By; Paula Allen | Express-News
I’m hoping you might have some information on what appears to be an old bridge at the University of the Incarnate Word. It is across a tributary to the San Antonio River, parallel to Hildebrand Avenue, and located near a trail that UIW recently created called St. Brigid’s Path. Perhaps it’s an old mill or well and not a bridge, but it does cross the stream bed and consists of numerous cut-limestone rocks. Thanks for your insight!
— John C. Browning, M.D.
Your question and the photograph you included were sent to the Headwaters at Incarnate Word, a nature sanctuary adjacent to but not part of the University of the Incarnate Word. Executive Director Pamela Ball confirms that the photo was taken in the Headwaters sanctuary along Brigid’s Path. “The stones are believed to be the ruins of an old mill,” Ball said. “Although there has been much speculation about the nature of the mill, previous research and inquiries have not resulted in any details that can be corroborated.”
The San Antonio River and its tributaries were the site of various mills in the 18th and 19th centuries, taking advantage of water power to grind corn and flour.
The collection of hewn rocks is mentioned in “Archaeological Assessment of the Southern Portion of the Olmos Basin, Bexar County, Texas,” by Anne Fox, based on a 1975 survey, but the author casts some doubt on its original purpose: “While this structure has been traditionally called a mill,” the report says, “it is rather small for such a structure, and the stream on which it is situated appears to be one of the smallest in the basin in terms of size and flow of water.”
These ruins might have “some connection with the Confederate tannery operation” that made shoes and saddles for the Confederate army from a location in what’s now Brackenridge Park, she wrote. Unfortunately, “no artifacts of any kind were found in the area.”
Anyone who has further information about the rock ruins may contact this column.