1127 East Jefferson (Texas Highway 22), Whitney, Texas
Note that the Carver Homestead is a private home and not open to the public.
|Carver Homestead in the late 1800's|
In December of 1845, President James Polk signed legislation making Texas the 28th state of the United States of America. That same month, Eliphas Spencer built the log cabin that today is the dining room of the Carver Homestead in Whitney, Texas. Over the years, the home has evolved into the most prominent and grandest residence in Whitney, retaining the exact exterior appearance crafted in 1912, and is an excellent example of the Greek Revival [more] style.
|Western Hill County 1886|
The Carver Homestead has repeatedly been owned by strong, independent women who persevered through difficult times. Before Spencer built his cabin, the land had been owned by Mary Beacham, who filed an application in 1838 for a Texas Head Right Land Grant, staking her claim "as Widow and head of a family … and entitled to One League [sic] [4,428 acres of grazing land] and one labor [177 acres of cropland] of land."
After Beacham’s death, the land passed through three owners before being purchased by Spencer in 1845. There he built a two-room log cabin for his wife, Catherine, and their daughter Emmeline, and transferred title of the land to Catherine. Fort Graham, located about six miles from the Spencers’ home, afforded them some degree of physical protection from marauding Indians.
Letters during the Civil War from Catherine’s sister and brother in Philadelphia speak of illness, death, pain and the worry associated with being unable to communicate, even by letter. After the war, commodities and housing were scarce and expensive. Catherine Spencer complained that eggs cost fifty cents per dozen and a pound of butter was seventy-five cents – exorbitant prices in 1866!
In 1860, a horse trader named Colmon Carver stopped at the Spencer home and asked for a drink of water. Carver fell in love with the young Emmeline and promised to marry her after the Civil War ended. He kept his promise, and on July 22, 1868, Colmon Carver married Miss Emmeline Spencer. The widowed Catherine Spencer lived with her daughter and son-in-law until her death in 1882.
In 1875, the original log cabin was enclosed within a larger home, incorporating the cabin as the kitchen at the back of the house. The single-story home was a typical Foursquare plan common to the period. The painted clapboard exterior was embellished with Victorian details on the porch columns and pediment, as well as the roof eaves and rake.
Locals referred to the Carvers as the "Rockefellers of Whitney and Central Texas." Mr. Carver owned thousands of acres all across Texas. He had a reputation for being "somewhat of a miser and a tightwad" who, if a transaction yielded an odd penny, would draw a line on the ground and have a spitting contest for it. The one spitting closest to the line would get the odd penny and it was reported that Mr. Carver never lost.
Colmon Carver died in his home in 1911 and was buried in Bethlehem Cemetery in Whitney, on land donated to the city by Catherine Spencer. The following year, Emmeline Carver and her son Charles added a second story to the house, replacing the Victorian façade with a full-width porch, built in the Greek Revival style.
Outbuildings at the homestead include a henhouse, an outhouse, a carriage house, and a garçonnière constructed from native limestone. The word garçonnière is often translated as bachelor's apartment or studio apartment. It is derived from the word garcon which means boy in French. There was a custom on Southern plantations to provide a garçonnière, a building separate from the main house where young boys slept after they reached puberty. The custom was intended to provide separation between the boys and girls in the family and allow the young boys to do "manly" things.
There is also a simple, one-room, wood structure which was used as servant's quarters during the time of Eliphas Spencer. All outbuildings (except the garçonnière) reflect the simple, clapboard-faced frame structure of the main house.
In 1968, the Carver Homestead was purchased by Whitney natives Fred and Jennye Basham, who began restoring it. Fred Basham had been Whitney’s mayor during the infamous "Battle of the Benches" that brought national attention to Whitney.
From frontier land promoted by empresarios [more] of the Mexican government, through revolution, independence, statehood, wars, industrialization spurred by railroads, boom and bust -- the Carver Homestead and its owners were witnesses to the transformation of Whitney from unprotected frontier to farmlands to a typical small Texas town.
|White Christmas at Carver Homestead|