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REMEMBER WHEN: Burnam, Frasier, Denniston ranch families among first Marble Falls settlers

Burnam, Frasier, Denniston ranch families among first Marble Falls settlers

These three friends grew up on original land grants in the Double Horn area off of FM 2147 East in Marble Falls. Bobby Burnam (left), Jean Denniston Eades, and Alfred Frasier remember riding horses for transportation, going over the old wood-and-iron bridge to get across the Colorado River into town, and watching Westerns and early Disney movies at the Uptown Theatre. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman

Bobby Burnam still lives on land first granted to his family for fighting in the war for independence from Mexico. Jean Eades has a ranch nearby that has been in her family almost as long. Alfred Frasier’s family moved to the Burnam place in a covered wagon a few years before buying their own ranch in the area. 

Sitting at a table in Eades’ home in the original Double Horn (not the incorporated area near Spicewood) off of FM 2147 East in Marble Falls, the 91-year-old Burnam, 75-year-old Eades, and 85-year-old Frasier looked over photographs and thumbed through yearbooks from the old Granite School in Marble Falls, trying to remember how long they’ve been friends.

“All our lives,” they finally had to agree. Not one could recall a time they didn’t know each other or each other’s families. 

Frasier’s ancestors moved to Texas from Tennessee in 1850. They first settled in Bosque County, where Frasier’s great-grandfather raised horses and drove cattle on the Chisholm Trail. After Frasier’s great-grandfather died, his great-grandmother loaded her children in a covered wagon and headed south. They stopped in Double Horn sometime around 1885.

“They didn’t have a pit to hiss in to tell you the truth about it,” Frasier said. “One of Bobby’s relatives, somebody, I don’t remember which, felt sorry for them and let them move onto the Burnam ranch.” 

The three friends, who of course were not around at the time, remember seeing the old rock cabin where Frasier’s grandfather was born. It’s now just a pile of rocks, Frasier said. His grandfather eventually bought a piece of Double Horn himself.

With all living in close proximity — albeit with acres between them — some overlap in relations was bound to occur. 

“My dad’s mother was a Frasier,” Eades recalled. 

Their stories entwine the families and the history of Marble Falls from before the town’s founding to now.

Eades is a descendent of Thomas L. Denniston, her great-grandfather, who moved from Tennessee in 1850. He purchased land that stretched from the Pedernales River to 2½ miles outside of Marble Falls.  

Denniston donated 36 of those acres to establish Rockvale Methodist Church, a campground for wagon trains, and the Rockvale cemetery. The church property was sold in 1939 and the stone building torn down. The money and stone were used to establish what is now First United Methodist Church of Marble Falls at its original location on the west side of U.S. 281 between Fourth and Fifth streets. The church’s first parsonage was built out of the stone. 

Eades is the mother of three grown children, who grew up in Buda. Her daughters, Pamela Scivicque and Kimberly Johnson, live there still. Her son, Darrell Carter, is deceased. 

For 28 years, Eades worked for the state, first at the Texas Highway Department and then the State Comptroller’s office, eventually retiring from the Department of Human Services. After moving back to the family ranch in 1985, she worked 10 years for the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce. Over the years, she has been active with the chamber, The Falls on the Colorado Museum, and the Marble Falls Rodeo. 

The Burnam property where siblings Bobby, Sam, and Alice Ruth Burnam (now Johnson) grew up was received via a land grant for “shouldering arms for Texas.” Between 1835 and 1888, the Bounty and Donation Land Grants of Texas promised land it had not yet won to those who would fight for independence from Mexico.

Although some of the land has been sold, Bobby and wife Bertie and Sam and wife Trina reside in separate homes on the Burnam Ranch, which now includes additional land beyond the grant. 

Sister Alice Ruth married Ross Johnson, a descendant of Adam Rankin Johnson, the blind man who founded Marble Falls in 1887. Alice founded one of the first dealerships in the community, now known as Johnson Sewell Ford. It remains in the family. 

Old Burnam house in Marble Falls
This was the last of three houses that burned on the Burnam Ranch off of FM 2147 East in Marble Falls. Bobby Burnam was in the Marine Corps serving in Korea when his parents lost their home in 1952. He lives in the home he rebuilt in 1970. The original spring house still stands adjacent and provides water for the ranch. Courtesy photo

Bobby and Bertie Burnam live in the house he built in 1970, right where the original homestead once stood. It is attached to the original spring house, which still supplies water to the ranch. It survived fires that destroyed the three previous homes. 

The Burnams owned Burnam’s Feed and Ranch Supply, which was founded by Bobby, Sam, and Alice Ruth’s father, R.M. Burnam Sr., and was next door to Blue Bonnet Cafe. Bobby’s daughter Bridgette Burnam and her two sisters, Jennifer Tilton and Janet Douglas, grew up in the store, “harassing Pappy, trying to get the keys to the Coke machine.” 

“Daddy started a pest control business, and he had the feed store and ranch,” Bridgette said. “The Llano Feed Store sells a feed named the Burnam Blend based on a mix he developed.” 

Burnam and Frasier remember riding their horses to town on Saturdays, traveling about 5 miles over the hill and across the old wood-and-iron bridge, the first of three bridges that spanned the Colorado River.

Saturday was trade day, when downtown visitors were given a raffle ticket for an afternoon drawing for free groceries. The day ended with a movie at the Uptown Theatre.

“We tied our horses where Doc Shepperd’s office used to be (southwest corner of Main and Second streets),” Frasier said. “It was a burned-out building at the time with big mesquite trees. We tied our horses under the shade.” 

“We usually saw a Roy Rogers (film) or some other Western at the Uptown,” Burnam added.

As the youngest of the group, Eades wasn’t part of those Saturday escapades, though she recalled riding horses all over the Double Horn area, just not to town. She also remembers the Uptown Theatre. 

“The first movie I remember seeing there was ‘Bambi,’” she said. 

“I remember going there when ‘Gone with the Wind’ finally came to Marble Falls,’” Frasier said. “Daddy would give me a quarter, and I would buy a vanilla ice cream at Michelle’s Drug Store, go the movies, and buy a bag of popcorn. That’s what a quarter would do back in the day.” 

Frasier often worked in his brother’s grocery store all day on Saturdays. Johnny’s Grocery was on Main Street across from where Old Oak Square is now. 

“All those farmers and ranchers came to town on Saturdays,” he continued. “They would stand around on the sidewalks visiting. The sidewalks were full of people. Most came for groceries. The men would end up over at Paul Lynn’s barber shop (also on Main Street).” 

Frasier’s family eventually bought a farm and ranch on the other side of Meadowlakes. That land is now owned by Texas Granite, where Frasier worked for years after a stint at the Mathis Plant. After selling that ranch, his father bought one on Mormon Mill Road. 

“I stayed with the granite company until 1982,” Frasier said. “I finally retired after 62 years working there. I was on the board of directors until I totally retired.” 

Frasier now lives in Granite Shoals near his daughter, Catherine Bell. He also has a son, Amiel Frasier, who works with the Moursund Insurance Agency in Round Mountain. Now fully retired, he ranched until 2014 on a place he owned in Lometa. 

After about an hour of recounting how the first traffic light in town was put in to slow down the truckers barreling along U.S. 281 and how the town used to have only two paved streets — the highway and two blocks of Main Street — the three friends decided it was time to lay the table for lunch. 

“Everybody here was kin to one another back then,” said Eades, closing a 1949 Marble Falls High School yearbook and pushing it across the table to Frasier. “But we don’t know anybody anymore.” 

Although they all do still know each other and their offspring, who might even continue their family ranching traditions in Double Horn.

1 thought on “REMEMBER WHEN: Burnam, Frasier, Denniston ranch families among first Marble Falls settlers

  1. So what relation were Murry and Winston Burnam of the Burnam Bros. Predator Calls to Bobby Burnam?

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