The early 1800s:
Barton Hill Farms is located on land settled in the early 1830s by Josiah Wilbarger, a famed Texas frontiersman. Wilbarger was one of the first to settle the land along with Reuben Hornsby (of Hornsby Bend fame) and others as part of Stephen F. Austin’s colony. On a guiding expedition near present day Austin, Josiah and his party were ambushed by Indians who killed all but two members of the party. In the melee, Josiah was struck and temporarily paralyzed by a musket ball. The war party then took his scalp and left him to die in the blazing Texas sun. The Hornsby clan tracked the expedition party to the banks of Onion Creek and found Wilbarger leaning against an oak tree in a state of semi-consciousness. They loaded the badly wounded Wilbarger in a wagon and returned to the Hornsby fort where Hornsby’s daughters nursed him back to health.
Josiah’s recovery was a long and arduous one, and the skin never grew back over the skull where he’d been scalped. He wore, according to the stories, a silk skullcap at all times. Josiah Wilbarger lived a number of years after being scalped, and one account of him has him operating a cotton gin near Hornsby Bend. Wilbarger struck the scalped portion of his skull on a low support beam in his cotton gin, fracturing his skull, and died of the injury.
Wilbarger County, Texas is named in honor of Josiah Wilbarger and his brother, Mathias. Wilbarger Creek in Travis County is also named for him.
1854 to 2000s:
In 1854, after the death of Josiah Wilbarger, the land was purchased by the Barton family. The Bartons ran cattle and farmed cotton until the historic drought of the 1950s when cattle ranching took over. During the Prohibition era, old man Barton ran an underground gambling house and sold his home brew at a place referred to by locals as Barton Hill. Years later a pecan orchard was planted on a portion of the property and is still in operation today.
Recognizing the beautiful setting and amazing history of the Josiah Wilbarger League & Labor, Andrew Taft and Craig Swanson (working with Bettie Barton Buchanan) started Barton Hill Farms, a 118-acre farm and entertainment venue lying on the eastern edge of Wilbarger’s survey along the banks of the Colorado River. This year looks to be an exciting one as the Farm hosts its first annual event, The Fall Festival & Corn Maze open weekends from September 22nd to November 18th!