Roy Stephen Timberlake

Roy Stephen Timberlake was born March 9, 1909 in the Rye Valley Community of Mills County to W.C. and Effie Stephen Timberlake. As a youngster, Roy worked and played on the family ranch south of Goldthwaite. He enjoyed hunting and fishing with his older brothers, Harry, Robert, and Ben.

At the age of three, young Roy disappeared from the family ranch house. After a frantic search by his parents, the older brothers were brought home from nearby Rye Valley school, to search for Roy. The family’s greatest fear was that he had gone to the Colorado River, fallen in, and drowned. One of the brothers spotted the family’s big yellow Tom cat sitting on a huge rock about a half mile from the house. The brother called the cat and when the cat would not come, he walked up to it. Much to his surprise, he found young Roy fast asleep under the edge of a rock. Today this group of rocks is a rattlesnake den. Snake hunters annually removed large numbers of snakes from the same rocky ledge in the which Roy slept.

When Roy was seven, his mother and brothers moved to a small farm a couple miles north of San Saba so Roy could enter San Saba Grammar School. His brothers had attended school in Rye Valley; however, Roy, being the youngest child in the community was not able to attend the neighborhood school.

During weekends, holidays, and summertime Roy could be found back on the river working with his father. Not all was work for the youngster because he loved to hunt, fish, and swim in the river.

He loved to look for Indian artifacts and shared his findings with his family and friends. Mr. Timberlake provided Roy with a “good riding pony” and he was able to go back and forth across the river to his home in San Saba County.

Roy played football and ran track for the Golden Armadillos during his college career and graduated from San Saba High School in 1928 . Following graduation, he worked briefly for Bell Telephone Company then returned to San Saba.

On January 20, 1934, Roy Stephen Timberlake married Geneva Bryant of San Saba. Geneva’s parents were Carl and Myrtle House Bryant. The Timberlakes owned and operated a stock farm five and a half miles northwest of San Saba. They had one daughter, Marilynn Frances Timberlake.

Following the death of Roy’s father, W.C. Timberlake in 1955, he inherited the Mills County ranch on the Colorado River. By the time Roy took over the ranch, he had to limit the numbers of campers who had been accustomed to coming to the river during his father’s lifetime.

One area of interest to the residents of southern Mills County was the placement of deer in the area by the Texas Wildlife Department. With deer coming to the valley, the ranch was soon leased for hunting and fishing – something Roy’s father would never have dreamed possible.

Roy Timberlake loved to fish. He knew where all the good fishing holes were on his Colorado River boundaries. He kept his trotlines baited and took great pride in pulling in a big catfish. Not only did he love to fish, but he also liked to fry catfish. Entertaining friends and family with a fish fry topped his list of favorites.

The picnic ground at the Timberlake Ranch is nestled in a grove of live oak trees overlooking the Colorado River. The same area has been used by campers for over sixty years. Today, because of the love of entertaining and enjoyment of hosting friends, Roy’s favorite spot boasts of electricity, running water, and indoor plumbing.

Roy Timberlake died of cancer July 19, 1976. He left the legacy of the Timberlake Ranch to his daughter, Marilynn and her husband, Lamar Johanson. Roy spent his last days with on-the-job training for his daughter and son-in-law. His last official ranch chore was taking a trailer load of calves to the auction sale in Lometa. Upon returning home, he had to go to bed, too ill to do anything else.

When daughter Marilynn heard of his trip to the auction, she said, “Why, Daddy, this will kill you.” Roy Timberlake replied, “Then I will die happy!” Submitted by Marilynn Johanson.

W.C. Timberlake

The Timberlake Place on the banks of the Colorado River in southern Mills County offered a vacation haven for many Central Texans beginning in the early 1900’s through the mid 1950’s. Folks came for a week at a time to camp on the river banks, fish, hunt squirrels, rest, and commune with nature. Unlike modern day times, campers did not call for reservations or rely on their credit card to hold a campsite. The river bottom proprietor was W.C. Timberlake, rancher and owner of river front land. While Mr. Timberlake enjoyed the visitors, he demanded their permission to camp, respect the property and clean up their campsites.

Affectionately referred to as “Ole Man” Timberlake, he was very much attuned to his campers. He knew who was camping, where they were from, and what their business happened to be. In addition, the cost per camp-event proved to be an annual affair for many families, friends, and neighbors. Often times the outing occurred following the grain harvest.

Willis Carver Timberlake was born February 26, 1869 in the state of Virginia. Following the death of his mother, he lived with his maternal grandparents in Tuscola, Illinois. Later he moved to Burnet, Texas to live with his father, Captain Benjamin Thomas Timberlake, a prominent Burnet County lawyer. He graduated from Burnet High School in 1887. Young Timberlake read law but never pursued a career as a lawyer. His major interest was farming and ranching.

On January 19, 1896, W.C. Timberlake married Miss Effie Stephen, whom he had met in Mahomet, Texas. Mrs. Timberlake was born November 19, 1870 in Williamson County Texas. Their first residence was in the Joppa Community of Burnet County. Three sons were born to the Timberlakes while living in Burnet County, Harry Carver, November 22, 1896; Robert Samuel, March 16, 1898; and Benjamin Oliver, January 11, 1900. A fourth son, Roy Stephen, was born March 9, 1909 in Mills County.

In search of a place to call their own, the Timberlakes moved to the Rye Valley Community in southern Mills County in 1902. They moved all of their earthly possessions by wagon. The two older boys rode horse back and helped their father move the few cattle including the milk cow. Mrs. Timberlake and the youngest child drove the wagon. The family spent several days enroute to their new home and camped overnight while heading to Mills County. Mr. Timberlake was the only family member to have visited the new homesite. It was said that Mrs. Timberlake marked that it was a good thing that she had not been along on the first visit because she would never have returned!

The Timberlakes worked hard from dawn to dusk. The three older sons attended their first school at Rye Valley. The school house was located a few miles from their home on the L.B. Burnham place. Living off their land, the Timberlakes raised cattle, a few hogs, and grew their own grain. Mrs. Timberlake had chickens, a big garden, and numbers of fruit trees. She took great pride in making algerita berry jelly, saying it was the only fruit available when she first arrived on the ranch. However, the next year she had located numerous wild plum thickets and used the plums for her jellies and jams.

By 1916, the youngest Timberlake son, Roy was old enough to start school and one of the older sons, Ben, was entering high school. Having never been completely happy with living in the wilderness, Mrs. Timberlake and the boys moved to San Saba County. Mr. Timberlake purchased a small farm a couple of miles north of San Saba for the family. Mrs. Timberlake never returned to the ranch and lived the remainder of her life on her farm.

Mr. Timberlake found great pleasure in the ranch, enjoyed his cattle, and gardened for pleasure. His ranch house was modest. It had no running water and the only heat was from the fireplace or wood cook stove. Kerosene lamps were used for lighting and clothes were boiled in a wash pot when washed. Mr. Timberlake never drove a car or owned a tractor. He used a team of horses for plowing and other field work. He rode his favorite white horse everywhere he went.

W.C. Timberlake was an avid reader. The family subscribed to The Fort Worth Star Telegram and Life magazine. The paper was first read by Mrs. Timberlake, saved and sent to W.C. once a week. During World War II, the youngest son, Roy drove weekly, usually Sunday afternoon, to Rocky Pasture in San Saba County and across the river from the Timberlake Ranch. W.C. would row across the river and meet his son who would bring staples and the weekly newspapers. In the heat of the war, Roy often informed his father of the latest happenings with Germany, Japan, or Italy. Although W.C. might have been a week behind on current events, he was still attuned to what was going on throughout the world. He used the Texas Almanac as his guide for planting and working livestock.

In 1947, electricity came to the valley, W.C. Timberlake was a bit overwhelmed by the electric pump that was installed on the river bank to pump river water up the hill to water cattle and irrigate a garden. Once the equipment was working, he rode his horse to the first water trough to watch the arrival of the first water. His reply was, “I do declare!” The electrician, Carson Edmondson of McMillin community, was only able to bring electricity to the ranch house when he agreed to place all of the electrical wiring on the ceiling within view, so Mr. Timberlake could be sure that sparks did not fly from the wires and catch the house on fire. He purchased an electric radio, bit it made too much noise and he rarely listened to it.

The four Timberlake grandchildren were each given a cow. Each year as the calves were sold, the money was deposited in an account or War Bonds were purchased to be used for college educations. Oscar Holland of Goldthwaite always bought the Timberlake cattle. He never went to the ranch without cash in hand to pay for the cattle. Mr. Timberlake preferred to do this business with cash. In fact, he did the biggest part of his banking from cash stored in a syrup bucket.

W.C. Timberlake took pride in traveling to Goldthwaite to vote and pay his taxes. He instilled in his family the importance of hard work and being a man of his word. His love of the land has become a tradition in the Timberlake family. Upon W.C. Timberlake’s death in 1955, his son, Roy, inherited the ranch. Toy operated the ranch until his death in 1976. a third generation family member, Marilynn Johanson and her husband, Lamar, currently operate the ranch. The 790 acre ranch has approximately 2.88 miles of river frontage along the Colorado River, which is the 18th longest river in the United States and the longest river in Texas. Timberlake Ranch is located just upstream of where the San Saba River joins the Colorado River. The bottomland forest along the riparian zone is comprised of three vegetation layers: 1) upper canopy of trees, 2) under canopy of heavily browsed shorter trees and shrubs, and 3) herbaceous zone of Canada wild rye (Elymus canadensis), sedges, and forbs. Green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) and cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia) are dominant trees but have little regeneration due to high herbivory. Submitted by Marilynn Johanson.


Lamar and Marilynn Johanson

The Timberlake Ranch in the southern part of Mills County has become the home of Lamar and Marilynn Johanson. The Johanson’s, both school teachers by profession, assumed the responsibilities and ownership of the ranch in 1976 at the death of Roy S. Timberlake, father of Mrs. Johanson. The Johanson’s raise polled hereford cattle.

Marilynn Frances Timberlake was born July 12, 1939 in San Saba, Texas, to Roy S. and Geneva Bryant Timberlake. A graduate of San Saba High School, she received her Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Women’s University and Master’s degree from Tarleton State University. Her teaching career includes that of classroom teacher, education specialist with Texas Education Agency, and at the mid-management level as a high school and elementary principal. currently, she is the elementary principal at Goldthwaite Elementary School.

Lamar Johanson grew up in Cherokee, Texas and is the son of Clyde and Bonnie Johanson. A graduate of Cherokee High School, he holds both the Bachelors and Master degrees from Southwest Texas State University and the Doctorate degree from Texas A and M University. Lamar’s teaching career has been at Tarleton State University in Stephenville. A professor of biological science, he currently holds the position of Dean of Arts and Sciences at Tarleton.

Marilynn Timberlake and Lamar Johanson were married July 2, 1960 at the First Baptist Church in San Saba. They established their first residence at Rantoul, Illinois where Lamar was serving as a First Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. They have also lived in Stephenville, Hico, and College Station.

The Johanson’s came to Mills County from Stephenville, Texas. They take great pleasure in living on the land purchased and settled by Marilynn’s grandparents in 1902. The Johanson’s have made many improvements to the ranch, building cross fences, hay barns, sheds, corrals, and stock tanks. In 1992, they constructed a new ranch house overlooking the Colorado River Valley. Sandstones from the old ranch house of W.C. Timberlake were used in the interior of the living room to frame the fireplace.

Lamar and Marilynn enjoy sharing their Colorado River Valley with their friends, family, and former students. The massive live oak trees still grace the picnic grounds that were enjoyed by both W.C. and Roy Timberlake on the banks of the Colorado. The only difference is Old Glory flies high as guests approach the modernized campground. There also are tables, chairs, electricity, running water, and indoor plumbing. Submitted by Marilynn Johanson.

Written by Mills county Historical Commission