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Historic Waco Springs still popular

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

One of the most beautiful spots on the Guadalupe River is the area called “Waco Springs”. Generally, it lies between Slumber Falls Camp and the First Crossing of the Guadalupe, on both sides of River Road. Believed to be named after the Waco Indians who camped in the area, the spelling has changed from Huaco to Hueco to Wacoe to Waco. Since no one could pronounce it, “Waco” was used most often.

The area’s history is just as vibrant as its scenery. Way back in 1831 the state of Coahuila and Texas granted one league of land to Juan Martin Veramendi. The league fronted the Guadalupe River about five miles above the land that would later become New Braunfels. When Veramendi died, the upper third of the league went to his daughter Teresa and husband Jesus Cantu. It was sold to Francis Guilbeau in 1847 for $500.

Two years later the land was sold to Hermann Spiess, the last Commissioner General of the German Emigration Company.  Spiess built the first house in the location. He had a large garden near the springs and he erected a sawmill manufacturing cypress shingles on the banks of the Guadalupe.

An interesting story about Spiess was that he acquired his wife from the Indians who had stolen her as a baby. At the age of 12, she was purchased by Spiess for several cones of sugar; he sent her to school and then married her.

Spiess sold the property to John Meusebach who only lived there one year and moved back to his home in New Braunfels. The year that he moved back, his home was destroyed by a tornado. Meusebach eventually sold the Waco Springs property to the NB Woolen Mill that was looking for a permanent supply of wood to run their mill.

Changing hands several times and skipping about 75 years, the land was acquired by R.J. Gode in 1923. He planted orchards and harnessed the Waco Springs for his electric generator. He also cut a canal from the First Crossing of the Guadalupe to his turbine.

Senior District Judge Robert Pfeuffer, grandson of R.J. Gode, now owns the land on each side of the road, the east side of which is called Camp Huaco Springs. His ranch is on the west side of River Road. On the ranch property is the spring referred to as Spring A. It flows under a small bridge on its way to the Guadalupe and cannot be seen from the road. It is on this property that Spiess built his home. On the east side of the road is Spring B, which dries more quickly due to its higher elevation than Spring A.  It is from this site half way between the bridge and the First Crossing that one may view the famous Waco Falls, a place where the river narrows and drops forming a deep pool. This is the area that requires skill in maneuvering that makes this river a challenge even for experienced swimmers and boaters.

In 1930 Gode lived on the ranch but leased the river frontage to Philip Rawson who developed a vacation resort. Rawson put up cottages, picnic tables and stone fireplaces. Later after WWII Gode went into partnership with NBHS coach Weldon Bynum  forming Camp Huaco for Boys. Coach Bynum trained his Unicorn football team there each August. Many of those buildings are still standing on the side of the hill by the First Crossing.

Bob Pfeuffer says that River Road was a trail to Sattler from NB and in 1929 Comal County built the road. When the Corps of Engineers was deciding where to put Canyon Dam, they considered the River Road area for the dam location.  The discovery of underground caves, however, nixed that location and instead they went 16 miles up the Guadalupe.

There is something almost magical about the Waco Springs.

Rawson’s Camp Waco in the 1930s.

Rawson’s Camp Waco in the 1930s.