Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

  The Tumlinson Blockhouse
Historical marker
Cedar Park, Texas


Blockhouse
Hwy 183 (N. Bell Blvd) at
Block House Dr.
(1.5 miles south of 2243)


 
Blockhouse - Tumlinson  Marker Text  
Built by Texas Rangers under Captain John J. Tumlinson in 1836. Destroyed by Indians in 1837. This was the first white man's post in Williamson County.
 



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GPS Coordinates:
Latitude: 30.542914, Longitude: -97.839389
 
 
     
 


The Tumlinson Blockhouse
Historical narrative by Walton Hinds

The Texas Revolution, like most wars, was really started by an active minority. The majority was too busy making a living to instigate or purpose a War. Mexico had dealt harshly with the Texans, but most of them did not think of such a thing as war until actual fighting was taking place. There was no army, and the equipment necessary for soldiers to win battles was lacking. These things had to be secured at once if success was to be accomplished.

The result was that every man reporting for service was used in the fighting against the Mexicans. Attention was diverted from the frontier; and the Indians, probably more bloodthirsty than the enemy from the south, were left free to attack the settlers at will. Raids became so numerous that the Provisional Government decided something must be done. A plan was hit upon whereby volunteers were to be called for the special purpose of protecting the people from the Indians.

Capable men were commissioned to raise these forces and organize them into what was called Rangers. They were to protect the distant settlements and settlers and if necessary to come to the aid of the country against Mexico. Their wages were to be paid by the citizens of the sections they patrolled.

A Ranger force was needed to protect the frontier just above Austin, therefore, Captain Tumlinson was commissioned to raise a company for that purpose. Early in January 1836, he reported that he had a company of sixty mounted men ready for service. The entire company had been gathered from the territory along the Colorado River and was well acquainted with the country over which they were to range. Austin had not been located at that time, and the place designated for the Rangers to gather was at Hornsby's Rend on the Colorado River about ten miles below the place where Austin now stands. The evening the company met, a lady by the name of Mrs. Ribbons came into camp and reported that her husband and one small child had been killed by a raiding band of Comanche Indians. Mrs. Hibbons and her older child had been taken captive, but she had escaped a short time afterward and had come to get help in rescuing her child from the Indians.

Captain Tumlinson and his men, with Reuben Hornsby as guide, took the trail soon after supper that evening, and by ten o'clock the next morning they came upon the camp of the Comanche's. Taking the Indians by surprise, the Rangers easily rescued the child and captured all the horses they possessed. After this experience, the troops proceeded to their appointed station on the headwaters of Brushy Creek where they built a blockhouse or fort and called it TUMLINSON BLOCKHOUSE. They made their headquarters there until the latter part of February, when the invasion of Santa Anna made it necessary for them to be recalled.

This is the first known habitation of white men in the territory which is now called Williamson County. The place at present is called Block House Springs and is marked by the home of Judge A. S. Walker. Soon after the Rangers left it in 1836, the Indians came and burned the building and no one returned to build it again.

When the Ranger force under Captain Tumlinson withdrew, they fell back to Bastrop, for all available forces were to be concentrated at Gonzales to meet the large army Santa Anna was bringing into Texas.

Again the frontier was left open to Mexican and Indian raids. Families were coming into Bastrop by droves seeking protection. The Rangers were used for some time to cover the retreat of these people from the frontier. Captain Tumlinson and his first Lieutenant, Jo Rogers, turned the command over to Major R. M. Williamson and went to move their families to a place of safety. Williamson had been appointed Commander-in-Chief for the Ranger forces.

Historical narrative by Walton Hinds

view write-up
Originally Published October of 2005 in The Community Newsletter
A Little Bit of Local History  - - Tumlinson’s Fort at Block House Creek





Tumlinson - Blockhouse Fort
Historical Narrative by Karen R. Thompson


In the 1820s and 30s, the Anglo American settlers in the Province of Texas were justly concerned with the problems of Indians. Texas was still a part of the Republic of Mexico, but settlers were taking a greater role in acquiring self-government. A Provisional Government of Texas was organized in 1835 to assist the settlers in gaining political power and have a more effective voice in governmental issues. This led to the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos.

In October 1835, the General Council of the Provisional Government created the ranging companies and charged them with the task of guarding the settlers on the Brazos, Colorado and Trinity Rivers. (As early as 1823, the first "Texas Rangers" were employed by Stephen F. Austin as a private army of ten men to protect the early colonists from Indian attacks) The three companies which comprised the Texas Rangers each had a captain and a first and second lieutenant, under the direction of a major. The first three captains were Isaac Burton, Wm. H. Arrington and John J. Tumlinson. Robert M. Williamson was elected major. Privates enlisted for a period of one year and were given $1.25 per day for "pay, rations, clothing, and horse services." Rangers provided their own horses and ammunition. [1]

Noah Smithwick, in his book The Evolution of a State or Recollections of Old Texas Days, tells it this way: "Captain Tumlinson was commissioned to raise a company on the Colorado and early in January, 1836, he reported for duty with a company of sixty mounted men, myself included. We were assigned to duty on the head waters of Brushy creek, some thirty miles northwest of the site of the present capital, that city not having been even projected then. The appointed rendezvous was Hornsby's station, ten miles below Austin on the Colorado, from which place we were to proceed at once to our post, taking with us such materials as were necessary to aid us in the construction of a block house." [2]

"We went on up to our appointed station, where we built the old Tumlinson blockhouse, making it our headquarters till the invasion of Santa Anna necessitated our recall, after which it was burned by the Indians and never rebuilt. And, save this old dismantled hulk, there is not, to my knowledge, one of those old Tumlinson rangers now living." [3]

In further explanation, Smithwick states: "Looking back through the long vista of sixty years and recalling the hard road we old pioneers had to travel, it seems almost miraculous that any are left to tell the tale. The old Tumlinson rangers were made up of citizens of Bastrop county, among, them being Joseph Rodgers, who was first lieutenant; James Edmunston, Jimmie Curtice, Hugh M. Childers, John Williams, Joe Berry, Jim Hamilton, Oliver Buckman, orderly sergeant; Calvin Barker, Felix W. Goff, Ganey Crosby, familiarly known as "Choctaw Tom"; Joe Weeks and many others whose names I do not now recall. To the best of my knowledge they have all passed off the stage. Captain Tumlinson died over on the Brazos; Joseph Rodgers was killed by Indians between Coleman's fort and Hornsby's; Petty second lieutenant, after tearing up his commission during the runaway scrape, as formerly related, disappeared from view-he had probably had enough of military glory; John Williams was (this site was actually Kenney Fort near Round Rock) killed by Indians, in Reuben Hornsby's corn field, with Howell Haggett; Joe Berry was one of the unfortunate Mier expedition, and was murdered by the Mexicans while lying helpless in bed with a broken leg; Joe Weeks was killed in a private difficulty; James Edmunston came to California during the great gold excitement of '49 and was, up to a few years ago, living in the northern part of the state." [4]

In a scouting mission in 1837, Smithwick said the fort walls were covered with Indian drawings, every loose board being similarly ornamented, and was burned down by Indians shortly thereafter. [5]

"At Tumlinson Fort (1836), the Comanche's left samples of their art upon the walls of the block house. Exceptionally skilled as artists, they painted with charcoal or colored chalk upon smooth bark of trees, flat stones or boards. The subject was always the same - Indians chasing buffalo. Comanche's still occupied parts of Williamson County as late as 1838 and continued to raid the area occasionally about twenty years longer." [6]

After Texas gained independence at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, the area of Travis and Williamson counties began to be settled. Austin was founded in 1839 and Williamson County was organized in 1848.

The land where the Tumlinson Blockhouse Fort was located was granted to Sherwood J. Dover in a First Class Headright land grant #1-98 for a league, 4,428.4 acres, and patented
on March 24, 1841. [7]

The property was owned for 100 years by four generations of the Alexander Stuart Walker family. Alexander Stuart Walker Sr. (1826-1896) and his wife Anna Jane Wilbarger Walker lived for many years in Georgetown. On May 7, 1860 Walker registered the DX cattle brand in Williamson County. It was soon after that, mid-1860's, that Walker received the land near Leander that the Tumlinson Blockhouse Fort is located on. Their son Alexander Stuart Walker Jr. was born in Georgetown on November 27, 1865 and received his law degree from The University of Texas. In 1885 the UT Ex-Students Association was organized and A. S. Walker Jr. was elected its first secretary. He served as Travis County attorney from 1891 to 1896 and was County Judge from 1896 to 1900. Among Judge Walker's prominent friends were William Jennings Bryan and his wife, who visited and hunted at the ranch in December 1908.

A. S. Walker had received the ranch as a payment of a legal fee. A railroad was run through the ranch in the 1880s when the granite Capitol building was being built and the railroad flag station at the ranch was known as Walkerton. From 1913 to 1920 Judge Walker served as the Texas Collector of internal revenue under the appointment of Woodrow Wilson. Walker Jr. died in 1933, leaving the ranch to his son Alexander Stuart Walker III. A. S. Walker III and his wife Mary raised their family at the ranch. Since then, it has been developed into a housing community known as the Settlement at Block House Creek. The developers have restored the lovely old rock home that Judge Walker had built next to the old "lookout" tree at the fort site on Brushy Creek." [8]
 



I first saw the Tumlinson Blockhouse Fort site and tree in 1960 when I became friends with Mrs. A. S. Walker III (Mary). I could easily see where steps had been cut into the oak tree. The huge oak tree was showing signs of age and had many dead limbs. The Walkers had fenced off the tree so their cattle could not damage it.

In the mid-twentieth century Dr. James Edwin Pearce of The University of Texas estimated the tree to be at least five hundred years old. From the lookout, early in 1836, the Rangers had a good view of the horizon since the only timber grew along the banks of the creeks. [9]

Mary Walker said the Blockhouse Creek, a tributary of Brushy Creek, that ran nearby (25-30 yards south of the tree) was spring fed and had never gone dry in 100 years. Indeed, she always had fresh watercress from the creek. She told me about the findings of the archaeologist (Pearce) who had studied the 54 Indian mounds (middens) on the ranch. My husband David was a special friend of A. S. Walker III and had hundreds of arrowheads from the Walker Ranch, he still has many in his arrowhead collection. Nothing remains of the old fort or the "lookout" tree which died in the late 1970s and was cut down.

During the Texas Centennial in 1936 a large gray granite marker to commemorate the fort was erected by the State of Texas. It is located on the east side of U. Si Highway 183 just south of the Leander city limits. The marker was originally located on the west side of U. S. 183 but in about 1980 it was moved to the east side of the highway.

The centennial marker reads:
Site, of

A BLOCK HOUSE
BUILT BY TEXAS RANGERS UNDER
CAPTAIN JOHN J. TUMLINSON IN 1836. DESTROYED BY INDIANS IN 1837. THIS WAS THE FIRST WHITE MAN'S POST IN WILLIAMSON COUNTY.
Erected by the State of Texas 1936



Bibliography and Endnotes PDF



view write-up
Originally Published October of 2005 in The Community Newsletter
A Little Bit of Local History  - - Tumlinson’s Fort at Block House Creek



view more history of Cedar Park Texas