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Trails End HOA
map of travis county 1880_edited.jpg


     This is an attempt to document the history of the neighborhood and some of its’ inhabitants. While all efforts to be accurate have been taken in this writing much has been gathered by word of mouth and memories, both of which can be distorted by time. We appreciate any comments, corrections, or additions.


     She was 5’-3” tall and between 18 and 30 years old when she was carefully buried in a shallow grave about 8 miles from Trails End. Nick named the Leanderthal Lady, she died at the end of the ice age, between 10,000 and 13,000 years ago making her and her fellow Paleoindians some of the oldest known inhabitants of central Texas. Their descendants later evolved to make up the various Native American cultures, such as the Tonkawa and Lipan Apache which occupied this area in the 1300s, both later displaced by the more violent Comanche and Kiowa arriving later in the 1700s.

      Early in the 1800s European immigrants came to Central Texas with new skills, culture and disease. In 1827 the Mexican Government granted SF Austin his 3rd colony, located east of the Colorado and north and west of the Old SA Road, Waterloo and Trails End would later be carved out of this grant. In 1838 Waterloo consisted of 4 families. On Jan 19, 1840, Waterloo was renamed Austin and was dedicated the capital of the Republic. Four days later, Travis County was formed out of land that was originally Bastrop County. Travis Co then had a population of 856 but would later grow to 36,322 by 1890.

     On February 13, 1854, Francis Harris was granted 160 acres of public land on which to settle for a minimum of three years and make improvements. The north boundary of her grant runs east and west located near the intersection of present-day West 1st and TE Road. On 2-4-1859 George H Nay Chief Justice of Travis County, declared her to have been in compliance with all of the provisions required to obtain public land and was granted permanent ownership of the property with his stamp and seal. On that same day, Harris paid Travis County 30 cents in property taxes.


     On April 9, 1881, Samuel Hayford, a disabled Confederate Civil war veteran, was granted 1,280 acres of land for his service and permanently disabling wounds suffered during the Civil War. Nearly all of the Trails End Subdivision would later be carved out of the Harris and Hayford tracts of land. The names Harris and Hayford are still used today as part of the legal descriptions of these properties. These tracts would later be owned by D.C Reed, who in turn would sell the land to O.A and Carrie Rittenhouse on March 27, 1947 for the sum of $25,000.


     TRAILS END, LAKE TRAVIS SUBDIVISION plat was drafted in January of 1942, the same year that construction on Mansfield dam was completed. Fifty-four lots were created along Darleen East and West, all of them would have lake front access once the lake was filled. Scenic Drive (now abandoned) divided the community between east and west. On June 23, 1947 the Rittenhouse newly created subdivision plat was accepted by the County Commissioners and recorded by the Travis County Clerk. Rittenhouse subsequently sold the property to T.L. Smith Jr on July 28, 1948. Smith later deeded the property to Travis Properties in 1955, a General Partnership, that consisted of him and his 3 sons.


     On June 17, 1959, Smith resubdivided lots 13 and 14 to create some nonlake front lots and dedicated lot 31 for the sole use of those lot owners that did not have lake front properties. Again on January 23, 1961, Smith resubdivided and created all of the lots and streets north of Darleen. A water well was drilled on lot 197 to provide water for the community. Smith remained the managing partner until about 1967 when John D. Smith became the manager. In that year, T.L. Smith Jr. deeded his interest to his 3 sons, still held by Travis Properties. Travis Properties would own the land until 1998 when it was deeded to TLS Properties Ltd, (same owners or descendants, new name)

The Davis
If you wanted to purchase a lot in the Trails End Subdivision, or hunt deer and turkey, or rent a cabin (that once stood on the abandon concrete slabs in the park) with gas and electricity for $2, you would need to talk to Jack and or Virginia Davis. They were the local contacts for TL Smith Properties. Jack was a tall thin older man usually wearing a cap and clothes that could lead one to believe that he was homeless. In his old black sedan he could be seen around the neighborhood and going to and from the local beer joints. A short thin totally white haired older woman, Virginia was the brains of the operation. Though petite in size, she had an assertive and commanding nature. They lived in a rustic house on lots 13 and 14 overlooking and adjacent to park. They had no phone in their house that was hidden in the overhanging trees with a wood burning heater and without air conditioning. Their home could be described as an Appalachian mountain cabin in the middle of a junk yard. An old boat full of dirt where food scraps were tilled was the worm bed, a never ending source of fish bait. Foot trails led through the maze of tools, boards, boat paddles, old tires, things that someday might be needed. Apple trees, peach trees, lemon trees and various fruits and vegetables grown from seeds decorated the property wherever Virginia could find a scoop of soil. The inside of the house was no more organized. There was something laying everywhere, even her cats seemed to have trouble traversing the small dark house. The back porch faced south and through the cedar trees came a persistent breeze and view of the lake that was no doubt a place of comfort.

The Davis not only managed to help sell the lots but also managed the hunting and fishing camp. The cardboard advertisement boasted “Plenty of game, deer, turkey and quail, good fishing, cabins with lights and gas $2. Jack Davis (and then listed a 5 digit phone number)” Some of the earliest rumors indicate that the remaining small slabs in and around the park was once where the cabins were located and the pavilion was originally a building that was used as
a lodge by the boy scouts. (Several people that have personal knowledge of the neighborhood as far back as the mid to late 1950s, cannot corroborate the scout lodge story.)

 Jack and Virginia and their belongings are now all gone. She passed first, but he lived alone for several more years ending sometime in the 70s. Their property was sold and around 1984 an all too familiar occasion of a bulldozer pushed down their old house and trees, scraped up the junk and hauled it all away.

The Dump
It was a place to shoot bottles, bury deceased pets, scavenge, ride a bike and least of all dump trash. Trails End Subdivision had its’ own neighborhood dump. Old tires, tv sets, half of a car, furniture, tin cans and bottles, rotting garbage, everything that a respectable dump should have could be found. Located in the area of the present day water treatment plant and fire station, one could access it via the gravel road located at the fire station entrance. The road went straight back then teed left winding all the way back to the intersection of Darleen E, Darleen W and Scenic Dr. The right tee went up the hill ending near the north property boundary of the plant. All along the road debris would be scattered. Every year or so, someone would arrive with a bulldozer and bury it all. It is not known whether it was the owner or the county government providing the burial services. Sometimes it would be on fire, probably at the hands of a good neighbor who had decided that weather conditions permitted easy disposal of combustible refuse. Far enough from the paved road and shielded by trees and shrubs, its’ unsightliness and odors were well concealed. Buried and or scooped up and hauled away, it was cleaned up and gated closed sometime in the early 70s before 1972.

The Home Owners’ Association
It was sunny day in the spring of 1982 when a middle aged man raised his hand above the group of chatting neighbors closely crowded under the pavilion and shouted that it was time to get the meeting started. Someone shouted back that he should be the director but he quickly shook his head and said that someone else needed to do that. Discussions of how, when and what to do next ensued and so the Trails End Homeowners Association was born….again.

Signs had been placed about the neighborhood telling its’ residents that there was a need to gather at the pavilion and form some sort of organization to take control of and manage the park grounds. The uncontrolled access to the lake grounds and pavilion left many complaints of loud late night parties, trash, and theft. The need for the organization was clear but, the most basic concept local government had its’ normal problems. Forming a consensus on just about anything would sometimes be challenging. There were at times heated discussions on topics of how to govern itself, usually falling along the lines of more rules and restrictions vs less. The group persisted however, and continued to meet and hash out the issues and ultimately form a state registered nonprofit homeowners association.

It was common knowledge that the property was privately owned and set aside by the developer, Travis Properties, for the exclusive use of the property owners within the subdivision. What was not common knowledge, was the contingency terms between Travis Properties and the residents. They were that the latter would need to form an organization to maintain the grounds and to pay the property taxes. That
organization formed in the early 1960s but due to the lack of participation, fell apart leaving unpaid property taxes. The property was then quit claimed back by Travis Properties but was continued to be used by the public without any restrictions.

The association eventually contacted the property owner, Travis Properties and express their intentions. John D. Smith, the manager, was very cooperative and even met several time with the group leaders. Eventually, the wheels were set in motion to transfer of ownership of Lot 31 to the association, and was completed in 1993. (According to Travis Co tax records, this transfer took place in 1993, however there is conflicting information that indicates that it actually occurred much earlier. At the time of this writing, earlier confirmation cannot be verified.)
It cannot be said enough, that without the help and generosity of John D. Smith, none of this would have likely happened. The original association had broken the terms of the prior agreement to manage the grounds and lost ownership, this of course could have been permanent. The membership voted to name the park after him as a sign of thanks and appreciation. During the process of having the park signs made, the name was mistakenly printed as TL Smith Park, John’s father, and still remains this way today.

Fact or Fiction
Some of the earliest rumors of the area revolve around the pavilion at the park. One of the most circulated is that it was originally a boy scout lodge. In it’s earlier days, a fire place and chimney stood on the east end of the slab. It was damaged over time by vandals and eventually removed.
There seems to be little evidence to corroborate this story. As of this writing, it must be assumed to be just a rumor.

Our Park History

map of travis county 1880_edited.jpg
1927 Map
Travis County - 1932
1963 Travis County
Samuel Hayford Land Grant
Francis Harris Land Grant
06-10-47 Original 
06-26-59 TL Smith Reuse
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