Restored 1855 Questad Farm
Questad is currently owned by an Austin family for their use as a second home to entertain family and friends, and to exercise mindful stewardship of Texas’s built history.
Questad Farm is a 19th century property on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the few remaining groups of structures of the early Norwegian Settlement of Norse in Bosque County, Texas. Built in the 1850s, it is currently comprised of five stone buildings and hundreds of feet of intact dry-stack stone walls, some as tall as eight feet. The Questads were among eight original Norwegian families who came to newly formed Bosque County in 1854 for its abundant wood, water and 320-acre land grants from the state. By 1900, their settlement had grown into the largest Norwegian colony west of the Mississippi River.
A stonemason, blacksmith and furniture maker, Carl Questad built a 4½-acre complex — a two-section house, detached kitchen/springhouse, carriage house and two-story barn with limestone quarried nearby and mortar from a lime kiln he built. Later immigrants boarded at the farm until they could get established, clearing the fields and helping stack a rock fence hundreds of yards long.
Questad was known for getting along with American Indians on the frontier, but had a close call in 1867 when he was shot by Comanches and escaped by leaping off a high bluff. His helper, 14-year-old Ole Nystel, was abducted and ransomed three months later in Kansas. Nystel’s memoir, Lost & Found: 3 Months with Wild Indians…” is available digitally at TexasHistory.unt.edu.
Avid supporters of education, the Questads sent fossils and Indian artifacts to a museum in Norway, and opened their home in the 1870s to Swedish naturalist Gustav Belfrage, known locally as “Belfrog the Bug Catcher,” used light to attract night-flying beetles and moths under the farmstead’s live oaks, selling the insects to museums around the world. His papers and personal collection are at the Smithsonian Institution.
Because the buildings and walls remain intact and relatively unchanged, we can see the similarity to Northern European farm buildings in their construction, stone work and siting. Chambers Architects preserved and renovated the structures at this ranch.
The Carl and Sedsel Questad Farm, constructed between 1855 and 1870 in Bosque County, Texas, is a rare example of 19th century Norwegian Rock House construction and the only remaining ranch of this type with multiple structures in Texas. The house is in the center background, with a spring-house and detached kitchen to the far left, and a blacksmith house on the right. (From a paper given by David Moore to the Vernacular Architecture Forum.)
Featured photographs by Peter Larsen Photography; Historic photos provided by owner; all other photos, architect and owners