In 1830 José Justo Liendo, of Leona Vicario, then residing in Nacogdoches, gave Thomas F. McKinney power of attorney to locate ten of the eleven leagues of land Liendo had purchased from the Mexican government two years before. McKinney located five of the ten leagues in what is now Waller County, where the remarkable shape of the tract still stands out on maps, since the survey was run to include only "entirely vacant" land. In 1841 McKinney, still acting for the owner, sold Leonard W. Groce the part of the Liendo survey that lay north and west of Pond Creek, "3,000 acres, more or less," for $1,500. Groce increased his holdings through the years and in 1860 paid $1,200 for the remainder of the five leagues that had not been sold. Groce's home on the plantation, which he named Liendo, was built by slave labor and completed in 1853. Bricks were made from the red clay of the Brazos. The foundation was of brick, stuccoed with red plaster. The chimneys were of brick, plastered with lime. The house, colonial in style, had outer walls of drop-leaf siding, painted white. The adjustable blinds were dark green. The floors and ceilings were tongue-and-groove yellow pine. The ceiling of the drawing room was hand-painted in a design of roses and morning glories, the same design being carried out in its frieze. The interior walls were smoothly finished in plaster. The wainscotting of the dining room and the second-floor bedrooms reached six feet above the floors. The kitchen had facilities large enough to roast a whole beef; whole roast pig was mere routine. A "bachelors' hall" on the grounds was equipped to house guests. The Groce children and children of neighbors were instructed by a tutor at a schoolhouse on the plantation. A convenient stopping place between the Houston-Galveston area and Austin, Liendo had a stream of guests that included the prominent of its day. Revenues of the plantation, which was operated with about 300 slaves, have been estimated as high as $80,000 to $100,000 a year in good years.
During the Civil War, Camp Groce was established at Liendo, where cavalry, artillery, and infantry were recruited. Converted to a prisoner of war camp, it housed troops captured at the battle of Galveston. From September 1 to December 1, 1865, the plantation was the camping place of Gen. George A. Custer and his command. In 1866 Groce sold the white elephant Liendo had become but had to take it back the next year. In 1873 Leonard W. Groce, Jr., sold Elisabet Ney and Edmund D. Montgomery 1,100 acres, "the homestead tract of the late Leonard W. Groce, Sr.," for $10,000. The new owners knew nothing about cotton planting, and the procession of their mortgages was long. In 1909 Dr. Montgomery, Elisabet Ney having moved to Austin earlier, deeded Liendo to Theodor Low, reserving for himself a life interest and right of occupancy. The same year Low sold to W. P. Gaines, who in 1910 sold the property to George W. Harris, of Hughes County, South Dakota. Dr. Montgomery waived his life interest and reserved only the right to use a portion of the main house. He stayed at Liendo until his death in 1911. He and Elisabet Ney were buried in a grove of live oaks on the grounds. In 1943 Mrs. Laura B. Harris, widow of George W. Harris, sold her property to Miss Willene Compton, who occupied the mansion. A record of the appearance and condition of the mansion at Liendo has been deposited in the Library of Congress. Among the relics to be seen at Liendo are possessions of Elisabet Ney and Dr. Montgomery. The plantation was purchased by Phyllis and Carl Detering in 1961 and completely reconstructed and modernized.
Carrie B. Coss, Liendo Plantation (Hempstead, Texas: Waller County Historical Commission, 1977). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Waller County Historical Survey Committee, A History of Waller County, Texas (Waco: Texian, 1973).
Houses, Mansions, and Plantations
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