The Morney-Berry Farm, located about 20 miles south of Dallas, is quiet now. That wasn’t always the case. Its patriarch, James Morney, bought the land in 1876. He and his descendants worked it hard for four generations. Though they operated just a few steps ahead of survival, the Morneys were duty-bound as a family to hold on to the land. They turned the inhospitable, craggy acreage into a thriving spread of pecan and cedar trees, harvesting hay and corn crops.
Driving up the long dirt road to the farm, you no longer see miles of hay fields or pecan tree orchards. But you will see cows and horses and some replicas of one-room quarters that housed the formerly enslaved people who first worked the land. There is a main house. The original smokehouse. Two pavilions.
It was James’ great-great granddaughter, Murdine Berry, who wanted to document the family’s history in this way. But the land came first. When some local land grabbers tried to claim parcels of the farm, Murdine fought back with litigation that went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. It took 10 years. In 1990, the court ruled in her favor, ensuring the land would stay in the family.
As of June 24, a different Texas Supreme Court ruling could wipe the farm out of existence.