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Llano County TX
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Llano County, Texas Hill Country

30 49' 15" N, 98 29' 29" W (30.820833, -98.491389)

FM 2241 & Hwy 261
12 miles NE of Llano the county seat
Near the western shore of Lake Buchanan
Population: 269 (2011) 75 est. (2000)

Bluffton Area Hotels › Llano Hotels


by Mike Cox ( "Texas Tales" Column)

Isaac B. Maxwell had been on the road so long he had taken to talking to his mule.

Born in Tennessee and raised in Arkansas, some months earlier the 17-year-old had saddled a mule and started riding southwest toward Texas. He didn't stop until he got to the Colorado River in Burnet County. Looking at the high limestone cliffs across the river in what would become Llano County, he told his mule, "This is the place I've dreamed of all my life."

Whether his mule had an opinion on the subject is not recorded, but Maxwell was ready to establish roots.

He settled about a half-mile from the future site of Bluffton, a town he and one of his shirttail kin, Bob Davis, founded in 1854. When a petition went to Washington in 1858 requesting a post office for Bluffton, a town he named either for Bluffton, Ark. or for the bluffs on the river, Maxwell's name was prominently signed. Maxwell also had a hand in organizing Llano County.

Once the new political subdivision had its first county clerk, Maxwell purchased the first marriage license issued in the county. And he got his money's worth out of the document, going on to father 19 children and outliving (no wonder) three wives.

Located near an easy river crossing, Bluffton became a stopping place for stagecoaches and horseback travelers. When the water was high, the owner of a 30-foot flatboat ferried horses and wagons across the river, the minimum fee being a quarter for a horse and rider.

Hostile Indians were more troublesome than high water. Maxwell was in the party of citizens who trailed Indians after a raid on July 6, 1859. For the next 15 years, Indians stole every horse they found loose or unguarded in the area.

No dummy, Maxwell devised a theft prevention system that worked so well others soon adapted the technique. What he did was stuff an old coat with grass, stick a hat on it and prop the "Scare Indian" next to a stump. Soon many livestock owners in the county were making what came to be called "Maxwell dummies."

By the time the Indian threat ended in the mid-1870s, Bluffton was a substantial town with a hotel, a church, a number of stores, two blacksmith shops and four saloons. Some cowboys' overindulgence at one of those establishments led to a fire that spread rapidly through the town. The 1883 blaze, as one writer later put it, destroyed just about everything but the spirit of the townspeople. Unperturbed, the citizenry and business community built a new town about a mile from the ashes of the first Bluffton.

Maxwell, meanwhile, was elected to the Legislature in 1884. He played a role in convincing state officials to use granite from Burnet County rather than limestone from Indiana in the construction of the new capitol.

For those who lived in and around Bluffton, a problem nearly as enduring as granite was periodic flooding along the Colorado. To permanently deal with that issue, and to generate electricity through hydropower, far-sighted folks for years had talked about damming the river. A private effort to build a dam failed, but federal money made available during the New Deal was sufficient to do the job.

When all the engineering work for the long-contemplated dam was completed in the mid-1930s, residents of Bluffton received some hard news - the town would be inundated by the new lake.

Bluffton, Texas cemetery entrance
"The stone entry way to the Bluffton Cemetery. The Historical Marker makes mention of the cemetery being build in 1930 by the Emery, Peck and Rockwood Development company and donated to the town in anticipation of the construction of the Buchanan Damn." - Erik Whetstone
Photo courtesy Erik Whetstone, August 2005

Bluffton, Texas old schoolhouse
Bluffton Schoolhouse
Photo courtesy Erik Whetstone, August 2005

The first to leave were the occupants of the Bluffton Cemetery, who were exhumed and reburied. Then the living moved to a new town site five miles west of the then 72-year-old community. Finally, all the old oaks in the vicinity were cut and burned so that the new lake would not have any hidden obstacles to recreational navigation.

The dam was completed in 1937, creating a lake 32 miles long and 8 miles wide. That necessitated the moving of State Highway 29 between Burnet and Llano. But the new route did not pass through Bluffton No. 3, stunting its chance for any growth. These days, even most of the memories are gone.

TX - Bluffton Post Office
Bluffton Post Office, TX 78607
Photo courtesy Dustin Martin, April 2018

TX - Bluffton Store
Bluffton Store, Est 1848
Photo courtesy Dustin Martin, April 2018

Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" August 17, 2003 Column

Photographer's Note:
"The Lady at the store told us that the original town which had been submerged resurfaced about 10 years ago when the lake dried up, but was no longer the case since floods in 2015 refilled it. However they did sell me a book of photos taken in 2009." - Dustin Martin, July 08, 2018

Related Article

  • Bluffton Reappears by Mike Cox

    At this writing, the normally sprawling Lake Buchanan is only 51 per cent full... While a few traces of the old town have become visible, most of it is still under water...

  • TX Llano County 1940s Map
    1940s Llano County map showing Bluffton (near Burnet County line),
    Llano and Buchanan Dam
    From Texas state map #4335

    Courtesy Texas General Land Office

    Take a road trip

    Texas Hill Country

    Bluffton, Texas Nearby Towns:
    Llano the county seat
    Lake Buchanan
    See Llano County

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