To some readers, they are mere dots on old maps.
To others, lost towns such as Duval, Watters, McNeil, Dessau, Fromme, Merrilltown and Abercrombie — long since swallowed up by Austin sprawl — live in family memory.
Numerous readers responded to our story about Duval, a once-vital farming community located near Big Walnut Creek on the International-Great Northern Railroad. Founded in 1875, it thrived until much of the town burned to the ground around 1900. It disappeared from maps of northern Travis County by the late 1930s.
Reader Ed Bradford of Pflugerville, however, found clear evidence of Duval on a 1921 USGS topographical map of the area. It shows the near relationship of Duval and similarly sized Watters.
The map also reveals the crossing of the county’s northern railroads at McNeil and the presence of a Pilot Knob (North) near Merrilltown. The more famous Pilot Knob, a volcanic outcropping, is near Austin Bergstrom International Airport.
Bicyclist Bob Dailey ran across Waters Park Road — a reminder of Watters — near MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1). "It’s a very short road," Dailey says. "But combined with Park Bend on the west side on MoPac it offers a way under MoPac."
Ann Galloway, who lived on a farm in the area during the 1940s, recalls that four or five black families still lived near an old church, which must have been St. Stephens Missionary Baptist Church, cultural center for the area’s African American community. The church is now in the Milwood neighborhood.
Kernan Hornburg shared a thoroughly sourced history of the area by Wayne Butler published online by the Walnut Crossing Neighborhood Association. In 1838, the Republic of Texas granted James Burleson Rogers a league of land that included the headwaters of Walnut Creek. That would have included land that became Duval and Watters.
Later, John C. Duval, a veteran of multiple wars, was hired by the railroad to lay out the village that bore his name. On Sept. 13, 1876, the sale of lots was announced in the Austin Democratic Statesman.
A few years later, Waters Park (formerly Watters) was planted on the Austin and Northwestern Railroad, built to haul granite from Burnet to build the Texas Capitol. The Statesman announced on June 14, 1882, a "grand excursion and picnic" to the land to interest potential buyers in lots.
"In July of 1882, the railroad opened a resort including a pool," Butler writes, "created by damming Walnut Creek, picnic grounds, a gazebo, a baseball field and concessions."
At one point, the town of Waters Park supported a church, post office, school, gin, store and saloon.
"As late as the turn of the century, as many as 50 residents raised horses and mules, produced milk and cheese, and cultivated corn and cotton." Butler writes. "By 1980, only one family descending from the original residents remained."
Remnants of the original Waters Park dam can be found in Balcones District Park.
Butler also reveals that the area’s Hancock family descended from slaves owned by the wealthy Hancocks after which Hancock Golf Course and Hancock Road are named. Among the emancipated slaves was Rubin Hancock. His family farmed in the area where Milwood now stands.
Susan Burneson, who gathers oral history for her site, "Voices of the Violet Crown," wrote of Abercrombie, a town to the south of Duval founded on land acquired by George West Spear in 1838.
The railroad town, which survives on an 1948 map, rose in today’s Crestview near the current MetroRail station at North Lamar Boulevard and Justin Lane. A never-built subdivision called Hollandale was planned for the same area, although a few street names reflect that plan.
Burneson says that the town’s namesake might have been farmer John Abercrombie, whose family arrived in Texas in 1855 and who owned property north of 45th Street. After 1900, his widow, Sarah, lived in Temple, where her son Joe worked for the railroad, a potential clue.
Or the town could have borrowed its name from Leonard Anderson Abercrombie, a lawyer, legislator and Confederate Army officer.
"Organized in the spring of 1862, (his) regiment was composed primarily of middle-aged men, many of whom were heads of families and prominent citizens," Burneson writes. "Any one of them might have suggested that the new town just north of the capital city be named Abercrombie in his honor. Abercrombie’s daughter Lavinia married Robert Scott Lovett, considered one of the leading railroad lawyers in Texas beginning in the 1880s. Lovett also might have influenced the naming of the town in honor of his wife’s family."
Burneson leaves the naming a mystery. But perhaps another reader will chime in.