “The History of Pecan Springs Ranch”, was published on May 16, 2015 for SAGU Harrison Graduate School.

i1 Ellis County Clerk, Index to Deeds, 1913-1935, C-D.

ii2 U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005.

iii3 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operation, Inc., 2010.

iv4 Interview with William Dabney Campbell, February 2015.

v5 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2002.

vi6 U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005.

vii7 Everett Couch, “Agriculture,” The History of Ellis County, Texas (Waco: Texian Press, 1971), 308.

viii8 U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

ix9 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2002.

x10 Obituary of William Dabney “Bill” Campbell, Amarillo Globe-News, December 14, 2008. file:///C:/Users/James/AppData/Local/Temp/Low/HS0ZQTWZ.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

xi11 Obituary of Mary Ethel “Patsy” Campbell, The Dallas Morning News, January 26, 2013. file:///C:/Users/James/AppData/Local/Temp/Low/JCP1M6CD.htm (accessed October, 20, 2014).

xii12 Daughters of the American Revolution. Rebecca Boyce Chapter (Waxahachie, Tex.). Genealogical Records Committee.Texas Genealogical Records, Ellis County, Volume 21, 1680-1968, Book, 1968; (accessed March 20, 2015), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Nicholas P. Sims Library and Lyceum, Waxahachie, Texas.

xiii13 Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.

xiv14 Interview with Alysa Kirton, Administrator of Precinct 3, Ellis County, Texas, March 20, 2015.