(This is a rare factual article from The Examiner.. well, sort of)
If you went to BISD schools, you’ll remember getting in trouble for throwing shit in the canals after a rainshower, even though it was quite fun to watch whatever you threw fight the raging torrent of water. The question remained though as I grew older.. what is the story behind this system, and why is it here? And why couldn’t I throw crap in it after it rained? IT WAS FUN DAMNIT!
I’ve taken the liberty to find out. Note the 3 overhead maps (click to enlarge), one being a systems map, the other two following the Brady St Canal to a hypothetical terminus. Yes, your brave editor has explored the entire system and is here to tell you everything you never wanted to know about the lost canal system of Brownwood.
Let’s begin by exploring the Cross St Canal. Cross Street is a road that has nothing going for it. It’s really quite boring and sad, and should only be visited if you have an interest in the Canal system. For example, here’s Dale Street. Dale Street is one of several abysmal thoroughfares that Cross Street can take you to, and it’s obvious the city quit giving a fuck about it many moons ago.
They didn’t even erect a proper roadblock during abandonment, just a pile of mud. Sometimes I feel like Dale Street. Just down the block, if you can even call it that, is the grade level source of the Cross St Canal.
The Cross St Canal, as all canals in the Brownwood Canal System, is rather old and constructed not from concrete as used in the Adams Branch canalization project, but with traditional stone masonry. It’s really pretty in a way. This canal starts narrow and ends narrow, traversing roughly 1500 feet. With bridge crossings at Second and Third streets, the Cross St Canal maintains a rather linear path before making a graceful 90 degree turn, terminating on Brady Avenue, just behind King’s Grocery and Market.
You may have noticed the smaller Hawkins St Branch that feeds into the Cross St Canal. At just under 500 feet, the branch has no notable features other than the small earthen ditch that feeds it. Topographical maps have no listed name, so the Examiner has now christened it Shithawk Creek.
Shithawk creek crosses Hawkins St at grade and immediately enters the branch canal.
There really isn’t much else to say about the Cross St Canal, but note the systems map.. could it, at one point, have connected to the Brady St Canal?
The Brady St Canal begins right at the edge of the Brownwood Intermediate School campus, and has an unknown terminus site. For the sake of keeping the factual in one part of the article and the speculative in another, we’ll say the canal covers 3,424 feet before the canal portion ends and a creek portion begins.
From here, the canal meanders through the campuses of Brownwood Intermediate, Coggin Elementary, and the former Brownwood High School. Ample pedestrian walkways allow for fine viewing after rains. After weaving and winding through the campuses, the canal briefly enters a culvert under Austin Ave, emerging near Avenue B. The canal continues on this pass, crossing under Vine Street, eventually stopping at Tannehill Drive. This is where things get weird.
Firstly, note the artwork of Brownwood natives. Secondly, note the sidewalk staircase leading to nowhere. Was something of significance once where the BNSF railyard stands? The tunnel of racial hatred runs just over 600 feet before the canal emerges oncemore.
From this point on, the Brady St. Canal travels on private property before eventually turning back to a creek like the majestic Shithawk. We’ll call it Shithawk Creek #2. Here’s a crossing of Shithawk Creek #2, heading towards the secondary entrance of the BNSF yard.
This is where the factual portion of our article ends, and the speculative part begins. Let’s look at the Shithawk River #2s route further.
As you can see, the tree pattern closely resembles that of the Pecan Bayou. Further down the line though, a canal is reborn!
Located on private property and crossing the old Hot Wells pool, the possible continuation of the Brady St Canal seems to serve an irrigation purpose more than a flood control one. With several private bridge crossings, and a potential terminus near active irrigation, I think the two are connected.
The Examiner is not sure of the original purpose of these canals, the year they were built, or anything.. but we’re going to speculate here and claim that they are remnants of the old viaduct system that used to carry water from Lake Brownwood to irrigators and customers in Brownwood alike. They could also be flood control measures that equally benefit landowners. Any readers with further information are strongly encouraged to reply to this article.
Reader Gayle Reich states that there may be a sign on the Brady Ave end that states it was built by the CCC in the 30s.