History

The Sinister Origin of Dead Man’s Hole

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The Texas Hill Country is filled with countless beautiful landmarks and tales of rich cultural diversity. Just a few miles south of Marble Falls, in Burnet County, however, lies a much more sinister type of landmark. On what is now a several-acre park sits a well-like sinkhole eerily deemed Dead Man’s Hole.

The Sinister Origin of Dead Man’s HolePhoto: Wikimedia/Nicolas Henderson

Measuring about seven feet in diameter and approximately 155 feet deep, the cavernous Dead Man’s Hole was formed by pressure from natural gas inside the earth. Initially discovered by entomologist Ferdinand Lueders in 1821, the hole gained its moniker decades later during the Civil War and the Reconstruction Era.

Burnet County voted in opposition of secession by a relatively one-sided count of 248 to 149, which became one factor that led many Union supporters to seek refuge in the Hill Country, a decision most would come to regret. Awaiting them in Burnet County was a radical group known as the “Fire Eaters,” described as “worse than the Indians” when it came to violence. This group held on to Confederate beliefs, and secretly hunted and killed anyone whom they believed expressed opposing views. Described in many historical accounts as “fanatics”, the Fire Eaters looked upon their violent actions as a heroic stand for the Confederate.

The Sinister Origin of Dead Man’s HolePhoto: mcehistory.wikispaces.com

Although there is no report of exactly how the group came upon what is now Dead Man’s Hole, the area became a dumping ground for bodies of Union supporters that were hunted down by the Fire Eaters. An oak tree once stood beside the site that is said to have scars from ropes used in hangings during hasty and biased “trials,” after which the bodies were cut down and dropped directly into the hole. Reports vary as to the body count, ranging from 17 to more than 36 bodies. It is rumored that bags of bones were discovered in the hole, although their whereabouts are now topic of dispute.

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