Meadow Nature Preserve History

History of the land

The Connemara Meadow you see today wasn’t always the way. you see it. A brief history of how it came to be follows. Keep this in mind as you enjoy your visit. Many of the dates are approximate and if you have evidence or knowledge of more exact dates, please send a comment using the error/comment link in the bottom right of this page. For the geologic events, there is an excellent Geologic Time Scale PDF chart that has a lot of useful info if you’re into that sort of thing. Enlarge it to 100% to see the details.

Of the original 50,000 square kilometers of Blackland Prairie, less than 1% survives today – almost all of it under private ownership. Approximately 12% of the remaining Blackland Prairie is currently under protection by The Nature Conservancy of Texas, the Texas Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, a private, non-profit conservation organization. Almost 60% is voluntarily protected under a private land registry program administered by that

Geologic Events
4.5 Billion Years Ago
Formation of Earth
The Proto-Earth grew by accretion, until the inner part of the proto-planet was hot enough to melt heavy metals (including gold, nickle and iron). These higher density metals began to sink to the Earth’s center of mass. This so called iron catastrophe resulted in the separation of a primitive mantle and a metallic core only 10 million years after the Earth began to form.

During the accretion of material to the proto-planet, a cloud of gaseous silica probably surrounded the Earth, condensing afterwards as solid rocks on the surface. What was left surrounding the planet was an early atmosphere of light elements from the solar nebula, mostly hydrogen and helium, but the solar wind and Earth’s heat would have driven off this early atmosphere.

This changed when Earth accreted to about 40% its present radius, and the growing gravitational attraction retained an atmosphere which included water.

144-65 Million Years Ago
Shallow inland sea approximately 800 feet deep covers most of North Texas
Cretaceous Inland Sea - 100 Million years agoCretaceous period during which the limestone (white rock – Austin Chalk) underlying most of the meadow, as well as most of the Texas Hill Country, was deposited in a layer 50-250 feet thick as the skeletons of microscopic water animals settled to the bottom of the sea. The Cretaceous
ended with the uplifting of the North American continent, creating the Gulf of Mexico and draining the inland sea. The dinosaurs went extinct at the end of this period, giving rise to mammals. The “shallow inland sea” was close to 600 feet deep.
Million Years Ago
Taylor Marls laid down
Cenozoic Era in which deposition of sands, marls (calcium carbonate or lime-rich mud) and clays (particulate size smaller than 2 microns) occurred as the interior sea drained away and the limestone decomposed..
50 Million – 15,000
Years Ago
Marl decomposes into Blackland Prairie soil
The Taylor Marls decomposed and were mixed with other decomposing rock such as Austin chalk. These different composits were mixed and washed gulfward by flood-waters from a series of receding glacers.
1.8 Million-11,500
Years Ago
Earliest plants & animals
Pleistocene Epoch – The Pleistocene fauna of the North Texas area is distinct in containing South American immigrants (giant ground sloths, armadillos, glyptodonts, porcupines, capybaras, and opossums) and Old World immigrants (elephants, bison). Some mammals that evolved in North America became extinct on this continent, but survived in South America (llamas and tapirs) and the Old World (cheetahs, camels, horses [including zebras and wild asses], and tapirs).
Years Ago
Earliest humanoids
Humans first arrived in North America more than 2,500 years earlier than previously thought, according to an analysis of ancient stone tools found in Texas. And the people who left them appear to have developed a portable toolkit used for killing and preparing meat.

Researchers found a haul of thousands of artifacts near the state capital, Austin, some of which were identified as blades and other tools. The material was buried in sediments that are between 13,200 and 15,500 years old.

Michael Waters from Texas A&M University led a team of researchers in 2011 to study the Debra L. Friedkin site in Texas, about 40 miles northwest of Austin. Buried underneath the layer of rock that has been associated with the time period for the Clovis humans, his team found more than 15,000 objects that indicated the presence of an older civilisation.

“This discovery challenges us to rethink the early colonization of the Americas,” said Waters. “There’s no doubt these tools and weapons are human-made and they date to about 15,500 years ago, making them the oldest artifacts found both in Texas and North America.”

Historical Events
1700’s and before

Native American Indians Occupy Land

The Blackland Prairie was a disturbance maintained system. Prior to European settlement (pre-1825 for the southern and pre-1845 for the northern half) important natural landscape-scale disturbances included fire and periodic grazing by large herbivores, primarily bison and, to a lesser extent, pronghorn antelope. Fire and infrequent but intense short duration grazing suppressed woody and invigorated herbaceous prairie species. The latter were adapted to fire and grazing by virtue of maintaining perenniating tissues below ground. It has been suggested that fire has been the most important determinant of the spread and maintenance of grasslands, second only to climate. Fire frequency in the pre-settlement Blackland Prairie is unclear, but may have occurred at intervals of 5 to 10 years. Both natural (i.e. lightning strike) and anthropogenic ignition sources are recognized. Bison herds, though reported for the Blackland Prairie, were far smaller than those found further west in the mixed and shortgrass prairies. Their impact was probably local with long intervals between grazing episodes. Bison were probably extirpated from the region by the 1850’s.

Caddo and Comanche Indian tribes inhabited the region. The Indian tribes migrated westward as the early settlers entered the area and were eventually removed to the Indian Territory to the north of the Red River.

Texas Declaration of Independence
Peter’s colony
A North Texas empresario grant made in 1841 by the Republic of Texas to twenty American and English investors led by William S. Peters, an English musician and businessman who immigrated to the United States in 1827 and settled in Blairsville and then Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Peters viewed the colony primarily as a business venture. But, influenced by his studies of the philanthropic ideas of William Godwin and Thomas Paine, he may also have envisioned the colony as providing new opportunities for the English industrial middle class. Half of the investors were residents of England, and the other half were residents of the United States. Of the Americans six were probably related to Peters – three sons and three sons-in-law. Most of the original investors, except possibly one or two, were native Englishmen. The headquarters of the Peters colony was in Louisville, Kentucky, where Peters’ son William C. operated a successful music store. From this music store W. S. Peters and Samuel Browning, Peters’ son-in-law, departed in June 1839 to seek English support for the colony. This was the first of several trips Peters made to England and France on behalf of the colony. He returned from England in July 1841 with news from the London investors, and in Austin on August 30, 1841, Browning signed the first of four contracts with the Republic of Texas
Last recorded Indian Attack
One of the last known conflicts between the early settlers and the Indians took place in 1844 along Rowlett Creek near the existing railroad. An historic marker along SH 5 near Rowlett Creek commemorates the event.
Allen, Texas Founded
The Houston and Texas Central Railroad (H&TC), constructed through Allen in 1872, laid out the original township of Allen. The H&TC was acquired by J.P. Morgan & Company in 1877 and by the Southern Pacific in 1883. In 1918, the H&TC erected a combination freight/passenger depot in the Allen Central Business District.
Early 1900’s
The bridge across Rowlett Creek was built. The bridge was on an un-named County Road which later became Tatum. Three roads come together at the bridge – Old Tatum (north of the bridge), Old Alma (south of the bridge) and Old Bethany (intersecting Old Tatum)
Work begins on Central Expressway in Dallas (no, it wasn’t always there …)
Land initially cleared by ??? First deed?
Cotton Farming
Upper Meadow terraced to reduce erosion
Philip & Frances Montgomery
move to Dallas
1920’s Dallas Three children born to Philip O’Brian & Frances Hench Montgomery
in the 1920’s
1924 June 18 Frances Montgomery Williams born
Montgomery Farms property bought
500 acres bought by Frances and Philip Williams just outside the town of Allen on Rowlett Creek. During the 40’s this was converted from over-worked cotton fields into a working farm.
Ranch house Built The Ranch House was originally an old army baricks.
What is now the Upper Meadow was terraced.
1950 Frances Montgomery marries Bryan Williams of Marshall, Texas
Montgomery Farm becomes a working farm in the late ’50’s, raising five-gaited horses (rack, gallop, canter, trot, walk), dairy and beef cattle.

Six children born to Frances & Bryan Williams – Harrison, Philip, Lincoln, Bryan, Amy & Margaret

Mid 1960’s
Central Expressway extended out to Allen
What is now Tatum road was still un-named and un-paved
Philip Montgomery dies, leaving the property to his daughter Frances Montgomery Williams.
Ranch House extended The original Ranch House was extended on both ends to provide additional space and office areas.
1965 Old Bethany drive closed off behind Ranch House
Bedside Manor Built Home used for various purposes for next 45 years until it was sold in 2012. In later years it was used as a guest house and venu for various functions. The CCF office was in the guest house (attached to the main house) from the early 80’s until the sale of the property at which point it moved to the square in McKinney.
Frances Montgomery Williams, disturbed by the encroachment of Plano city lights, begins looking into Land Trust possibilities to preserve some of the family land in perpetuity.
1976 Connemara Conservancy Foundation established by Frances Montgomery Williams
Connemara Conservancy created The Meadow Nature Preserve (72 acres) was gifted to the Conservancy by Frances (Montgomery) Williams on the border of Allen and Plano called the Connemara Meadow Preserve, or simply, The Meadow. A board of seven trustees was formed.
Emerson Partners incorporated by Philip Williams
Drainage from growing neighborhood development eroding banks on upside of bridge. Storm drains re-routed to the downside of bridge to reduce erosion.
Public Art Shows The Meadow was used as the venue for an annual outdoor art show with local and international artists being put up in the Ranch House and given 10 days to do their show. Remnants of that show remain today, including a couple of rocks hanging from wires in the Pecan Grove. Over 20,000 people visited the works of over 150 artists during the two-decade run of the sculpture shows.
Montgomery Farm enters partnership called Emerson Farm Company and work begins on planning a Green Development
March, 2002
Frances Montgomery Williams dies
The upgrade of Bethany Drive relocated it from its original location in front of the Farmhouse to where it is now as an artistic project with a design that encompassed smooth curves, no cross-traffic turns and avoided the high point of Montgomery Farm
Planning of Watters Creek complex begins
Montgomery Crossing was rebuilt – the small bridge across a tributary of Rowlett Creek was rebuilt using recycled wood and blocks of Leuders limestone and incorporating a small waterfall beneath the bridge. Leftover blocks of limestone can be found in a circle int the woods on the Rowlett side of the bridge
The Cisterna designed and built – a functional cistern which prevents Bethany Drive from extending into wetlands west of Alma . Leftover stone from the project can be found in a circle to the south of the Montgomery Crossing bridge.
Alma Pond Built
Watters Creek The Watters Creek complex was built
Meadow Closed The Meadow was closed in 2007 in order to let it recover from extreme overuse
Meadow Reopens The Meadow was re-opened on a Membership basis in September, 2010. At the same time the Board made the difficult decision of a “No Dogs” policy on the property for reasons of wildlife protection and safety.
First Into the Meadow event
First Meadow Manager position created.
Initial work on the Black Willow Wetlands and the West Side Ditch erosion control project are complete
Bedside Manor sold
CCF Office moves to McKinney when Bedside Manor sold
Part of 6-cities trail paved through North edge of meadow. This provides bike, motor bike and walking easy access to Meadow property via Sun Creek Park.
15 acres in the East Lower Meadow is cleared and planted in Switchgrass
Initial work on the next wetlands to the NE of Black Willow wetlands is completed


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Site last updated January 2, 2020 @ 2:53 pm; This content last updated October 8, 2016 @ 5:48 pm