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OF 1935

The Great Flood of 1935
by Edward Aquifer
Vintage photos courtesy TXDoT

A Narrow Escape
Excerpted from the diary of Maryleene Bolen Christensen

1935 Flood - Colorado River Bridge Columbus Texas
1935 Flood - Colorado River Bridge in Columbus, Texas
Photo courtesy Nesbitt Memorial Library 00160

The April showers of 1935 may or may not have brought May flowers. If they had, they would almost certainly have been swept away into the Gulf of Mexico. Central and South Central Texas experienced heavy rains that Spring which greatly affected Austin, San Antonio and lesser cities like Junction, Uvalde and D'Hanis.

Although Texas was hit with record-breaking rainfall in 2007, vastly improved infrastructure prevented the devastation which Central Texas and the Hill Country suffered in the 30s. (See Rob Hafernik's Dam Fun: A July 4th Trip Up the Chain of Highland Lakes.)

The 2007 flooding around Burnet, Marble Falls and Cedar Park brought nearly 20 inches of rain in a 24-hour period which is far more than the 9.21 inches of rain Austin received for the month of May 1935 or the 9.71 inches that June. But when one factors in ground saturation and no run-off channels, the resulting damage of the 1935 rains was far worse.

Bystanders watching Austin Texas 1935 flood
1935 Flood - Austin, Texas
Photographer: H.M. Stene, a cartographer for TXDoT

1935 flood, Austin Texas
1935 Flood - Austin, Texas
Photographer: H.M. Stene

Austin Texas 1935 flood vintage photo
1935 Flood - Austin, Texas
Photographer: H.M. Stene

1935 Flood - Austin, Texas
Courtesy of Austin History Center, PICA 008484-A

In 1935, while Austin was receiving its deluge, San Antonio was hit even harder with 14.07 inches in May with 8.41 inches the next month. The stores around Alamo Plaza were flooded in late May and tiny D'Hanis, Texas reported a hard-to-believe 20-24 inches of rain in just 2 Hours and 45 Minutes.

D'Hanis Texas after 1935 flood
D'Hanis after the 1935 Flood

San Antonio River Cibolo Creek Bridge
View of Cibolo Creek Bridge on Highway 66 North of San Antonio
River near flood stage.

Early to mid-June rains approached 20 inches in many other smaller communities from Uvalde to Austin. The Llano, Colorado and Pedernales Rivers all reached flood stage, affecting the cities of Junction, Llano, and Fredericksburg. On June 14 and 15 the Colorado River was just 1 foot below the record reached in July of 1869.

LLano River Bridge washed away by 1935 flood, and 1936  bridge
See Llano Flood of 1935

Junction Texas June 1935 flood
June 1935 flood in Junction, Texas

The 1935 flood in Junction, Texas

The Llano River crested at its record level ever (at that time). June also brought flooding on the Nueces River and West Nueces River. Flooding extended from north of Brackettville to the Rio Grande (just downstream from Del Rio). Uvalde reported 12.5 inches within a 12 hour period and the total for that day was 17.6 inches.

Frio River flood of 1935, north of Dilley, Texas

Flood scene of the Frio River north of Dilley, Texas

Nueces River flood scene, Cotulla Texas, 1935
Flood scene of the Nueces River, Highway No. 2 south of Cotulla

The flooding of 1935 was instrumental in the building of the chain of lakes and dams from San Saba County to Matagorda. The flow of the Colorado River is uninterrupted from Austin to the coast. The towns of Bastrop, Smithville, La Grange, Columbus and Wharton have all had their share of high water incidents and the loss of bridges. But none since the construction of the dams.

DAM FUN: Highland Lakes Dams

Photos and Story by Rob Hafernik

Tom Miller Dam, Mansfield Dam, Max Starke Dam, Wirtz Dam, Inks Dam & Buchanan Dam
Lake Austin, Lake Travis, Lake Marble Falls, Lake LBJ, Inks lake & Lake Buchanan
Texas - Tom Miller Dam
Tom Miller Dam - with three and half floodgates open
See Dam Fun

The Great Flood of 1935
A Narrow Escape

Excerpted from the diary of Maryleene Bolen Christensen
Shared by her daughter, Carolyn Oldfather

A recent letter from Carolyn Oldfather included an excerpt from her mother’s diary. It’s a first-hand account of a narrow escape from almost certain destruction from the roiling waters of the (usually placid) Llano River. Ms. Oldfather and her sister are preserving her mother’s work as a family project and we thank her for allowing us to share this account with our readers. What follows is an entry from the Spring of 1935, when the author, Maryleene Bolen Christensen was approaching her 13th birthday: - Editor

“When we got to Llano we stayed with Uncle Walt and Mildred... for a little while. I guess Mama and Daddy rented a little cabin by the river. As I remember the place, it must have had one room and a little lean-to where we kids slept.

Marguriete [Maryleene’s sister] and I had so much fun while we lived in Llano – we would play on the spillway below the dam. The spillway was just behind Uncle Walt’s and Mildred’s house.I think Mildred and Uncle Walt were renting [that] great big old house.

While we stayed with them, we could hear the water splashing over the dam and down the spillway at night and we loved the sound. The bridge across the Llano River was one mile across and Marguriete and I had lots of fun running across it.

One day Mama decided to go back home – maybe because it had started to rain – or was it because she was just tired of living that way. Anyway, we went back to San Angelo, and it was a good thing – because the day after we left, the river flooded and washed that big bridge away, and the cabin we’d lived in and all the lovely old trees that had been growing along the river banks for many years. I’m sure many of them were big pecan trees. It was total devastation!”

Llano TX - Llano River Bridge washed away by 1935 flood
The 1892 Llano River Bridge in Llano
being washed away by the 1935 flood
See Llano Flood of 1935

La Grange Texas High Water Mark, July 9, 1869
La Grange High Water Mark, July 9, 1869
Photo by John Troesser, 2006

Denton Texas December 1913 flood
1913 Flood in Denton
Click on image to enlarge

Courtesy Dan Whatley Collection

Dec. 6, 1913 postcard message about the flood in Denton
Courtesy Dan Whatley Collection

TX Colorado County 1907 Postal Map
1907 postal map showing Colorado River coursing through Fayette, Colorado and Wharton Counties
Courtesy Texas General Land Office

Travis County TX 1920s Map
1920s map showing Colorado River coursing through Travis County
Courtesy Texas General Land Office

TX Kimble County 1920s Map
1920s map showing Llano River coursing through Kimble County
Courtesy Texas General Land Office

TX Llano County 1940s Map
1940s map showing Llano River coursing through Llano County
From Texas state map #4335

Courtesy Texas General Land Office
See Llano Flood of 1935

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