Once Upon A Time - A Bedtime Story
By Doris Besperka
This is the first in a series of articles about Lakeway area history which were published in a Greater Lakeway Residents Association publication, The Homeowners News, in 1999-2002.
By Doris Besperka: Information from "Lakeway, the First 25 years and Earlier Times Along the Colorado River" by Byron Varner. The stories go until 1988.
ONCE Upon a time....as long ago as 3,000 years before the birth of Christ...people lived in our part of the Hill Country. Geologists have found rocks charred from camp fires, flint weapons, and other tools. Former campsites are called Indian mounds and there are many of them in Lakeway...especially between the Lakeway Inn and Comet.
The clump of trees in front of 304 Lakeway Drive and the intersection of Challenger and Edgewater Cove that runs along the ridge to about 603 Robindale were main campsites. The area along Hurst Creek as far as the waterfall on the Hills Golf Course was a major campsite.
The Indians native to this area in recent times were the Tonkawas. They were driven out by the Comanches, Apaches and the Mescaleros. In turn, they were driven away when the Spanish missionaries arrived about 1700.
Now we'll jump ahead a few years to 1827 when Stephen F. Austin obtained a land grant from the Mexican Government with permission to locate a colony along the Colorado River. And it was just a river....not a lake. He called it the Little Colony with headquarters at Mina (Bastrop).
William Barton homesteaded upstream in 1836 near Barton Springs. They have been flowing for a long time! Soon a community was developed about where the Congress Avenue Bridge is today. It was named Waterloo.
Mirabeau B. Lamar was so impressed with the area that he recommended it for our State Capitol. Waterloo was renamed Austin. The city incorporated in 1839 and the first government building was erected. Do I seem to be name dropping?
The Little Colony became Travis County in 1840. Can you imagine.... ? Everything a Texan describes is BIG...but this was something else! It was larger than the combined area of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
In 1842 John Henry Lohmann immigrated from Germany with his family and settled on a hill overlooking Austin ... which had about 35 houses. He started the first dairy farm with 11 cows. This supplied the whole community. His farm is now the University of Texas, I don't know whether it was the rapid growth of the community, the politics, or the traffic...however, a few years later he moved to the suburbs. He homesteaded on some fertile land about 17 miles upstream near a natural ford across the river.
In normal times, the water came to a horse's belly ... in dry times a man could jump across it. He maintained a private road to the ford and it became Lohman's Crossing Road. The ford was about halfway across our lake between the Lakeway Inn Boat Ramp and the east cove in Point Venture. On the Lakeway side, the road once ran from the lake to Highway 71. It ran behind the houses on 1001-2-3-5 and 7 Challenger. On the Point Venture side it still goes to FM 1435. When Travis County took over the road they built a small bridge.
Early pioneer families used it to socialize with friends on the other side of the river and to take their corn to be ground at Anderson's Mill. Anderson's Mill is now a museum and may be visited.
Lohmann hated war. It was one of the reasons he left Europe and he refused to serve in the Confederate Army. A band of Southern sympathizers objected to this and started to hang him. However, some friends rescued him at gunpoint and cut the noose.
James Hudson settled his family in the area we call Hudson's Bend in 1854. He owned a large property, but most of it is now under the lake.
The Hill Country was ready for the ranchers ... and huge tracts of land often changed owners. I'll tell you more about that in my next story.
By Doris Besperka
This is the second in a series of articles about Lakeway area history which were published in a Greater Lakeway Residents Association publication, The Homeowners News, in 1999-2002.
Once upon a time, about a hundred years ago, the pioneer families were not the only people who lived in our part of the Hill Country. Cedar choppers earned a living by making charcoal. The put pieces of cedar in a pit, covered it with dirt to keep out the air, and burned it for several days. They also cut cypress logs from the Pedernales River into shingles. Deer were plentiful. .. even then ... and were hunted for food and skins.
There were only two communities at that time. Bee Cave was named because a swarm of bees built a huge nest which was shaped like a cave under the eave of a store owned by Carl Beck in 1870 .... near where McCoys Building Supply Store is now.
The first telephone line from Austin came to a building where Johnson’s Trading Post is today ... near the traffic light at Route 71 and Bee Cave Road.
The second community was Teck, near Hudson Bend. Leonard Eck operated a store and a post office. Even then, there was a lot of red tape when dealing with a government office. They needed a four-letter name for a Postal Address. Eck just added a T in front of his name. Notice Eck Lane in Hudson Bend.
Most of the time, the Colorado River was a pussycat of a river ... but after a heavy rain, it became a tiger, and Austin was often flooded. Mansfield Dam was completed in 1941 and was mostly for flood control and the generation of electricity. It was originally named Marshall Ford Dam.
The era of the ranches began with the formation of Lake Travis. However, Fred Maul, a grandson of John Henry Lohman, had a ranch as early as 1875 near Flintrock Road. His ranch house was about where Randalls is today. He ran one of the area’s first post offices ... named Flintrock, Texas.
Max Schramm bought 640 acres of land in the 1940s ... along the road between the Lake Travis High School and Hudson Bend. At that time the road was called Harris Ford Road. He was a retired U.S. Postal worker and used it as a retirement homestead. He ran a few cattle and called it the Schramm Ranch.
Abe and Neville Hutto purchased 2,600 acres along Flintrock Road in 1955. This road is just past Randalls. Abe took the part to the south and ran Angora goats and sheep. This location wasn't suited for cattle. Abe could have come right out of a western movie. He grew up on a ranch in South Texas, went to the University of Texas, and became a New Mexico oil field worker. He found time to ride in rodeos as a bulldogger, a bronco rider, and a calf roper for almost 40 years. When taxes increased, it became too expensive to ranch and he subdivided his ranch into small parcels and called it Flintrock Hills.
Nevil Hutto owned the north part of the ranch and sold all of his land except for a small homestead to the Lakeway Company in the 1960s. It became the Hills of Lakeway.
Gus B. Mauermann (at one time mayor of San Antonio) owned a much bigger ranch adjacent to the Huttos. It was 7,500 acres and ran along Lake Travis from Lohman’s Crossing Road all the way to the Pedernales River and as far south as Bee Creek Road near Route 71. He wanted Abe Hutto to buy it, but Abe couldn’t do it.
Now a Beaumont native named Jack Josey takes center stage of our story. He was a petroleum engineer with a degree from UT in 1937. Jack and his fraternity brother, Bob Park, were in the oil leasing and land business. They were real Texans and thought BIG. At one time they owned over 100,000 acres in Texas and Louisiana.
During a party in Austin, a friend told him about our beautiful Hill Country. They left the party and drove out as far as Murfin Road. He immediately bought all the land from Murfin Road to the dam ... between 620 and Lake Austin. He remodeled an old lake house and used it as a vacation home.
When Josey heard that the Mauermann Ranch was for sale, he drove to Lohmans Crossing and was impressed with our beautiful lakefront. A few days later, he bought it. The Mauermanns ranch house (near what is now 423 Dasher) became the headquarters of his foreman. At one time it was part of the Lakeway Stables until it was razed in 1972.
The Lakeway Company bought the Schramm Ranch in 1970. The old ranch house was converted to the Alpenhof Restaurant near the Sunshine Nursery on Route 620. The restaurant moved to Hamilton Pool Road. The Lakeway Company donated 55 acres of the Schramm ranch to the Lake Travis Independent School District in 1983 for the Lake Travis High School Complex.
Jack Josey sold part of the Mauermann ranch to Houston friends who developed Lakeway. Part of his Lake Austin Ranch became Cardinal Hills and Apache Shores.
The last bit of Josey property in the Lakeway area was the 1.92 acre site at the comer of Hurst Creek Road and Lohmans Crossing Road. It had been a bunkhouse for his men who cleared out the cedar brush. In 1987 it was used for Boy Scouts.
It is now owned by the Lakeway Historical Society* and the site of the Spirit of Freedom Monument.
(* Editor’s Note – The Lakeway Heritage Commission was formed by a resolution of the City Council on July 16, 2001. Prior to that time, the organization was known as the Lakeway Historical Society, which was established in December 1988. They became a non-profit organization on March 31, 1993. The Lakeway City Council re-established the commission as the Lakeway Heritage Committee on Sept. 17, 2018. ) Revised 3/17/2022 per Heritage Committee chair.
By Doris Besperka
This is the third in a series of articles about Lakeway area history which were published in a Greater Lakeway Residents Association publication, The Homeowners News, in 1999-2002.
Once upon a time, about 40 years ago, the importance of taxes again became evident.
The Hill Country was not adapted to running cattle, and goats did not provide a good income. However, the value of the land increased and so did the taxes. Owning a ranch was no longer profitable. Fortunately, this is an exciting and wonderful place for people to build homes and in a very short number of years, the ranches became subdivisions.
Jack Josey sold 880 acres of the Josey Ranch, which had been part of the old Mauermann Ranch to Houston friends who developed Lakeway. They were John Crooker, Jr., Flint Sawtelle, and Lee Blocker. I’ll tell you more about these farsighted men in another story. Before long, the Lakeway Inn was in business and the Lakeway Company was formed.
Part of Josey’s Lake Austin Ranch became Cardinal Hills and Apache Shores.
Abe Hutto turned his ranch into small lots and called it Flintrock Hills. The Lakeway Company bought Nevil’s half of the Hutto Ranch and it became the Hills of Lakeway.
In 1970 the Lakeway Company bought the Schramm Ranch and the Schramms moved to Fredericksburg. The company turned the ranchhouse into the Alpenhof Restaurant in 1972. At this time it was on the hill near where the Middle School is now.* However the building was later moved to a site next to the Sunshine Nursery on RM 620. The Alpenhof Restaurant has recently moved to Hamilton Pool Road.*
The Lakeway Company sold 23 acres and donated 55 acres of the Schramm Ranch to the Lake Travis Independent School District for the Lake Travis High school complex.
The last bit of Josey property in the Lakeway area was the 1.92 acre site at the corner of Hurst Creek Road and Lohmans Crossing Road. It was originally the homestead of the H.E. Stevenson family. Josey used it as a bunkhouse for his men who cleared out the cedar brush. From 1971 to 1987 it was the office of the Phillips Lakeway Properties.
In 1987, Lenoir Josey allowed the Lakeway Troop of Boy Scouts to use it. At this time, it was annexed by the Village of Lakeway and zoned residential.
It is now owned by the Lakeway Historical Society* and is the site of our Spirit of Freedom Monument.
* - Editor’s Note: The Lake Travis Middle School campus was relocated to Bee Creek Road since this writing.
* - Editor’s Note: The Alpenhof Restaurant is no longer in business.
(* Editor’s Note – The Lakeway Historical Society is now the Lakeway Heritage Commission, which is a City of Lakeway commission.)
By Doris Besperka
This is the fourth in a series of articles about Lakeway area history which were published in a Greater Lakeway Residents Association publication, The Homeowners News, in 1999-2002.
Once upon a time, before the 1960s there were about 9,000 goats on the Josey Ranch. These goats didn’t appreciate the beauty of Lake Travis at all. However, there were three dynamic men who did. They were John Crooker Jr., Flint Sawtelle, and Lee Blocker.
John Crooker Jr. was a Houston lawyer who was appointed chairman of the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board by Lyndon Johnson. When his father retired, John Jr. assumed responsibility for the Ben Milam Hotel in Houston. This was expanded into a hotel chain with four hotels … one of which was called Fairway because it was on a golf course in McAllen.
Flint Sawtelle enrolled at Leheigh University near Bethlehem, Penn. While he was doing some surveying, he was impressed by Sky Top and Buckhill Falls, two lovely resort hotels in the Poconos. He had a dream that he’d like to build something similar in Texas. He left Leheigh and earned a degree in petroleum engineering at the University of Texas. John Crooker was a friend, and Flint became involved with his company and the Fairway Hotel.
They bought the Commodore Perry Hotel in Austin and formed the Gulfmont Hotel Company with Sawtelle as president.
Lee Blocker had his bachelor’s degree from Rice, a master’s degree from Columbia, five years of CPA experience and 13 years of working in development. He joined Crooker and Sawtelle and became treasurer of the Gulfmont Co. He was the one who looked for sites for new hotels.
Sawtelle and Jack Josey were both on the board of directors for a bank. Josey kept kidding Sawtelle that he should build a hotel on his ranch on Lake Travis. In 1961, this idea took root, and Blocker started looking into possible sites.
Lee, John, and Flint (they were good friends and first names seem easier) met Josey’s partner, Ben Park. They drove in his jeep to the end of Lohmans Road and looked no farther. This was THE PLACE. One day, John and Flint sat in their car and drew a rough plan on the site on a legal size piece of paper. Not many changes were made in the final plan.
Since their Fairway Hotel was named for its location on a golf course, this was obviously named Lakeway.
A group of 10 developers was organized, and they purchased 880 acres from the Josey Ranch with the option to buy more. The Lakeway Inn1 would be built and owned by the Gulfmont Company. However, the resort community would be separate. The groundbreaking ceremony was held in October 1962. (Only 38 years ago at the time of this writing.) Little did they know what they were starting! Many of the guests were skeptical about this project in the wilderness … especially the bankers.
Andy Kivlin, a longtime Houston friend and builder, became an investor and built the Inn. He started construction before the architect finished the plan. The only electricity was from a portable generator, and the nearest phone was in Bee Cave down a dusty caliche-base road. However, the building crews continued to build faster than the architect could draw plans. It’s too bad that Andy isn’t here to build our Activity Center.
The Inn couldn’t operate without electricity and telephone service. Flint invited the chief engineers of both utilities to dinner … which turned out to be a gourmet picnic on the building site. They were so impressed, that there was a telephone in a few days at the corner of the original entrance to Lakeway (now across from the Exxon station2.) Electricity soon followed.
The grand opening of the Inn on July 12, 1963 had a few exciting moments for the developers … in spite of careful planning. The goats still roamed the Josey Ranch, but the site of the Inn was protected from them by a fence which ran to the edge of the water. However, the lake was low and on the morning of the opening, about 200 goats wandered around the end of the fence and happily grazed on the newly sodded lawn below the swimming pool. It was a scramble to get them out before the guests arrived.
The guests included Lady Bird Johnson, Gov. John Connally, Railroad Commissioner Jim C. Landon, and many other notables. Lakeway Drive was the only paved road.
Once the Inn was opened, Flint turned his attention back to the Gulfmont Hotel chain. John’s role was mostly financial. Lee Blocker took charge of the day to day operation. Lee and his wife, Jean, moved into the Inn until their house on Sailfish was complete. They still live on Sailfish, were popular participants in our 1999 Fourth of July Parade, and are members of our Quarter Century Club.3
Lee became president of the Lakeway Land Company and also vice president of the Gulfmont Company. He was essentially “Mr. Lakeway” to the public. His dog, Domino, also became well known. Domino discovered that many of the workers left their lunches on the seats of their trucks. It was easy for him to reach in the windows and steal them. Lee bought a lot of replacement lunches at the Inn.
Excellent food is essential for a successful Inn. Pierre Caselli was lured from his job at the Commodore Perry Hotel to become the first permanent manager and sometimes chef of the Inn. He played an important role in the first years of the Inn and Lakeway. He built a comfortable home at 426 Eagle.
After the Inn was completed, Andy Kivlin continued to build in Lakeway. He built the early spec house, many custom houses, the Pro Shops, and the Tejas Country Store. His wife, Sylvion, was our first real estate agent … her office was her car parked on the side of the road. She sold the first lot to Louis and Irene Hamilton for $4,500 with a 10% discount for cash. It was on Comet.
A golden opportunity occurred in November 1963 when the lake dropped to 615 feet above sea level. (681 is normal.) Hundreds of acres of top soil was exposed. Andy contracted a fleet of dump trucks to move this to the site of the proposed golf course. The first nine holes of the Live Oak Golf Course was opened on Sept. 30, 1965 … years ahead of the master plan and at a lower cost than expected.
1 – The Lakeway Inn has since been renamed to Lakeway Resort & Spa.
2 – The Exxon station is now the Texaco service station at Lohman’s Crossing and Lakeway Boulevard.
3 – Lee Blocker passed away on Aug. 14, 2008. His wife, Miriam Jean Lilliott Blocker passed away on Feb. 8, 2009.
By Doris Besperka
This is the fifth in a series of articles about Lakeway area history which were published in a Greater Lakeway Residents Association publication, The Homeowners News, in 1999-2002.
Once Upon a Time ... not very long ago ... Lakeway was truly on its way. In the 1960s, the residents had no idea how far it would go.
Lakeway Inn was so successful under the management of Lee Blocker and Pierri Caselli that the capacity was increased from 49 to 80 rooms in 1965. Andy Kivlin was busy building both spec and custom homes and people moved in. With very little advertising, Lakeway was becoming well known. President Lyndon Johnson visited here, and his White House Press Corps used the Inn.
Golfers were using the Nine Hole Live Oak Golf Course. Lake Travis was here for water sports. The old Mauerman Ranch House near the airpark runway was headquarters for a riding stable with plenty of nice trails. The airpark was completed in 1964. House to house mail delivery started in 1966.
In spite of all these pluses, Lakeway was only a cluster of houses ... way out in the boonies. Year around residents needed more than resort amenities. There were lots of growing pains in the near future: some sort of municipal government; water supply; police protection; a fire department; schools; post office; doctors; dentist; grocery stores; on and on and on.However, let me go back to the very beginning. The founders had some unprecedented ideas that made Lakeway different before it ever got started.
An Architectural Control Board was created. This assured buyers of quality homes. It continues to do so today.1 This is a tough job, but newcomers know that Lakeway property values are protected.
The Lakeway Yacht Club made this an exclusive community. Prospective buyers must be approved for membership in the Yacht Club. The initiation fee was $30 and the dues were $9.95 a month. Flint Sawtelle said that this sounded better than ten dollars. It was incorporated in 1963.
Texas laws prohibited open bars at that time, but private clubs could serve alcoholic beverages. The Lakeway Yacht Club was located in the private bar off the main lobby of the Inn. The Historical Society has an excellent photograph taken by Flint Sawtelle of the first lobby with the entrance to the Yacht Club. It quickly became the hub of the social life in Lakeway. With a few changes, it still is.
The third organization has made us the envy of other villages over the years. This is the Lakeway Civic Corporation. It was incorporated in 1964 for “exclusive charitable, civic, and recreational purposes.” There was a five-man board of trustees to administer the Corporation. Later on, this became seven. Five trustees were elected by the membership for three years and two were appointed by the Lakeway Company.
Membership included all property owners within the land known as Josey I, Josey II, Hutto, Irwin, and Deerfield Tracts. Actually, this is most of Lakeway. This is how it works.
The Lakeway Property Maintenance Trust Fund was established. The Lakeway Land Company (the developers) was required to contribute 10 percent of the purchase price or $200 (whichever was less) into the trust for the sale of every lot. The capital cannot be spent, but the Civic Corporation can spend the income. The developers made an initial contribution of $50,013.61. This included every lot sold between the beginning in 1963 to December 1966. They didn't have to do this!
No new land was added to the trust as Lakeway grew. Rough Hollow and Lakeway West are part of the original tracts and will help increase the principle when they are developed. At first the income didn't amount to much, but by 1987, the market value of the trust was about $600,000 and the yearly income was over $30,000.
The Civic Corporation has been an anchor which held our community together. The early 1970s were turbulent years in Lakeway. The Lakeway Land Company had poured money into the development and not taken money out. They had accomplished their purpose, so they sold the Inn, Marina, and Residential Resort to the Alpert Investment Corporation and Real Estate Company in Dallas in 1971. They named it the Lakeway Company.
Lee Blocker and Pierre Caselli agreed to stay on to ease the transition. However, the Alperts brought in their own ideas which were very different. Lee resigned after four months. In the fallowing years, so many presidents and general managers came and went that it was once described as Lakeway’s Revolving Door Policy. There was an average of one turnover per year between 1971 and 1987.
The Civic Corporation was always there, working to make Lakeway a good place to live. They made studies and offered guidance during the ownership transition, the start of the MUD, the Village Incorporation, and the beginning of our municipal government. They used their funds carefully.
They funded the first Lakeway Directory in 1972 and the first Newsletter to Property owners, "The Homeowners Bulletin," also our first Security Patrol and the 24 hour police dispatch service. They helped furnish the Property Owners Clubroom at Live Oak. They supported the Boy Scouts.
They studied and funded our first Volunteer Fire Department, built recreational paths along our main thoroughfares, improved Dragon Park so it was useable with water, electricity, a septic system, and equipment, funded street signs, planted trees, and much, much more.
I bet you had no idea how many details, both big and small had to be worked out as a cluster of homes was transformed into the Village of Lakeway!
1 – The Architectural Control Board is no longer in existence.