Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Rev. Jacob Fontaine (1808 – 1898) lived his first 55 years as a slave. For a time, he and his wife lived on the Woodlawn Plantation, part of which is now Pease Park. With emancipation, the Rev. Fontaine became one of Austin’s most notable residents.
The Austin History Center (AHC) occupies the 1933 Austin public library building overlooking Wooldridge Square. The library moved next door to the John Henry Faulk building in 1979, and freed the space for the AHC. All of this I know. This is common knowledge.
But, what came before? What happened during that century between Austin’s founding and the construction of this building? What isn’t commonly known? What past hides behind the facade of the present?
William Barton settled near a springs west of the mouth of Shoal Creek in the 1830’s. He left a canoe on the north bank of the Colorado River so that people in the new settlement of Austin could visit his namesake. Barton’s canoe remained the only transportation across the river until the establishment of ferries in the late 1840s.
John J. Grumbles set up a regular ferry at Shoal Creek, at the western edge of the city, where William Barton kept his canoe. Shoal Creek remained one of the most important river crossings until the construction of permanent bridges.
The man for whom history is bunk is almost invariably as obtuse to the future as he is blind to the past…J. Frank Dobie
Austin began with Shoal Creek sitting on the sidelines. Edwin Waller adopted Shoal Creek as the western edge of the new city, and his to-be namesake as the eastern boundary. Congress Avenue became the centerline.
No longer. Austin is upside down, inside out. The city sprawls past these edges into the white-rocked and cedar-treed hinterlands. Shoal Creek neighborhoods like Old Enfield and Pemberton Heights, renewed and revitalized, eject thousands of motorists each morning to wend their ways to downtown employment.
Ted is exhibiting some of his Shoal Creek images for the next two weekends in Austin. See more this weekend at Ted’s Austin’s Thin Green Line show at the EAST Studio Tour. The tour is Saturday and Sunday the next two weekends from 11 to 6 at the Austin Parks Foundation office (507 Calles Street).