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Texas Ranches: Fincastle in Athens

Dallas-based Icon Global Group sold the 1,369-acre compound southeast of Dallas. It's said to be a longtime hideaway of career criminal Benny Binion.
By Sofia Krusmark |
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Texas Ranches: Fincastle in Athens

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A piece of Texas history recently sold for about $12 million near Athens, about 80 miles southeast of Dallas. It’s the type of property movies are written about, and I’ll tell you why.

The story began in 1848, when Scottish settlers moved from Virginia to southeastern Henderson County, where the woods are filled with fair game and spring-fed lakes are stocked with fish.

But like most who have moved away from home, the settlers couldn’t forget their past. So, they named their new home, “Fincastle,” after a town in Scotland and in honor of “Lord Fincastle,” one of the last great British governors of Virginia. The settlers built a community—complete with a post office, general stores, a drugstore with doctors, a blacksmith shop, a cotton gin and gristmill, and even a well and wagon yard. Amid the grand settlement, two townspeople, John and Mary Tindel, purchased a site of more than 1,000 acres.

The couple glammed up their new property, opening up the first school in the county on their land and later building a church and cemetery. Everyone in town was invited. As time went on, the small burg kept growing and so did its crops. Cotton was an invaluable resource to those in the area, with the plantations and farms in the area known as the most prosperous in the county. When the Civil War came around, Fincastle raised the confederate flag in 1861 and was the first county to organize a confederate company.

The lush Texas farm was listed for $11.95 million by Bernard Uechtritz, owner of The Icon Global Group, who brokered the sale earlier this year.

About a 90-minute drive from Dallas and minutes from the town of Athens, the idyllic ranch, which was owned by Dallas’ Schoellkopf family, had not been on the market for more than a half-century—and was being used as a gentleman’s ranch and weekend home.

“It was a rare property for East Texas relative to its size, the amount of water, its history, and its potential,” Uechtritz told D CEO. “It’s an incredible piece of property with an incredible and unusual history; those attributes, plus working for the Schoellkopfs, made it a really fun and interesting assignment.”

The previous owner was Dallas gangster Ivy Miller, the business partner of Las Vegas gambling kingpin Benny Binion. Miller built a home on the property for one purpose: gambling. He was the best of hosts for the secret poker nights, and all the big gamblers in Texas knew about them.

The main house has upscaled since and today spans several thousand square feet. It features a rustic Adirondack-style architecture with vaulted ceilings, an ornamental stone fireplace, and wood paneling. The property is home to a total of three modern homes, three spring-fed, fully stocked lakes of 60, 30 and 20 acres, and boat docks. Although too small for cattle farming, the heavily wooded and wildlife-filled compound is perfect for recreational hunting and fishing.

Now it’s up to the new owners to tell us what’s next.

Texas Ranches is a new editorial series from D CEO that features noteworthy ranch properties in the region. To submit ideas for consideration, email Online Managing Editor Bianca R. Montes.

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