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The first true town of Bluffton burned in The residents moved a few miles south and rebuilt on a stagecoach line, a precursor to Highway 29 between Burnet and Llano. Great pecan trees grew in the river valley, and the residents harvested pecans and grew corn and cotton.
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A cotton gin, store, and combination school and community center served the dozen families who lived in the immediate Bluffton area, along with about 40 other families in the nearby valley. As the dam was built, the Lower Colorado River Authority began acquiring more than 20, acres of upriver land that would be submerged once the lake filled. LCRA staff met with local families, gauged their willingness to sell, appraised the land and made offers. It ruined many of us financially, but always someone has to sacrifice to make progress in our nation.
Those without four-wheel-drive vehicles take the Vanishing Texas River Cruise, an excursion that normally brings birdwatchers up the river channel, but switched to offering Bluffton tours in , when drought revealed the town.
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The boat docks on the Bluffton peninsula, and tourists walk over low hills to the town site. Grasshoppers spring from underfoot, and young mesquites, as tall as eight feet, bend in the breeze. The ruins of old Bluffton still sit on old Highway 29, where now the Jeep tracks of curiosity seekers indent the dirt. Tour guide Tim Mohan points out the foundation of the old hotel. The people would come into this building and freshen up and have lunch before they would head to Llano. Piles of stones and pieces of concrete foundation mark the sites of homes and the cotton gin, buildings that were moved before the water rose.
A flat stretch of land was the baseball field where the Bluffton Eagles played community teams from Burnet and Llano counties. Mohan says that before the water went down enough for people to drive to the site—when Bluffton was an exposed island, not a peninsula—he found two intact medicine bottles and an unusual spoon. Llano County resident Alfred Hallmark found the metal part of a desk near the old school, as well as surprisingly sophisticated charcoal filtering systems in the cisterns. Hallmark has been mapping and researching old Bluffton since , when the city surfaced and he accompanied his year-old father to the peninsula.
The elder Hallmark grew up in old Bluffton and showed his son the remnants of childhood landmarks. Ironically, many Bluffton residents helped construct the dam that would create the lake that destroyed their town.
Area residents had talked for decades about the need for a dam to control the volatile Colorado River. Crews were assigned to chop down pecan orchards and oaks in the lake basin, clearing the land of hazards that might threaten boats in the future. Russell, an amateur historian and genealogist, writes a history column for The Llano News. She and Alfred Hallmark are second cousins. In a tight-knit, rural community in the s, cemeteries typically held multiple family members and were visited regularly.
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More than graves were moved from the old Bluffton cemetery to a new one a few miles west. Smaller family plots also were moved there, or to other cemeteries in Burnet and Llano counties. The private developer who preceded the LCRA began preparing the new cemetery and obtaining permission to move remains in Both written records and personal testimony were used to identify the graves in the original cemetery, which predated the use of lot numbers.
Still, 58 bodies were reburied unidentified.
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The funeral directors of the Burnet Furniture Company, which effected the relocation, used their hearse to transport remains. What the diggers found varied, from complete corpses to bits of discolored earth. The simple coffins of 60 years earlier had turned to dust, so new coffins were provided, free of charge, for the journey.
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