The History of Woodway as Told by Carleen Bright

The History of Woodway From Kendrick to Incorporation By Carleen Bright, Councilmember 1976 to 2006

I always think of the true beginning of Woodway as dating back to 1865 when a Civil War veteran named Burl Jones Kendrick left his Georgia home and moved to Texas. He bought 320 acres of land in what is now the eastern side of Woodway, and site of Whitehall Park. Here he built his home.

The Kendrick family felt a need for a church and organized one to meet in their home. The church outgrew the home, and in 1877, Captain Kendrick deeded 2.5 acres of his land to the church.

People began burying their dead in the area north of the church, and in 1899, Captain Kendrick deeded land for what he called the “Whitehall Grave Yard.

In the original deed he said that this land had already been used for many years as a burial ground. We are sure that some people were buried there as early as 1877, but the oldest marked grave now standing is marked 1879.

In 1901 Captain Kendrick deeded land for a school, thus giving this farming community a Whitehall Baptist Church, Whitehall Grave Yard and Whitehall School. The houses were scattered so the church and school became the center of social activities. Both of my parents attended the school and church when they moved here as teenagers. I can remember the stories they told of the many social activities which also drew young people from the Hewitt area. The school closed in 1918, and the church closed in 1924.

Whitehall ChurchWhen the school closed, many children in this area had to pay tuition to attend either Waco Public Schools or Hewitt. After many years of this, the County school superintendent decided all children had the right to a free education, and the old Whitehall School District was divided between Waco and Hewitt. This is the reason that at the present time Woodland West is in Waco School District, and Waco Industrial Area is in the Midway District formed after consolidation of the Hewitt and South Bosque Schools.

In 1922, a group of Waco residents were looking for property on which to build a lake. Not many of them wanted to build permanent homes but rather summer homes and a lake for recreation activities. This became the Rainbow Lake area.

In 1950, the Powell Brothers bought 325 acres of farm land and put in our first street – Santa Fe Drive. They also drilled our first water well, our present Santa Fe well.

Moving farther west, Dr. Broughton bought 30 acres. He build his home and also drilled a water well. He sold water to people who were not in the Powell Addition.

Still further west, the Blanton Addition. Estates Drive was cut through this addition all the way to Lake Waco. We know this addition today because of the street names. These streets are our bird and tree names. This developed quickly because of the wooded area.

Three Kendrick granddaughters still owned some of the original Kendrick property between the Powell and Broughton additions. They began developing the Whitehall Addition.

The McKethans developed Woodway Hills and Woodway Heights.

Next came the Merrifield Drive development. It did not develop as quickly as the others because few people bought property here for homes. Most of this property was bought as an investment.

The Woodland West area as we know it today was once the summer home for Kate Ross and Tom Padgett, prominent Waco pioneers. The entrance to their home was off the Old Fish Pond Road up a steep, poorly graveled road. The house occupied the hill where the Hilton Howell home is now.

Bletsch Family and Friends with a CarIn 1902, Henry Bletsch bought this property – farmed the low land where Woodland West Country Club is now and raised goats on the wooded land. He became well known for his cabrito barbecues and home brew which he stored under the large rambling house built high off the ground. On warm summer days, exploding bottles of home brew sounded like the Marines had landed. When Uncle Henry died in 1959, his two sons sold the property to H.K. Easley. In 1959, Mr. Easley sold to Gummelt, Whitley and Britain who developed it.

The consolidated school located on Estates and Highway 84 was called Midway, and the area around the school became known as the Village of Midway. This was a growing community. There was little law enforcement, no water, nor sewage.

In 1955, a group of concerned citizens met in the Rainbow Lake home of Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Mehaffey to talk about incorporation and a name for this new town.

It was Mr. Mehaffey who suggested they take Wood from Woodland West and Way from Midway. Thus Woodway was named. This name was filed in the McLennan County Courthouse with papers petitioning incorporation on May 23, 1955.

After acceptance and approval of the petition, the judge set June 11, 1955 as the date for the elections. On June 20, 1955, the County Clerk certified the incorporation of the Village of Woodway with a population of approximately 250.

The citizens of Woodway today owe a debt of gratitude to two early residents: A.J. Mehaffey and E.W. Buchtien. You can thank them that you do not have a 7-11 or a four-storey apartment next door to you. These two helped the City plan for the future through their efforts for a long range plan for development and zoning laws and stringent guidelines concerning lot size, street construction and strict ordinances.