The descendants of the William Cameron family may be scattered, but they haven’t forgotten their ancestors’ legacy to Waco.
They reunited to celebrate Cameron Park’s 100th birthday Thursday, and they announced yet another gift to the city of Waco — $100,000 for the benefit of the park.
The city’s Cameron Park Centennial Committee feted the Cameron heirs during a rededication ceremony at Proctor Springs and later at a downtown luncheon that drew more than 200 people.
Proctor Springs is the heart of the 125 acres that the William Cameron family donated on May 27, 1910.
The family donated more land during the next few decades, expanding the park to its current 416 acres.
The park was named posthumously for William Cameron, the Scottish immigrant who founded the Wm. Cameron Lumber Co. empire.
The Cameron family has disappeared from Waco, but the event Thursday brought about a dozen relatives from as far away as Connecticut and New York.
Bruce Baird, of Buffalo, NY, a great-grandson of William Cameron, said he was impressed with the city’s renovations of the park since his last visit five years ago.
“The progress has been phenomenal,” he said. “The difference between the 1990s and now is absolutely incredible. We want to see the city keep going with it.”
The committee drove the family around Cameron Park and other sites of interest, such as the old summer home of W.W. Cameron, which is now Art Center Waco.
Brian Baird, a Buffalo attorney and brother of Bruce Baird, said this was his first time to see Cameron Park, and it exceeded his expectations.
“It’s very unexpected for a city this size,” he said. “It’s fabulous. My family all grew up hiking and wanting to be outside, so this is very consistent with the type of thing we like to see.”
After William Cameron’s death in 1899, the park was donated by his widow, Flora B. Cameron; their son, William Waldo Cameron; and daughters Margaret Cameron Bolton and Flora Cameron Baird.
Linda Reichenbach, the only Cameron heir living in Waco, is descended from the Bolton side.
She said her great-great-grandfather, William Cameron, would have approved of how the park has developed.
Reichenbach, an MCC computer instructor, lived here briefly as a teenager in the 1970s, then married and moved to Paris. She came back in the early 1990s, largely because of the pull of family heritage.
“I love this town and everything it stands for,” she said. “The park represents everything about ancestry and the family. The zoo is my favorite place. I walk the trails all the time from MCC to Baylor with my four huge dogs.”
Remembering the park
William Cameron’s only son and successor in the business, W.W. Cameron, left two daughters but no male heirs. W.W. Cameron’s younger daughter, Flora Crichton, 85, still lives in San Antonio.
Although doctor’s orders prevented her from coming to Thursday’s event, she said in an phone interview that she still feels a connection with Waco and hopes to visit soon.
“It was a wonderful place to grow up,” she said.
She grew up in the old W.W. Cameron house at 18th Street and Austin Avenue, where the Central Library stands, and she remembers visiting her grandmother, Flora, at the William Cameron mansion at 12th Street and Austin Avenue.
Her fondest memories are of the Cameron summer house and the surrounding 500-acre farm, where she rode horses and swam with her cousins, ever vigilant for water moccasins and quicksand.
“It was always full of kids playing tennis or swimming,” she said. “We would go down to the Bosque River for baptisms. They used to take the young kids out into the river, and they’d come up out of the water hollering, but by that time they’d be members of the church.”
She remembers her father as a hardworking man. At the age of 20, W.W. Cameron took over and expanded his father’s vast lumber company, which was then saddled with debt. He added a 700-employee millwork plant in Waco and brought the number of lumber yards to 86 in three states.
“He was a very strong personality,” Crichton said. “We used to kid him because he was half-Scots and half Irish. During the day, he was a Scot, but when he’d come home in the evening, the glasses would begin to clink, the songs and the jokes would come out, and he became Irish.”
Crichton left Waco for school as a teenager in 1939 but had to come home when her father unexpectedly died while testifying in a civil trial.
The company survived under the leadership of W.W. Cameron’s brother-in-law, Edward Rice Bolton, but the family sold it to CertainTeed in 1954. The company operated the Waco millworks until 1990.
While W.W. was the last of the Camerons, the family has continued to use it as a first and middle name generations later, said Bruce Baird, the Buffalo descendant.
He said that’s because the family remains proud of the William Cameron family’s generous civic spirit.
“My great-grandfather considered himself a very fortunate man, and he wanted to share that with others in the community,” Baird said.