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A Park of History

Nov. 18, 1997

By Traci Stevenson

Reporter for The Baylor Lariat

'Wm. Cameron park, in memory of Wm. Cameron, and for the pleasure of the people,' reads the inscription at the entrance of the park. William Cameron Park, a 416-acre park bordering Waco, was dedicated to the city of Waco in honor of William Cameron, a Scottish lumberman on May 27, 1910.

According to a May 29, 1910, Waco Daily Times-Herald article, the late Flora B. Cameron purchased Proctor Springs, the original site of Cameron Park on May 24, 1910. She signed the deed for 125 acres of land over to the city of Waco. The park has increased in acreage over the years from gifts later received from the Cameron family and others.

According to the article, May 27, 1910, was an unofficial holiday for Waco. Local businesses closed and a parade preceded the dedication ceremony.

The different sites in Cameron Park possess many legends behind their naming. Lover's Leap, according to a Dec. 9, 1917, Waco Times-Herald article, was named because of an old legend. Legend has it that a young girl, Winona, daughter of the Hauco (Waco) Indian tribe chief, fell in love with an enemy's son. Although Winona was given in marriage to a young Comanche chief, she secretly loved Jumping Bear, a Tehuacana chief.

The day she was to be given to the Comanche chief, Winona was tied up and guarded over night to ensure her appearance at the marriage ceremony. Jumping Bear waited outside her tent for her guard to fall asleep. After waiting almost all night, Jumping Bear was finally able to untie his lover and escape.

As the two ran off, the guard awoke and alerted the chief. Members of the Comanche and Waco tribes both began to chase the couple. The two tribes blocked the couple at the cliff, now known as Lover's Leap. The lovers, not knowing what to do, embraced and jumped from the cliff, trying to obtain any possible freedom. The cliff then gained the name 'Lover's Leap.'

One legend, on file at the Texas Collection in Carroll Library, deals with the naming of Lindsey Hollow. According to legend, Waco was having trouble with cattle thieves. A group of local ranchers decided to capture the thieves. They chased the two thieves, who were brothers by the name of Lindsey, up to what is now Lindsey Hollow.

After finding the thieves, one rancher immediately shot one of the brothers. The other brother was to be taken back to Waco, but on the way into town, another rancher grew angry and shot him in the back.

Frightened about the consequences that would follow if a townsman were to find out about the killings, the ranchers buried the bodies at the site now referred to as Lindsey Hollow. The ghosts of the brothers are said to still linger in this area.

According to files at the Texas Collection and David F. Smith, retired city manager of Waco, Lawson Point, which is named in honor of W.C. Lawson, the first chairman of Cameron Park board, is the spot where the first bluebonnets in Central Texas bloom each year.

The reason behind the bluebonnets' blooming revolves around an old legend. According to the legend, there was a terrible drought in Waco. The Huaco Indian tribe decided that in order to produce rain, they would need to sacrifice a member of the tribe. A young girl was chosen to be sacrificed. The night before the sacrifice was to take place, her sister sacrificed her own child in order to save the girl's life. The young maiden then sprinkled the ashes of her child over the area that is now Lawson Point and on the next day, bluebonnets and buffalo appeared.

According to Smith, the site of Miss Nellie's Pretty Place was chosen carefully by former Congressman W.R. Poage in honor of his mother. In 1985, Poage expressed interest in funding a wild flower preserve for the city of Waco, Smith said.

'After checking on several locations, we kept coming back to the same place,' Smith said.

Across from the Cameron Park Clubhouse is the spot where Poage's mother Nellie would admire Cameron Park from as a young girl, Smith said. After the location was chosen, the name 'Miss Nellie's Pretty Place' seemed appropriate, since Nellie Poage as a child referred to the spot as her 'pretty place.'

When the gift of Cameron Park was given to Waco, one of the stipulations was that political rallies of all kind were not allowed on the property, Smith said. Around the time of the Vietnam War, a man rented the Redwood Shelter out for a picnic.

Before the event, Smith said, officials became aware of flyers being posted in the Waco community about an anti-war rally at Cameron Park. According to Smith, a professor known for his speeches about the violent overthrow of the government was scheduled to speak. When officials realized what the picnic at Redwood Shelter really was, they called the host and told him about the rules of Cameron Park.

According to Smith, the man was upset and said law officials would have to break the rally up because he had already rented the shelter. The following day, Smith attended a Rotary Club meeting where a video was shown about deer hunting. In the video one hunter was using skunk juice to rattle bucks.

Smith and others decided to purchase skunk juice and 'doctor up' Redwood Shelter just in time for the rally.

'Needless to say, nature broke [the rally] up, not law enforcement,' Smith said.

This is part one of a four-part series on William Cameron Park

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