Early development around Manchaca probably stemmed from the springs in the area. The springs were a stopping place on the Chisholm cattle trail, and became a stage stop on the Austin-to-San Antonio Road.
Development of the village of Manchaca must have been spurred by the arrival of the International and Great Northern Railway in the 1870s. Volume One of the Travis County Plat Records includes the first subdivision of property in the area, a "plan of town lots, Manchaca Station, IN&GN Railroad southwest from the city of Austin, January 7, 1881."
Edna Turley Carpenter, in her Tales from the Manchaca Hills, indicates that "the village of Manchaca reached its peak population in 'The Innocent Years' around the turn of the century. About three hundred souls now live in or near the unincorporated townsite…." Population counts from the 1920s through the 1940s credit Manchaca with 70 to 100 inhabitants and four businesses. The growth spurt experienced in Austin in the past two decades seems to have had an effect on Manchaca as well. The 1976 Texas Almanac shows Manchaca with a population of 36, with 8 businesses; the 2000-2001 edition shows 2,259 in population.
By 1848, the stage lines made regular trips between Austin and San Marcos, occasionally continuing on to San Antonio. Manchaca Springs was one of the stagecoach stops along this route.
"On the International Railroad about ten miles south of Austin, is the village of Manchaca, a flourishing little place…Manchaca has a blacksmith shop, barber shop, and the Manchaca Hotel kept by Mr. G. E. Miller. His house is new and well-furnished, and Mr. Miller and his good lady understand how to prepare a meal for a hungry traveler. Mr. Miller owns most of the land around here, and on his place, about a mile and a half from the station, are the quarries from which was taken the stone to build the railroad bridge on the Colorado, and other bridges on the International and Great Northern Railroad…"
Austin Daily Statesman, May
"At the end of an afternoon's ride, mostly over bare prairies, we reached Manchaca spring. A lucky accident compelled us to stop at the house we found there, and for once we were obliged to confess that quarters within were better than any canvas we could have set up without…
We found a plantation that would have done no discredit to Virginia. The house was large and well-constructed, standing in a thick grove, separated from the prairie by a strong worm-fence. Adjacent within was the spring, which deserved its prominence of mention upon the maps. It had been tastefully grottoed with heavy limestone rocks, now water-stained and mossy, and the pure stream came gurgling up in impetuous gallons to pour itself in a bright current out upon the prairie. The fountains of Italy were what came to mind, and 'Fontana de Manciocco' would have secured a more natural name.
Everything about the house was orderly and neat. The proprietor came out to receive us and issued orders about the horses, which we felt from their quiet tone would be obeyed without our supervision. When we were ushered into a snug supper-room and found a clean table set with wheatbread, ham, tea, and preserved fruits, all waited on by tidy and ready girls, we could scarce think we had not got beyond the bounds of Texas. We were, in fact, quit for some time to come of the lazy poverty of Eastern Texas."
Frederick L. Olmstead.
A Journey through Texas, 1857
This stable housing the horses was located near the stage stop.
"An old stage line extended from Austin to San Marcos in 1848, and at that time was owned by the firm of Brown and Tarbox. Austin headquarters were maintained in what was known as the Swisher Hotel, which was located at the northeast corner of Sixth Street and Congress Avenue…
The stage coach, after leaving the hotel, proceeded to the foot of Congress Avenue, at the south end, where it was transported by an old-style ferry boat across the river…[After crossing Williamson Creek and Slaughter Creek] we passed a long, high embankment…and about two miles further we crossed Onion Creek...and one mile further we came to the celebrated Manchaca Springs.
These waters are said to have been the favorite camping ground of the Indians during the early times. They were owned by Colonel John Weir, and it was here that one of the stage stands was situated.
It was also in this vicinity that the stables for horses were located. The crumpled ruins of what remains of the building, which once furnished shelter to the faithful animals that drew the stage, are still standing."
August 15, 1915
The partnership of Ellison and Von Rosenberg existed only briefly from 1889 to 1893, but W. A. Ellison, a physician, continued the "mercantile and drug business."
"W. A. Ellison, a physician and merchant of Manchaca, Travis county, was born in Caldwell county, Texas…He began the study of medicine under an uncle…and during the years 1876-77 attended lectures at the Missouri Medical College at St. Louis. He then practiced medicine under a certificate in Manchaca until 1883, and in that year entered the Louisville Medical College, graduating from that institution in February, 1884, receiving two gold medals. Since that time Mr. Ellison has practiced medicine in this city. In 1889, in company with P. Von Rosenberg, he embarked in the mercantile and drug business, but in January, 1893, purchased his partner's interest, since which time he has continued the business alone."
History of Texas,
James Monroe Turley arrived in Texas in 1844. After the death of his first wife, he married Jane Soules in Webberville in 1851, and they settled in the Manchaca area. They had twelve children. Their eleventh child, Edna Earl, was born in 1872. Edna Turley Carpenter reminisced about life in Manchaca in her book, Tales from the Manchaca Hills, published in 1960.
"Pa produced everything we needed for food, except coffee and sugar, on a combination farm and ranch, near Onion Creek, which he had bought as virgin land in 1851. Our cellar contained sweet potatoes piled in one corner, Irish potatoes packed in barrels of Colorado River sand; and oats, corn, and wheat in bins. The wheat and corn were periodically taken to a mill at Blanco, where the miller took his payment in a toll, or portion of the flour or meal. Turnips were kept outdoors in cornstalk tepees, as we described them, in the pasture. Peaches were dried on the roof of the porch, and then placed in flour sacks that were hung from the rafters of the cellar."
Edna Turley Carpenter,
Tales from the Manchaca Hills, 1960
Edna Turley married Shawnee Thomas "Tommie" Carpenter on June 6, 1897, at the Manchaca Methodist Church. After serving as superintendent of the Travis County Farm for the Poor (located six miles north of Austin) in 1903-1904, Carpenter returned to farming in Manchaca and also built a gin there.