Community mourns with family after loss of Indian Mound Ranch’s Pat Jones

IMG_6077By SHELLY WILKISON

After watching Pat Jones bravely battle serious health problems in recent years, her husband and their two daughters found her resting peacefully Wednesday morning with her Pug, Charmin, at her side.

At age 68, the Liberty Hill icon passed away as she slept Tuesday night bringing a stillness over the historic Indian Mound Ranch that was at the heart of her every movement.

Terri Jones Hanley and Susan Jones Anderson say their mother was deeply connected to the 450-acre ranch that edges Liberty Hill to the east. It was there in the Whitehead Cemetery that their mother was laid to rest Saturday alongside generations of Texans long passed — some of whom were her ancestors who fought during the Civil War, and World Wars I and II.

The Jones family moved from Austin to the ranch in 1974. It had been in Mrs. Jones’ family since 1873. The property was once home to Comanche, Apaches and Tankawa tribes. In September, Indian Mound Ranch turns 140 years old, and its beloved caregiver was looking forward to a celebration.

“Everything you see there (at the ranch) was about her — every leaf, rock, every bird — she knew it all,” said Susan. “Starting at the front gate, everything on the ranch holds a memory of her.”

Pat and Clarence Jones, who celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary this year, spent part of every day working on the ranch. With the help of Clarence’s brother, Mike Jones, Mrs. Jones was able to turn raw Texas ranchland into a magical place for her family and a treasure for all of Texas.

The ranch is home to two famous Indian mounds, or middens. Native Americans dug holes, lined them with limestone rock and used the holes for cooking. As the rock cracked from the fires, they would dig a new hole and start the process again. In that time, hundreds of objects would be dropped in and their trash became an archeologist’s treasure site.

Mrs. Jones was instrumental in assisting various universities that have conducted excavations there, including the University of Texas and Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania. Both mound sites are now marked with a silver GPS button that allows them to be located. The ranch is home to five different designated archeological sites. Her devotion to this place helped others know the stories of people who once made it their home, and she used every opportunity to share those stories with all who would listen.

Mrs. Jones spent her life preserving Texas history. She was a descendant of Col. William B. Travis and John Butler Bonham — both heroes of the Texas Revolution. She was a proud member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. She was also a docent for the Republic of Texas Museum in Austin.

Two years ago, she told The Independent that she had found joy in living in such a historically rich place.

“I couldn’t imagine living somewhere else. It’s my home. I try and I just can’t imagine it,” she said.

Her interest in wildlife preservation led to the ranch’s designation as a Wildlife Management Zone by Texas Parks & Wildlife — another source of pride for Mrs. Jones and her family.

Terri and Susan remember their mother’s love for animals.

“There was never a time when she didn’t have a house full of dogs,” Susan said.

“And it wasn’t just the dogs,” Terri added. “She would take us with her to see the neighbor’s donkeys. And she loved birds. She was even a member of the National Audobon.”

Just as their mother felt a connection to the Indian Mound Ranch, she was committed to Liberty Hill.

Over the years, she involved herself in organizations and projects with the goal of helping to build a better community.

She took her love for the outdoors to the Liberty Hill Garden Club, where she was a charter member and a former officer. She encouraged her daughter, Terri, to join the group.

Mrs. Jones was also a charter member of the Liberty Hill Public Library. Susan said her mother helped start the first library downtown above the chiropractor’s office.

She involved herself in the Lions Club and was a founding member of the Over the Hill Gang for senior citizens.

When her children attended Liberty Hill schools, Mrs. Jones was an active volunteer. Her daughters remember how much their mother enjoyed volunteering at book fairs.

But it was their parents’ willingness to share their beloved ranch with the Liberty Hill Livestock Association for the BBQ Cook-off fundraising events that brought new attention in recent years to the Indian Mound Ranch. From 2008-2012, the ranch attracted thousands of visitors attending the cook-off. While most may not have realized the significance of the place, it brought joy to the Joneses to share it for such a good cause.

“She fought hard to protect the charm of Liberty Hill,” Susan said. “She wanted to keep Georgetown, Leander and Austin from encroaching on us.”

“She had a bond with this place that made her who she was,” said Susan.

Susan and Terri said throughout their mother’s extensive illness and numerous stays in hospitals and rehab centers, it was their greatest fear that they would be unable to bring her back home.

As a result of diabetes, Mrs. Jones had her leg amputated from the knee down earlier this year. From March until May, she received care in a rehab nursing facility.

“Our biggest fear was that we wouldn’t get her home,” Susan said. “She had been sick for so long, but lately seemed to be doing so well.”

Their faces lit up as they told the story of their mother’s homecoming to the ranch in May. Their father, who spent a great deal of time preparing the house and making things more accessible, was jubilant.

“She was always in love with him. They married in 1966 (when he was 19 years old) and they never stopped loving each other,” said Terri.

About 250 friends and relatives attended Mrs. Jones’  graveside service and a reception at the picnic area on the ranch. It was her mother’s favorite place for entertaining over the years, Susan said.

“The suport for our family from friends and the community has been phenominal,” Susan said.

With all of the activity in recent days, the family has stayed busy and somewhat distracted from the powerful loss to their family. Susan and Terri, who moved into RVs on the ranch two years ago to help take care of their mother and the homeplace, say they expect difficult days ahead as the silence grows. For two years, Susan has taken care of her mother’s medical needs while Terri has taken care of the family’s daily routines. Between Terri and Susan, Mrs. Jones had five grandchildren, whom she adored.

Charmin, the dog Mrs. Jones named because he was “squeezably soft”, is missing his dearest companion. Just like he did every night, Charmin took his comfy spot next to Mrs. Jones as she went to bed Tuesday night. He was there when she took her final breath, and he was still there when the family found her resting peacefully the next morning.

“She had her hand on her cheek. It was her same sleeping position. And she had a half-grin on her face,” said Terri. “It was precious. She had no pain.

“I don’t know what this is going to be like without her,” Terri said. “But she wanted us to take care of each other, and that’s what we are going to do.”