The first settlers were semi-nomads roaming the Texas Hill Country, camping along creeks, chipping away at flint to make arrowheads and spear points with which they shot buffalo and deer. They left their history not in writing but in flint chips and stone tools, in rocks still charred by long cold campfires and now obliterated rock ovens. The artifacts speak of a time when the country was devoid of the heavy growth of cedar that now covers it, when to hunt deer and buffalo, Indians drew upon the many skills and great knowledge passed down through numerous generations.
The first written and remembered history of Wimberley came in the 1800s. After Texas received statehood in 1845, the population of Central Texas began to grow. People were attracted to the land because of its many springs, its beauty, and its availability. Many of the earliest settlers came as veterans of the Battle of San Jacinto armed with land grants. San Marcos, just 15 miles away claimed 400 citizens by 1846, and Wimberley bore the name Glendale. It was a small community of hardy pioneers.
But those early settlers, accustomed to freedom and their own way of doing things, must have felt they found a special haven in the valley. It was into this beauty that William C. Winters, a San Jacinto veteran, settled his family in the early 1850s. Winters built a sawmill powered by Cypress Creek and later added a grist mill. The two mills served the community for miles around, and Glendale became Winters’ Mill.
Winters’ Mill lay in a secluded valley but not an isolated one. When the Civil War raged through the South, the community contributed to the Confederacy’s efforts by making charcoal on the banks of the Blanco and by hauling tons of bat guano from local caves and packing it, along with the charcoal, on mules to Austin. Sodium nitrate was extracted from the guano and mixed with other ingredients to make gunpowder for the Confederate Army.
Winters died in 1864, and his mill complex was passed down to John Cude, his son-in-law. Cude rebuilt the mill which had been flood damaged, and the settlement became known as Cude’s Mill.
In the 1870s, Pleasant Wimberley moved with his family from Blanco County to Cude’s Mill. “Old Man Pleas” as he was called, was a generous man. He has been described as one of Wimberley’s first nonprofit organizations as he failed to notice when some of the poorer folks in town helped themselves to the mill’s toll box. He contributed to the community’s schools and churches.
When Wimberley bought the mill from Cude, the town changed its name again to Wimberley’s Mill. In 1880, the name “Wimberleyville” was submitted to the post office which dropped the “ville” from the name, and the town became Wimberley. By the time Pleasant acquired the business, the mills had grown to include a grist mill, a buhrstone flour mill, a sawmill, and a shingle mill. Wimberley latter added a cotton gin. The mills were passed down through the Wimberley family and sold to John Will Pyland, an in-law, in 1907. By 1912, the creek could no longer power the mill and Hick Wimberley installed a 20 horsepower engine. The mill ceased operation in 1925.
Many of the old structures associated with Wimberley’s history still exist or are fondly remembered:
Winters Wimberley House – The first owner of the Wimberley mill, William C. Winters, built this limestone dwelling in c. 1856. A veteran of the Battle of San Jacinto, he was awarded a land grant for his service in the war. After his death in 1864, his daughter Nancy and son-in-law John Cude inherited the mill. In 1874 Pleasant Wimberley paid $8,000 in gold to John Cude for 200 acres, the mill and house.
John Henry Saunders Store – In 1888 Saunders purchased the frame store on this site from J.P. Laney. He built the present building in 1890 from stone quarried on the Blanco River. The date of 1890 and the initials “JHS” appear on the left side of the building above the porch roof. The store also housed the post office until the 1930s. The building burned in 1939, but the stone walls remained intact.
John Henry Saunders Homestead – This frame house reflects the Greek Revival style used in Texas in the 1870s and is constructed of native Cypress and black walnut. John Henry, his wife Callie and their 13 children lived here until 1903. Saunders served the village as a teacher, postmaster, merchant, county school superintendent, and commissioner. Allen D’Spain and his family later occupied the house. This is the oldest structure on the Wimberley “square”.
D’Spain Building – Allen D’Spain operated a general merchandise business in the Saunders store on the square. The long era of economic development in Wimberley can be credited to D’Spain who inspired investment in Wimberley. Built in the 1920s, this rock structure has received numerous alterations which the careful observer can discern through a study of all four sides of the building.
John R. Dobie House – Built about 1892, this side-gable, center-passage, box frame dwelling was first built as a two pen dog run. Resting on cypress beams the house is sheathed with pine boards and battens and roofed with cedar shingles. Built by San Marcos mayor, Charles S. Cock, other notable occupants included County Sheriff James Wren, Dr. W.J. Pyland, John R. Dobie, and his son James F. Dobie and wife Daisy. The house was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1990 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
Wimberley Mill – The Wimberley Mill was the economic heart of the village. Built in 1856 by William Winters, the mill passed to his son-in-law John Cude in 1864 and then, in 1874, to Pleasant Wimberley. The successive names of the village are evidence of the importance of the mill: Winters’ Mill, Cude’s Mill, Wimberley’s Mill and ultimately, Wimberley. As a grist mill, saw mill and cotton gin, it provided flour, sorghum, cotton, shingles, and lumber for the area. John Will Pyland, the husband of Pleasant’s grand-daughter, became the last millwright in 1907. The mill ceased operation in 1925 and was demolished in the 1930s. Ozona Bank now occupies this site.
James C. Lane House – James C. Lane (1902-1976), an avid rock collector, designed and built this bungalow in 1934. One of the front rooms became the first telephone switchboard in Wimberley. Typical depression era features include the “crazy work” rock patterns, petrified wood around windows and doors, smooth rocks cut by hand saw in the front arches, and quartz and stalactite in the chimney.
Pyland Blacksmith Shop – Built in 1895 by Sidney Jordan Pyland (1875-1953) the blacksmith shop provided the hub of business activity on the square. In 1897, Pyland married Nellie Ann Wimberley, daughter of mill owner Zachary Wimberley. In 1910, Sidney Pyland moved the entire blacksmith shop to San Marcos. The site of the Pyland Blacksmith Shop is now occupied by the offices of Woolsey Realty Company.
In addition to these sites, no History buff should visit Wimberley without a walk through the Wimberley Cemetery. Located at the intersection of FM3237 and Old Kyle Road, next to the First Baptist Church, the cemetery contains the gravesites of many of the early Wimberley pioneers dating back to 1876, including many veterans of the Civil War.