THE HISTORY OF APACHE SHORES
By Jean W. Saile
This brief history of Apache Shores, compiled in 2003, has benefited greatly from the input of Byron D. Varner, author of “Lakeway The First 25 Years”; Paul D. and Georgean Z. Kyle, owners of the 8.5 acre Chaetura Canyon Bird Sanctuary, who have documented the natural vegetation, animals, and 150 different species of birds which inhabit the area; Bob and Moeta Smith who worked for the original developers; and numerous board members and presidents who have served the Property Owners’ Association.
Apache Shores Subdivision came into being in August 1967 when Resort Properties, Inc. of Houston purchased 667 acres of land from rancher Jack Josey, an oil man who at one time owned property from the Mansfield Dam to Highway 71. His ranch would also house the future City of Lakeway.
In Apache Shores, the idea was to build a resort for people who enjoyed summer lake living, and to that extent the larger set of buildings at the community center site on General Williamson was built as a 5-room motel with an apartment upstairs for the caretaker. Facilities were also put in place for trailers and the barn was used to stable guests’ horses.
This was at a time when FM 620 was a two-lane highway, the route traversing the Mansfield Dam in a passage so narrow that losing a rearview mirror was a common occurrence. The only store was a ‘Stop ‘n Go’ near the Hudson Bend intersection and the only restaurant was La Hacienda in the same area, according to early residents.
Children attending school rode a bus for an hour or more to and from classes in Dripping Springs. Then in 1972 Dripping Springs opened Lake Travis Elementary School on FM 620 at Kollmeyer., It wasn’t until 1981 that a new Lake Travis Independent School District was formed.
Hudson Bend Volunteer Fire Department came into being in 1969, and in 1985 voters approved the Travis County Rural Fire District, which collected taxes to fund rural firefighting groups.
A doctor’s office opened in 1973 in Lakeway and the first dentist arrived in 1974.
Ann Gallington, at age 93, then living in Friendswood, remembers staying in the motel two nights in 1978 while her house on the corner of Hunters Pass and Running Deer was being readied for occupancy. She lived upstairs. There was no air conditioning, but there was a shower, a small kitchen and a bedroom.
With the demise of the motel, several small businesses rented space. Toni Nutt, an early board member having lived in the area since 1979, recalls a lunchroom, a beauty salon, a grocery store, a video store, and a dog groomer in the complex at one time or another.
The barn and horse facilities for the convenience of summer visitors was the scene of some rodeos “that didn’t amount to much,” as one early resident recalled. In the late 1980’s it housed Travis County Sheriff Department horses used in their mounted patrol. In exchange the presence of officers deterred some of the trash dumpers and one was actually tracked down and made to clean up the mess. The Community Center was the scene of resident get-togethers and drew people from outside to a once-a-week square dance.
Built with no insulation or interior walls, the center was a mixed blessing. In order to hear what was going on at meetings, the air conditioner had to be turned off. In winter it was a breezy place and sometimes more than a little cool. Originally called the Party Barn, it was and remains the site of Apache Shores Property Owners’ Association Board meetings. Completely remodeled in 2001, it is also home to Shoreline Senior Citizens of whom 20 or more meet each Friday for bridge, 42 and other games.
Tennis courts and a swimming pool were part of the original development and after Resort Properties, Inc. turned the area over to the homeowners, it was they who volunteered one morning a week to man the office and take care of problems, which inevitably arose. Office help was eventually hired.
Moeta Smith was office manager for Resort Properties, Inc. and her husband Bob took care of what was happening outside. He, a man named Williamson who was property manager, and engineers who were laying out the roads had to ride horses or drive jeeps to find the lay of the land. General Williamson – named for guess who? – from RR 620 to Geronimo, was the first platted road with small extensions both ways on Broken Bow, as she recalls.
It can be noted that there is also a Moeta and a Fort Smith, streets which engineers named for the Smiths, though they now reside in the Hudson Bend area.
Moeta remembers Ruth McClain was the first to build a home in the area and the first to obtain a telephone after the Smiths. The first Property Owners’ Association president of any duration was an attorney, John Penrose, who served for several years. He is now deceased. Named originally to the Board of Directors on August 14, 1978, when Resort Properties, Inc. turned the subdivision over to the property owners, he quickly succeeded J.C. Pate as chairman. The original Pate was unrelated to the late John Pate who was to serve several terms as president in the coming years.
The office, then located in the present Iglesias Bautista Church, was heated with a wood-burning stove and its electricity supplied by a generator. People who built in the area had to pick their mail up at the office. The Post Office would not traverse the wilderness. The present church is the only community building never deeded over to Apache Shores. Sold by the developer to a private investor, it was then resold in 1989 to the church.
Moeta reported selling about 10 of the 2,450 platted lots a year, and some of them she sold six times. Many were designed for mobile homes of which there are still 262. It wasn’t until the new millennium that Apache Shores, with its beautiful geological formations and long vistas, began to appeal to mainstream homebuyers.
To date (2003 figures) there are 490 homes, the number increasing rapidly. There are 1,270 property owners, only about three-fourths of them actually living here. A total of l,684 vacant lots remain. They are accessed by 60 roads of approximately 20 miles, intersecting each other 99 times. An improvement program to pave and upgrade is currently making much-needed strides.
Early residents of Apache Shores were a hardy lot. They have withstood floods, home fires and only two years ago a home at Running Deer and Hunters Pass was swept off its foundation by gale-force winds. Horrible roads, a swimming pool which turned green too often, and a contentious board that seemed invariably involved in law suits made life unpredictable.
Trisha Shirey, board president in 1993 and 1994, remembers meetings she’d just as soon forget. “I don’t know how many meetings we called off because of fights.” She remembers at least one which escalated into a free-for-all in the parking lot. Shirey also fell heir to the Apache Shores penchant for attracting lawsuits which used up much of the association’s meager funding from the very beginning. It was not uncommon for Sheriff’s deputies to be assigned to meetings in Apache Shores for the purpose of peace-keeping.
Things have quieted down in recent years and the board is gradually turning over such duties as property management, water service, property inspections, and accounting oversight to professionals. The area has contracted with Texas Disposal Systems, Inc. for trash pickup and a full-time employee has been hired to oversee the operation. Litter pick-up has begun and a new dog control policy is being put into effect to cut down the number of free roving dogs, counted at 68 one morning in 1991 by a newspaper delivery person.
When Resort Properties, Inc. developed Apache Shores, water lines dependent on well water were installed very close to the surface and of materials insufficient to provide for fire hydrants. The corporation retained the system after the subdivision was turned over to property owners and it continued to collect fees but few repairs were made. Many people either boiled their drinking water or purchased it.
The system was offered to homeowners for $285,000 in 1995, later purchased in 1997 for $1 by Travis County Water Control and Improvement District No.17 after several abortive attempts. Improved water quality and the installation of fire hydrants have since taken place and a current move is underway to become annexed to Water District 17. If annexation occurs, a future sewer system might well be a possibility.
The area boasts several amenities. Boat docks on Lake Austin, available to association members, have been rebuilt and improved, and Riverside Park there has been called one of the prettiest spots in Apache Shores. A new hiking trail along Indian Creek and Lake Apache was dedicated in March, 2003. Picnic tables have been placed on the route which affords views of several waterfalls. Children’s Park on Geronimo near Running Deer continues to be maintained.
The area has also been one of the most affordable in the lake area. Homeowner fees set at $35 from the outset have remained steady. Special assessments of $65 per improved lot, voted in by property owners, have been in effect on and off since 1985. The collection of many past due accounts, under the auspices of the property manager, has permitted significant improvements in the last two years.
Original developers built a dam to form Lake Apache intended as a fishing spot, but after heavy rains in May, 1981, the water level rose to within two feet of the top and cracks began to appear within the structure. The United States Corps of Engineers, following various court determinations, ordered the dam made twice as wide and twice as long as it had been, according to Rene Byars, an early president of the association. Developers also had to put in a spillway to carry away excess water.
Rene remembers it well because a week after Memorial Day that year she was ordered to evacuate her home on Geronimo Trail. “The water never did come down but the danger was there,” she recalls.
Early residents remember being invaded by cattle from Steiner Ranch which swam Lake Austin to graze on Apache Shores lots and a herd of Longhorns from a neighboring ranch breaking through the fence to doze on residents’ lawns. Lake Travis View took a picture to document the event.
Of unique interest to the area is Chaetura (pronounced Kay-too-rah) Canyon Bird Sanctuary on 8.5 acres privately owned by Paul D. and Georgean Z. Kyle, who own a toy store in Austin. The Kyles moved from Houston to Apache Shores in 1973 and fell in love with the birds. “We bought a bird book,” Paul reports.
A federally permitted bird banding station located there has helped identify 150 species since conservation and research activities began in 1987. The Kyles report such birds as the Red-shouldered Hawk, Chuck-Will’s Widow, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Western Scrub-Jay, Canyon Wren, Black-and-white Warbler, Rufous-crowned Sparrow and Painted Bunting.
“In all, more than 30 species nest on or near the sanctuary including the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler. Native mammals sighted have included White-tailed Deer, Grey Fox, Raccoon, Ringtail, Fox Squirrel, Rock Squirrel, Opossum, Eastern Cottontail, Blacktail Jackrabbit, Nine-banded Armadillo and Mexican Free-tailed Bat.”
Kyle notes there are also a variety of native reptiles and in the early years they heard what they believed to be mountain lions. “Coyotes are also getting closer. They’ve been seen on 2222, but are so far not in the area.”
He has also identified woody plants on the rim of the small canyon, whose walls consist of numerous limestone outcroppings and ledges surrounding a wet-weather creek which plunges 160 feet from its top to 600 feet before emptying into the Colorado River. These include Ashe juniper, live oak, Spanish oak, shin oak and escarpment cherry.
The floor of the canyon supports a canopy of cedar elm dotted with hackberry, mulberry and pecan. The dominant under story is wafer ash, but the wettest parts are abundant with red buckeye and a spreading colony of cramp bark.
“Common shrubs throughout the site include three-leaf agarita, Texas persimmon, evergreen and flameleaf sumac, twisted-leaf yucca and prickly pear. In recent years where juniper management and deer exclusion have been practiced, woody plants including deciduous yaupon, silk tassel and bumelia have begun to make a comeback. Spanish oaks have also benefited from the habitat management and many healthy saplings are replacing those lost due to age, ice storms and disease.”
Because it is a preserve and not a park, Chaetura Canyon is not open to the public. It is protected by restrictive covenants that prevent any further development of the property even by future owners.
The name comes from Chaetura pelagica, the scientific name for Chimney Swifts. The site has become an important observatory for the study of these common but little-known birds. “The results of our observation have been published in local, regional, national and international publications and are the subject of an upcoming book about Chimney Swifts to be published by the Texas A&M University Press,” Paul reports.
Kyle, who is treasurer of the Driftwood Wildlife Association, is currently engaged in building towers to facilitate Chimney Swift nesting. The Apache Shores sanctuary is noted as the Mansfield Dam Station by the association and given much recognition for its efforts, particularly in behalf of the Chimney Swifts..
Basic to Apache Shores’ continued well-being is the beauty of the land and the affordability of the property. This is an area once covered by a shallow ocean millions of years ago. It receded, leaving limestone deposits which Byron D. Varner in his history of “Lakeway the First 25 Years” says contained varied forms of ancient plants, animals and marine life. Of significant age and size is a live oak off Big Horn Drive which measures 191 inches in circumference, or more than 5 feet in diameter. It is on the property of Jim and Marj Whitehead, who have been mainstays over the years in their knowledge and support of the Apache Shores Property Owners Association.
An Indian mound located on Geronimo in 1978 as the road was being constructed has been documented by the University of Texas Archeological Research Lab. Though the site was already heavily impacted, it yielded such items as burned stones, a plain convex scraper, a dart point and cooking artifacts labeled as “archaic”, meaning several thousand years old. No documentation exists as to their owners, nor were any skeletal remains found.
Instead the area’s Indian history involves Plains Indians, perhaps the first Snow Birds. Varner reports Tonkawas, who made pottery and used flint to shape arrow points and tools, were driven away by Commanches and Apaches. Other tribal names showing up in various reports include the Mescaleros and the Kiowas, and whoever they were Apache Shores remained their property until the late 1690s.
But settlers began to arrive. Evidence of an old wagon trail leads from Running Deer above the cliffs down to the river. A rock fence, protecting the trail, believed to date from the 1800s, was visible into the recent past but is being largely erased now because of construction and storms. This was a route apparently used by pioneers on their way to and from civilization.
Varner reports, “Transportation (in the mid-1800s) was by horseback, buggies and wagons. Stage coaches and freighting wagons made weekly round trips from Houston and Port Lavaca, but several attempts at river commerce using flatboats and steamboats were unsuccessful. Mail arrived once a week by pony express.”
The Ashe juniper, which we call “cedar”, once confined mainly to steep-walled canyons by fires which left the flat land to grass -the grass in turn later overgrazed and destroyed – became rife, stealing the water from springs and small ponds that once proliferated. They also gave rise to the “cedar choppers”, men who cut the trees for fence posts and shingles and burned them down to make a fine charcoal.
Varner reports, “Mountain cedar is a close-grained, light weight, brown wood. Burning it while green avoids reducing the ash to fine powder and produces a hard char. Men placed several cords of cedar in a kiln or pit, covered it with dirt to shut out air and burned it for two or three days until the coal was ready.” In other areas, and probably here too, the roots were unearthed and cooked down to form cedar oil, which in the early years was used in many household products.
Over the years the land changed hands many times, always at an increase in price, according to Buddy Dodson who has lived since 1971 on what is now Balcones Canyon Lands at the end of Kollmeyer and abutting Apache Shores. Because of the cedar and the land values, ranching became a thing of the past and the rancher who sold the land which would become Apache Shores ran mainly goats.
Jack Josey, who died in February of 2003, was a Beaumont native who graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in petroleum engineering in 1937, Varner reports. He and Bob Park spent most of their lives in the oil leasing and land business. “At one time they accumulated more than 100,000 acres of Texas and Louisiana ranch land. In addition to his other accomplishments, Josey served on the University Of Texas Board Of Regents from 1965 to 1971.
It was Josey who was to own the land that became both Lakeway and Apache Shores. Varner continued, “During a party in Austin in the 1950s Josey had a chance conversation with friend Bob Bright. Bob extolled the beauties of a Lake Austin ranch he knew about and suggested that Jack should look at it when he had time. Jack responded, ‘How about right now? There’s no time like the present.’ They left the party and drove to a site near the end of Murfin Road.
“Josey purchased 5,600 acres from Murfin Road to the dam and between Ranch Road 620 and Lake Austin. He remodeled an old lake house there for use as a vacation home for family and friends” and many notables found it an ideal retreat from business and government. Josey then bought the property that was to become Lakeway and his holdings amounted to 13,000 acres.
Guided by the beauty of the area, its location between what is now Lake Austin and Lake Travis, and the vistas which extend for five miles or more, Josey liked what so many of us have come to enjoy. Housing permits in the past two years numbered 130 and new people, many of them upwardly-bound young adults, are making the area ring with the sound of new construction