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A History of Skyline Ranch

by Maury Midlo, March 2003

At the outset we must acknowledge that part of the history of Skyline Ranch Estates is the American story of “Cowboys and Indians.” The Indians – Native Americans – were here first; then came the cowboys, farmers, settlers. etc. with their own concept of life in Central Texas. Strangely enough, the Native Americans didn’t exactly welcome the pale-faces from the east when they realized what the newcomers had in mind. (Some evidence of the Indians’ habitation remains. Your humble historian has found two “points” – the current technically or politically correct term for arrowheads – on his Skyline lots.)

Following is an account of one of the last interactions between the new Americans and the original Americans:

“During those times (mid-19th Century) … the Plum Creek Comanche Indian Battle took place. They started a running battle between Kyle and Bastrop and ended up on the Duncan Dobie Ranch, three miles north of Wimberley. There is a complete horseshoe bend extending right up to the Skyline Ranch House, known as Indian Mott. The Comanches hid their horses down the creek and holed up in this curve. It was spring of the year and the grass and weeds were shoulder high to a man. There the battle lasted for several hours until the men had exhausted all of their ammunition. They called off their dogs and went back. That night, as it was a moonlit night, the Indians, knowing that the men had all left, crawled out and buried their dead by covering them with big flat rocks.” [1]

This account was reported by Joe Cruze, a friend of Clay Gay, whose parents, Gilbert and Elizabeth Gay, came to Wimberley in 1882 and bought 6,000 acres (at 50-cents an acre!) that included what is now Skyline Ranch. [2]

Cruze also praised the water quality of “the noted Indian Springs … one mile east of where this Indian Mott Battle took place …” That location was probably also within the boundaries of Skyline Ranch Estates. (Note: A “mott” is a group of trees.) [7]

At one time, part of the road from Wimberley to Kyle crossed the Skyline Ranch area. [4 & 7] It would have connected to what is now County Road 183, which appears on US Geological Survey Map DMA 6344 11 SE as “Old Kyle Road.”

In 1940, Clay Gay sold 1250 of his approximately 2000 remaining acres to Clarence W. Burdett, who had moved to Wimberley with his parents, George and Gladys Burdett in 1933. [3] The Burdett family became successful businesspeople in spite of the hard times. Clarence called his properly Skyline Ranch, and owned “our” area until 1950. He had built Camp Waloa (just across Cypress Creek from The Square) to convince his fiancée, who wanted to be a camp director, to marry him and move to Wimberley. [5] They moved from the camp to the house he built in Skyline (now on Lot #86) when their son, Buck, was born in 1940. Buck, now a builder and developer in Marble Falls, remembers much of his first ten years. [6] Except in extremely bad weather, he (and later his brother Tom -b. 1942, and sister Donna – b. 1943) walked from the ranch house out to Ranch Road 12 to meet the school bus, an early Suburban-type vehicle.

On the ranch, Clarence Burdett raised Angora goats (for which coyotes and wolves were a continuing problem) and had some milk cows and several horses, the most gentle of which the children rode regularly. Electricity did not reach Skyline Ranch until the early 1940’s. Because the caliche “road” up the steep hill washed out frequently, Clarence put down two 18″ concrete tracks so cars and trucks could make the climb more easily. He was a home builder and built “62 houses in Hays County and 12 dams on Cypress and Lone Man Creeks,” and sold cedar posts — as many as 50,000 a year. [2]

During the Depression years a federal program of the Civilian Conservation Corps paid land owners to have their land cleared supposedly to provide better grass and grazing land for cattle. Clarence Burdett elected to do so himself in the early 1940’s. Large bulldozers or tractors linked by a steel chain or cable leveled everything between them. In the Skyline area, many stands of great Spanish Oaks were destroyed, leading to erosion and the invasion of many more cedars. [4 & 7] Thus, few trees in Skyline Ranch are much more than 65 years old.

When the Burdetts decided to move on in 1950, Clarence traded Skyline Ranch for properly elsewhere. Buck says that the next owners (1950-1952) used the ranch as headquarters for their “business” of cattle and sheep smuggling and rustling, so perhaps a somewhat more colorful though less legal period is also part of our past. (Along those lines, local historian Bill Johnson has an account that reports that when Clay Gay and his brother were ranching, the brother took in a partner who “came up missing” after a time. Suspicious neighbors notified the sheriff who found a belt buckle and some jacket buttons in some ashes. The Gay brother was indicted but not convicted.) [7] Dorothy Wimberley Kerbow relates a different version of this story (in which the murder “victim” reappeared later — alive.) [2]

Of the next eight Skyline owners, 1952 – 1984, only one, Hunter Schieffer, held the property for any length of time (1968-1982). He and his wife Estelle lived elsewhere and used the old ranch house for weekend and summer visits. They shared ownership of some cattle with Mr. Pape, whose family lives just outside Skyline Ranch on County Road 176. [9]

According to the Hays County Deed Records, Clarence Burdett paid $13,267,50 for the 1250 acres in 1940, By 1984, the Skyline Ranch Estates area of 570 acres alone was worth $1,361,957.50. What the 50-cents was for in both transactions will need to be determined by some future historian.

Of course, we know that during the last century-and-a-half, many land-owners had cattle and goats in the Wimberley area. Some non-land-owners, too. For instance, when Burdett bought his spread from Clay Gay, the deed noted that Stayton Lindeman held a grazing lease on the property through November 1, 1943. In more recent times, most owners of Skyline Ranch had only enough livestock to maintain the agricultural tax exemption.

In 1984 a New Braunfels/Canyon lake developer (Kenneth D. Rice) filed with the county the subdivision plat of Skyline Ranch Estates, showing 105 lots, The next year he put in our well, storage tank and water lines (at a cost of $182,000,) [8] However, by the end of that year, Balcones Savings Association, holder of a lien on the property, joined in the dedication of the Resubdivision Plat of Skyline Ranch Estates. (Some slow times in the real estate business in the 1980s forced many developers to forfeit their property, as did Rice.)

The first meeting of the SRE Property Owners Association (consisting of 11 lot owners and the developer) was held on Dec. 4, 1986. At that meeting the POA authorized the transfer of the SRE roads to Hays County. However, that transfer did not actually take place until 1993. By then, Balcones Bank owned all the unsold lots and the bank and POA persuaded the County (with an inducement of $10,000 cash) to take over the SRE road maintenance from then on. [10]

A number of current owners bought their lots directly from Balcones Bank, so that brings us up to date.

Maury Midlo is a former Skyline resident. This article was written in March, 2003.

[1] “Wimberley’s Legacy,” edited by Williedell Schawe *
[2] “Wimberley, Texas – Historic Belle of the Blanco,” by Dorothy Wimberley Kerbow *
[3] Clear Springs and Limestone Ledges, A History of San Marcos and Hays County *
[4] Conversation with Frank Austin. Jr., owner of Skyline Ranch. 1982-1984
[5] Conversation with Marsha Ballard Johnson, niece of C.W. Burdett
[6] Conversation with Buck W. Burdett, son of C. W. Burdett
[7] Conversation with Bill Johnson & material provided by him
[8] Conversation with Bert Ray & material provided by him
[9] Conversation with Estelle Schieffer
[10] SRE POA Records

* in Wimberley Village Library

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