NAME: Marcelina
COUNTY: Wilson
CLIMATE: Hot summer...Mild winter
COMMENTS: No Residents
REMAINS: Old Post Office
A ghost town located near Falls City has intrigued historians for years, even though the community once known as Marcelina has never received a historical marker. This small community, which had a post office for a brief time, was the dream of James Rumsey Skiles, a Kentucky congressman and industrialist. But his dreams in Texas, to develop the community, complete with a college, never materialized. The outcome of the Civil War, and the development of the San Antonio Aransas Pass Railroad in South Texas aided in the demise of the community. Skiles was born in 1800 to Jacob and Susan Fraley Skiles. He resided in Bowling Green, Ky., with his wife, Eliza Bell Skiles. He attended Cumberland College in Nashville and read law with a Nashville attorney; he also served as a representative from Warren County in the Kentucky legislature from 1825-28. An industrialist, Skiles and Jacob Van Meter organized a stock company in 1832 to construct a tramway they named the Portage Railroad, considered by some to be the first railroad in Kentucky. The 1-mile-long railroad had iron tramcars pulled by mules on wooden rails. Skiles decided to move to Texas in 1845 for health reasons and the cheap land that was available. His heavy investment in steamboats in Bowling Green and other projects, including the building of a mill, warehouse, and hotel, overextended his financial resources. Leaving behind five of their nine children buried in Kentucky, the family traveled the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. They landed in Galveston, then continued on to Goliad, where Eliza’s brother resided. Skiles and his family resided there from 1845 until 1855. In Goliad, the family lost yet another son, 14-year-old George Waldeman, who accidentally shot himself. Karnes County In 1855, Skiles moved to a location 3 miles from Falls City, and purchased 2,000 acres of land adjacent to the San Antonio River for $1,000. This acreage can be linked back to a 1762 ranchero, known as Rancho de la Mora, belonging to the San Antonio de Valero Mission. This ranch is listed as the property once belonging to Juan José Maria Erasmo Seguin in 1810, the father of Juan N. Seguin, a political and military figure of the Texas Revolution and Republic of Texas, although as of 1993, no archaeological records confirm its actual location. Of this acreage, Skiles devoted 350 acres for a town he named Marcelina. The first recording of this town was July 6, 1857, located 3 miles south of present-day Falls City. The town had acreage reserved for the “town proper” consisting of 55 blocks. Skiles’ city contained 100-foot-wide streets, one of which he named River Road. It was 150 feet wide, according to the plat on record. He set aside 100 acres for a cemetery, 16 acres for a college, five public parks, and five lots reserved for churches and a hotel. Because of a fire that burned the courthouse and its records, the plat was once again recorded and can be found in documentation dated Nov. 18, 1871, in the Karnes County Courthouse. Skiles began the development of his Texas homestead in 1858. First a barn was constructed, and then the first floor of the planned two-story dwelling was built. The mansion, with adjoining quarters for his slaves, was built of native rock that was found in a quarry nearby and the stones were hewn by slaves. Other material was shipped in from New Orleans. The main family dwelling had four rooms on each floor, but the second floor was never completed because of the release of his slaves after the end of the Civil War in 1865. A water-powered gristmill and a sawmill were constructed on the river at Skiles Falls. The sawmill was used to cut boards out of cottonwood logs. The gristmill was used until the turn of the century, and its ruins are still visible today. Agricultural lots containing 160 acres to 170 acres each were planted with corn, sugar cane, and an orchard, but because of the shallow soil and because of drought conditions, the land was used for pastures. Skiles went into the cattle business with his son, Buck, and son-in-law Henry Beverly. The J.R. Skiles brand is listed in the “Texas Stock Directory,” published in San Antonio in 1865, according to Seale. When the Civil War ended in 1865, Skiles’ investment in Confederate money became worthless and the emergence of a new town known as Brackenridge led to his downfall. The town of Brackenridge was established at the time of the construction of the San Antonio Aransas Pass Railroad in 1886. Since its train depot between San Antonio and Corpus Christi was the largest one between those points, more settlers moved to Brackenridge, now known as Falls City. Skiles’ dream of the development of Marcelina never materialized, but a post office bearing his surname existed for a brief time. Before the Civil War, the Pony Express provided service to the Falls City post office, known at that time as “Home Valley Station,” near Conquistada Crossing from Sept. 6, 1860, until Nov. 5, 1866. It took 20 years after the fall of the Confederacy to re-establish postal service, when a depot was established about 1-1/2 miles southwest of the original site. Postmasters serving the Skiles post office, established Feb. 11, 1887, included Ferdinand Muench and Elias Crow from May 21, 1892, until it was closed on Nov. 28, 1893. At that time, it was moved to Brackenridge and renamed as the Falls City post office. Eliza Skiles passed away in 1875, and James Skiles lived with Buck’s family, passing away May 11, 1886. Skiles is buried alongside his wife and son in the Karnes Cemetery. The mansion, damaged by a hurricane in 1886, was never properly repaired. It was abandoned and sold in 1902. Today this property belongs to the Peter Nieschwietz family on C.R. 207. Fabian Jendrusch, whose family purchased 200 acres next to the former Skiles property in the 1920s, has found three or four graves on the property once belonging to Skiles. The cemetery is fenced in only by old metal gates, and is overgrown with high weeds and grass today. Today, the ruins of the Skiles mansion and gristmill are still visible. Submitted by: Mark Cameron