Home of early Texas settlers preserved in Plains

Home of early Texas settlers preserved in Plains

PLAINS, TX (KCBD) - It is one of the last of its kind in the entire state.

However, the name of this historical building might leave you scratching your head; it is called a bonus shack and there is one right off the main road in Plains.

According to Yoakum County history books, in 1906, a young man by the name of Aubrey McCrary traveled to the area and built the one room bonus shack under the provision of the Texas Homestead Act.

"Usually you would have to live on a piece of homestead property for a fixed number of years and make improvements to the land in order to be able to then receive the land free and clear plus any and all improvements you made to the land," said Dr. Robert Tidwell, Curator of Historical Collections at the National Ranching Heritage Center.

Dr. Tidwell said people would build a bonus shack along with barns, pens or corrals if they planned on ranching the property.

The lumber and supplies McCrary used to build the bonus shack were freighted from Big Spring, the nearest railroad.

People would hedge their best and make improvements, but not too many just in case.

"They were not intended to be permanent residences because people did not want to risk putting all that time, effort and energy into something they might lose because anything could happen during that three year period," said Dr. Tidwell.

Dr. Tidwell said if the settler met all the requirements, living on the land continuously and making improvements, the land was theirs.

"And then once they met all of the requirements for homesteading and they received the land, then they would put more resources into the improvements that they made."

Unfortunately, McCrary failed to prove his claim in the allotted three years, so he forfeited his claim.

In 1915, another family came along and moved into bonus shack. With time, another room was added to the home.

According to the Texas Historical Commission, a Texas Historic Landmark medallion was erected in 1962 and the bonus shack was donated to the Tsa Mo Ga Club in Plains.

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