Saturday, March 20, 2010

Big Bend :: Castolon

Back in the early 1900s, the Castolon area was under cultivation. It was interesting to look at the area now and imagine green, luscious fields filling the valley, made possible through irrigation by pulling water away from the Rio Grande. Where now you see cactus, mesquite and other desert plants there were acres of cotton, sorghum, alfalfa, corn, wheat, and melons. Actually, it is beyond imagining. It really is hard to believe that someone could actually farm in that rocky, sandy soil.

The remains of several houses of the farming families are still standing and can be seen on a short half-file walk about seven miles from the campground. One such farmhouse is that of James and Melissa Belle Sublett, settlers who came to Castolon in 1913. According to a sign at the site, James is recognized for introducing mechanized farming into Big Bend and also installed the area's first irrigation system supplied by a water wheel. By 1918, he owned nearly 3,000 acres of land in the area.

Built on the side of a hill, the walls of the Sublett home are all that remain. The back wall had no windows since it faced the hillside.

The remaining walls of the Sublett home.

The view from the front of the Sublett home. As beautiful as it can be sometimes, I'm not sure it would be worth it to me to live in such a place. For some it obviously is, but I'm not one of them!

The Dorgan House, shown below, was built in the 1930s by Albert W. Dorgan and his wife Avis Ann. The adobe home had large windows at the front and a double fireplace that opened into the central living area. In 1938 the Dorgans vacated this property and in 1941 leased it to A. F. Robinson who opened a resort hoping to benefit from the new Big Bend National Park. The resort was a failure and the Dorgans sold it for inclusion in the park.

In the early years of the park, historic structures like the Dorgan and Sublett homes, were either destroyed or allowed to deteriorate because they were not thought of as part of the natural scenery.

The Dorgan house was built on a mesa, which overlooked the Sublett home.

The fireplace in the Dorgan home, made of stone, petrified wood, and adobe bricks, dwarfs the remains of the house. It stands about 10 feet tall.

A detail of the adobe walls of the remains of the Dorgan home.

The ruins of the Sublett home, in the center of the picture, appears insignificant in context of its surroundings. The mountains behind the home are in Mexican territory. The Rio Grande flows at the base of those mountains, several miles from the Sublett home.

The Subletts and Dorgans would have witnessed many such mornings as this. In their struggles to make a living, I wonder if they saw the beauty around them.

Photographs taken March 1, 2010 and March 2, 2010.

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