By Jessica Crabtree
North Texas is home to a vast amount of historical real estate. Clay and Montague Counties are no exception. Today a visit to the acclaimed Clay County Museum will validate the large ranches, homes and names to go with each. One name recognizable to most is Worsham. W.B. Worsham, the (patriarch)of the family, was best known for his prominent position as a banker and rancher. At one time, it is said, that the Worshams owned a good portion of the land that extends from Ringgold to Henrietta.
When he came to Clay County, Worsham’s net worth totaled $3,000. At his death, due to his ranching interests amounting in excess of 25,000 acres and other properties in neighboring counties and financial investments, his estate estimated his worth to be $3,000,000. To show his prominence, Worsham was president of the bank of W.B. Worsham & Co. of Henrietta, a director in the American Exchange National Bank and the Dallas Brewery of Dallas and the Cassidy Southwestern Commission Company of Ft. Worth, Kansas City and St. Louis.
Since he had two children, one can assume that the family’s interests were passed down to the children. Worsham’s son Carl Madison Worsham followed in his father’s footsteps with his trade being in banking and ranching. Carl was born in Henrietta in August of 1881. Raised in Henrietta, Carl married Mae Easley Worsham and had two children. Although history sometimes gets lost, Carl was associated with a home other than one in Henrietta. That home was a lavish ranch house in Ringgold.
The construction took place between 1916 and 1919 south of Ringgold. The house was a 3,000 sq. foot home, but considering its three stories, the home was approximately 9,000 sq. feet. The entire home was built with a European influence. The tall walls of the home were made of English walnut extending to 10 to 12 ft. ceilings. In various rooms throughout the house, the walls held numerous secret compartments of all sizes. One can assume they were to hide items of great value. The tongue and groove floors, imported from England, were one inch thick. Not only were the floors imported, but so were the chandeliers. The house was adorned with Greek or Roman statues, great French doors and large, beautiful fireplaces. Totaling seven, two were adorned with tile made with intricate detail. One fireplace portrayed the scene of a wagon train and another a peacock of rich purples, greens and blues.
The massive structure was a grand display for its day and time. The first floor consisted of a kitchen with an indoor water well and hand pump, a parlor, grand living room, sitting room for reading, a gun room, one bedroom, one bathroom and a sunroom. The first floor was complete with a dumbwaiter used to send food up to the dining room above. The second floor began with a grand stair case. The stair case led into a hallway that ran north and south with a formal dining room going east and west. The second floor had four bedrooms with two arranged on either side the dining room. Between each pair of bedrooms was a bathroom. The bathroom showers where said to have had 16-shower heads, with four coming from each corner. There was also a balcony off the east side of the house.
The third floor, perhaps the most intriguing, was a dance floor. The third floor was one large room with a sloped ceiling. On two sides were small cubicles with doors between them for easy access. The basement was an area with few visitors. It housed the massive boiler that heated the home as well as the central vacuum system. The basement was connected to the cellar by a thick, five-foot cement hall way. The cellar, a cool place, was used mostly as a root cellar for onions and potatoes. It was also a perfect haven for snakes and spiders (more on that later).
The outside was outlined with red clay tiles as a walk-way. The tile resembled that of Mexican terra cotta tiles. Surrounding the house was a manicured lawn where shrubs and cedar trees were cut to look like an English garden
Bettye Hanson had first-hand experiences with the home. Her late husband, S.L. Hanson, moved with his family to the home in 1945 when he was in the seventh grade. His father, Noah Hanson, worked for Wilmer Seay as foreman for the Seay ranch. Wilmer Seay bought the 4,000 acre Worsham Ranch from the Carl Worsham Creditors Committee in 1938. Sparing no expense, it is said that Worsham went bankrupt over building and maintaining the home. It was also during the onset of the great depression. Worsham died Sept. of 1935 at the age of 54.
Bettye recalled the third floor, having had dances in it and roller skating parties. She and S.L.’s wedding reception was in the parlor of the home in 1955. To her recollections, the house was a grand structure, but she admitted as young kids do, she thought little of it. She remembered stories her husband told of the home. In a sit-down talk with her and her three sons who later spent time at the home, they said their father, S.L., would get off the school bus and wait outside until one of his parents came home. He and his mother, Lois, known to the family as Nanny, were convinced the house was spooky (more on that later as well).
S.L. passed away in 2008, but his wife and three sons are left to tell the stories of growing up in the Worsham ranch house. Bettye said the home was vacant until the Hansons moved in 1945. When they arrived, the home was still the mirror image of lavish living. Bettye said Nanny told her of bear rugs on the floors. Bettye said for the time, the Hansons were one of the first in the country to get a television. The Hansons had a telephone, but it was a party line. Bettye said Nanny would get aggravated talking to others when nosey people listened in on the conversation.
Every weekend for almost 30 years the three Hanson boys, Kent, Steven and Rick, spent their time at the Worsham ranch helping their Papa, Noah. Their memories of the Worsham ranch house are priceless. They said of their grandpa that he had a way with training animals, especially with his team of mules that he would back into the barn to fill a wagon full of feed to use feeding cattle. Another fond memory was all the snakes on the ranch. The boys all remember the time their Papa was bathing and a snake came through the spout of the bathtub and into his lap. Nanny was bit by a rattlesnake while pulling weeds in the front yard. At one point, an exterminator swore he would never revisit the home due to all the snake sheds.
The three boys remember walking the hallway between the basement and cellar. The home was pier and beam. After they reached a certain height, the young boys would walk crouched down to ensure no snake lunged at them from top of the hallway wall. Rick remembered you could see over the wall into the piers and beams of the house. Besides storing onions and potatoes in the cellar, their Nanny also stored canned goods in it. Often in the cellar she would find the door open and objects and articles of clothing that didn’t belong to them. It was thought that drifters would take refuge in the cellar over night.
Although the ranch life was work, the Hansons hold those times as the fondest of memories. The massive structure was remolded in 1956. The top two floors were too costly to heat and were removed. Through the years the home had other renovations, but the first story still stands today and is owned by Wilmer Seay’s daughter, Sue Seay Dennis as mentioned in the January NTFR issue. Stories of the house being haunted have been passed down generations. The Hanson brothers recall their Nanny telling them to stay out of the front part of the house because it was haunted, but that warning was probably to keep rambunctious boys sitting idle. The story of a man roaming the property in a white shirt, whether walking or horseback, has been told by many. A woman who lived in the home after the Hansons swore to seeing a man she was convinced was Worsham. Ghost or no ghost, little was published about the home. The lavish, large-scale home was definitely built to entertain and make a statement and is worthy of exposure to educate people of its existence.