The Texas Recorded Historical Landmark marker text follows:
David W. (1848-1932) and Julia Savannah (Beaty) Florence (1850-1914) built the first portion of this ranch house in 1871-72 after moving here from Van Zandt County. Elaborate wood trim decorates the gallery of the simple frame structure. The house was enlarged by the 1890’s, when the Florence Homestead covered 730 acres. after Florence retired in 1908, his son Emet (1885-1963) and Emet’s wife perle (Curtis) (1889-1976) continued to run the ranch, known as Meadow View Farm.
History of the Florence Family:
David Walker Florence built the Florence Ranch home in 1871 for his young family at the age of 23. He would stay to farm the rich blackland prairie about 37 years before retiring with his wife Julia (called Julie) in 1908.
The Florence Ranch was established two years before the township of Mesquite and originally comprised 207.5 acres.
By 1892, the ranch had grown to 750 acres, with 300 cultivated and the rest fenced. In 1894 Florence bought 1,000 acres near Cedar Hill and dedicated it for a school. It is still known as Florence Hill. He also owned a 1360-acre ranch in Taylor County.
David and Julie Florence had three children - Dr. John Hicks Florence, born in 1868 before the family moved to Mesquite; a daughter Martha, who passed away in 1873 from "summer complaint;" and Emet David Florence, who was born in 1885 in the south room of the Homestead.
Emet married Perle Curtis on December 23, 1906, and the couple spent their wedding night on the second floor of the Florence house. Emet took the farming duties over from his father, and raised horses, mules, short-horn cattle, sheep and feed crops. The ranch was then known as Meadow View Farm and the terrapin cattle brand, seen on the museum docents’ aprons, was used for the first time.
Florence became known as a leading breeder and exhibitor of fine Percheron horses and Hampshire sheep. He lived his entire life at the Florence Ranch and was still farming at the time of his death.
Perle Florence was the first woman to serve on the Mesquite Parks Board. She donated and organized the Perle C. Florence Library at First Christian Church of Mesquite and was active in other civic and political groups in Dallas and Mesquite.
Emet and Perle had two children - Florence and a son who died at birth. Florence Florence Schulz and her daughter (Florence’s granddaughter), Julie Schulz Morris, donated the homestead to the City of Mesquite in 1987.
The Florence Ranch home was probably conceived from carpenter’s handbooks instead of architectural renderings. Family, friends and local help actually constructed the home. The original structure is a fine example of late 19th century rural Texas architecture, with its central chimney, a story and a half clapboard home with shed rooms across the back and a gallery across the front.
The house faces due west and was originally painted white. The porch floors were painted gray and ceilings were sky blue. The screen doors were green. At one time a large wooden barn set behind the house, along with the necessary privy. A picket fence surrounded the yard that had been swept clean.
An early addition to the house was two rooms added at right angles to the rear of the house. This addition was connected to the main structure by a dog-trot. These two rooms served as a new dining room and kitchen, the latter having an inside well, which was quite a luxury for a farm wife.
The farmstead remains a popular educational museum for children and adults.
The Farmstead is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tour fees are $3 for adults, $2.50 for seniors, and $2 for children. It is also open every second Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a donation. Larger tours may be arranged by calling (972) 216-6468.