“Mr. A. G. actually believed in ghosts. When my husband Jack and I lived in Montell, Mr. A. G. told me that his sister Kate Markendale, who died about 1920, would walk though the house at night. Alice Rogers now lives where that house once stood.” Those were the words of 99-year-old Jo Stevenson Noble as she spoke of Arnold G. Beecroft, one of the many Englishmen who settled in the Montell area around 1900. “Mr. A. G. wore a tweed cap and smoked a pipe and looked just like Sherlock Holmes. His Tennessee-born wife Frances quickly picked up his accent.”
To understand the uniqueness of Montell and the magical place it once was, one must stroll among the headstones in the local cemetery, taking special note of the names and dates. Beneath the stately live oaks rest the remains of over 400 former residents, many who were giants among men. These were no ordinary people who settled the picturesque area 30 miles northwest of Uvalde.
Among those “giants among men” buried in the Montell Cemetery is Thomas Chilton Stoner III who died in 2016. An educator, mentor, poet, author, cowboy, and rancher, Stoner was a breeder of King P-234 quarter horses. Married in 1964 in Uvalde, his wife Shirley Harp Stoner recalls that first year at the Stoner ranch north of Laguna. “I cried every day for the first five months as I had never been more than five minutes from anything! But I adjusted, and life at Montell was wonderful.”
Journey back 75 years to men playing polo in a pecan bottom; music and laughter coming from the local country club on a Saturday night; local women playing bridge; two quaint country churches, one sporting an impressive stained glass window donated by the estate of John Jacob Astor; and a crystal clear river meandering through the hills. The Palace Cave, a lost silver mine, and a bat cave only add to the mystique.
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