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The History of La Ventana
By Greg Carter
In order to build a tax base and encourage settlement in the new Republic of Texas, immigrants were granted land by the government. The amount of acreage issued was based on the time period in which an immigrant arrived in Texas.
This right to land was referred to as “headrights” and second-class headrights were issued to those who arrived between March 2, 1836 and October 1, 1837. Single men were eligible for 640 acres. Both Peter Turner and Isaac Pearson obtained these second-class headrights when they entered East Texas during this time frame. No specific parcel of land was connected to this document – it was the responsibility of the grantee to find their own land and have it lawfully surveyed. These certificates could be sold or transferred.
On August 21, 1839, Isaac Pearson purchased Peter Turner’s certificate and then held the right to 1280 acres. For purposes of reference the name of the original certificate holder is retained as a means of identifying the surveyed tract.
Isaac Pearson soon headed west. He arrived in the Bastrop County area, Hays County not yet having been created, and, on December 8, 1847, he located, surveyed and patented his 640 acres. This patent, a form of land title by which land was transferred from the government to the private sector, was issued by the, now, State of Texas. Shortly thereafter, he surveyed 640 acres immediately to the north of this patent and was issued a patent for the Peter Turner acreage on April 29, 1848.
The property that we now refer to as “La Ventana,” not including the area directly south known as “The Preserve at La Ventana” (or the Shoestring Ranch), consists of approximately 650 acres and falls within these two patents, lying on the eastern side of the land grants.
Isaac Pearson did not hold on to the property for long and, on February 23, 1854, he sold the land to Leon Moke and so started a long line of owners of all or part of the La Ventana land. Several Prominent Driftwood area families owned part of this land, including the Whisenants and the McKenzies, and, as we look back at the 20th century, we find Albert Owens and his wife, Zoe, obtaining deed to 500 acres on May 12, 1927 for the sum of $3000.
The Owens family is important in the history of La Ventana because they held title to the land longer than anyone else and maintain an interest in it to this day. They built a new home that was located just to the east of the well located on the island on Island Oaks Lane. Zoe passed away in 1934, leaving Albert to raise eight children on the Owens ranch. During WWII, four of the Owens boys served in the military, leaving Albert, his three daughters (Rachel, Gretna and Janel) and his son (Truitt) to hold down the home front. All four sons (Milton, Ray, Blanton and Calvin) returned after the war but later all married and moved out of the Driftwood area. Albert passed away in 1974 and the family sold the ranch to the Robertsons on May 14, 1976.
The Robertson family sold the ranch to George S. Hinkle on February 26, 1982 and the property became the Leaning H Ranch. Mr. Hinkle had an interest in raising Brangus cattle and, as a result, added 109 acres at the north end of the property. This land was acquired from our neighbor, Syd Hall, in 1986 and provided the pasture that allowed Mr. Hinkle to showcase his cattle. He also added the red sales barn and the driveway, located on the west side of the property, which led to his ranch house that was located at the end of Trailmaster circle. The Leaning H was considered to be one of the premier properties in Hays County.
In 1998, the Leaning H was purchased by Michael Levenson and The Ranch at Driftwood (La Ventana) was created. Mr. Levenson purchased approximately 70 acres on the west perimeter from Tommy Echols (the Cactus Flower extension). This brought the total size of the original La Ventana property up to approximately 650 acres.
As is common in this area of Texas, prominent landmarks took on interesting names. Here are several associated with the La Ventana property:
- The flat area located at the bottom of Stable Lane was known as the McKenzie Flats. This area was used to grow corn and cotton.
- The (normally) dry creek bed traversing the front pasture is known as The Rocky Fork.
- The hill at the end of La Ventana Parkway was known as Mitchell Hill. Mitchell was a horse whose barn was located on the hill and he is buried in the vicinity.
- Located to the south of the original La Ventana property is The Preserve at La Ventana. That’s the area originally known as the Shoestring Ranch, so named because it is a long, narrow piece of land.
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