Pennsylvania millwright Thomas Anderson arrived at the headwaters of Cypress Creek, 20 miles northwest of Austin, in the early 1850s. It was there that Anderson, with his two sons, built the family home and gristmill.
Under the direction of the Texas State Military Board, the mill was designated as the Travis Powder Company in 1863. Anderson, with the assistance of Ephraim Toungate and Nick Hays, extracted saltpeter from bat guano available from nearby caves, and combined it with charcoal (obtained by burning cedar trees) and sulfur to produce the much-needed gunpowder for the Confederacy.
The mill returned to its original purpose after the war, but as the milling industry became more mechanized, the water-powered mill eventually became obsolete. After Anderson's death in 1894, the family sold the property and moved to Austin.
The Anderson Mill site was awarded a Texas State Historical Marker in 1936, and the ruins of the mill were dismantled in 1941 before the area was inundated by the waters of Lake Travis at the completion of the Mansfield Dam. The Anderson Mill Gardeners joined with family members to build a replica of the mill and museum on land near the original site.
"The Anderson gardens were irrigated--water was brought by gravity through canals to orchards, vegetables, and flowers. Fresh fruit, vegetables, and cut flowers were to be had throughout the season. In the early spring the entire hillside was a glorious mass of color--peach, pear, plum, and apple blossoms blended pastels pinks, white, and rose with the deeper shades of the native red bud. But--of all that used to be--only the lone chimney remains. The spring and the waterfall have long since been covered by the waters of Lake Travis."
Anderson Mill Gardeners,
Austin Area Garden Center Flower Show program,
April 18-19, 1959
"The Anderson grist mill was a gathering place for farmers who came to have corn ground. The settlers had to travel many miles and usually several wagons from a community would come to the mill and camp while their corn was being ground. The camping was enjoyed by all because this was a period of telling the news and helping each other with problems. The miller could only grind forty bushels of corn a day, so the men who were not helping would be doing repairs or talking about the crops. The women in the mean time were busy cooking and sewing and gossiping."
Mill Gardeners, Inc. A Legend Collection, 1981
Santa Monica Springs was a popular tourist attraction in the 1890s. The springs, now located under Lake Austin, lie fourteen miles up the Colorado River from Austin at Commons Ford. The spring water was bottled and sold as medicine because of its strong mineral content.
Mormon Springs derived its name from the Mormon colony that established a grist- and lumber mill there in the mid-1840s. Under the leadership of Lyman Wight, a dissenting faction of the Mormon faith arrived in eastern Travis County in 1846 and pitched their tents briefly at Webberville. Moving westward soon, they settled on the Colorado River a few hundred yards below Mount Bonnell. The group included a number of artisans and tradesmen, who were later awarded the contract to erect Austin's first jail.
The mill was destroyed by a flood in 1847. When attempts to rebuild it failed, the Mormons moved again, first to the Pedernales River near Fredericksburg, and later to Hamilton Creek near Burnet, where they built another mill. Beset by financial difficulties, they sold the mill to Noah Smithwick in 1853, when the members scattered. A few remained with Wight until his death in 1858. Others reunited with the major Mormon colony that had settled in Salt Lake City with Brigham Young.
By the 1890s, individuals, such as these merry boaters, used Mormon Springs as a popular recreational area. Mount Bonnell is visible in the background.