Dead Man’s Hole

Dead Man’s Hole is a deep, well-like hole south of Marble Falls in southern Burnet County that was most likely produced by gas pressure.

The Union-Confederacy Civil War raged famously in Congress and on the battlefield. Conflicts between party factions in local neighborhoods and communities were less well documented. For some unfortunate Union sympathizers, the battle ended fatally in a gaping Texas pit.

Ferdinand Leuders, an entomologist studying nocturnal insects at the time, found Dead Man’s Hole in 1821. He jotted down his observations while ignoring the large cavity. He had no notion he had stumbled upon an infamous graveyard for ideological killings and lynchings. A buildup of natural gas pressure formed the crater in southern Burnet County, Texas. It has a surface diameter of 7 feet and a depth of around 15 stories.

As the Civil War wreaked havoc on the United States, vigilante secessionists emerged in the South, striking misery on anybody linked with the Union. These anarchic bands, known popularly as bushwhackers and fire-eaters, harassed, robbed, and murdered those who had opposing political and intellectual beliefs. One such victim was John R. Scott, a Burnet County judge who was born in New York. Despite having four sons serving in the Confederate army, Scott was accused of harboring Union sympathies and was anonymously threatened. Scott was pursued by a gang of bushwhackers who shot him and dumped his body in the tragic Dead Man’s Hole as he escaped to Mexico.

Similar stories can be found in local histories. Union sympathizers were either slain on the spot and thrown down the cavern, or they were hauled there and slaughtered following a hurried trial. It is believed that a total of 17 bodies ended up in Dead Man’s Hole. After sacks of bones were retrieved from the sinkhole, a mystery epilogue to the hole’s tragic history occurred. The bones vanished while awaiting a suitable burial in the Burnet County Courthouse, never to be found.

Burnet County 

Burnet County is a county in the U.S. state of Texas located on the Edwards Plateau. The population was 49,130 at the time of the 2020 census. Burnet is the county seat. The county was established in 1852 and incorporated in 1854. It is named for David Gouverneur Burnet, the Republic of Texas’ first (provisional) president. The county’s name, like its namesake, is pronounced with the stress or accent on the first syllable.

Indigenous peoples first settled in the area around 4500 BC. Tonkawa, Lipan Apache, and Comanche were later known tribes in the area.

Stephen F. Austin and Green DeWitt led surveying and Indian-fighting expeditions in the 1820s and 1830s.

In 1849, the United States established Fort Croghan, and the first settlers, Samuel Eli Holland, Logan Vandeveer, Peter Kerr, William Harrison Magill, Noah Smithwick, Captain Jesse B. Burnham, R. H. Hall, Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson, and Captain Christian Dorbandt, arrived in the county in 1848.

In 1851, 20 Mormon families led by Lyman Wight establish a colony near Hamilton Creek, which became known as Morman Mill.

Burnet County was formed in 1852 by the Fourth Texas Legislature from Bell, Travis, and Williamson Counties. Hamilton received its first post office in 1853. Burnet County had 235 slaves in 1860.

Some former slaves left the county after the war, but many stayed. They all landed on land in the eastern section of Oatmeal. The county’s black population had expanded to 358 in 1870, maintaining pace with the overall number of residents; however, the number of blacks had declined to 248 by 1880, and the number of new white residents was such that by 1890, blacks constituted less than 3% of the entire population. Some worked on farms and ranches, but by the turn of the century, many had relocated to Marble Falls to work in town.

Railroad tracks connected Burnet, Granite Mountain, Marble Falls, and Lampasas from 1882 to 1903. Lake Victor and Bertram were developed as shipping ports. Other communities lost population as a result of the railroad’s employment opportunities. County farmers suffered financially during the Great Depression, but found work through government-sponsored public-works projects. Hundreds of people were employed by the Lower Colorado River Authority to build the Hamilton (Buchanan) Dam and the Roy B. Inks Dam.

The county has a total area of 1,021 square miles (2,640 km2), of which 994 square miles (2,570 km2) are land and 27 square miles (70 km2) (2.6%) are water.

The county had 49,130 people and 16,743 homes according to the 2020 census. (The remaining information in this section is out of date. The Census 2020 figures for the demographics listed below have not yet been released.) The population density per square mile (13/km2) was 34. The 15,933 dwelling units had an average density of 16 per square mile (6 per km2). The county’s racial makeup was 89.64% White, 1.52% African American, 0.68% Native American, 0.28% Asian, 6.30% other races, and 1.58% mixed race. A little more than 14.77% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.

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