Special Report: The History of Old Calliham

There aren't many Texas cities that have ended up underwater and stayed that way, but that's exactly what happened to Old Calliham.

CALLIHAM (KIII NEWS) - There aren't many Texas cities that have ended up underwater and stayed that way, but that's exactly what happened to Old Calliham. It now sits under the Choke Canyon reservoir and has produced a number of archaeological finds.
 
Jim Warren is an archaeologist who knows the history of South Texas. He lives near Three Rivers and was working with the University of Texas at San Antonio 40 years ago on a huge dig to document the area in and around the city of Old Calliham, a small community that became a boom town in the early 1920s when oil was discovered.
 
Hundreds of people began moving there, but then the site of the old town ended up under Choke Canyon reservoir after the government decided to build the artificial lake there.
 
"We found lots of Indian sites," Warren said. "I don't know, hundreds of Indian sites, but we were looking at a big area. The entire area that was going to be under the lake. I don't know how many acres but it was big."
 
The reservoir is 26,000 acres. There's bass, catfish and a few alligators calling the place home now. But the dig that took place there in 1977 produced a treasure trove of artifacts worth more than the daily catch.
 
Among the finds were arrowheads. One of them was made from metal. There was also remains of an earthen oven dating back to 600 B.C.
 
Eventually, the work to document the history there ended and construction on the dam began in 1978 and ended four years later.
 
While the town of Calliham is considered a ghost town, the community is still showing signs of life. As a matter of fact, back in the day the entire town was moved south of Choke Canyon Lake.
 
"Those of us who live here don't call it a ghost town," Warren said. "You're still very much alive. Oh yes it is. It's still on the map."
 
While Warren knows about the archaeology of the area, he also said that nearby Three Rivers almost met the same fate as those who had called Calliham home.
 
"They had originally planned to build the dam up here by Oakville and they were going to cover up the town of Three Rivers," Warren said. "But the people in town weren't interested in it and they had a guy in the legislature who was very persuasive and he managed to talk them out of it."
 
There are still a few historical reminders around of Old Calliham, like the school gym that is still standing. Warren remembers camping there during the archaeological dig that helped to tell another part of the story, of those who lived here thousands of years ago.
 
 

© 2017 KIII-TV


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