Thursday, August 25, 2011

Submerged ghost town of Towash at Lake Whitney - LAKE LEVEL UPDATE

You may not have heard of the ghost town of Towash, and you'll have a lot of difficulty finding it on even the most detailed of county maps - and for good reason. The entire site of Towash is submerged beneath the waters of Lake Whitney, approximately 15 miles west of Hillsboro in Hill County.

From the Texas State Historical Association website:

Prominent among the newly arrived settlers were brothers Simpson Cash Dyer and James Harrison Dyer, who in 1854 received permission from state authorities to construct a stone dam on the Brazos River at Towash to power a gristmill. In 1860 the Dyers added a wool-carding machine to their water-driven industrial plant. During the early years of the Civil War, women reportedly traveled from as far as 100 miles away to have wool carded at Towash for use in clothing and blankets for Confederate soldiers. A flood destroyed the dam in 1863, but it apparently was rebuilt and a cotton gin established by 1866, the year in which a local post office began operating. This post office closed in 1881, reopened in 1899, and closed permanently two years later. Between 1860 and 1870 Towash had a number of stores and wagonyards, a blacksmith shop, and a ferryboat system.

When the Army Corps of Engineers constructed Lake Whitney in 1951, the remains of Towash (which was prone to the occasional catastrophic flood) were completely inundated, and remain so to this very day.

Well, sort of.

According to the US Geological Survey, as of 8:15pm CDT on Thursday, August 25, 2011, the water levels at Lake Whitney have dropped to 518.22 feet above sea level. Normal elevation for Lake Whitney is 533 feet, indicating that the 2011 drought in Texas has dropped the elevation of Lake Whitney by some 15 feet overall. The drought is obviously hurting the lakeside communities and businesses in the area - but from my own brief explorations of the Lake Whitney shores, it appears to be uncovering a few of the ruins from the townsite of Towash. Photos will be made available soon.

If you have any desire to visit Lake Whitney in order to seek out the remnants of Towash, now is the time. The current water levels at Lake Whitney are the lowest they have been in decades, and are not expected to remain this low for much longer. Just remember the basics: stay hydrated, dress sensibly, don't trespass, and take lots of photos. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rediscover a vanished piece of Texas history.

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