“After passing through the forest, I had my first view of a Texas prairie.  An unbroken, level, grassy plain extended for miles before us, on which a few islands of trees and shrubs were scattered in irregular order.”

Dr. Ferdinand Roemer ,German geologist-explorer, somewhere near Houston, Texas.

The Nash Prairie

The Nash Prairie is an on-going project that involves the Nash Prairie, located on the KNG Ranch in West Columbia, and the Prairie Prayer Garden located on the church’s property. Historically, Columbia (later divided into East and West Columbia) was described as a town surrounded by prairie. 

 St. Mary’s receives partial funding from the KNG Ranch.  This ranch contains 300 acres of pristine coastal prairie, probably the largest remaining remnant of this rare plant community on the upper Texas coast.  Dr. David Rosen, a botanist form Lee College, has compeleted a three year study of the prairie. He has over 300 plant species identified, with 4 being considered rare, and one thought to have been extinct in Texas!  The prairie also has significance since it is not far from where Santa Anna was kept prisoner after his capture at the Battle of San Jacinto.  While captive, famous Texans visited with him, traversing in the Nash Prairie.  Tours of the prairie are conducted frequently.  Contact the church office for scheduling, since the Nash Prairie remains private property.  To find out more about the prairie, please go to related links.

In 2004, the Bishop Quinn Foundation of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas gave $5000.00 to create a Prairie Prayer Garden.  Along with it, donations from parishioners, and using seeds and grasses from the Nash Prairie, a garden was begun.  This garden is located between the church and the Parish Hall.   It is an outdoor worship space, as well as an educational tool for the community.  You are welcomed at any time to pray and learn about God’s creation as found originally in our Brazoria County Community.

Of course, this prairie project would not occur without the gift of the late, Kitty Nash Groce (of which the KNG Ranch is named.)  To learn more about “Miss Kitty”  see our history page. 

KNG Ranch

The KNG Ranch is named after Kittie Nash Groce, the only daughter of William and Ina Nash. William was a very successful rancher in Brazoria County, outside of West Columbia, Texas.  Because of his success, Ina and Kittie lived in Houston and visited the ranch on occasion. Kittie was educated in Houston as well as baptized and confirmed at Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral. As a young lady, she traveled with her mother to Europe and was a frequent visitor to New York City.

On December3, 1909, Kittie married Browning   Groce, a Galveston banker. He died two years later (1911) and there were no children born in this marriage. Kittie continued to live mostly in Houston, traveling extensively while the ranch remained very profitable under her father's control. 

In 1929, the Great Depression occurred and in March, 1930, her father died. Kittie and her mother then made the decision to move to the ranch permanently and Kittie decided she would now run the ranch. She knew very little about ranching and discovered that the ranch was deeply in debt. She was a quick learner- questioning everyone about running a ranch and after her mother died in 1933, she was described by a reporter from Houston as "the biggest rancher in Brazoria County who wears pants, lipstick, and rouge." By 1940, she had made the ranch very profitable again.

Like her father, she remained miserly (eating turtle soup, the road kill on County Road 25, otherwise called Nash Road, and wore her father's clothes), calculating (attending every cattle sale to make sure the sale barn did not cheat her and always carrying two cattle hides to pay for the gas to the sale) and shrewd (she had many friends in the Houston oil business and encouraged them to drill for money even though she knew all they would get were dry holes). She was famous for speeding up and down "her road" (CR 25) in her pink Cadillac in her frequent trips to Houston for dancing and showing off her dresses maintaining her status as a Houston socialite.

Before her death in 1957, she made a major contribution to build St. Mary's Episcopal Church and Parish Hall. In her will, she left her ranch to St. Mary's, a series of living heirs, and a group of men that she named the West Columbia Hospital District Trustees (who were required to build some type of health facility to serve the residents of West Columbia upon the deaths of the living heirs). In August, 2006, the last living heir did die and thus the proceeds of the ranch now go to St. Mary's and the Trustees.

In the fall of 2003, Dr. David Rosen, botanist and plant taxonomist at the time with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (now at Lee College) began his survey of the Nash Prairie. The Nash Prairie is a 300 acre remnant Coastal Tall Grass Prairie that is managed as a native hay meadow for the Nature Conservancy.  The topography of the Nash Prairie is intact.  Most noticeable are the many pimple mounds, indicating that the Nash hay meadow has probably never been grazed or plowed.   David's survey of the vascular flora of the Nash Prairie has resulted in a checklist of almost 300 native species of plants and the list is growing. 

The 15,000 acre KNG Ranch includes part of the Columbia Bottomlands and other remnant prairies, wetlands and oak savannahs. As David has indicated, this ranch is not only a treasure for Brazoria County but a national treasure and he knows of no other property like it!