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Chute! Remember where Clemens Dam and Stinky Falls were located?

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

One hundred and one years ago H. D. Gode bought the first automobile here in New Braunfels. Most citizens believed this contraption would never replace the horse and buggy. Well, at least we don’t have horse and buggy traffic jams on IH 35. I’m trying to imagine where Gode drove. Surely he went around the Plaza and across the Comal River passing by Clemens Dam. The City fixed his potential speeding problem when the week before, they passed an ordinance that an automobile could not go more than 8 miles an hour.

Do you think William Clemens would have predicted that his damwould be a top tourist attraction? I’m talking about the City’s TubeChute on the Comal.

August is a great time to talk about water and that’s why I said I would talk about Clemens Dam, Stinky Falls, and the Tube Chute.You probably know that the three are one in the same – almost. There is slight uncertainty about Stinky Falls. The controversy centers on where Stinky Falls was actually located. Everyone I asked knew positively where the falls were, but everyone, including me, had a different idea, so I’m going with the majority like the TV pollsters do.Stinky Falls became the nickname of Clemens Dam after a well was dug slightly above the area of the present Tube Chute. The well was drilled 900 feet in 1907 for the purpose of finding pure artesian water, but alas, only sulfur water. The well was left for sixty years to remind New Braunfels that sulfur water smells like rotten eggs.

Here’s a short history of Clemens Dam:

Meandering for 3 ¼ miles through the City of New Braunfels is the Comal River. Early in its history, entrepreneurs were trying to harness this water to run factories. One of these factories was the Torrey Mill at the foot of Mill Street, close to where the Tube Chute is. Twice it was washed away by floods (1860 and 1870). Finally, John Torrey, who was a Connecticut Yankee (the small street parallel to the river was called Yankee Street named after him) gave up and sold the property to banker William Clemens. Clemens built the dam in 1882. An interesting note is that the stone used to build the dam was quarried from the Pfeuffer Ranch, the same as for the Comal County Courthouse. Standing idle until 1886, Clemens secured a contract with the City of NB to furnish water for the first Waterworks. This arrangement continued until the City purchased their own Waterworks operation at the head of Comal Springs next to Landa Park Estates.Clemens Dam became idle with much of the upper structures removed. During World War II as much scrap iron as possible was removed for the war effort.

Over the years Stinky Falls became a favorite swimming place for locals. I knew lots of guys that swam down there (You know who youare) and did some very brave, but dangerous things like swimming through the pipes. Finally the sulfur well came to an end when in 1976 the City purchased Prince Solms Park and opened the Tube Chute, having capped the sulfur well. There’s no doubt about where theChute is!
The Sophienburg Museum has a nice display of photographs and maps relating to industry on the Comal and our files are full of information. Also, Sophie’s Shop merchandizes several books on the history of New Braunfels, all with information about water.

If you are interested in doing some research, come to the Archives where you will be helped by Dorothy Constable, Jo Laney,Virginia Baker, Pat Dodd, LaVerne Pearce, Marijane Stafford, and others. Keeping all that equipment working is Frank Kemink, Alton Rahe, and Charlie Nowotny.They are indispensable.

Volunteer Wilfred Schlather has a big job ahead of him. The Archives has over 400 family books available to the public, representing thousands of hours of work done by individual families. Wilfred is updating an index to these books, adding every name mentioned in the books. These books have family trees, so that’s lots of names.

The picture is, of course, Clemens Dam (or Stinky Falls or the TubeChute). Swimming down the river, I will be talking about “gone but not forgotten” Camp Warnecke next time.

Clemens Dam, at one time affectionately known as "Stinky Falls," became the site of the Tube Chute.