Underwater ghost town: Old Bluffton

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by ALBERT RAMON / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @AlbertR_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on November 14, 2013 at 11:28 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 14 at 11:40 PM

LLANO COUNTY -- The evidence of the ongoing drought at Lake Buchanan is clear. Piers have not met the water’s edge in years, and recent rains haven't helped much. 

Lake Buchanan is 37 percent full, or 23 feet below its November average. The historic drought has allowed parts of the lake basin to be exposed, and that has uncovered a ghost town once lost in the murky waters of Lake Buchanan. 

The town's name was Bluffton, now known as "Old Bluffton," as the current town sits about eight miles west of the lake.

"It was an active community," said Alfred Hallmark, a local historian who has been studying the town for years.

The community was first established in 1853 and was located on the western banks of the Colorado River in eastern Llano County. Between the late 1800s and early 1900s, the community consisted of dozens of homes, a blacksmith shop, hotel, and a general store.

In late 1930, residents of Bluffton were told they would have to leave. With the completion of the Buchanan Dam in 1937, their community as they knew it would be at the bottom of Lake Buchanan, covered by 20 feet of water.

"They had no choice but to move...people in the community had no choice about the dam. The dam was going to be built," said Hallmark. "They had to sell. Some sold relatively quickly. Some sold for inadequate amounts of money."

At the local cemetery, nearly 400 bodies were dug up and reburied near the new town. Remnants of that cemetery still remain today.

Foundations of many structures also remain, preserved for decades by the cool waters of Lake Buchanan and now in plain sight as the water continues to drop.

It took only 10 months for the newly established lake to nearly fill up in 1937. Since then Old Bluffton has only resurfaced four times because of a drought, and it's just a matter of time that the ghost town will slip beneath the surface of the water to sleep at the bottom of Lake Buchanan once again.

Alfred Hallmark has written a book on Old Bluffton called Old Bluffton Revisited: Where Progress Destroyed a Way of Life. For more information, please email Alfred Hallmark at wah@tstar.net.

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