The Farrell home was built in 1891 by Hunter Thomas Farrell for himself, his new wife, Mary Alice, and her daughter, Ammie Estelle. The family home is a stunning example of Victorian Era Architecture uniquely situated in what was once the Texas Prairie Lands, and today is the thriving city of Plano.
The progression of Victorian architecture into rural areas was enabled by the industrial revolution, allowing wealthy families to purchase elaborate pre-cut trim. The family home was painted a neutral color with bold red trim and mint green Victorian accents and shingles. It’s vibrant color scheme can still be enjoyed today when visiting the Heritage Farmstead Museum.
However, the colorful exterior pales in comparison to the lives of its occupants.
Hunter Thomas Farrell was the patriarch of the homestead, but the path to love and his life on the Heritage Farmstead was not a straight one. In 1886, five years prior to the construction of his Victorian era home, Farrell began an affair with Ellen Henry, a married woman.
On the afternoon of April 9, 1887 Ellen Henry’s husband, Mr. Henry, came home to find his front door locked. Mr. Henry kicked in the door and discovered his wife and Hunter Thomas Farrell in bed. Mr. Henry attempted to shoot Farrell, but the gun misfired and Farrell took off running. Mr. Henry shot a second time at his wife, leaving her fatally injured.
After narrowly escaping death, Hunter Thomas Farrell reemerged on the witness stand for a divorce hearing.
The divorce hearing was for Mary Alice, requesting a divorce from her then husband, Stephen Juhan. She was successful in her quest, not only receiving a divorce but also being granted full custody of her daughter, Ammie Estelle. Both highly unusual occurrences, and in large part due to the testimony of of Hunter Thomas Farrell recounting episodes of physical and mental abuses by Juhan towards his wife.
One week after the final divorce decree, Hunter Thomas Farrell and Mary Alice were married. One year after their marriage, they purchased the land situated in modern day Plano, and the following year built their family home, the colorful Victorian home that continues to grace 15th Street today.
Ammie Estelle grew up in the home and went on to marry Dr. Woods Lynch. In 1903 Dr. Woods Lynch and Ammie welcomed their first and only child, George Hunter, lovingly referred to as “Little Hunter” in adoration of her stepfather. Her marriage was unsuccessful and following her divorce she returned to her family home in Plano.
Three months after her divorce she went on to marry Dudley Wilson. The two would spend the rest of their life together, giving Ammie her final name, Ammie Estelle Wilson.
Tragedy struck the family in 1933 when Little Hunter died unexpectedly at the age of 29. The loss of her son had a devastating effect on Ammie. To cope with her pain she searched for a hobby and found a passion for raising sheep. From 1941 on, Ammie’s life was dedicated to her thriving sheep business. She won “grand champion,” swept almost every major show, including the Texas State Fair, and in 1952 won “The International Livestock Exhibition” in Chicago. She went on to win six consecutive times at the Houston Fat Stock Show.
“I chose a man’s work so that I could prove that I can do as good or better job than they do.” – Ammie Estelle Wilson
To learn more about other members of the Farrell-Wilson family and to see the land on which winning sheep were breed and where strong women broke the mold, visit the Heritage Farmstead Museum in Plano.
Special thanks to the Heritage Farmstead Museum for providing all of our images and the book “Never a Good Girl,” which was relied heavily upon for the information in this article.