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WATERS PARK, TX

WATERS PARK, TEXAS. Waters Park was eight miles north of downtown Austin, on the old Upper Georgetown Road at its crossing of Walnut Creek in northern Travis County. At first the community was called Summers' Grove. The origin of the name Waters Park, sometimes known just as Waters (Watters), is unknown. The site lies at the junction of Farm Road 1325 with Loop 1 and the Southern Pacific Railroad. The community developed on land purchased by Silas B. and Parthenia A. Summers in 1872. Summers sold right-of-way to the Austin and Northwestern Railroad in October 1881. His heirs sold additional land for a church and school, section house, and private residences. The railroad began developing the area in June 1882, when it leased "Sumner's Grove, at the town of Waters" to establish a five-acre park and swimming pool. Town lots were to be sold on June 21, 1882. The railroad opened its picnic grounds at Waters in July 1882, and excursion trains from Austin ran on Sundays. The park consisted of a baseball field, a swimming pool, a gazebo, picnic grounds, and concession stands. The Austin and Northwestern Railroad, a narrow gauge line, was built largely to transport granite blocks from Granite Mountain near Burnet to the Austin construction site of the new state Capitol. At Waters Park the railroad constructed a section house run by P. Stockman. Large granite blocks still lying in the railroad right-of-way testify to the frequency of derailments in the vicinity of Waters Park, as well as some other areas along the line. In 1883 the town received a post office called Watters, which operated until 1905. By 1885 the community had a church and a one-room district school. Commercial establishments included Andrew Peyton's saloon, the Ernest Mueller store, and a gin run first by Carl Mueller, then by James H. Rogers, who also ran a store in the park. T. B. Bradfield served the community as its physician. After his death residents relied on doctors from Austin, Pflugerville, and Georgetown.

With a population fluctuating between twenty-five and fifty, the town developed in the 1880s and 1890s into a flourishing village based on tourism (it was a vacation spot easily accessible from Austin by train) and cotton production. Other economic pursuits included raising horses and mules, dairying (milk was carried to a cheese plant in Pflugerville), and the cultivation of small amounts of corn. In 1902 James H. Rogers, Emmy Rogers, W. W. Banks, and F. A. Scott formed the Watters Park Asphalt Company to exploit oil which had been noted seeping into Walnut Creek. Evidently, oil in commercial quantities was not found. During and following World War I the tourist industry diminished, and the park was mostly used by residents. During the Great Depression many of these moved to other communities, such as Dessau, Austin, and Pflugerville. The school closed after the war, and children were sent to Summit School, a mile south of the community. Additional depopulation took place during and after World War II. Most of the structures were abandoned and eventually collapsed. Some families remained on the land until death or hard times caused their departure. By 1980 only one family descended from original residents occupied the townsite. During the 1970s commercial structures were built in the townsite. More recently, the construction of a north extension of Loop 1 from U.S. Highway 183 to Burnet Road caused the remaining family to depart and destroyed a large part of the buried remains of the town. Archeological and archival investigations of the community were conducted by the Texas Department of Highways in advance of construction. Housing developments have eaten away at the edges of the original site. Little remains today except Waters Park Road, the dam over the creek, and portions of the baseball field.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Austin Daily Democratic Statesman, June 14, 23, July 18, 1882. Mary Starr Barkley, History of Travis County and Austin, 1839–1899 (Waco: Texian Press, 1963).

John W. Clark, Jr.

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

John W. Clark, Jr., "WATERS PARK, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlw10), accessed October 21, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.