Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Liendo Plantation: Plantation Life in Texas

By Michelle Shocklee

One of the coolest things about being an author of historical fiction is you always have a ready excuse to take a research trip! Old forts, farms, museums. It doesn't matter. Now that we are empty-nesters, my husband and I adore hopping in the car for a road trip and, more than likely, a burger somewhere along the way. For nearly 34 years he's been chauffeuring me around, but our trip last November to Liendo Plantation in Hempstead, Texas has to rank as one of the best! Perhaps it's because my historical romance novel, The Planter's Daughter, which is set on a Texas cotton plantation in 1859, was set to release a few months later. But honestly, I'd wanted to visit a real plantation for ages, long before Seth and Adella Rose (hero and heroine in the book!) came to life in my imagination. When I learned Liendo was a mere four hour drive from our home at the time, I knew I had to see it. When I learned they held a Civil War reenactment every November, well, there was no way I was going to miss that!
Photo: Liendo

So sit back and join me on a virtual research trip to a real Texas plantation!

Liendo is a beautiful Greek Revival style plantation house built by slaves in 1853. The name honors Justo Liendo, the owner of the original land grant, but it was Leonard Groce, a well respected Texas land owner, who built the plantation. During the mid 1800s, it was considered one of the main social centers in the state, receiving many well known guests that included several of Texas' founding fathers. After the Civil War, General George Custer and his wife spent time at Liendo. It is said he was so impressed with the plantation and the gracious hospitality shown them, he made certain it was not harmed as Union troops moved into the area. Today, Liendo is a private home and working cattle ranch. Once a month the owner opens it to the public for tours, and every November hosts the Civil War reenactment. If you live within driving distance, it is well worth the effort to see. 

Sitting on the porch of the plantation house allowed my imagination to run wild. I could perfectly picture the characters in my novel on that porch, fanning themselves on a warm Texas summer evening, looking out to the vast cotton and corn fields. 

Did you know the porch ceilings on many southern homes are painted a light blue or green to ward off evil spirits? I didn't until the tour guide told us about the tradition. You can see just a glimpse of the blue ceiling in the picture to the right. Of course I had to research it after we got home, and sure enough, people often painted their ceilings blue to fool "haints" into believing it was water, because "haints" cannot cross water. Sherwin Williams even has a Haint Blue if you're so inclined. 

One of the most fascinating and at the same time heartbreaking buildings on the plantation is this tiny one-room slave cabin. It's tucked behind the main house, out of sight, and isn't mentioned in the tour. I happened to ask our guide where the slave cabins had been located and she pointed me in the direction of this one. In my book I describe the slave quarter as being several rows of these little cabins, completely crammed with human beings held in bondage. Liendo would have been home to more than one hundred slaves during the years prior to the Civil War.

The reenactment of a battle in the Civil War was definitely a highlight. Although no known battles took place near Liendo, it was interesting to see the soldiers and camps and hear the cannons and
gunfire. When I snapped this picture of a teenage boy looking back at me, I couldn't help but think of all the young men who'd gone off to fight their fellow countrymen. The second book in my historical romance series, The Widow of Rose Hill, takes place after Juneteenth, the day Union Army troops landed in Texas, bringing with them a proclamation freeing the slaves, so it was incredibly inspiring for this author to see soldiers in blue uniforms riding their horses through camp.

Southern soldiers headed to battle

Greeting the bride and groom after a Civil War wedding.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Liendo Plantation. The history, the grounds, and the house are all well preserved and will satisfy most every fellow history buff. Have you visited Liendo or another plantation? I'd love to hear about it! 

Michelle Shocklee is the author of The Planter's Daughter, the first book in the three-book historical romance series The Women of Rose Hill. Book 2, The Widow of Rose Hill, releases in February 2018. Her historical novella, To Heal Thy Heart, is included in The Mail-Order Brides Collection also releasing in February 2018. She's been married to her college sweetheart for more than thirty years and has two grown sons. Connect with her at www.MichelleShocklee.com.   

The Planter's Daughter by Michelle Shocklee

Adella Rose Ellis knows her father has plans for her future, but she longs for the freedom to forge her own destiny. When the son of Luther Ellis's longtime friend arrives on the plantation to work as the new overseer, Adella can't help but fall for his charm and captivating hazel eyes. But a surprise betrothal to an older man, followed by a devastating revelation, forces Adella to choose the path that will either save her family's future or endanger the lives of the people most dear to her heart.

Seth Brantley never wanted to be an overseer. After a runaway slave shot him, ending his career as a Texas Ranger and leaving him with a painful limp, a job on the plantation owned by his father's friend is just what he needs to bide his time before heading to Oregon where a man can start over. What he hadn't bargained on was falling in love with the planter's daughter or finding that everything he once believed about Negroes wasn't true. Amid secrets unraveling and the hatching of a dangerous plan, Seth must become the very thing he'd spent the past four years chasing down: an outlaw.


  1. Thank you for sharing your very interesting post.

  2. I visited Mount Vernon, but I'm not sure if that is considered a plantation. I LOVE this house with its' double porch!!

  3. Thank you, Melanie! I'm glad you enjoyed it! :D

  4. Connie, I'd love to visit Mount Vernon someday! Thanks for commenting!

  5. I visited Carter's Grove in Virginia when I was little, and the Sotterly Plantation in Maryland a couple of years ago--with an African-American friend, which made it all the more sobering. So interesting that they don't normally include the slave quarters as part of the tour, but good for you for asking! Your books sound fascinating. Thanks for sharing with us, Michelle!

  6. I have also visited Mt. Vernon and Carter’s Grove but that was many years ago. And Williamsburg. I love the old houses. Civil War period is one of my favorites. Thanks for a great post!

  7. Kiersti, I'd love to see those plantations, and yes, I imagine seeing a plantation with an African American friend would give you a whole different perspective. Thanks for sharing, and do let me know if you get the book and if you enjoy it. :D

  8. Thank you, Paula, for your comments! My hubby grew up in Richmond, VA and took me to see Williamsburg. LOVED IT! <3

  9. I visited Williamsburg many years ago and I would love to go back. Thanks for your interesting post.