We are the proud caretakers of a meandering dry-stacked limestone wall that greets our Vista guests.
We didn’t build it, but we sure have worked hard to preserve it. Other than being very old, there isn’t a lot that is known for sure about the history of this interesting artifact. However, walking through what we know about Texas history and Vista’s land, we can piece together a pretty good idea of why and when it was built.
Let’s start with likely ideas on why it was built: There are about 2,500 linear feet of wall that are still standing. If you look at satellite images of the pastures to the northwest of the wall, you can still see distinct berm and swale lines running across the fields. These lines were the irrigation system built by early farmers who raised crops on this fertile land before it became grazing pasture for cattle (side note: the fertile soil is one of the many reasons we are cultivating a farm at Vista). Berms and swales are effectively ditches designed to collect rainwater as it rolls downhill. The Vista stone wall runs exactly parallel to those lines, so it is likely that those same early farmers who worked the land, took the stones they originally tilled from the soil and built the wall that still stands today.
There were no stable settlements in the area prior to Stephen F. Austin’s boundary treaties with the Comanche and subsequent granting of what is now the Vista property to William Barret Travis in 1835 (well, it was actually a much larger piece of land, but Vista sits right in the middle of it.
Because Comanche didn’t build walls like this, we can assume it wasn’t built before the 1830’s. Can you imagine excavating, carrying and placing thousands of stones by hand? FYI – each stone weighs 10-50lbs! Because wire fence would be so much simpler and less labor intensive to install, it is likely the wall was built before barbed wire was widely available in the 1880’s.
Today, this 150+ year old stone wall connects many of the Vista spaces – from parking, to beer garden, to event spaces, to the farm and orchard – and reminds us of the history of this beautiful land.