This Mother’s Day, a weekend jaunt into an East Texas countryside steeped in history, nature and tradition promises a memorable afternoon ritual. The now-quaint English custom of high tea has mostly evaporated from our modern, fast-paced society. Scarbrough Haven is reviving that sophisticated celebration with a genteel afternoon of sweets and savories to honor Mother’s Day.
The garden-like Scarbrough Haven is a carefully manicured retreat created by Janie and Bob Scarbrough, a Dallas couple who share part of their 800-acre property by staging Mother’s Day festivities as well as tours and events. Scarbrough Haven, in the Farmers Electric Cooperative service area between Lake Tawakoni and Lake Fork east of Emory, features gently rolling pastures forested with native blackjack oak, post oak, hickory and elm. Dogwoods and redbuds create a flowering understory beneath the hardwoods and, with springtime glee, tattoo the verdant woods with pink and white blooms.
The Scarbroughs purchased the first 41-acre parcel of their haven in 2007, following a notion that they’d enjoy a quiet escape from bustling Dallas. Since then, the Scarbroughs added contiguous parcels of meadowland as well as more woodland and orchards. Their philosophy has been to maintain the land’s natural appearance and enhance the landscape where appropriate with azaleas, cypress and blooming trees.
“Ten years ago, we purchased the property as a way to get away from it all,” Janie Scarbrough says. “However, instead of ‘getting away,’ we feel we have found a special place that has given so much to our family.”
Scarbrough Haven expresses a manicured wildness where graveled paths lead visitors through natural woodland containing more than 100 birdhouses and nest boxes, which harbor native bluebirds, finches, wrens and wood ducks. Trail travelers will appreciate a collection of sculptural whimsy tucked among bends and clearings around the property. Deadfall trees have been fashioned into benches for quiet reflection and watching local inhabitants such as rabbits, white-tailed deer and other wildlife. Adirondack chairs overlooking Lake Fork offer an observation point where guests can view graceful water birds and watch flyovers from the unmistakable and impressive bald eagles that nest and hunt in the area.
“With such a magical piece of land, we wanted to responsibly develop and share it with others, while respecting the natural environment,” Scarbrough says.
Beyond nature’s gifts, Scarbrough Haven harbors some architectural surprises, including the 19th-century Emory Train Depot that was abandoned in the 1950s. The depot was moved onto a parcel of land that is now part of Scarbrough Haven. The Scarbroughs restored the building in 2015 and added a decommissioned train caboose nearby.
Another unexpected landmark on the property, more typical of a Western tableau, is an antiquated jail cage. An enchanting greenhouse, newly built with old-world style, was creatively constructed from reclaimed materials. The greenhouse incorporates an inventive and whimsical pulley-and-gravity-fed system that draws water from a rooftop rain barrel and pours it from the ceiling via an accumulation of vintage watering cans.
You’ll find Scarbrough Haven and Emory about 75 miles east of Dallas. Weekenders can lodge at the Best Western Plus Emory at Lake Fork Inn & Suites during a visit to Scarbrough Haven or nearby Lake Tawakoni State Park or Lake Fork. Emory serves as the seat of Rains County, one of the smallest counties in Texas. The town and county take their names from Texas Republic Sen. Emory Rains, who rode a mule to Austin in 1866 with the mission of forming the county.
The Scarbroughs are re-constructing a hand-hewn barn that will house an events venue, and they’re completing a 300-seat amphitheater where they will stage concerts. Meantime, they are inviting the public to Scarbrough Haven for scheduled events. They will host reserved tours for artist groups, master gardeners, master naturalists, classes and school groups.
Paige Eaton is director of communications at Wood County Electric Cooperative.