History

Who Built the Bluebonnet House? See the Facts: Bluebonnet House Part 3

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(Read Part 1 of our series here.)

Because of a recent debate over who actually built the bluebonnet house, we’ll start with a few basic facts that will allow us to move forward learning about the house and the families that have lived in it, plus its future. As mentioned in Part 1 of the Vandeveer story, in the 1850’s the Republic of Texas issued grants to give free land to settlers in order to attract them to the state, and Logan Vandeveer qualified for several thousand acres based on the time he came to Texas, his participation in the Battle of San Jacinto, and the fact that he was a head of household.

A portion of available unimproved land that Logan picked included 1,300 acres which happened to be where the Bluebonnet House rests today. In order to attain ownership, he was required to get the land surveyed, which he did in 1853. The actual documentation and paperwork required for Logan to take ownership of the land is on record at the Texas General Land Office. So we believe proof that he owned the land where the house was built is strong evidence that Logan would have been the obvious builder.

But there are some who are maintaining the belief that the house was built by Christian Dorbandt, another early settler of Burnet County. Dorbandt and Logan obviously knew each other because of each one’s tie to Fort Croghan. Logan was selling beef to the fort; Dorbandt was a Sergeant Quartermaster there. There are 3 simple reasons that make the argument that Dorbandt built it very difficult to prove or to even make common sense. Fact 1: As stated above, Logan owned the land at the time that the house was believed to have been built in 1853. Who builds houses of any kind, and certainly not two-story, double-walled, rock houses on land someone else owns? That is highly unlikely. Some have even acknowledged that they know Logan owned the land but Dorbandt built it despite that, and he was leasing the land. That doesn’t happen either, or least not in the real world.

The Second Owners of the Bluebonnet House: Bluebonnet House Part 4

Fact 2: Christian Dorbandt did not appear to have the financial assets required to build such a structure. How do we know that? The 1854 Burnet County Tax Assessment lists him with no real or personal taxable property of any kind. It also shows that Logan had taxable property including buildings, 35 horses, 1,000 cattle. etc. totaling $11,250. That’s equal to almost $350,000 in today’s money.

Fact 3: In February, 1855, Logan actually sold 212 acres of the land which included the location of the Bluebonnet House to Christian Dorbondt and Theodore Winkle. Why does that prove the house existed before Dorbandt become the owner? The seeing price was $1,000. That’s $4.72 an acre. The deed can be found at the Burnet County Clerk’s office of the Courthouse. The Republic of Texas was selling unimproved land for 50 cents on acre. Unimproved land in Burnet County outside of the city was normally selling for less than 20 cents an acre. In fact, other ports of Logan’s land near the Bluebonnet House later sold for 17 cents an acre. So, to pay that enormous amount for the property implies that there surely had to have been structures likely a house, a barn, a well, something already there when it was sold. And to make that even more believable, the deed from Logan to the buyers mentions land and “tenements.” The definition of a tenement in legal lingo is “a term found on older deeds, which means any structure on real property.”

Not many people in Burnet County were building stone houses during that period, but Logan obviously liked them since he had built a two-room stone cabin in Burnet (since moved to Fort Croghan) which also has double-thick walls just like the Bluebonnet House and the two-story Masonic Lodge building, still standing just south of the square in Burnet. So, Logan had the money to build, the desire and experience to build in stone, and the ownership of the land where the Bluebonnet House was built.

Case closed? We think so.

 

Who Built the Bluebonnet House? See the Facts: Bluebonnet House Part 3

A Long Road to the End:

From the early 1800s until around 1900, New Orleans, Louisiana was experiencing a deadly scourge of yellow fever, a virus carried by mosquitos. In just 3 years, 1853 to 1855, almost 13,000 people died from it. Most cases are mild, and it clears up in a couple of days, but about 15% go into a second phase which causes very high fever, abdominal pain, liver and kidney failure, and finally death.

In 1855, Logan was preparing for a cattle drive to sell a large herd in New Orleans. He, along with his younger brother Zachary and 3 other men, left Burnet some time that year. There were two possible reasons for the drive. One, Fort Croghan was closed, and he had been selling beef to the army posted there until December, 1853. Two, there was a serious drought taking place in that part of the state, and droughts and livestock don’t mix very well. On June 18, 1855, Logan sent a letter back to his father William in Burnet (letter copies obtained from the Dolph Briscoe Center, Austin. TX). “I write few lines this evening. I am well… I will cross the Sabine tomorrow morning. There is the most unfeeling set of people in this country I have ever met in all my life. They find me a tolerable tough customer… they have going into these pens for which they charge 3 cents per head. The ferriage at each river cost about thirty dollars. East at the Neches, at a little town named Beaumont, they caught me in hock… they got my stock. This plan did not suit me so I opened a gap and took them to the ferry landing. He ordered me not to break his pens. I kept opening until I got the gap to suit me. I told him that I have possession of the place and would keep it until I got my stock over the river, and if he did not close his mouth and take a seat I would kill him. He took me at my word… When I was through I settled with him, paid him $25 and gave him my name and residence and left.”

Later, as Logan crossed over the Sabine River to finally be in Louisiana a following letter was sent to William showing that the cattle drive was turning in another direction, and that direction was not good.

 

Logan Pic (2)

“In camp about ten miles east of the Sabine River. We crossed the river this morning and lost nothing and met two gentlemen from the city but left the city… They went down with beef cattle they couldn’t sell for any price, left the stock with their merchant and came home… I am not discouraged nor will I be as long as I have hope of life. I will dismiss the most of my men in a short time. I will stay on the Mentow River. The range is good. I will stay there until I can get a fair price for my stock. Will let you know where to direct your letter when I stop. The cholera is raging in New Orleans.”

How ironic those words Logan wrote, “as long as I have hope of life” and “the cholera is raging.”His sky was about to fall. A cholera pandemic was raging in New Orleans but nothing like the yellow fever. Letter from J.C. Brantley, Logan’s foreman on the cattle drive and one of the two surviving members, to a friend in Burnet, September 10, 1855, La Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, “Am sorry to inform you that out of the five left here I am alone well and glad to say that I am well. Both Vans and Bob is no more. Logan died on the second, Z (Zachary) on the fourth, and R (Robert/Bob) on the 9th… Logan was taken on the boat up to Valley Rose… and I waited on all three. They all lay five days. The beaves is not quite sold yet. About thirty is on hand yet… I have seen several things to hurt but this beats all. Yellow fever takes the lead.”

Had he made it back to Texas, many have speculated that he would have played a significant part in the state’s government. Some say he might have even eventually become the Governor of Texas. Logan Vandeveer was only 40 years old. His brother Zachary was 37.

(Coming up: The nightmare for Logan’s family as he died without a will, what happened to his girls and the rest of the farndy, and the Vandeveer’s miraculously returning the Bluebonnet House to their ownership soon after his death.)

Read Part 4 here!