Scott Falls at Camp Swift
Video made May 20, 2017 of Scott Falls at Camp Swift.
Clean-up Brigade: Keep Bastrop County Beautiful, Lost Pines Master Naturalists and the Bastrop County Historical Commission partner with Camp Swift and Camp Mabry to preserve Scott Falls. Preparations are underway for an undertold story historical marker to acknowledge its history. Left to right: Cindye Ginsel, Joni Groom, Kristen Mt. Joy, Christy Hunn, Dr. Linda Brown and Pat Conniff.
Historic Scott Falls was built, by hand and by mule, prior to 1900. The Bastrop County Historical Commission (BCHC) and Keep Bastrop County Beautiful (KBCB) are partnering with Camp Swift to restore and beautify the area. The Lost Pines Master Naturalists are helping too! Special thanks to Camp Swift and Camp Mabry, Kristen Mt. Joy, Philip Andrew Kost, and to Dr. Linda Brown of the Texas National Guard for making this possible.
Over the years, Camp Swift has welcomed visitors to swim, fish or to simply soak up the scenery; however, vandalism in the form of littering and graffiti has become prevalent. Please feel free to enjoy the peace and quiet of Scott Falls, but do understand littering and building fires are strictly prohibited. Camp Swift plans to patrol the area in an effort to catch the culprits who are damaging this beautiful historic site.
The Bastrop County Historical Commission thanks its partners, Keep Bastrop County Beautiful, the Lost Pines Master Naturalists and the National Guard at Camp Swift/Camp Mabry, for their assistance and expertise in preserving our history in the form of this historic falls and peaceful surrounding landscape.
Special thanks to Ms. Melissa Cole who has cared for and maintained Scott Falls on her own for 16 years. Thanks, also, to Boy Scout Troop 520 of Elgin. We learned they have made several trips to Scott Falls to pick up litter.
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
By Cindye Ginsel
Vandalism takes toll on historic Scott Falls
Graffiti covers the stones comprising the Scott Falls dam, a once scenic spot on the outermost edge of Camp Swift near Elgin. The graffiti isn't limited to the stone. Paint covers the nearby trees as well. Trash is scattered from the road to the water's edge.
The dam, just off Bastrop County Road 356, lies across the Spring Branch of Big Sandy Creek. The spring still flows cool and clear, even in the driest seasons. According to "The Legacy of Antoine Aussiloux," written by Jerry D. Frazee, Scott Falls is a historical site, built around 1885 by a Frenchman, Antoine Aussiloux, with the aid of mules. It was a watering place for wagons on their way to and from Elgin.
For all the years since, families have brought their children to the spring-fed swimming pool to cool off during summer months.
Aussiloux was born in France on June 14, 1850. He emigrated with his half-brother, A. Cologne, to Galveston after the Civil War. He moved to Bastrop and became a naturalized citizen in 1875. During this period, the became a skilled stone mason. He also took up viticulture.
Around 1875 Aussiloux relocated to a community north of Sayersville. A year later, he purchased several tracts of land in present-day Camp Swift as the soil met the requirement for growing grapes.
With the help of his friend, Fred Gorton, he built a residence made of stone, excavating about 10 feet down to create a wine cellar, lining it with white sandstone. Above the cellar sat the main floor with a fireplace. Both the main floor and the cellar below it had ducts to allow the flow of air. There was a well in front of his house and a utility barn behind it.
Even though only a portion of the cellar remains, the quality of his work is still evident.
Near the stone barn was a wine press turned by pole attached to a mule. This process served to deposit the juice into barrels stored in the barn for fermenting the juice to create wine.
He and Gorton purchased a second tract of land, about 40 acres, in January of 1885. Months later they purchased an acre and a half on the north side of Spring Branch and an acre and a half on the south side, paying $25 for each.
With rain being inadequate at times, Aussiloux came up with an ingenious plan. He first excavated the bed of Spring Branch to produce a basin 40 feet wide and 20 feet deep. Then, over the course of several years, he worked to build a stone dam made of limestone blocks. It was no easy feat, requiring the use of mules a s a single block would weigh two to three hundred pounds.
When the dam was complete, the constructed a culvert next to the stream below the dam to irrigate the 40-acre vineyard. The grapes were not only used to make the wine, Aussiloux would often sell grapes in nearby Elgin, providing him with a lucrative business.
Then came prohibition. Aussiloux work of 30 years was at an end, and the vineyards were left untended. Old age took its toll and Aussiloux died on December 9, 1924, never having married. His neighbor, Tobe Clark, found his body lying in front of his home. He was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery. (It was stated in Frazee's writing the dates on Aussiloux' tombstone are wrong. Rather than 1846-1920, the correct dates are 1850-1924.)
In 1942 came the onset of World War II. The land Aussiloux once owned became part of Camp Swift, with the government paying only $477 to his estate.
Through the decades that followed, water continued to flow over the dam, providing a swimming hole for generations, ever respectful of its beauty and history.
That is, until recent years. Sadly, the site is now a place for weekend parties and rampant vandalism.
Melissa Cole, who owns property adjacent to Camp Swift, has picked up trash at Scott Falls over the past 17 years, but the problem has grown larger than she alone can handle.
"I have seen the degradation go from the dumping of trash to graffiti on the rock, to destruction of the rock wall, to poaching and to more nefarious activities including drug use," Cole said.
The vandalism is a cause for concern for Cole and the future of the Falls.
"There has been a complete denuding of one bank next to the dam that was once covered with vegetation," Cole said.
"I fear the loss of vegetation will leave the dam vulnerable to erosion from heavy rains and can envision a danger of losing the dam completely. Vegetation is needed to stabilize the soil.
The more people who come will naturally decrease the vegetation. People using the area also create fire pits.
The graffiti is nothing more than a complete assault on the historic site and it has only gotten worse over time."