Central Texas Storybooks

Central Texas Stories and Legends

The McGehee Farmhouse

The Louisa McGehee Jones House on College Hill built in 1865
The Louisa McGehee Jones House on College Hill built in 1865.
The Duncan C. McLean Family about 1905 outside their home on College Hill, Salado, Texas. The Duncan C. McLean family was the third family to live in the house. L - R: Eunice Eula, Lawrence J., Dallas, Milie, Arthur, Duncan. (Courtesy photograph edited by Nancy Shepperd).

This farmhouse built in 1865 by widow Louisa McGehee sits on a part of a 1,280-acre land grant for which Elijah Sterling Clack (E.S.C.) Robertson received a patent (original title) from the State of Texas on 21 February 1858.1 The first-time owner of land receives a patent. Subsequent owners receive a deed. This patent was signed by Governor Elisha M. Pease. The land, 70,500 acres, had been inherited from Robertson’s father, Empresario Sterling Clack Roberston (1785-1842), who had a contract with the government of Mexico to bring settlers into this part of Texas.

On 6 November 1865, E.S.C. Robertson wrote in his journal that the widow Mrs. Louisa McGehee and her son, James Hiram McGehee, called on him with a letter from Thomas H. Jones that asked Robertson to sell her a lot on which to build. Robertson accompanied Mrs. McGehee and her son to the property he owned with Jones and sold her this lot on which to build her farmhouse. Thomas H. Jones and Mrs. Louisa McGehee married on 14 February 1866.

Thomas H. Jones owned one of eight mills along Salado Creek. He built a gristmill on Salado Creek in 1869 which operated until 1884. A sprocket and a portion of the original rock wall remain at the old hole number 9 at the Salado Mill Creek golf course. In 1874, Col. Jones deeded his mill property to his daughters M. Louisa and Olivia Jones.

The original street address of the McGehee property was Donation Line Road, which formed the southern boundary of the proposed Female College Tract of the Salado College Survey.

The second owner of the house was a professor at Thomas Arnold High School located at the site of the former Salado College which was just across the road.

Thomas Jefferson (T.J.) Witt and wife Marion N. Witt purchased the house 1 October 1890. Before coming to Salado, Witt served as principal of the nearby Holland public school during the 1886-1887 school term. He then became the first school superintendent of Bell County Schools, and later a co-founder with Samuel J. Jones of the prestigious Thomas Arnold High School, which followed the closing of Salado College. Professor Witt was actively engaged in the work of TAHS as associate principal and as the mathematics and science teacher.

Circa 1885 Professor Witt married Mamie Porter the eldest daughter of the Reverend and Mrs. J. M. Porter of Salado. The couple had four daughters; Anita, Edith, Roberta, and Marian. Mamie Witt was also a teacher at Thomas Arnold High School.

This house originally constructed in a dogtrot style has undergone some major renovations. The first renovation was to enclose the dogtrot. When this was done, the front two rooms were added which gives the house a symmetrical appearance.

Owners of the McGhee-Jones House

First Owner and Builder - Louisa (Morgan) McGehee

Louisa McGehee formerly Morgan was born 8 January 1826 in Tennessee. Daughter of (father unknown) and (mother unknown). Siblings (unknown).

Wife of William Blair McGehee – married about 1842 in Bastrop, Republic of Texas.

Mother of Mary A. McGehee born December 5, 1848; Thomas Scott McGehee, February 8, 1845; James Hiram McGehee born November 8, 1847; and William LeRoy McGehee born in 1849.

James Hiram McGehee was born in Bastrop in 1847, the son of William Blair McGehee and Louisa Morgan McGehee. He boarded with the E.S.C. Roberston family while attending Salado College. His father, a lieutenant with the Twenty-First Cavalry, received a gunshot wound as he led a charge on Crawley’s Ridge in Arkansas during the War Between the States and died on May 15, 1863. In 1866, his mother married Thomas H. Jones, E.S.C. Robertson’s friend and business partner.

On August 22, 1870, McGehee became postmaster. On March 9, 1871, he married Josephine Aiken, daughter on Hermon Aiken. Rev. James E. Ferguson, a Methodist minister, performed their marriage ceremony in Salado. They became the parents of seven children.2

Louisa McGehee Jones died 22 January 1919 at age 93 in Rotan, Fisher County, Texas. Thomas H. Jones died in 1888. He was buried with his first wife at Oakwood Cemetery in Austin. (See obituary at the end of this article).

Second Owner: T. J. Witt


Was One of the Leading Educators of Texas

(Houston Post Special)

Austin, Texas, September 9, 1905 – The death of Prof. T. J. Witt occurred at Devine Friday afternoon. He was born in Alabama, but removed with his father to Texas in 1870, being then a boy about 20 years old. Through his own efforts young Witt attended school and finally graduated from Baylor university and began teaching school in Bell and adjoining counties. In 1870 he was chosen the first superintendent of Bell County schools, which position he held for three years.

Prof. Witt left the work of school superintendent to become one of the founders of the Thomas Arnold High School at Salado, Texas, and for a period of twelve years he was actively engaged in the work of that school as associate principal, his associate being Dr. Jones, still at Salado. For six years he was a member of the State board of examiners, and was conductor of no less than seven summer normals in various parts of the State.

In 1902 he was the principal organizer of the Jefferson Academy at Moody, Texas, and associate principal of this school during the first two years of its work. Finding that his health was failing he severed his connection with the Moody school and removed to Devine. He entered the school work there being superintendent of the Devine public schools for the years 1904-1905.

About 1885 Prof. Witt was married to Miss Mamie Porter of Bell County, who, with four daughters, survives him.

Houston Post (Houston, Texas) 10 Sep 1905, Sun. Page 6

Third Owner – Duncan Calhoun McLean and wife Milie, 1901 – 1908

On 21 December 1901, Duncan Calhoun McLean and wife Milie Reed McLean purchased the property.3 The McLean family lived at the property for approximately seven years. It is the McLean family who is pictured circa 1905 in front of the house. For years, the present owners were under the impression that it was the McLean family who built the house. It was not until the fall of 2022 that additional research into the Bell County Deed Records revealed the true owner and builder of the house.

The house was the home of five children born to the McLeans. The siblings were Hugh Condry McLean (1879-1881), Lawrence Jerome McLean (1882-1946), Eunice Eula McLean (1884-1966), Dallas Duncan McLean (1890-1979), and Arthur Furman McLean (1893-1970). The latter four children attended Thomas Arnold High School.

McLean was active in public affairs and was a successful farmer. In 1903 he served as School Board President for the Salado Public School System. He served as an officer for the Salado Fair, and as an executive member of the Cotton Raisers Association, and was a County Commissioner after he left Salado in 1908 and moved to Rogers.

Fourth Owner – J. T. Bevill and wife M. N. Bevill, 1908 - 1909

On 27 May 1908, J. T. Bevill and wife M. N. Bevill purchased the property.4. The Bevills owned the property for one year before selling to W. A. Baker.

Fifth Owner – W. A. Baker 1909 – 1946

On 9 November 1909 W.A. Baker purchased the property from J.T. and M.N. Bevill.5 Baker owned the property for 37 years.

There are two references to a W. A. Baker who lived in Salado. One was found in Charlie Turnbo’s book, Salado, Texas-Frontier College Town, page 175, and the second is from the Bakers' tombstone in the Salado Cemetery.

William A. Baker born Nov.15,1864. Died April 23, 1945.
Claudia F. Baker born Nov.12, 1866. Died June 7, 1918.

Apparently, Baker owned and perhaps lived in the house for 27 years after the death of his wife Claudia in 1918.

After Baker’s death in 1945, his heirs sold the property the next year to E.E. Peteete, a widower.

Sixth Owner – E.E. Peteete, a widower. 1946 – 19876

On June 12, 1946, E.E. Peteete purchased the property from Baker heirs. Peteete owned the property until his death in 1987. (41 years).

On 1 November 1957 the Peteetes made a contract with Herrington Lumber Company of Bell County to make improvements on the house. Said improvements to be made are designated as follows:

1 – 12 ft. kitchen cabinet, new shingles on roof, S. R., tape, textured and paint two rooms.7

Seventh Owner: Rodney T. Russell and wife Sheryl S. Russell, 1996 – 2000

On 29 August 1996, Rodney T. Russell and wife Sheryl Russell purchased the property from Alice Womack, Betty Jo Corbett, Mark Peteete, and Claribel Peteete.8 At the time of the sale, Claribel’s address was given as #9 Oak Park, Salado, Texas, Bell County, Texas 76571.

Claribel Peteete died January 28, 2002. She had been a member of First Baptist Church Salado for 66 years. Her son Mark is pictured in the cover photograph on the First Baptist Church history book published in 2013.

Russell owned the property from 1996 until he sold it to the current owners, Jill and Johnny Shipman in 2000. The Russells never moved into the house and it sat vacant until the Shipmans bought it.

Eighth Owner – Russell to Shipman9

17 May 2000 – Johnny M. Shipman and wife Jill Welch Shipman purchased the property from Rodney Thomas Russell. The Shipmans had a vision of what the house could be even though it had been vacant for several years and was in desperate need of repairs. A rose bush was growing inside the bedroom, the back porch had been completely ripped off and you had to walk a plank from the porch to get to the kitchen.

Both Jill and Johnny are artists and with their vision for the house, they began a two-year project to restore the house. They added a kitchen/great room and a master bedroom. In addition to renovating the house, the Shipmans, through their art, have given the house their personal touch.

The McGehee Jones/Shipman house has been featured on the Salado Historical Society Christmas Home Tour several times and is always a favorite. The next time the house is on the tour, there will be recently found information to share about the builder of the house, and how and from whom she acquired the property as well as recently found information about the second owner of the house.

Written by Charlene Ochsner Carson
Research assistance by Alida Smith, Bell County Clerk’s Office, Belton, Texas

Note: Obituary for Thomas H. Jones follows.


Thomas H. Jones died at 7:35 a.m. on February 28, 1883 at his son-in-law's home in Austin. The Austin American Statesman of March 1, 1883 printed the following obituary.


Died, Wednesday, February 28, at 7:35 a. m., at the residence of his son-in-law, Mr. Walter Caldwell, in this city, Thomas H. Jones, Esq., of Bell County, Texas.

The deceased was a native of Halifax county, North Carolina, but was chiefly reared in Tennessee. From the last-named state he moved to Texas in 1846, and settled as a farmer on the Colorado river, a few miles below Austin. There, widely known for his probity, public spirit, beneficence and enterprise, he resided about twenty years, and thence he moved to Bell county. During his residence in Travis county, scarcely any public enterprise was originated in or around Austin, dependent on private liberality for its successful establishment, that did not receive at his hands a generous benefaction. To Bell county he carried the same fibered spirit, and the churches and educational interests of his new home were large beneficiaries of his open-hearted munificence.

For several years his health had been in a declining condition, and during the last few months of his life his suffering was intense and acute. Few are called upon to bear such physical anguish as fell to his lot, and rarely, when it does befall them, do they sustain it with as much patience and fortitude as he did. As husband, father, friend, citizen and master of servants he was a bright exemplar of the virtues that should adorn each several relations, and from a personal and intimate knowledge of the lamented dead, extending over a space of more than forty years, the writer can justly say of him, that he was the peer of earth's noblest and best in all that constitutes true and lofty manhood.

For the last two years of his life the consolations of the gospel were his, and only a few days before his departure, no longer able to articulate distinctly, he whispered in the ear of a friend, "I have no further hope of this life, but of the life to come I have a strong hope, based only on the infinite love of God in Christ to lost sinners."

He has left a widow, who was his second wife, four children of his first marriage and one sister, besides a wide circle of remoter kindred and very many friends, to mourn him gone and wish in vain for

"The grasp of vanished hand, And sound of voice forever still."
J. H. H.

Thomas H. Jones June 21, 1816 - February 28, 1883 Burial: Oakwood Cemetery, Austin, Texas.

By Charlene Ochsner Carson
Page last updated: February 19, 2024


  1Bell County Deed Records, vol. F, p. 250.
  2Empresario’s Son: E.S.C. Robertson of Salado, Michael W. Kelsey, Nancy Graff Kelsey, Ginny Guinn Parsons, page 221-222.
  3Vol. 193, p. 591.
  4Vol. 188, p. 112.
  5Vol. 99, p. 463.
  6Vol. 551, p. 295.
  7Contract for Labor and Materials and Trust Deed, vol. 37, p. 138.
  8Vol. 3517, p. 480.
  9Vol. 4201, p. 439.

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