It is basically a no-brainer that the old plantation home called â€œLiendo,â€near the town of the Hempstead, is haunted.
Not only is it one of the oldest, Southern style plantation houses in Texas, built in 1853, it has also had a very eclectic cast of occupants.
The name â€œLiendoâ€ (or Jose Justo Liendo) is that of the original holder of a Spanish land grant that included 67,000 acres. By the early year of 1833, a huge amount of the property was being farmed, by slaves, of course.
In 1849, Colonel Leonard Groce bought the property and commenced the building of the big house, which was built by some of the 300 slaves in residence. Like other Southern plantations, the house was known for its hospitality, so much so, that when occupied, during the Civil War, by George Custer and his wife, it was spared the torch, unlike many old Texas homes.
Even though Groce was able to occupy the grand house that he built, he didnâ€™t have any money, and that was a mighty place to maintain with no money. He sold the mansion and was then owned by several different people, until in 1873 when Dr. Edmund Montgomery and his wife German sculptor Elisabet Ney purchased it. The couple had been in the United States for several years, but had not yet found the right place to settle down, until they saw Liendo.
There have been numerous books written and stories told about the eccentric couple. He was a philosopher and a biologist and she had sculpted for European royalty. They did not refer to each other as husband-and-wife, but rather as best friends. She dressed in Grecian togas, Turkish bloomers and a turban. Elisabet carried guns and knives, while wandering the land, which actually seems reasonable, but was uncommon for a women at that time. Her husband meanwhile was probably doing philosopher and biologist type things. Neither of them was particularly interested in ranching, farming, or housecleaning, for that matter. Therefore, it was generally understood that the big house eventually became rather shabby.
When the Ney-Montgomeryâ€™s first arrived in 1873, they brought with them two son's Arthur and Lorne. When the eldest, Arthur was two years old he contracted diphtheria and died soon after. Little could be done to treat the illness, in that isolated South Texas Woodlands area, and at that time, not much was understood about the diphtheria anyway. The death of her child was an incredible personal tragedy for Elisabet, as it would be for most parents. Elisabet barred anyone from coming onto the estate, locked herself in a room, with her dead child, and grieved. When she came out, she and her husband took their babyâ€™s body to the fireplace and burned it, the fireplace serving as a crematorium. The ashes were placed in an urn, and then on the mantle. This event was not as strange as it may seem now, because there was a lack of knowledge about diphtheria and a fear of the disease spreading.
The couple spent the next 18 years raising their remaining son, and living in the increasingly dilapidated mansion. Lorne apparently had grievances with his possibly controlling mother, which came to head when it usually does, in his teenage years. When he was 20 years old, he married a local girl, whom his mother did not approve of, and became completely estranged, from his parents. Around this time, Elisabet moved to Austin, built a studio, named it â€œFormosa," and spent most of the rest of her life there. Her husband stayed primarily on the anch.
Elisabet was a great artists and at this time sculpted many famous pieces that can be found in the Texas capital and Texas State Cemetery. She also began a discussion group, with many of the more progressive Austin women. They would sit together outside at a table, and have tea and snacks while discussing issues of the day. Elisabet died in 1907, at the age of 74, and was buried, in the small cemetery at Liendo, next to her husband, and the ashes of Arthur.
Fun Fact: Formosa means beautiful in Portuguese.