By Myra Lee Goff
What is under about 100 feet of water in Canyon Lake? Or better still, what would still be there if the lake had not been constructed?
I started looking and found out: ranch land, farm land, trees, cemeteries, Guadalupe River and the site of two very small communities, Hancock and Cranes Mill.
Plans for the improvement of the Guadalupe River Water Shed by building a dam go as far back as 1929. A survey was made in 1935 and was authorized 10 years later. Four sites were considered, with the one chosen 21 miles from New Braunfels. Construction began in 1960, and by 1964 when the gates were finally closed, the lake began to fill.
With a shoreline of 80 miles, reservoir storage was estimated at 740,900 acre feet. Total cost of the project was around $20.2 million, with about $3 million more than projected due to road work and north and south access roads (source: Alton Rahe’s “History of Sattler and Mountain Valley School”).
Some 500,000 cubic yards of material were hauled to the dam site out of a rock quarry owned by Roland and Gladys Erben. In a Reflections tape made for the Sophienburg, they said holes were drilled with air hammers. The holes were filled with ammonium nitrate and set off with a dynamite charge, causing 5,000 pounds of rock blasting each time.
Now under water, the small settlement of Hancock would be there. It was named after the land’s original owner, John Hancock, who in 1851 was granted the land on the north bank of the Guadalupe River.
Eventually, Frank Guenther acquired the land and established a store and opened a Post Office in 1916. This Post Office was closed in 1934 and, according to Oscar Haas, the population of Hancock in 1940 was 10.
Frank Guenther was one of the children of Christian Guenther, one of the orphans raised by the Ervendbergs at the Weisenhaus (orphanage). Christian Guenther came from Germany with his parents and his three siblings in 1845. His mother and two siblings died aboard ship and his father died in Texas in 1847, leaving 8-year-old Christian as an orphan. As an adult, Christian settled in Sattler, raised a family of six children, one of which was Frank Guenther (source: Brenda Anderson Lindeman’s “Spring Branch”).
The other community under Canyon Lake would be Cranes Mill. James Crain established a cypress shingle mill in the 1850s along the Guadalupe. Notice the spelling which changed from “Crain” to “Crane” after the Civil War.
My neighbor Olive Marcelle Hofheinz, is the g-granddaughter of a very well-known man in the Cranes Mill area, the Rev. August Engel. Engel arrived in Texas in 1846 and came to New Braunfels where he married his wife and then moved to the area known as Luckenbach.
They began that General Merchandising Store that we know. It was his home and they named Luckenbach after their son-in-law.
The Engels moved to Cranes Mill in 1870, there opening a store and establishing a Post Office he ran for 31 years. But Engel had another calling: He was a circuit-riding preacher in the river valley, Rebecca Creek, Cranes Mill, Twin Sisters and sometimes in New Braunfels. His wife was a midwife. The two of them performed many services for all the people in the area.
In 1890 August Engel’s son, August W. Engel, took over the store and the Post Office and remained there until 1935. Marcelle Hofheinz remembers Cranes Mill Post Office.
The Post Office was in the center of the store and it was enclosed in fine mesh wire, protecting cornmeal and flour from mice.
When Canyon Dam was being constructed over a six-year period, my husband Glyn drove our family of three children to the North Park overlook and took slides at least three times a month. After that, we would go to the Roland Erben ranch to look for rocks. Rock hunting became a lifelong hobby for all of us.
As for Glyn’s slides, you can view them detailing the construction of Canyon Dam by visiting http://www.co.comal.tx. us/CCHC.htm.