Williamson County
Historical Commission

contact Wayne Ware (512) 863-2202


Granite For The State Capitol
Historical Marker
-

Brushy Creek Railroad Train Trestle
(at the Brushy Creek Sports Park)
March 7, 2009

The dedication of Historical Plaque
Granite For The State Capitol -
Brushy Creek Railroad Train Trestle Historical Marker Dedication

 

 

      
     
 click on thumbnail for an enlarged view

 


 

 
Granite for the State Capitol
Marker Text

In the 1880s, the arrival of the railroad helped develop western Williamson County and contributed to the construction of a new state capitol. When quarried limestone proved deficient for the new statehouse, contractors chose granite from Burnet County outcroppings. The Austin and Northwestern Railroad, which ran through this area and established Brueggerhoff (Cedar Park) and Leander, extended to the Granite Mountain quarry site in 1885. More than 4,000 flatcars passed through here in 1886-87, carrying the large blocks of pink granite to Austin. Three dozen blocks that tumbled of the tracks were left in the creek bed, since the state obtained its building stone free of charge. The Texas State Capitol was completed in 1888.

(2008)

 

 


 


RAILROAD ROUTE FROM GRANITE MOUNTAIN
TO THE CAPITOL

While the Austin and Northwestern line was being built, a dramatic event occurred which was soon to affect the new line. The State Capitol in Austin caught fire and burned to the ground on November 9, 1881. When the new plans for another Capitol were accepted, they called for a limestone structure, the materials to be quarried southwest of Austin, but the stone proved unsatisfactory to the commission in charge of the job. The contractor proposed using granite from Indiana, but the commission insisted on stone from Texas. George W. Lacy and W.H. Westfall offered granite from Granite Mountain near Marble Falls free of charge to the State of Texas. As soon as an agreement for the granite was reached on July 21, 1885, the State began building a railroad spur from Burnet, sixteen miles to Granite Mountain, finishing it December 1,1885.

The "Lone Star Engine" pulled 15,700 flat carloads of granite from the quarry, through Grover, Liberty Hill. Leander, Walkerton, Whitestone, Cedar Park, Rutledge, Cummings, and Rattan on its way to the Capitol.

 



 


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aerial view map 1


aerial view map 2

 


road map

GPS Coordinates
Latitude 30.504208 - Longitude -97.784736

 



The railroad was originally built as a narrow gauge line, with 3 feet between the rails instead of the standard 4 feet - 8.5 inches. The line reached Burnet in 1882. It was extended to Granite Mountain in 1885 and began hauling pink granite to Austin for the Texas State Capitol building. The narrow gauge line continued to serve a rugged, remote area, otherwise difficult to travel.

 

While the granite hauling job financially secured the troubled Northwestern Railroad, occasionally an entire train went into the ditch. Such a train wreck happened on the southwest corner of the Brushy Creek Recreational Park property, causing several massive blocks of granite to be dumped into the Brushy Creek. These stones never arrived in Austin to be used in the construction of the Texas State Capitol and remain intact and undisturbed just as they fell in the late 1880's.

 

AUSTIN NORTHWESTERN TRAIN CROSSING THE BRUSHY CREEK TRAIL WITH GRANITE ROCKS ON TRESTLE (1886)

for Granite For The State Capitol

 

 click on thumbnail for an enlarged view
Granite For The State Capitol

 

 

The Granite Industry of the 1880s

 

I . CONTEXT

Millions of years ago a mass of rock emerged near present day Marble Falls in Burnet County. It was to become known as Granite Mountain. Approximately 8,000 B.C., plus or minus, Paleo Indians roamed the Brushy Creek area living alongside the year round flowing creek. The abundant flora and fauna along Brushy Creek supplied the daily needs of the earliest human inhabitants of the area.

 

In 1836 the first fort was built on the outskirts of present day Cedar Park. This fort was named Tumlinson, or Blockhouse Fort, after John Tumlinson, Jr. Tumlinson was the leader of a 60 man, early Texas Ranger contingent to the area that established the fort, the first Anglo settlement in Williamson County. This group of Rangers included Noah Smithwick, who would later chronicle events of early Texas. [1]

 

In the 1840s the first pioneer families began settling the area around Cedar Park. By 1856 a stage coach line running from Austin to Lampasas would run through the area where small communities such as , Pond Springs, Buttercup, Running Brushy, Bagdad and Liberty Hill were emerging in western Williamson County. [2]

 

A Cedar Park city historical marker identifies the location of the 17 mile stage coach marker found along side of present day US 183.

The historical marker for the Stage Coach Marker reads as follows:

 

Stage Coach Marker

The 17 mile marker for the Austin to Lampasas Springs Stage Line was located at this site. Minus M. Long owned and operated the stage line from about 1856 until about 1877. The stage carried mail, passengers and some freight and the 65 mile trip took seven hours and cost $7.00. The stage made stops at Jollyville (Pond Springs), Buttercup, Running Brushy, Bagdad, Liberty Hill and Burnet. A noon meal stop was made at Liberty Hill and teams of horses were replaced at Running Brushy (near this site), Liberty Hill and Burnet. In early years, the stage made the trip to Lampasas twice a week. In later years, the stage traveled to Lampasas on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and back to Austin on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. After 1877, the stage line changed the route so that it passed through Round Rock to points north of Austin. The post office system had to once again rely on a small wagon to deliver the mail to settlements between Austin and Bagdad.

 

The Austin and Northwestern Railroad was constructed as a narrow gauge railroad from Austin to Burnet in 1881-1882 to open western Williamson County to rail travel. At that time Running Brushy was renamed Brueggerhoff after one of the railroad owners. Profits were elusive until the decision was made to haul granite from Granite Mountain over it. The name of Brueggerhoff was changed to Cedar Park, it has been said, because Brueggerhoff was difficult to pronounce and spell, in 1887 and incorporated as a City in 1973. This rail line is soon to become the Leander to Austin Commuter rail line.

 

In 1881 the Texas Capitol burned. When the new, and current, Texas Capitol was being designed it was thought that the Capitol would be built of limestone taken from


Oak Hill quarries. However, it was determined that the limestone contained pyrite which would discolor the limestone over time. Nimrod Norton and his business partners, W.H. Westfall and G.W. Lacy offered to donate to the State as much Texas Pink Granite (now marketed as Sunset Red Granite) from their Granite Mountain quarries as it needed to build the Capitol if the State paid the Austin and Northwestern Railroad to extend their line from Burnet to Granite Mountain; which it did. During 1886-1887, 4000 flatcars traveled from Marble Falls in Burnet County thru Williamson County and into Travis County via that rail line, bringing granite into Austin over narrow gauge rails. Williamson County and Cedar Park served as the conduit for the transport of the granite, but did not benefit economically from it. A Cedar Park city historical marker has been erected at the Hill Country Flyer depot in Cedar Park.

The Granite Industry of the 1880s

 

I . CONTEXT

Millions of years ago a mass of rock emerged near present day Marble Falls in Burnet County. It was to become known as Granite Mountain. Approximately 8,000 B.C., plus or minus, Paleo Indians roamed the Brushy Creek area living alongside the year round flowing creek. The abundant flora and fauna along Brushy Creek supplied the daily needs of the earliest human inhabitants of the area.

 

In 1836 the first fort was built on the outskirts of present day Cedar Park. This fort was named Tumlinson, or Blockhouse Fort, after John Tumlinson, Jr. Tumlinson was the leader of a 60 man, early Texas Ranger contingent to the area that established the fort, the first Anglo settlement in Williamson County. This group of Rangers included Noah Smithwick, who would later chronicle events of early Texas. [1]

 

In the 1840s the first pioneer families began settling the area around Cedar Park. By 1856 a stage coach line running from Austin to Lampasas would run through the area where small communities such as , Pond Springs, Buttercup, Running Brushy, Bagdad and Liberty Hill were emerging in western Williamson County. [2]

 

A Cedar Park city historical marker identifies the location of the 17 mile stage coach marker found along side of present day US 183.

 
 

The historical marker reads as follows:

 

Austin and Northwestern Railroad

First railroad to tap the mineral-rich heart of the Hill Country, the A&NW’s narrow-gauge tracks were completed from Austin to Burnet in 1882. When the State Capitol, which burned in 1881, was being rebuilt, the State of Texas decided to bring granite for the new Capitol from Granite Mountain near Marble Falls and it extended the railroad south to Granite Mountain. Between 1886 and 1888, approximately 4,000 flat cars of granite were pulled over this rail line. During this time, US mail and freight used the line as well as passenger trains which made the four hour trip between Austin and Burnet for a passenger rate of about a penny per mile. In 1891, the line was acquired by the Houston and Texas Central Railroad, eventually part of the great Southern Pacific line. At that time the line was standard-gauged and extended west to Llano. Twenty miles of track could be widened by 200 men in three hours. The line was extended north to Lampasas in 1903. In 1929, a spur line was built to Texas Quarries, two miles west of Highway 183 in Cedar Park. Texas Quarries used the line to transport limestone blocks to provide building material for Gov. Ross Sterling’s home near

 

Houston, the old University library, the Austin Post Office and the trimmings for Herman Hospital in Houston. Passenger service was discontinued about 1937. In 1986, Southern Pacific sold the line to the City of Austin and it is now owned by Austin Capital Metro which serves the area with regular freight service. Excursion service is provided by the Austin Steam Train Association. Cedar Park is the home station of steam locomotive No. 786 and the Hill Country Flyer.

 

The subject of this historical marker application is the movement of the granite to build the Texas State Capitol. Granite Mountain, located in Burnet County two miles west of Marble Falls and then owned by N.L. Norton, W.H. Westfall and G.W. Lacey, signed a contract with the State of Texas in July 1885 to provide as much granite as it needed to build the State Capitol. Taylor, Babcock and Company of Chicago eventually were assigned the job of constructing the Capitol. After several contract modifications, Taylor agreed to build the State Capitol provided the State furnish the granite free of charge and furnish up to 1000 convicts to quarry the granite, with the contractor providing food, shelter, clothing, and guards.

 

The quarrying and cutting and finishing the granite swirled in controversy throughout the project. At issue were the workers used to quarry, cut and finish the granite. The State agreed to provide convict labor from its State penitentiaries, which was opposed by many of the public and the American Granite Cutters union. They contended that this undermined the job prospects of union members and other “free labor”, that is, not prisoners. Gus Wilke of Chicago who was selected as project manager and throughout the project was the subject of court actions and protests over his use of the less expensive convict labor and later the Scotsmen he imported to do the final cutting and polishing of the granite. [3] The use of imported Scotsmen attracted national attention and was the first real test of the 1885 federal Alien Contract labor Act. The court cases dragged on for years after the Capitol was completed.

 

The granite, weighing in at 165 pounds per cubic foot according to Granite Mountain, was quarried by convict labor and rough cut by that labor. It was then transported to Burnet at first by oxen and cart and later by railcar. By July 25, 1886 Wilke had 300 convicts working at Granite Mountain and 148, most of them Scottish stone cutters, working in Burnet to finish the stone. The stone was loaded on rail flatcars for the final trip into Austin. The largest block of granite transported was the cornerstone, weighing 18,000 pounds. It was transported to Burnet by fifteen oxen and then loaded onto a specially modified railcar for its trip into Austin.

 

During this period the Austin and Northwestern Railroad was narrow gauge and was not built to today’s standards. Occasionally granite fell off the railcars and was left behind because there the granite was being given free of charge.

 

One such incident, at the site of this proposed historical marker, is described in a paper written by Neil Krans then a student at Concordia High School in 1959. It is based on interviews and letters of approximately 15 people. [4]

 

One day during this time period, 18 flatcars carrying 36 blocks of granite, one block of granite over each truck, was making its way into Austin on a train being driven by Charlie Enlow. Being that the trestle over Brushy Creek was on a curve followed by an upgrade, the prudent option was to break the train in two; taking nine cars over and coming back for the remaining nine cars. The other option was to take all 18 cars at once. According to Dr. Robert Shoen, President of the Austin Steam Train Association and train engineer, the trestle and rail track were not up today’ standards. Today the track on the trestle is “super elevated” meaning that the plane of the track tilts down a few degrees towards the inside of the curve. By tilting the track one can take the curve faster and would be less likely to lose the cars or contents to centrifugal force. At the time of the building of the Capitol the track was probably not ‘super elevated.” It would then be possible for the cars to “bowstring”. That would mean that the heavy force of the pulling engine on one end of that car arc plus the weight of the cars at the opposite end of that car arc could make the cars in the middle try to assume a more linear configuration and pop off the track on the inside of the curve. The engineer of this train decided to take the all cars at once and all 18 cars left the tracks on the trestle and landed in the creek bed below. Workers removed the flatcars from the creek bed as they represented nearly half of the railroad rolling stock. However, the granite was left behind, where it remains to this day.

 

History Center, Railroad vertical file. Austin, Texas

 

II. OVERVIEW

During 1886 and 1887, 4,000 flat cars of Sunset Red granite passed over a trestle over Brushy Creek on the Austin and Northwestern narrow gauge railroad bound for Austin to be used in the building of the Texas State Capitol. This trestle is located just south of Brushy Creek Road and just west of Parmer Lane. During approximately August 2007 a Cedar Park city park will open on the bluff south of Brushy Creek Road overlooking the railroad trestle. In addition, a Williamson County hike and bike trail is being extended along the base of the bluff through the trestle area.

 

III SIGNIFICANCE

The Texas State Capitol is an important historical structure in Texas. The building of this structure is a significant chapter in the history of the State. The event described in the overview, not only explains the presence of Sunset Red granite in the creek bed under the rail line trestle, but opens a window on the building of the State Capitol. While Cedar Park and Williamson County gathered no direct economic benefit from the transport of the granite for the State Capitol, its place in history will be enhanced and known to many by the installation of this historical marker

 

IV DOCUMENTATION

1. Lucille Latham White, “The Tumlinsons—Texas Rangers”, Old West, Winter, 1981

2. Clara Stearns Scarbrough, Land of Good Water: A Williamson County History (Georgetown, Texas): Williamson County Sun Publishers. 1973)

3. Austin History Center, Capitol vertical file. Austin, Texas 4.Neil Krans, Ten Years of 3’ gauge and Thereafter Concordia High School, 1959

5. Lester Haines, “The Austin and Northwestern Rail Road Company”, Journal of Shortline Railroads, August, September, and October 1998.

6. Southwestern Historical Quarterly Vol. XCV No. ,4 April 1992.

 

  


 

 


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