|An Overview of the Settlement of the Area
Long before the Spanish and Germans came to this land, the area around Canyon Lake was inhabited by native American Indians from the generally peaceful tribes called the Lipan, Waco and Tonkawa. As hunters and gatherers, these Indians did not have permanent villages; rather they wandered the region following seasonal food sources. Arrowheads and other artifacts from these tribes are still found in the area. In the late 1600’s, a Spaniard named Alonzo De Leon explored the Guadalupe River. His 1689 exploration makes the Guadalupe one of the earliest Texas rivers to be explored. De Leon named the river for Our Lady of the Guadalupe, the patron saint of the expedition. Interestingly, little evidence has been found of Spanish settlers in the area even though many titles with Spanish surnames have been found, leading historians to conclude that claims were made on area land and cattle were grazed but with minimal settlement activity by the Spaniards.
The Germans were the first immigrants to settle and live in the area, arriving about 1845. Unlike the Spanish, the Germans made their homes on the land as they cleared, cultivated and fenced their lands. The Germans inhabited lands up and down the Guadalupe River from New Braunfels extending to the Rebecca Creek area. Their lives were relatively simple, but physically demanding as most were diversified farmers and raised all of their own food. Though they worked hard, they also played hard, and their social lives revolved around dances, birthday parties, bowling, and target shooting.
The road now known as FM 306 was referred to on a 1925 map as the Fischer’s Store-New Braunfels Road and was also called the Prairie Road. It was originally a simple flint-rock road and was very tough on tires! In the 1940’s, the road was paved and, in the early 1960’s, the road was further improved and became known as Farm-to-Market 306. Back then, FM 306 extended west from New Braunfels and terminated at Cranes Mill Road, which was then the turn to Mr. and Mrs. L.A. Nordan’s 711 Comal Ranch – the land that later become Mystic Shores.
Plans for Canyon Dam began in 1929 for improved flood control, irrigation and power development. The initial plans were turned down but, by 1939, the project was re-examined and found to be beneficial. Three sites closer to New Braunfels than the ultimate choice were analyzed but studies indicated a high risk of water leakage in those very porous limestone formations. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended the current location in 1951, the plan was approved in 1954, and dam construction began in 1960. On June 7, 1964, the earthen Canyon Dam was completed, and, due to very favorable rains, the lake was filled to its conservation level by 1968.
Imagine a close community of German farmers held in suspense for about 30 years as the merits, location and design of the dam were debated and reviewed. Any one of the first three dam locations would have resulted in the town of Sattler and parts of River Road being under water. Many family farms and surrounding communities, including Mountain Valley, Cranes Mill and Hancock, were eventually submerged, and families were relocated outside of the area. The building of the Canyon Dam accelerated the area’s transition from a very close and predominantly German community to the more modern era of recreation and sports and weekend and retirement homes.
Much of the history contained herein was sourced from Alton J. Rahe’s book, History of Sattler and Mountain Valley School in Comal County, Texas 1846-1964.
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