Day Trips

Liendo Plantation outside of Hempstead has witnessed the good and evil of Texas history. Built in 1853 with slave labor, the plantation home was a center of social activity until it fell into disrepair and was purchased by the world-renowned sculptor Elisabet Ney.

The stately old house has been restored to its original grandeur and opens on the first Saturday of the month.

One of the largest and earliest plantations in Southeast Texas, Liendo hosted many dignitaries, including generals Sam Houston and George Custer.

Halfway around the globe, Elisabet Ney was 20 years old when the house was built. The daughter of a successful stone mason, Ney was the first female admitted to the Munich Art Academy in 1852 and graduated top of her class.

For the first 15 years of her career, Ney sculpted some of the most prominent men of Europe. When the Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1871, Elisabet and her husband, Dr. Edmund Montgomery, boarded a ship for America.

For two years, the couple tried to make a Georgia plantation profitable, but the worn-out soil, summer humidity, and unfriendly neighbors made the situation intolerable. On March 4, 1873, Ney and Montgomery arrived at Liendo with their two young sons to begin a new life in Texas.

After 10 years of running the plantation, Ney turned the farm over to her husband and resumed sculpting. In 1890, Ney received a commission for statues of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. She immediately began building a studio named Formosa three miles north of Austin's business district in Hyde Park (304 E. 44th).

The financial drain of the plantation continued while Ney labored away in Austin. Dr. Montgomery and their son Lorne tried dairy cows, goats, cotton, and introduced watermelons, now one of the county's largest cash crops.

Liendo is 95 miles east of Austin, but it took Ney four days by horseback or, later, all day by railroad to make the journey. Her work was the only income.

In the spring of 1907, Ney collapsed after dinner at Liendo. It took her six weeks to recover enough to return to Austin. At Formosa her condition worsened and Elisabet Ney died in the upstairs bedroom on June 29, 1907.

Dr. Montgomery took Ney's body back to Liendo and buried her next to the ashes of their first son in a stand of live oak trees they had planted and named "The Sacred Grove." Edmund Montgomery was placed next to his "best friend" four years later. In 1964, Lorne's youngest child, Elisabet Ney Montgomery Douthit, was laid to rest next to her grandparents. Lorne died in 1913 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The plantation home was sold to pay debts and went through a succession of owners until 1960 when the Detering family purchased the property. The yard is shaded with live oak trees draped with Spanish moss and a fountain that has been bubbling for over 100 years.

Guests are welcome on the first Saturday of each month for tours at 10am, 11:30am, and 1pm. Surrounded by a ranch, Liendo is north of Hempstead off of US290: Take FM1488 to Wyatt Chapel Road, turn right, and the entrance is about a mile east. (800/826-4371)

The Liendo Restaurant and Tea Shop in Hempstead, 306 10th St., is a gift shop and restaurant. The Tea Shop is open Mon.-Sat., 10am-5pm. Food is served 11am-2pm and 6-9pm on Friday and Saturday. (409/826-4400)

Coming up this weekend...

Founders' Day Sidewalk Market in Wimberley features baked goods, cake walk, and sales in the shops, Mar.1. 512/847-8868.

Tejano Music Awards in San Antonio is one of the largest events to spotlight this distinctively Texas music, Mar.1. 210/222-8862.

Bob Marley Festival in Houston features all kinds of world beat music at Buffalo Park, Mar.1-2. 713/688-3900.

Coming up...

Workday at The Nature Conservancy's Dolan Falls Ranch includes camping opportunities, Mar.7-9. 915/292-4351.

Llano Estacado Winery is replacing their original grape vines and is selling the historic Merlot roots for $59.95 plus shipping. 806/745-2258 or llanowine@aol.com.


Day Trips, Vol.1, a book of the first 100 day trips from this column, updated and expanded, is available for $6.95, plus $3.05 for shipping and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, 1712 E. Riverside Dr., Box 156, Austin, TX 78741.

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