Neighborhood History (in order of appearance in the GWW newsletter)

The Christal Ranch
Cattle Queen
and the Preacher
of Dripping Springs
The Salt Lick
in Kyle
Demise of the GWW Spanish Oak
The Christal Ranch

As one heads for Austin down Crystal Hills Drive, it is hard to imagine that, one hundred years ago, such a trip involved an overnight stay. On the way, one might even catch a glimpse of a wolf near Oakhill.

It was a hundred years ago that Charles Christal exchanged forty acres at the corner of 45th and Guadalupe streets in Austin for what became known as the Christal Ranch. Charles was born in 1875 on March second, Texas Independence Day, so earning the middle name, Houston. He was one of twenty-two children born to Civil War veteran, Roland “Role” Christal who had two wives.

Charles Christal and his wife had six sons and one daughter, Ruby. They lived in the log cabin which can still be seen above the bridge over Spring Creek. Mrs. Christal’s granddaughter remembers her grandmother having a “green” thumb, growing “real pretty flowers” round the cabin.

The young Christals attended Salem School which was located on Bear Creek where the Friendship Baptist Church stands. Because of the shortage of teachers, their father taught there, as well as running his ranch.

The Christals raised Hereford cattle on the higher thin-soiled ground. On the more fertile land along Spring Creek, oats, corn, and hay were planted. The family’s immediate needs were supplied by a vegetable garden, watered by a well. When company came, the menfolk would go up on the hill and shoot some of the abundant wild game for supper.

One day, when six-year-old Ruby was out in the pasture below the house with her father, she was struck by a rattlesnake. With only a horse and buggy, it was impossible to reach a doctor in time to save the little girl.

After Charles Christal passed away in 1964, his son, Roland “Role” took over the operation of the ranch. He and his wife built a larger ranch house higher up the hill. Role’s mother continued to live in the log cabin until ill health forced her to “move up the hill.”

By the 1980s, with none of the young Christals interested in the family business, the ranch was sold for development. Although the second ranch house was demolished, the original log cabin was preserved as a listed historical building. For a short time in the 1990s, it was “Judy’s Country Store,” serving as the neighborhood “convenience” store. Currently, it is a family residence.
J. Marie Bassett, © 2004
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Friday Mountain

“The sights, sounds, odors, and especially the feel of the place stimulate in me memories so warm and intimate that taking up residence here seems more like a homecoming than an escape.”

This is how famous Texas author, Roy Bedichek, describes Friday Mountain Ranch in his “Adventures with a Texas Naturalist.” Friday Mountain, now also known as Barsana Hill, got its name because the surveyors arrived to record its height of 1060 feet above sea level on a Friday.

The ranch, consisting of 630 acres along Bear Creek, was the site of the Johnson Institute. Thomas Jefferson Johnson, born in Virginia in 1805, founded the boarding school in 1852, originally for boys only, but soon girls were admitted. It may have been the first secondary school in Texas, west of the R. Colorado. By the time of his sudden death in 1868, there were 200 students.

Johnson was a colorful character, a strict disciplinarian, but well loved by his students. His hair, resembling an overgrown flat-top in a photograph in Bandera’s Frontier Museum, earned him the nickname of ‘Old Bristle Top.’ The school was a family affair, with Mrs. Johnson and four of their six children on the teaching staff. Son Benjamin kept the school going until 1872 when Friday Mountain Ranch was sold. It passed through several hands before Lewis Cass Kemp bought it in 1908. Like his neighbor, Role Christal, the twice-married Kemp had a large family. His 23 children were all of an age with the 22 Christals. The Kemps had a little more space in the L-shaped Johnson Institute with its 10 rooms, 2 halls, and 2 bathrooms, albeit unplumbed!

The young Kemps loved to stand outside hollering, listening to their voices echoing off the bluffs. They made even more noise at Christmas time, blasting dynamite on top of Friday Mountain, to the consternation of those living within a 15-mile radius.

The Kemps grew cotton, corn, and sorghum, and raised cattle, horses, mules, and hogs that fended for themselves in the woods in the fall and winter. Rattlesnakes were a problem, there being a den of them under Mr. and Mrs. Kemp’s bedroom floor. Son Willie Kemp said, “When a rattlesnake was discovered, especially under the bed, it had Pa ‘treed’ till he could work out a plan to get out of bed.” Sometimes, the children were ordered to remove it with a hoe or a rake until Pa could take over! The Kemps made no special effort to get rid of the snakes. As Willie said, “… one thing, we were never plagued with rats!”

In 1922, Lewis Kemp sold the Institute to his son, Tom, who remained there until 1942. Because of heavy infestations of horehound and other noxious weeds, he ran a large flock of sheep and goats. He also raised corn and feed crops. Cotton was no longer important because of the boll weevil infestation.

Dr. Walter Prescott Webb, professor of history at UT Austin, was the next owner. He wanted “to preserve the building and to restore it as nearly as possible to its original state” and was “determined to restore its depleted grassland and water.” Throughout the drought-ridden 1940s and 50s, he cut down the encroaching juniper to allow the oaks and grass to flourish, and broadcast grass seed and fertilizer.

It was during this period that Dr. Webb encouraged authors, including Roy Bedichek and J. Frank Dobie, to visit Friday Mountain for lively literary discussions. Bedichek went into seclusion there for a year to write his book, “Adventures with a Texas Naturalist.”

In 1946, Webb encouraged his friend, Rodney J. Kidd, to run a boys’ summer camp at the Instititute. Then, from 1949 until 1956, sixth-grade students would come out from Austin for 5-day stays, stressing nature study, self-reliance, and the pioneer spirit. Webb sold the ranch in 1963 to Kidd, who kept the buildings in good order. The following year the Texas Historical Commission designated the Johnson Institute a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
By 1991, only 105 acres of Friday Mountain Ranch belonged to the Kidd family. Two hundred acres, including the Johnson Institute, had been purchased by the International Society of Divine Love, becoming Barsana Dham. Friday Mountain was said to be reminiscent of Barsana Hill in the holy land of Braj in India. In 1995, the Temple of Shree Raseshwari Radhi Rani, the largest Hindu temple in the United States, was dedicated. But, by 1992, the Texas Historical Commission had voted to revoke the Johnson Institute’s Recorded Texas Historic Landmark designation because of the extensive alterations that had been made to the building.

“The sights, sounds, odors” that attracted Roy Bedichek half a century ago are very different today. Friday Mountain still stands sentinel, overlooking “billowy rise after rise growing evermore purplish and smoky in the distance,” now dotted with ever increasing signs of human habitation.
J. Marie Bassett, © 2004
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The Cattle Queen and the Preacher

South of Driftwood, at the intersection of FM 150 and FM3237, stands a gas station rejoicing in the name Hays City. A blink-and you-miss-it indeed, but had the vision of the Reverend Hezekiah Williams and his second wife, Lizzie Johnston, panned out, Hays City would be our county seat. Hezekiah Williams is given credit for laying out the plans, but it was no doubt his enterprising wife who was the brains behind the scheme.

Lizzie was born in Cole County, Missouri, in 1840, the second of the children born to Thomas Jefferson “Old Bristletop” Johnston. She was four years old when the family headed for Texas. Lizzie was educated at her father’s Johnston Institute on Bear Creek, before graduating from Chappell Hill Female College in Washington County. At the age of nineteen, she began a teaching career that spanned twenty years in Lockhart and Austin.

Lizzie knew many of the local cattlemen and investors, and being good with figures, was soon doing their bookkeeping. She realized there was a profit to be made from cattle, and, in 1871, registered her own brand under the name Elizabeth Johnston. An early Cattle Queen, she is thought to have been one of the first women to ride the Chisholm trail, driving her own herd to the northern markets.

It was in 1879, at the age of 39, that Miss Johnston married the widowed preacher, Hezekiah Williams. The savvy Lizzie had a prenuptial agreement drawn up, in order to keep control of her own finances and property!

The Williams’ ranch was at the geographical center of Hays County, so, when the courthouse at San Marcos burned down in 1903, the Reverend Williams decided it would be appropriate to relocate the county seat to that spot. It was to be known as Hays City. Elaborate plans, including sites for several denominations of churches, were drawn up. Lots were sold. A lumber yard, hotel and livery stable, plus one of the churches, were built. A newspaper, The Hays City Enterprise, began circulation. Williams even proposed a railway line from Kyle.

In order to move the county seat from San Marcos, all the landowners in the county had to give their approval. The Reverend Williams appeared before the Commissioners’ Court, armed with a petition signed by all the landowners in Hays City and the northern part of Hays County. Sure of victory, he called for an election.

The ingenious citizens of San Marcos, however, were not about to give up their county seat without a fight. They defeated the motion with the aid of 100 new voters. Their devious plan centered on a new subdivision to the north of town where 100 lots, 35 feet by 50 feet, were sold to landless residents for $1 per lot.

Hezekiah and Lizzie Williams’ grand design for a more centrally located county seat was quashed. The buildings they so confidently erected were dismantled. Lizzie outlived Hezekiah by ten years, spending most of them as a hermit. The eccentric old lady was worth a quarter of a million dollars, a fortune in those days, when she died in 1924.
J. Marie Bassett, © 2004

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Driftwood, Texas
The only time most of you stop in Driftwood is on election day to cast your votes at the community center, or perhaps at Christmastime to mail your packages at the post office, thus avoiding the never-ending lines at Oakhill. On one such visit, I asked the postmaster why our postal address was Austin and not Driftwood. He informed me that it should have been, but an original resident of Goldenwood West requested that we have an Austin address.

It was the post office that led to Driftwood’s name which was originally Liberty Hill. Liberty Hill was founded in the 1850s on the banks of Onion Creek, but flooding necessitated a move to higher ground. Once it was resettled, a request was put in for a post office, but there was already a Liberty Hill in the Austin area. Racking his brains for a new name, Jim Howard stared out the window. Noting some driftwood washed up by the flood, he realized that the post office was made of that material. So, in 1885, the little town became Driftwood.

Driftwood was in its heyday during the last quarter of the 19th century, as a supply center for the neighboring ranches. It boasted its post office, two general stores, a barber’s shop, cotton gin, blacksmith’s, and two churches. In 1911, the Baptists decided to change the site of their church. On the eve of the move, a high wind blew the unsecured building to pieces. In true ecumenical fashion, the Methodists graciously allowed their Baptist neighbors to share their building. Methodist services were held on the first and third Sundays, Baptist on the second and fourth, alternating any fifth Sunday in the month. This arrangement remained for almost a century, until the congregations became too large for the quaint little church. The Baptists now have their own building on the road to Hays City.

Driftwood’s population fell to about ten people in 1925, with a resurgence to 100 in the mid-20th century, dropping back to 25 in the 1970s. In the last decade, the rapid increase in development which has made Hays County the fastest growing county in the USA, has once again caused a surge.

In 1905, a school building was erected behind the Methodist church. It was replaced in 1920 and added onto in the 1930s, making room for three teachers. In 1940, the Driftwood school merged with Buda, and the empty building was given to the people of Driftwood as a community center. In 1956, the Driftwood Improvement Club was formed to care for the center, and is now a thriving social institution. It is responsible for Driftwood Heritage Day, held on the last Saturday in September. The club meets at 7 pm on the first Saturday of each month for a potluck supper.

The club attracts members from a diverse spectrum: old-time residents of the neighboring ranches, newcomers in the local subdivisions, and artists and artisans who have settled in the peaceful countryside. It costs fifteen dollars per family per year to join. The next meeting will be the annual ice-cream social on August 7th, a great opportunity to meet the neighbors.
© 2004 J. Marie Bassett
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Neighborhood History: Early Settlement of Dripping Springs

As the “Gateway to the Texas Hill Country,” Dripping Springs reflects the past and the present. Old-time residents are “still shakin’ those bones” in the Rinkey Dink Billiard Hall, while SUVs idle in traffic jams outside the schools. Although now virtually a suburb of Austin, the little town still exudes the charm that attracted the settlers to the area in the 1850s. Why the Moss, Pound, and Wallace families left Mississippi for the Texas frontier is not clear, but once they crested the hill, now Wallace Mountain, they knew where their utopia lay. John Lee Wallace, for whom the mountain is named, was a nephew of Confederate general, Robert E. Lee.

By 1860, John Moss and his wife, Indiana (known as Nannie), were on the move again, but not without leaving their mark. When John became the first postmaster in 1857, the settlement had to have a name before a post office could be established. Nannie is given credit for picking it. She considered the waters of the spring, dripping over a limestone ledge, the most important feature in the area. Never known to dry up, they form a stream that flows south to join Onion Creek. Carl Waits, in “The Complete History of Drippings Springs,” suggests “her choice” was “a natural. Certainly, it was more poetic and distinctive than say Mossville, Pound City, or Wallaceburg.”

When Dripping Springs celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2003, a new plaque was installed on the bridge at the west end of Mercer Street. It signifies the importance of the springs issuing from the Edwards Aquifer 50 yards to the north. The natural amphitheater surrounding the springs provided a meeting place for Tonkawa Indians, and later local citizens, picnickers, and playful children. Just south of the bridge, early residents erected a building for keeping milk and butter fresh in the cool waters, hence the stream’s name, Milk House Branch.

The sesquicentennial year was also an important one in the saga of the Pound family. Dr. Joseph McKegg Pound built a two-room log cabin in what is now Founders Park. There, he and his wife, Sarah (who was Nannie Moss’s sister), raised their nine children, and tended to the sick. Being a medicine man, Dr. Pound was held in high regard by the Indians who were still much in evidence until the turn of the century.

By the time the doctor died in 1917, the homestead had expanded to six rooms, surrounded by several ancillary buildings. Four generations of the family were to live there until 1983. It is thanks to the restoration efforts of the Friends of the Pound House, most notably, Dr. Dennis Cannon and his wife, Katherine, that Dr. Pound’s old home was officially opened to the public in 2003. For a fascinating glimpse into life on the Texas frontier, plan to visit it on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., free of charge, during the summer months, May through September. The annual Fall Fest fundraiser will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, 25 September, 2004. To experience traditional Texas hospitality and family fun, set aside that day to visit not only the Pound House, but also the Heritage Day celebrations at Driftwood.
© 2004 J. Marie Bassett
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Neighborhood History: The Salt Lick
(January 2005)

According to the Austin-American Statesman, “The only likely reason T-shirts bearing the Driftwood name are spotted around the world” is the Salt Lick barbecue restaurant perched above Onion Creek. It was founded in 1969 by Thurman and Hisako Roberts.
Both Thurman Roberts’ paternal and maternal grandparents settled in the Driftwood area in the 1880s. His grandfather, born in Georgia, moved to Texas at the age of three. He enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1861 and remained until the end of the Civil War. Thurman also took up arms, joining the US Navy during World War II. He was stationed in Hawaii where he met his wife, Hisako Tsuchiyama, a native-born Hawaiian and graduate of UCLA. When they married in 1946, Thurman was a bridge contractor in Marshall, Texas. The pair decided to make their home back in the Driftwood area, so, in 1956, bought the adjoining Crumley and Whisenant properties, next to Thurman’s parents’ home place. Soon after they moved in, Hisako remembers, there were two disastrous floods with the raging waters of Onion Creek completely covering the bridge and reaching almost to the Roberts’ ranch house just past the present-day Salt-Lick pavilion.

Ten years later, Thurman decided to quit “bridging” and turned his hand to farming, his first enterprise being pecan shelling. Thurman and Hisako always enjoyed cooking, so during the 1960s, they were hosts for the Hays County Sons of the Confederacy annual barbecue. Before long, they were catering parties and reunions. The meat was cooked to perfection over an outdoor pit, using recipes handed down from earlier generations. The Roberts soon built a summer camp-style dining hall on the ranch across the road from Camp Ben McCulloch. As word spread about the succulent meat emerging from the new pit, passers-by stopped, asking for barbecue. The Salt Lick became a full-time proposition.

Thurman and Hisako Roberts had two sons, Thurman Lee and Scott. In 1968, they decided to build a larger colonial-style home to the east of the restaurant, just above flood level. Thurman Lee was about to enter his second year at UT Austin when he was killed in an accident. The new home did not have the same appeal after the tragedy, so has never been occupied. It served as storage for the restaurant until 2004 when it was renovated. It is now used for catered parties in a more upscale setting.
Scott graduated from UT and married Susie Goff. They took over the operation of the Salt Lick in 1988 after his father died. The sprightly Hisako, now in her late eighties, but looking decades younger, is still very much involved.

The Salt Lick is an example of a restaurant that has survived because it has retained its original ambience, yet adapted with the times. It is without a doubt the most authentic barbecue restaurant in central Texas, still cooking its meat over an open-pit. In the 1990s, Scott Thurman began to expand the business, with the construction of The Pavilion on the other side of Onion Creek. It is an extremely popular place for weddings, and celebrations of all kinds, including the Texas Wine and Food Festival’s Sunday Fayre in April.

When the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport was opened, the City of Austin invited restaurants representative of the local area to cater to the flying public. The Salt Lick was one. Scott Thurman has also opened Salt Lick 360 in the Davenport Village on North Capital of Texas Highway. In spite of an expanded menu and a bar, the tried and true barbecue items from the parent restaurant are the favorites.

When entertaining out-of-town guests, the original Salt Lick is always the chosen venue. The rustic setting exemplifies down-home Central Texas, with the rich smoky smell of meat wafting through the live oaks and pecans, as a country singer twangs his guitar.©2005 J. Marie Bassett
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Neighborhood History: A Literary Landmark in Kyle
(March 2005)

“ Small, dreary, empty here, full of dust,” was how the most famous occupant of a small house on Center Street in Kyle described it in 1930. Had she still been around some seventy years later, she would have changed her tune! “Today we celebrate a great honor – the designation of the Lone Star State’s Second National Literary Landmark…,” said Laura Bush, as she declared the Katherine Anne Porter House open on June 13, 2000.

Katherine Anne Porter was born Callie Russell Porter on May 15, 1890, to Harrison Boone Porter and Mary Alice Jones. It has been claimed that she was a great-granddaughter of Daniel Boone, but this appears not to be the case. It is possible that she was a descendent of his brother, Jonathan, through her grandmother, Catherine Skaggs.

Catherine Skaggs and her husband, Asbury Duvall Porter, came to Hays County, Texas, in the early 1850s. Asbury was a well-to-do farmer, with real estate valued at $2300 and a personal estate of $3548 in 1860. He had settled on rich farmland to the southeast of present-day Buda on what was referred to as “the prairie.” By 1880, Asbury had died, leaving his twenty-two year old son Harrison to run the farm with his mother and five younger siblings. They lived on the edge of the Mountain City community, some distance from the school, so a new one, called Science Hall Home Institute, had been founded. A community grew up, taking its name from the school. It had a post office (for a short time), cotton gin, store, and blacksmith’s shop. But, like many small Texas settlements, its existence was ephemeral, falling into decline with the arrival of the railroad in 1881, and the founding of Kyle and Buda. Science Hall was situated between those two towns, about a mile east of I-35, near County Road 131.

Harrison Porter appears to have been a restless, but intelligent and well-read, young man. By 1884, he had left the family farm and headed further north. His marriage to Mary Alice Jones is recorded in Lampasas on 19 June, 1884. The pair settled in Indian Creek, near Brownwood, where they produced five children, one of whom died an infant. When Callie was just two years old, two months after the birth of her youngest sister, her mother died. Harrison took the family back to their grandmother who had built a three-bedroom house in Kyle. He appears to have continued farming the family farm until his mother’s death.

Life in Kyle came to an abrupt end for Callie with Catherine Porter’s death in 1901. Without his mother as an anchor and financially insecure, Harrison Porter gave up farming and embarked on a nomadic life with his young children, living in boarding houses or with relatives in Louisiana and Texas. At the age of 16, Callie’s desire for financial and emotional stability led her to marry railroad clerk, John Henry Koontz, son of a rancher from Inez. She also converted to Catholicism. The pair divorced in 1915. Callie changed her name to Katherine Porter, and so she styled herself for the rest of her life, despite at least two (some say four) more marriages. That year she contracted tuberculosis, but recovered to almost succumb to influenza during the 1918 pandemic.

After her first divorce, the beautiful young Katherine Anne Porter led a checkered career, as a movie extra, writing a society column for the Fort Worth Critic, and singing Scottish ballads, before moving to Greenwich Village, New York. It was there that her literary career and interest in politics really took hold. Like her father, she was infected with wanderlust, and spent several years in Mexico and in Europe, as a journalist, essayist, and short-story writer.

Katherine was deeply upset when the Texas Institute of Letters passed her over and presented its first book award to J. Frank Dobie in 1936. This later led to the composition of an anonymous limerick:

There was a young lady from Kyle
Whose temper Frank Dobie did rile
She left in a huffWon Pulitzers and stuff
And came back to Texas in style.

From 1948 to 1958, Katherine taught at Stanford, the University of Michigan, the University of Liege, Washington and Lee, and the University of Texas. In 1962, she published her only novel, “Ship of Fools,” which was later made into a movie. This made her a household name and provided the financial security she had always craved.

After spending her declining years in the Washington, D.C., area, Katherine Anne Porter died in College Park, Maryland, on 18 September 1980. Her cremated ashes were brought back to her birthplace of Indian Creek and buried by her mother’s grave.

Sadly, Katherine was denied the joy of children, enduring only the sadness of several miscarriages and one still-born child. However, the people of Kyle have not forgotten their most famous resident. The restoration of her grandmother’s house at 508 W. Center Street, where she spent almost ten years of her life, was completed in 2000. Known as the Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center, it is leased to the Texas State University in San Marcos. Tours of the center can be arranged by calling (512) 268-6637. ©2005 J. Marie Bassett

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Neighborhood History: The State Flower
(May 2005)

One of the weighty issues before the State Legislature this session was the selection of an official state cooking implement. It appears that the Dutch oven will have an easy passage. The same cannot be said for the choice of Texas’s state flower.

In 1901, there were three main contenders for the title, each being heatedly debated by those for and against. The “white rose of commerce,” the ripe cotton boll, was the choice of Phil Clement of Mills. A man who would later become the vice-president of the United States, Jack Nance Garner of Uvalde, felt the ubiquitous prickly-pear cactus flower would be much more appropriate. His defense of the spiny specimen earned him the nickname that would stick for the rest of his days, “Cactus Jack.” John Green of Cuero championed a flower that did not receive universal approbation. It was the bluebonnet.

The bluebonnet was likened to an old woman’s bonnet. Stockmen thought it bloated the cattle. It was referred to as buffalo clover. Mexicans called it “el conejo”, the rabbit, because the white tip looked like a rabbit’s tail bobbing along. The botanical name of the bluebonnet is Lupinus, meaning wolflike, as it was thought the flower stole nutrients from the land. The reverse is actually true; it is a legume which nourishes poor soil.

The National Society of Colonial Dames of America in the State of Texas came to the rescue of the beleaguered flower. They brought a painting by Mode Walker of a bowl of bluebonnets and pink evening primroses into the Capitol. “A deep silence reigned for an instant. Then deafening applause fairly shook the old walls.” And so the state flower of Texas, approved on March 5, 1901, by Governor Joseph D. Sayers, was “Lupinus subcarnosus (generally known as buffalo clover or blue bonnet).”

It soon became apparent that this was not the most attractive of the state’s six species known at the time. That distinction went to Lupinus texensis. After years of argument, a resolution was passed on March 8, 1971, that added, “any other variety of Bluebonnet not heretofore recorded.” This means that we can now include several colored varieties that have been isolated in nature and propagated, including a maroon one for the Texas Aggies!

This is not the end of the story. On May 25, 1995, the prickly pear cactus (genus Opuntia), was designated the state plant of Texas. The hordes of people who have their photographs taken sitting among the bluebonnets every spring are probably very thankful that the “Cactus Jack’s” candidate did not prevail in 1901! ©2005 J. Marie Bassett
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Neighborhood History: Buda
(July 2005)

With the recent opening of Cabela’s, the mecca of outdoorsmen, Buda has become a household word. Yet, until 1880, it did not exist. The expansion of the railroad from Austin into Hays County was responsible for its birth as a rail depot.

At the time, the main settlement in the area was Mountain City, which soon saw rapid depopulation as its citizens and businesses relocated to the new depot on land donated by Cornelia Trimble. The new town was named Du Pre. Where the name came from is not known, but the literal translation from the French is “of the meadow.” Legend has it that the postmaster at Mountain City had said to a railway official, as the railroad pushed into the area, “Do, pray, give us a depot.” Perhaps the official’s name was Du Pre!

The name, Du Pre, lasted only a few years, as the post office discovered there was already a town of that name in East Texas. Why it was changed to Buda in 1887 is another mystery. Again, there is a colorful tale to explain it.

The Carrington Hotel in Du Pre had become a very popular place for rail travelers to stop for a meal. The cooks were two widows who had once provided meals for the railroad workers. Those who were Mexican referred to them in Spanish as the “viudas.” Du Pre was supposedly renamed in their honor, but the English pronunciation of “v” sounded like “b.” Yet another suggestion is that the town was renamed for Budapest in Hungary – again, the reason unknown.

Buda prospered as a supply center for the surrounding dairy farms and ranches, even having, at one time or another, a movie theater, cheese factory, two newspapers, a lumberyard, bank, and a skating rink. It was hard hit by the depression of the 1930s, with the population dipping to 300. With the growth of Austin and the building of a cement plant nearby in the 1980s, the population gradually increased, reaching 2204 in 2000. Who knows what will happen next?
©2005 J. Marie Bassett

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Neighborhood History: Screwworm Eradication
(September 2005)

The screwworm must rank among the most insidious of animal parasites. Unlike other maggots (larvae), it eats the live flesh of animals. The female screwworm blow-fly, Cochliomyia hominiverox (Coquerel), mating once in its lifetime, lays its eggs in an open wound which the larvae then proceed to enlarge.

It was the scourge of ranchers in the Texas Hill Country until an eradication program was introduced. Syd Hall, an elderly Driftwood rancher, recalls that in the 1950s, he would lose at least 75 sheep and goats a year to screwworms. No cattle died, but he is sure the worm seriously undermined the ranch’s breeding program.

On a typical day, Syd would saddle up at daybreak and ride one pasture a day. He would drive the goats (or sheep or cattle) into a pen and come back after the sun was up to doctor those infected with screwworms. Most susceptible were newborn calves, followed by goats and sheep that had been nicked during shearing. After treatment, the animals would be let out and, in many cases, were immediately reinfected.

The USDA decided in the 1930s to look for ways to eradicate the screwworm, first in the southeastern states. It was decided to breed sterile flies and release them from the air. The first large scale experiment took place in 1954 on Curacao. Within four months, the island was free of the pest.

Work began in Texas in the 1960s, with the mass production of sterile flies at the inactive Moore AFB at Mission. Syd Hall, like many ranchers, was very skeptical about the success of the venture. He said that ranchers were invited to contribute $1 dollar per head of cattle they owned and “two bits” per goat or sheep. Asked if he thought it would work, he said, “I don’t think so, but if it does it will be a cheap price to pay.” But, it did work, and the screwworm was eradicated from the United States in 1966.

Unfortunately, Texas was reinfested every spring with flies migrated from Mexico. However, in 1972, the Mexican and US governments decided to cooperate on eradication of screwworms in Mexico. The scientists from Mission were sent to Tuxtla Gutierrez in Chiapas, Mexico, which now is the only site in the world breeding sterile screwworm flies. Although screwworms have now been eradicated as far south as Panama, vigilance is necessary. Isolated cases do still occur.
One animal that has definitely benefited from the program is the deer. Up to 80% of fawns were killed by screwworms in years of heavy infestation. Bucks were also susceptible when the velvet was peeling from their horns.
Cowboy poet, Joel Nelson, can have the last word on the subject–

“ Now usually gov’ment programs are a minimal success
But the one that stopped the screwworm has dang sure passed the test.
Cause it pushed the critter southward and I hope he’s there to stay.
Here’s to the Mission Fly Lab and the U.S.D. of A!”

©2005 J. Marie Bassett
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Neighborhood History: Demise of the Historic Goldenwood Oak

In November of 2012 residents mourned the loss of our 250-yr-old Spanish oak, which graced the entrance on FM 1826 to our communities. The tree was destroyed due to a failure of communication between project managers and a brush clearing crew under contract with TxDOT. KEYE News reported on the tragic incidents. In addition, an article about the destruction of the historic tree appeared in the Oak Hill Gazette.

Submitted by M. Paine

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