Kokernot Spring

By: Martin Donell Kohout

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: June 18, 2020

Kokernot Spring, also known as Burgess Waterhole, Charco de Alsate, La Brocha, San Lorenzo, and Aguaje de San Felipe, was on the northeastern edge of Alpine in northwestern Brewster County (at 30°22' N, 103°40' W). The earliest recorded description of the spring was written by Juan Domínguez de Mendoza, who passed through the area in January 1684. He called it San Lorenzo, because of a fire that threatened his party while they were camped at the spring on the night of January 5 (according to the traditions of the Catholic Church, St. Laurence was martyred in the year 258 by being slowly burned to death). Domínguez de Mendoza failed to erect the customary cross at the site because there was no suitable wood. In 1787 Gen. Juan de Ugalde attacked a village of Mescalero Apaches at Aguaje de San Felipe (St. Philip's Waterhole), believed to be Kokernot Spring. In the nineteenth century the spring was an important water source for local Indians; one of its early names, Charco de Alsate, means the waterhole of Alsate, who was a famous Apache chief of the time. Another name, La Brocha, means either "loaded dice" or "paintbrush." One historian theorized that this name derived either from gambling activity in the vicinity or from a plant near the spring. The United States cavalry used the spring in 1861, and in the late 1850s and 1860s traildrivers and freighters on the Chihuahua Trail (see CHIHUAHUA EXPEDITION) stopped there on their way to Mexico. The Chihuahua Trail usually went through Fort Davis, but the new route, through Paisano Pass to the southwest of Alpine, quickly became popular. Sources credit either of two early freighters, John Burgess or August Santleben, with opening this route, which had reportedly been used by the Jumano Indians and by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and Antonio de Espejo on their earlier wanderings through the Trans-Pecos. The spring was named Burgess Waterhole after Burgess's wagon train was attacked by Indians there; reportedly, one man slipped away and rode to Presidio, bringing soldiers to the rescue. In 1878 the grass at the spring was said to be knee to belly high on horses.

In the 1880s the townsite of Alpine, including the spring, was owned by Daniel Murphy and his son Thomas. The Southern Pacific line, which passed within a mile of the spring in 1882, signed a lease to secure water there until it drilled wells; as part of the lease agreement, the railroad agreed to change the name of the section stop there from Osborne to Murphyville. The spring was ultimately named for the brothers John W. and L. M. Kokernot, who established the Kokernot Ranch in the area in the early 1880s. L. M. Kokernot's son, Herbert Lee Kokernot, donated thirty-seven acres, including the land on which the spring is located, to the state of Texas in 1929 for use as a state park to be administered by Sul Ross State Teacher's College (now Sul Ross State University). By the early 1970s, however, the site was a municipal park. In October 1929 the rate of flow from Kokernot Spring was fourteen liters per second. It had increased to twenty-five liters per second by 1947. The spring ceased flowing around 1950, however, due to the more than 400 wells pumping in Alpine, which significantly lowered the water table. Subsequently, artificial fountains and pools were constructed, using the municipal water supply.

Gunnar Brune, Springs of Texas, Vol. 1 (Fort Worth: Branch-Smith, 1981). Clifford B. Casey, Mirages, Mysteries and Reality: Brewster County, Texas, the Big Bend of the Rio Grande (Hereford, Texas: Pioneer, 1972). Ethel Moss Nail and Berta Clark Lassiter, Ethelberta's Calendar of Alpine (Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin).

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

Martin Donell Kohout, “Kokernot Spring,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/kokernot-spring.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 18, 2020