Muleshoe Heritage Center
The Muleshoe Heritage Center is a museum of six outdoor buildings and other artifacts which commemorate life in the West Texas ranching country of the United States. It is located at 2000 Ash Street off U.S. Highways 70 and 84 in west Muleshoe in Bailey County, which borders New Mexico.
The visitor center is located in a former train depot of the Pecos and Northern Texas Railway Company, which was moved to the current site in 1985 and dedicated in 1987. The former ticket and passenger waiting room of the depot is furnished with period furniture, lace curtains, and burgundy drapes. The center contains historical pictures and memorabilia, a small office area, and a meeting room with full kitchen used for senior citizens, bridal showers, receptions, and reunions.
Janes Ranch House
Next to the visitor center is the large ranch house of John Nelson Janes (1869-1930), purchased in 1915 for $2,763.53 as an Aladdin mail order (or kit house) and shipped to Muleshoe via rail. The house, which has a full basement and two complete stories, was built for Janes’ bride, Anna, whom he met in Kansas City, Missouri. The house had steam heat, electricity, the previously unknown luxury of two bathrooms, and running water provided by a windmill. On the second floor is a ballroom, presumably to permit Anna to hold grand parties for distant ranch families. The basement housed Janes’ office, a game room, steam boiler, coal bin, fireplace, and laundry chute.
On September 8, 1914, Anna Janes gave birth to a daughter named “John Ann.” One of the upstairs bedrooms was made into a nursery. In October 1918, Anna died of influenza, which struck much of the post-World War I world at that time. In 1919, Janes sold his cattle and leased his 52,000 acres. For a time, he kept the ranch house for use in the summers.
Figure 4 Ranch House
Less elaborate than the Janes house but more typical of ranch life is the former Figure 4 Ranch House originally located in south Bailey County but now situated at the entrance to the Muleshoe Heritage Center. H. M. McCelvey (1886-1964) of Temple in Bell County in Central Texas purchased the Figure 4 in 1906 as an investment and hired Henry C. Hanover (1878-1955), also of Temple, as manager. Hanover moved with his wife and three daughters to the Figure 4 soon after World War I. He found the West Texas towns to be much further apart than were the Central Texas communities. The ranch house was, however, modern and made most hospitable by the Hanovers. Once during a blizzard the Hanovers opened the home to three families that they had never before met. The house had plenty of food: canned fruits and vegetables, cured pork, chickens, eggs, and some beef. The Hanovers sent their daughters to school in Canyon in Randall County south of Amarillo. They took their Ford Model T each weekend on unpaved roads to see the girls and bring provisions. Hanover was given pasturing privileges on the ranch and accumulated three hundred head of whitefaced cattle. He retired to Muleshoe, and the ranch was broken into farms.
Also found in south Bailey County was the Virginia City Hotel, a two-story boardinghouse. The top floor consisted of a large room with space for some eight cots. The lower floor was a kitchen and office, where mail was dispatched. After three years of drought, Virginia City became a ghost town in 1913. Maple Wilson (1891-1975) bought the hotel and moved it two miles west for his ranch headquarters. Later it served as a residence. Though most of the land barons built boardinghouses, the Virginia City Hotel is the only one in the Muleshoe area still in existence.
The city of Muleshoe is named for the former Muleshoe Ranch. The ranch cookhouse with a one-room bunkhouse is another feature of the Heritage Center. It was derived from the ranch of Edward K. Warren and his son, Charles, originally manufacturers of buggy whips from Michigan. They purchased 80,000 acres between 1903 and 1907 for their Muleshoe Ranch, possibly named for a small muleshoe found between Amarillo and Bailey County. With the arrival of the railroad, Warren sold and gave away land from his ranch. The city is located on a part of the former Warren ranch.
Cowboys came from miles around to eat in the cookhouse what were delicious meals. In time, the ranch hands, while eating in the cookhouse, endured and discussed blizzards, droughts, sandstorms, prairie wildfires, wolves, poor market prices, and the arrival of settlers. During branding season, the cook had breakfast ready before daylight. There were also noon and evening meals.
There is a small log cabin at the Heritage Center, built about 1870 on the North Canadian River near Shawnee, Oklahoma. It was abandoned since 1937 after having sustained damage in a hail storm. John Fried donated and moved the structure to Muleshoe. It consists of eleven thousand pounds of oak. It was disassembled and rebuilt at the Heritage Center site. Fried was told that at one time a family of two adults and thirteen children lived in the one-room structure. The Heritage Foundation restored the cabin to its original likeness, raised the roof, and added a sleeping loft. The building is called Muleshoe’s Little House on the Prairie, a reference to the former Michael Landon (1936-1991) NBC western television series.
On the grounds are a granary, a windmill, railroad pump house, street light, and Wells Fargo wagon, which was used to carry freight at the old Santa Fe Depot in Muleshoe and the site of the National Mule Memorial.
A large muleshoe is located at the entrance to the Heritage Center. It was originally an Eagle Scout project for teenager Kermit Price. The muleshoe was requested by R. A. Bradley (1923-2018), past president of the Heritage Center Foundation. It is twenty-two feet high and seventeen feet wide at its widest point. It was built in two parts and welded together upright because it weighs some fifteen thousand pounds. The muleshoe was dedicated in 1994.
The Heritage Center, which covers some eight acres, is open from 1 to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Weekend tours may be arranged by appointment. Donations are encouraged. Several hostesses, such as the retiree Dolores N. Harvey (born 1942), conduct tours of the facility. A bicycle race, Tour de Muleshoe, with competition for ten, forty, or one hundred miles, is held each June to raise money for the museum.
The museum is featured in an undated article in The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal by Ray Westbrook entitled "Pieces of the Past: Historic buildings give a glimpse of early ranching life on the South Plains." In 2006, Aaron Phillips wrote a general article on Muleshoe, which includes information on the Heritage Center, in the Amarillo Globe-News.
- Texas Historical Commission brochure, “Experience Our Heritage: Muleshoe Heritage Center.
- Texas Department of Transportation, Texas State Travel Guide, 2008, p. 127.
- Aaron Phillips, Amarillo Globe-News, December 3, 2006.