Lake LBJ and the Rebirth of Kingsland, Chapter 8: Bill & Dolphia Bransford

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Tony Maples Photography


Bill and Dolphia Bransford arrived in Kingsland while work was underway on the Granite Shoals Dam in 1950. They purchased a strip of land between the railroad and the “highway” on the west side of the Colorado River bridge. The highway, now RM 1431, was just “a dirt lane between fields” back then. There was one little grocery store “with a gas pump” run by Fred Wood; the post office was located in the same building. There was a fishing camp across the bridge on the Burnet County side of the river.

After the lake filled up, the Bransfords built another fishing camp between Kingsland’s two bridges: the railroad bridge (by then almost 60 years old) and the one-lane “wagon bridge” (almost 40) with its rattling plank floor. They didn’t have a name for their camp; people just started to call it “Bill’s Place.” It wasn’t long before they had neighbors; the sparkling lake in the beautiful valley began to draw crowds as soon as it was there. There was soon another fishing camp across the street, and newcomers from west Texas and San Antonio (and everywhere else) began to build vacation cottages along the shore of the lake in every direction.

There was just one church in town at the time, the old Christian Church, which now forms the midsection of the Highland Lakes Senior Center on Chamberlain Street. It had fallen into disrepair, and there wasn’t enough money in the budget to have it kept up (there wasn’t even enough money for a regular preacher — once a month, the members would pay a preacher to come over from Llano). Bill got a crew together and fixed up the church.

Lake LBJ and the Rebirth of Kingsland, Chapter 8: Bill & Dolphia Bransford

Photo: @Boytaro1428 via Twenty20

It was just intended as a civic gesture, but something special happened during that time. Bill became a Christian and was baptized in the old church that he had helped to rebuild. He and Dolphia went on to help organize the Kingsland Community Church, which opened to a packed house in 1954. Two years later, the Barrow family (which owned the Antlers Hotel) built a new hall for the community church.

As the number of vacationers increased, Bill Bransford saw the need for a boat shop in Kingsland. Soon he had built a new showroom and repair shop, which he called Bill’s Marine, next to the fishing camp. The Bransfords built themselves a new home next to Bill’s Marine; they then added a cafe and a service station along their strip of land, which reached from the bridges almost to the old downtown area around the Antlers Hotel.

In the meantime, Dolphia Bransford recalled in a 2012 interview, “Kingsland prospered, and we prospered.” Bill had purchased other lots around Kingsland and was building small subdivisions (just a few houses at a time) as a part-time business. One of his good friends was Joe Duncan, of Llano, who had opened an electrical supply business in Kingsland. The two partnered to build a subdivision across from the city park in Llano, as well.

The Bransfords “retired” in the 1960s, and spent much of the next 40 years traveling. Both were avid photographers, and Dolphia especially loved wildflowers. “We traveled all 50 states, taking pictures of wildflowers,” Mrs. Bransford recalls. “That was the most enjoyable time of my life.” They became regulars at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin and donated thousands of pictures to the collection there. In the 1970s, they moved to Buena Vista, on the Burnet County side of Inks Lake, but Mrs. Bransford still considered Kingsland home. She resided for several years at Windchime Assisted Living before she passed away in 2015, shortly after her 100th birthday.

Read chapter one here.