ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A1 Demo and Dirt has been working to clear land on Clinton street, where two homes were destroyed by fire in March. That demolition took a brief pause when the crew pulled up a tree, and unearthed more than just roots.

“We pulled one of them out and the hole came out with it,” said Michael Branton, owner of A1 Demo and Dirt.

Branton’s crew made a few predictions as to what the tunnels could have been built for, while ruling out a few others.

“I’ve got a lot of people saying that’s a sewer system,” Branton explained. “I’ve seen a lot of sewer systems, that’s not a sewer system.”

Branton continued, “The lady on the corner house over here said that they used to have tunnel systems running to all the houses. Maybe part of the underground railroad? I don’t know.”

While certainly historic in nature, the purpose of these tunnels turned out to be a bit less impressive than the crew might have imagined.

“This is a very old neighborhood. It’s called Town West. It’s the first addition to Abilene… Every house that was built here before probably 1915, 1920 is gonna have a cistern because that was your only source of water,” explained Carrie Blaschke, President of Abilene Preservation League.

Although homes existed in the area before, Town West was a large scale residential development in the early 1900s, spearheaded by O.P. Thomas.

“At my house, the cistern was by the back door,” Blaschke continued. “There were wooden gutters on the roof, and all that water ran into the cistern.”

The mysterious catacomb was actually a water collection, filtration, and storage system, according to Blaschke. She said she’d lived in Town West for more than 40 years. On her account and per previous owners of her home, modern amenities weren’t commonplace until about 20 years after some the homes were built.

“In 1919 somebody bought my home. They put in electricity, running water, bathrooms and natural gas heating. We were up town,” Blaschke said.

In a time when 1900s plumbing is no longer a selling point, Blaschke said more and more historic Abilene homes are crumbling into obscurity.

“I hate to see it go away,” Blaschke added. “I wish we could restore these houses that are waiting here for someone to come and love them.”