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Old 11-21-2008, 04:56 PM   #1
TexasShadow's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2006
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Wizard Wells, TX

Wizard Wells
Jack County, Texas

Historical Marker:
N 33.20077

I had never heard of Wizard Wells until researching stations on the Butterfield Trail in Texas. The name captivated me. Why 'Wizard'?

When the Butterfield Trail was rerouted from the original -Gainesville, Davidson's, Conolly's stations and Hog-eye Prairie- it went through Decatur and across the West Fork of the Trinity on Hwy 920, west of Bridgeport (Old Bridgeport was right on the bank for a few years, eventually moving east to present location). The next station was near Bean's Creek and east of where both old and new trail converged: Jacksboro.

Bean's Creek runs through, as you can guess, Bean's Valley. The valley and creek were favorite hunting and camping grounds of the Kiowa. By the 1850's, settlers were staking claims and setting up homesteads for farming and grazing livestock. It seemed a logical place for the Butterfield Overland Company to put a station. And the area prospered.

In the late 1870's George Washington Vineyard moved to the area. He dug a well for his household water, but it was so full of minerals it was undrinkable. Yet the water was used to bathe in. GW was plagued with chronic ulcers on his legs which the water supposedly cured, as well as his eye 'disease'.

News of GW's miraculous 'healing' from the water brought people from all over suffering from everything imaginable and hoping to find the cure-all, the 'miracle water'. Many camped along the creek during their stay. Eventually three hotels and 'soaking tubs' were built to accommodate cure-seekers.

Vineyard owned most of the property in the area, but I can find no mention of what became of him or his family. The town, then called Vineyard (or Old Vineyard), was established in 1882 with a general store. Later followed by several churches, a newspaper, school, sawmill, blacksmith shop, and post office. It became a thriving retail center for the local farmers and ranches and by 1890 had a population of 100. From the 1920s until the 1940s the town's population was near 175, and by 2000, 63.

You can't really get a complete story of Wizard Wells without nearby associated towns: Vineyard (be patient; you'll see) and Sebree. When the Chicago, Rock Island and Texas Railway bypassed Vineyard on it's way from Bridgeport to Jacksboro in 1899, many people left Vineyard and formed a new community around the depot two miles south. The historical marker claims they called the new town 'Sebree'.

HF Stamper and his two sons, all from Missouri, had settled in the town of Vineyard. When many left and settled to the south near the RR, the three male Stampers petitioned the Texas Legislature in 1914 to rename the town of Vineyard to 'Wizard Wells'.

In 1915, after the name change to 'Wizard Wells', the new town, then a center for shipping of farm and ranch products and a thriving community on its own, adopted the new name of 'Vineyard.' So this is the second 'Vineyard'. By 1925 the population of Vineyard was 212 and by 1933 the new Vineyard was a thriving community with a brick school, businesses and several stores. However, following the demise of the railroad no businesses or stores existed by the 1970s. The population had declined by the 1950s to 40. In 2000 the population was 37.

Now, another source reports that Sebree was a separate community; by 1910 it had become a community center for area farmers and ranchers. "Three general stores, a cotton gin, a grocery store, and a dry goods store served an estimated 200 residents in 1914. Soil erosion reduced the productivity of the land surrounding the community, however, and residents left Sebree for Jacksboro, the county seat, fourteen miles to the north, and for Bryson, where oil had been discovered in the 1920s. The post office was closed in 1915, and by the mid-1940s Sebree no longer existed."

So where is Sebree? I guess we'll have to find out

Interestingly, the Wizard Wells cemetery is the final resting place for many members of the founding families: Stampers, Beans, etc. An interesting place to explore, for sure.

The pattern I've seen here, and elsewhere, is "Build it and they will come." Railroads, stage coach lines, military roads, etc. And when the original impetus for many of the communities die, so do the towns. Look at the same pattern today, such as the strip malls, etc along the major highways/freeways. Transportation seems to be a significant factor in civilization, both birth and death.

Now on to some modern news. Wizard wells still stands; well and all.
I found this advertised by the current owner:

"Whispering Waters is a Holistic Retreat Center owned and operated by Kevin and Gail Leech. Kevin and Gail are registered massage therapists and artists who purchased the property in 1999. They have worked steadily (obsessively?) ever since to bring the land and buildings back to life in a creative, loving and respectful manner.
Your Hosts

As registered massage therapists, Gail specializes in cranio-sacral therapy, while Kevin's focus is myofascial release. The charge per therapy session is $40. Overnight stays are $50 per room for up to 2 guests(add $10 for a 3rd). Mineral soaks and outdoor hot tub are included with the room, as is a light breakfast and lots of peace and quiet.
The Property

The property consists of a 3 story building,built in the 1940's, whose bottom floor has been renovated to include 7 bedrooms with 16 beds, 7 bathrooms, 1 soaking room, 1 of 3 massage therapy rooms, a small esoteric library and a cozy plant filled entry-way. The second and third floors are in the process of being renovated to accommodate 3-4 longer term house guests. Kevin and Gail are currently living on the 2nd floor.Connected to the 3-story is a single 3,000 square ft building,built in the 1930's which includes a unique common area that serves as a dining room, classroom, gathering space, etc. Adjoining the common area is a large kitchen, another large soaking room, the other massage therapy rooms and a small gift shop. On the land are also 2 other buildings. One was originally the town's general store and hasn't been used since the 70's and is in need of repair.This building would eventually make a great sanctuary or community space for all to come and share in the oneness that IS. The other,the oldest, a native rock building, consists of 4 separate rooms which is currently in use as Kevin's pottery studio.

There are endless possibilities here and we are continually open to guidance about our purpose.In following the promptings of spirit, we feel now we are creating a gentle place to energize and heal.We stand back and look at what has been created and see artist studios, quiet places to rest your mind,body and spirit, energizing encampments,a place to nurture spiritual awakening, growth, renewal. Surrounded by ever improving organic gardens of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and cactus, guests can enjoy the medicine wheel, meditation gardens, massage therapy sessions, camping, comfortable lodging, workshop facilities, personal overnight and weekend retreats. We have also been blessed with a rich esoteric library, relaxing mineral waters for soaking,soothing or detoxing, magical musical chimes and so much more."

Thus New Age merges with Old Age

It certainly is an interesting place to visit. One of these days soon, the Sherpa and I will be paying another visit to discover more, stop to visit the New Age people and the hotel, and explore another nearby long-gone community and cemetery, Jim Ned.

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Old 11-22-2008, 09:16 AM   #2
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Re: Wizard Wells, TX

Dang it ... I passed the turn off yesterday and didn't take the road less travelled.

Nice writeup!
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Old 11-22-2008, 09:39 AM   #3
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Re: Wizard Wells, TX

Cool! You found Chupacabra.


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Old 12-30-2008, 09:58 PM   #4
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Re: Wizard Wells, TX

Nice pics! I've been to Wizard Wells several times. The road down there off of 114 is a nice drive.
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