The John Ward, Jr. Homestead

Where the Wild West Ended

Stephen B. Chambers, Dallas architect, is restoring a historic ranching homestead in Sonora, a small town in Sutton County, Texas. Sonora’s location, where the eastern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert touches the western edge of the Hill Country, has its advantages. Its unique environs of limestone outcroppings and rolling terrain dotted with areas of live oaks and juniper, form a savanna, that alternates with grasses, shrubs, and cacti, and gave rise to a great part of Texas history.

Sonora, the seat of Sutton County, allows us the chance to experience small-town Texas, which is still rich with heritage and history. Heavily involved in ranching, beginning with goats and sheep, the town became a hub of activity, and attracted many industrious and opportunistic cowboys and its share of old west desperados. The Sonora museum is home to the gun that put an end to the escapades of the infamous William “News” Carver, a member of the Wild Bunch gang led by Butch Cassidy. Order was restored, and a new era for westward development had begun.

John A. Ward, Jr.

One of the more enterprising young men who came to seek his fortune was John A. Ward, born in 1869. After his days a cowboy in Big Bend, John and his wife, Virginia, arrived in Sonora around 1903. They had eight children, one of whom was John, Jr. John Jr. helped run the Sonora ranch and called it Rancho Blanco. Best guess for the name is that while raising and breeding Angora goats on the limestone land surface, John Jr. looked out and saw a swale of white.

Dink Wardlaw’s Cats and Other “Benefits”

One of the perks of living in a place where everyone knows everyone else is parties where the gang gathers. One evening John Junior drove over to the Wardlaw Place with John III to play cards. They drank whisky and played…until they drank a lot of that whisky. As Junior and his son were getting in their pickup to leave, Dink threw one of his many cats through the window and said, “here have a cat–take him with you.” The orange-marmalade, striped cat did very well at the Home Place and soon there were many cats with orange stripes roaming the place. When John III married Lucy, she fed them store-bought food and sheltered them in her greenhouse. They soon multiplied to over thirty similarly-striped cats living in the barn. There’s still some of Dink’s cats living there today.

Anne Ward and Stephanie Chambers are writing more Casa Piedra tales to be posted at a future date…

Life on the Ward Ranch