History 1873-Present

  The old Stonewall Saloon was built in 1873 and was the first building to be erected in the town built by Irb H. Boggess.  The Saloon was operated under the title of Boggess and Fulton and later dubbed The Stonewall Saloon.  Peg Leg Fulton was the operator of the Saloon. The Saloon according to stories was opened to accommodate the thirsty trail drovers, traveling on long cattle drives, headed to the Red River Station on the Chisholm Trail.  A boarding house was upstairs.

           Cattle drive coming into Saint Jo.  Notice the water tower in the background. 

           Cattle drive coming into Saint Jo.  Notice the water tower in the background. 

   In 1897 came county prohibition and causing the saloon to close on Feb. 11, 1899.  In 1902, the building was being used as a restaurant. For a time Mr. Boggess used the building as his real estate office.  In 1905, James R. Wiley bought the building from Boggess and established the Citizens National Bank. He added a vault and modernized the front facade of the building with a large picture window. By the end of the depression, the town was no longer able to support two banks. In 1942, the owner of competing the bank, H.D. Field Sr., purchased and dissolved the Citizens Bank. 

    The building stayed in the Field estate and was rented for offices.  For the next few years the old saloon building was used for various commercial enterprises including a doctor’s office upstairs and a real estate business. It was the head quarters of the Kingery Brothers Oil Company for many years.

    In 1950's, H.D. Field Jr., purchased the building and restored it to a replica of the original saloon. A large ornate mirrored back bar was purchased and hauled in from Floresville, Texas. Swinging doors were added that sported area rancher’s and farmer’s brands. Families donated items to be displayed in the new museum. It was opened in 1958 as the Stonewall Saloon Museum, the year of Saint Jo's Centennial celebration.  It became a major tourist attraction and landmark for the small town. Stucco was applied to the exterior of the building at some point in the mid 1960s.

                                                   O.K. "Kurz" Williams 1964

                                                   O.K. "Kurz" Williams 1964

   In 1964 the Texas Historical Survey Committee awarded a historical marker to the building. During its years as a museum Lewis Lauderdale, Leslie Hendricks, Boyd Whitson and Sue Yetter served as the curator. All but Mrs. Yetter, during their tenure, lived in a back room of the saloon. The museum was sold by the Fields family in 1996 and the new owners again operated it as a replica of an old time saloon open for occasions.

                             Curator Lewis Lauderdale and dog named Lady.

                             Curator Lewis Lauderdale and dog named Lady.

    In February 2011, the building was purchased by locals and the property put into a 501(c3) non-profit corporation with the intent of establishing a first class museum depicting the early days of Saint Jo, Head of Elm and the intersection of the Chisholm Trail and the California Trail. 

    Donations from within the community resulted in the ability to restore the structural integrity of the original building at a cost of just over $100,000.  Time had taken its toll on the building requiring major repairs including replacing the roof, re-mortaring the stone walls, replacing the flooring, windows and interior decor.  A structural engineer and a historical architect were employed for advice on the proper approach to restore the old building.

    As layers of history were removed from the walls of the building, a mural was discovered.  Johnny Langer, a historical art conservator from Galveston's paint conservation studio, was contacted and dated the mural to mid-1870, the first decorations on the walls.  The discovered mural included urns with flowers and reeds painted on both sides of the bar.  Connecting the two urns was a fringed curtain draped above the original back bar.  Langer related that traveling artists commonly decorated the walls of buildings and courthouses in that era.  He directed techniques to reveal the art work, preserve it, recreate the mural and provided advice about the original colors of the building's interior.  Local artist, Joel Hale, made tracings of the artwork and recreated it after the renovation of the saloon walls were completed.

    The first phase secured the integrity of the building and renovated the old saloon portion downstairs. The museum was open to visitors the first weekend in August, 2011.  Over 2000 visitors have stopped by to see the museum since then. Many of the artifacts from the 1958 Centennial museum are on display.

    The second phase was a two-story addition on the back of the original building.  It added central heat and air, bathrooms and a staircase to the second floor and an area for an elevator when funds are available.

    The third phase was completed in November 2017.  It was the completion of the entire second floor and doubled the size of the museum.  An elevator was installed and all the additional displays were finished.  Including mounting the old front of the museum that had local brands and the old swinging doors. 

    In 2016, the museum had over 2,500 visitors who signed out guest book which represented 38 states and 11 countries.