The roots of my Maxwell ancestors won't leave me alone and that's a pretty cool thing.
I don't actually believe in ghosts but on a trip to the heart of Texas to help my uncle celebrate his 80th birthday I found myself on a lonely sandbar searching for the ghosts of my heritage. I was amazed at how quickly they appeared.
After the festivities had wound down in the weekend rental at Granite Shoals on Lake LBJ, my wife and mother and I began to make our way home. Mom said she wanted to go back past Lake Buchanan where the Maxwell arm of her family had roots at Bluffton. She said she had heard the lake was down low enough that the rock foundations of the original homestead could be seen. I pointed out that this lake ran about 40 miles long and she needed a little more accurate location before we would ever find the homestead.
Undaunted we cruised out past the dam then immediately stumbled on the little Chamber visitor center for the area. Thankful that the Chamber visitor center I oversaw at home wasn't open on Sunday's I went inside and made some inquiries. After getting me some maps and learning what that I was interested in whether or not the homesteads that were covered by the lake in the 1930s was visible, she immediately went to a little history book on the desk.
Thumbing through it she began to show me recent pictures of the foundations that were exposed by drought and lower lake levels. She flipped a couple more pages and I suddenly saw a photo that was in one of my mother's photo albums. "That's one of the ancestors we're looking for right there," I told her. She replied that I was related to a whole lot of the early Bluffton community then.
We had learned over the years that, in fact, the man in the photo, Issac Byler "Ike" Maxwell was credited with being the founder of the little town along the horseshoe bend of the Colorado River in Llano County, Texas, sometime around 1853. He was also an early-day Church of Christ preacher who raised 19 children with three wives and later a Texas State Senator who convinced the legislature to use granite from the Granite Shoals area to build the Texas Capitol Building.
After getting directions from the lady at the Chamber, who warned us the road down there could be washed out, we wandered off in search of our roots. Sure enough, the road past the last house in a lakeside subdivision was impassable in the little mini-van we were driving. So mom and I got out to investigate a little on foot. We got down past the washout and mom said, "You know we're going to walk down there anyway," so we took off down the sandy road. Where the point made a tree-covered island we split up with one of us going on each side of the trees.
About 45 minutes later I had walked all the way around the island and not found the rock foundations I was looking for, just some ancient boat dock piers. But there was a lot of the peninsula left to explore and I didn't have time to do it.
I contented myself with taking in the bluffs across the lake and imagining what it looked like before the Civil War when at 17 my great-great-great granddad stopped his mule on that same sandbar and declared that it was the kind of place he had always dreamed about.
Back on the highway at the relocated community of Bluffton the only sign of commerce at the crossroads was a country store with fountain drinks, soft serve ice cream and a little history book on the rack by the door filled with stories about my ancestors.
Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org