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Historic

Opening the third water well at the New Braunfels Water Works facility in 1944. You can see the pump house building rising up in the background.

Historic Background

Up to the early twentieth century, New Braunfels relied on the Comal River for its water supply, pumping it out from the river near the Clemens Dam. Pollution and the growth of the textile industry around the turn of the 20th century drove the city to seek a new public water source, and in 1907 the city purchased three springs at the headwaters of the Comal River owned by Fritz Klingemann for $2,500. Mr. Klingemann used the land as a hog farm up to that point. The city installed water pipes and a pump, founding New Braunfels’ new Water Works. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the city applied for Federal funding to improve the water works and provide work for local citizens. According to an essay written by Ms. Dorothy “Dot” Kerbow (1919-2014), whose father was one of the men who worked at the facility, all of the work was done completely by hand (that’s a lot of digging!). In her essay, Ms. Kerbow noted:

“During all that digging as the years went by many old Indian artifacts were unearthed. Those were the times before such artifacts were protected by law…”

Essay on NB by Aunt Dot

(~1930s) Marian Cothran family photograph of Ms. Cothran's Great-Aunt Dorothy "Dot" Wimberley Kerbow posing in front of the stone fountain that stands in front of the pressurization building in the modern well yard. A recent photograph of the well is provided for comparison.
Prehistoric Cooking Hearth Investigated at the Headwaters Site

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The stone fountain today.

These improvements resulted in the capping of the springs (you can see the Spring Cap today when you visit the Headwaters site, construction of two concrete and stone buildings, a second well, and concrete ponds for fish husbandry. Also on the property at this time was the caretaker’s house, a second residence, and some auxiliary buildings to the north. The city drilled a third well at the end of 1944.

Marian Cothran family photograph annotated by Ms. Cothran's Great-Aunt Dorothy "Dot" Wimberley Kerbow. Undated (~1920s) photograph of "The Spring Near Oma's." This is the southwestward view of the Comal Spring Run as it heads toward its confluence with Blieders Creek. The Headwaters site would be on the terrace rising just out of the frame to the left.

Marian Cothran family photograph annotated by Ms. Cothran's Great-Aunt Dorothy "Dot" Wimberley Kerbow. Undated (~1930s) photograph of Vivien, Frank, Paul, and Dorothy (l-r, top) and children Mary Sue, and Dorothy Pauline (l-r; all presumably members of the Wimberley family or their friends) getting ready for a swim in the Comal Springs. They are standing inside what is now the well yard with the water pressurization building visible on the left and the stone fountain visible to Vivien's right.

Marian Cothran family photograph. Undated (pre-1950) photograph of children in front of the caretaker's residence.

Marian Cothran family photograph. Undated photograph of C. H. "Hick" Wimberley and family at the caretaker's residence. According to Ms. Cothran, Mr. Wimberley was the Superintendent of the Water Works from 1920-1950.

1952 Laverne Pearce family photograph depicting the northern corner of the caretaker’s residence (near the kitchen - just visible on the left edge of the photograph).
The detached garage is visible in the background. Pictured (l-r): Linda Pfannstiel Dietert and her niece Joy Lynn Dietert Schlichting. (courtesy Sophienberg Museum).

1953 Laverne Pearce family photograph of Ms. Laverne Pearce, family member of the resident water works foreman, posing on the
fish-rearing pond berm with a bass she caught in the adjacent creek.

1955 Schwab Family photograph of the main caretaker's residence, two garages, and additional residence on the property. Pictured (l-r) Laverne Schwab Pearce, Monroe Edward Schwab, and Valesha Pfannstiel Schwab (courtesy Sophienberg Museum).

Laverne Pearce family photograph (1960) depicting the caretaker's residence. Pictured (back row) Mr. and Mrs. Monroe Schwab (the foreman and his wife) and Nancy and Mary Gayle Pearce. If you look closely, in the background, you can see the fish rearing pond berm (courtesy Sophienberg Museum).

1972 photograph from the New Braunfels Herald depicting the caretaker's residence destroyed in the catastrophic Comal River flood. (courtesy of the Sophienberg Museum).

New Braunfels Utilities (NBU) began life as the New Braunfels Electric Company in 1942. Over the next two decades, the utility took over more of the city’s infrastructure, such as street lights, traffic lights, sewer system, and water system. In the late 1960s, NBU moved their operations and maintenance to the water works. The utility leveled and filled in the old fish ponds, constructed new metal buildings and a water storage tank, and modified existing buildings. On May 11, 1972, intense rain culminated in massive flooding across New Braunfels and forced the Comal River and Blieders Creek over their banks. Flood waters reached a peak height of nine feet at the NBU water works. Although there were no human casualties at the facility, numerous buildings and structures on the property were damaged or destroyed in the flood, including the caretaker’s house and rock walls lining the river and creek.

NBU moved almost all operations off the property in the mid-1990s, leaving most of the buildings vacant; a few are currently still in limited use for storage. As the water pumps and treatment facilities are now mostly automated, no permanent personnel were needed at the facility.

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