by Mike Cox (From
"Texas Tales" Column)|
B. Maxwell had been on the road so long he had taken to talking to his mule.
Born in Tennessee and raised in Arkansas, some months earlier the 17-year-old
had saddled a mule and started riding southwest toward Texas. He didn't stop until
he got to the Colorado River in Burnet County. Looking at the high limestone cliffs
across the river in what would become Llano County, he told his mule, "This is
the place I've dreamed of all my life."
Whether his mule had an opinion
on the subject is not recorded, but Maxwell was ready to establish roots.
He settled about a half-mile from the future site of Bluffton, a town he
and one of his shirttail kin, Bob Davis, founded in 1854. When a petition went
to Washington in 1858 requesting a post office for Bluffton, a town he named either
for Bluffton, Ark. or for the bluffs on the river, Maxwell's name was prominently
signed. Maxwell also had a hand in organizing Llano County.
new political subdivision had its first county clerk, Maxwell purchased the first
marriage license issued in the county. And he got his money's worth out of the
document, going on to father 19 children and outliving (no wonder) three wives.
near an easy river crossing, Bluffton became a stopping place for stagecoaches
and horseback travelers. When the water was high, the owner of a 30-foot flatboat
ferried horses and wagons across the river, the minimum fee being a quarter for
a horse and rider.
Hostile Indians were more troublesome than high water.
Maxwell was in the party of citizens who trailed Indians after a raid on July
6, 1859. For the next 15 years, Indians stole every horse they found loose or
unguarded in the area.
No dummy, Maxwell devised a theft prevention
system that worked so well others soon adapted the technique. What he did was
stuff an old coat with grass, stick a hat on it and prop the "Scare Indian" next
to a stump. Soon many livestock owners in the county were making what came to
be called "Maxwell dummies."
By the time the Indian threat ended in the
mid-1870s, Bluffton was a substantial town with a hotel, a church, a number of
stores, two blacksmith shops and four saloons. Some cowboys' overindulgence at
one of those establishments led to a fire that spread rapidly through the town.
The 1883 blaze, as one writer later put it, destroyed just about everything but
the spirit of the townspeople. Unperturbed, the citizenry and business community
built a new town about a mile from the ashes of the first Bluffton.
meanwhile, was elected to the Legislature in 1884. He played a role in convincing
state officials to use granite from Burnet County rather than limestone from Indiana
in the construction of the new capitol.
those who lived in and around Bluffton, a problem nearly as enduring as granite
was periodic flooding along the Colorado. To permanently deal with that issue,
and to generate electricity through hydropower, far-sighted folks for years had
talked about damming the river. A private effort to build a dam failed, but federal
money made available during the New Deal was sufficient to do the job.
When all the engineering work for the long-contemplated dam was completed in the
mid-1930s, residents of Bluffton received some hard news - the town would be inundated
by the new lake.
- "The stone entry way to the Bluffton Cemetery. The Historical Marker makes
mention of the cemetery being build in 1930 by the Emery, Peck and Rockwood Development
company and donated to the town in anticipation of the construction of the Buchanan
Damn." - Erik Whetstone|
Bottom - Bluffton Schoolhouse
Whetstone, August 2005
| The first to leave
were the occupants of the Bluffton Cemetery, who were exhumed and reburied. Then
the living moved to a new town site five miles west of the then 72-year-old community.
Finally, all the old oaks in the vicinity were cut and burned so that the new
lake would not have any hidden obstacles to recreational navigation.|
The dam was completed in 1937, creating a lake 32 miles long and 8 miles wide.
That necessitated the moving of State Highway 29 between Burnet
and Llano. But
the new route did not pass through Bluffton No. 3, stunting its chance for any
growth. These days, even most of the memories are gone.
© Mike Cox
August 17, 2003 Column
At this writing, the normally sprawling Lake
Buchanan is only 51 per cent full... While a few traces of the old town have
become visible, most of it is still under water...