Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

 

Founding of Georgetown

Historical Marker
Georgetown, Texas

 

 

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marker is located in the Founders park at
Myrtle and 9th St

 

Historical Marker text
According to local tradition Williamson County's first six commissioners met here under a stately oak tree in May 1848 to decide where the county seat should be located. Prominent local landowner George Washington Glasscock, Sr., later joined them and offered to donate an area of land bounded by the tree at one corner and the San Gabriel River to the north and west as a site for the county seat. The commissioners accepted his offer and in July 1848 named the town Georgetown in Glasscock's honor. The landmark oak tree was felled by a storm in 1886. (1994)



 

 

FOUNDING OF GEORGETOWN  - - - narrative

Researched and Written By:

Irene Varan

Signed March 13, 1848, the legislative act creating Williamson County included the appointment of John Berry, Sr., William C. Dalrymple, David C. Cowen (Cowan), Washington Anderson, J. M. Harrell, and J.O. Rice as Commissioners to locate a seat of government for the newly formed County. Choosing a central spot, the six men met in May, 1848 under the shade of a majestic live oak tree just south of the junction of the two forks of the San Gabriel River. As they sat deliberating over possible locations for a county seat, the men were joined by George Washington Glasscock, Sr., partner (with Thomas B. Huling) in a large land development firm. In his account of the incident, W. L. Mann, great grandson of Commissioner Anderson, states Glasscock was riding past on a mule when he spotted his cousin, Wash Anderson. [1] Upon learning the purpose of the meeting, Glasscock tendered a proposition. If the Commissioners would locate the town here and name it Georgetown, he would donate a tract of land, the boundaries to be determined by a line from that same oak tree "due north to the South San Gabriel, and another [line] from the same point due west to the river". [2]

 

Accepting Glasscock's offer, the Commissioners hired surveyors Matthias Wilbarger and D. C. Cowan to mark the 173 acre tract into lots. As stipulated by the Legislature, a public sale of the lots was held on July 4, 1848, and the proceeds used to erect public buildings. [3] Shortly thereafter the Brushy post office was renamed Georgetown, and Francis M. Nash was appointed postmaster on July 27, 1848. [4]

 

Until the first log Courthouse was completed in late 1848 or early 1849, the stately oak in the southeast corner of the new county seat continued to serve as a popular meeting place, and it was there that the first district court met on October 10, 1848. [4]

 

In the early days of the Texas Republic, present Williamson County was still a sparsely settled frontier. Tumlinson Block House, the first fort and trading post, was built near present Leander in 1836. In 1838, Dr. Thomas Kenney built another fort near Round Rock where he and several other families erected log cabin homes inside a stockade fence. [5] The same year George Washington Glasscock, Sr., made a four-week visit to the area to inspect his large land holdings along the San Gabriel River. [6]

 

Born April 14, 1810 in Hardin County, Kentucky, Glasscock had engaged in flat-boating on the Sangamon River in partnership with Abraham Lincoln in 1832. Arriving in Texas in 1834, he fought at the Siege of Bexar. [7] After his marriage to Cynthia C. Knight in Jasper County in 1837, Glasscock moved to Bastrop County. As a surveyor he traveled extensively through­out central Texas, eventually settling near present Georgetown in 1846. In 1853 Glasscock moved to Travis County and represented Travis and Williamson Counties in the Tenth and Eleventh Legislatures. [8] He died at Austin on February 28, 1879. [7]

 

Settlement in the area remained slow-paced until the annexation of Texas in 1847 brought a surge of new arrivals to the state. Soon, a stage line operating from San Antonio to Waco traversed the future county. [9] Newcomers were attracted by the abundant game, timber and lime stone, fertile soil, and plentiful springs and streams in this region that was then a part of Milam County. A major frustration, however, was having to travel fifty miles or more by horseback to Nashville-on-the­Brazos to conduct legal transactions. By early 1848, petitions to form a new county were circulated among the settlers and approval of the Legislature came on March 13, 1848. Rejecting the proposed names of "San Gabriel" and "Clear Water", the Legislature chose instead to honor one of their members, Judge Robert McAlpin Williamson. [10]

 

Having served as a Major in the Texas Rangers, and later as circuit judge in the Milam District during the Texas Republic, Judge Williamson was widely known and respected in the county named for him, though he was never to reside here. Born in Georgia around 1805, Williamson was admitted to the bar at the age of 19. [10] A disabling childhood illness had left his right knee permanently stiffened, his leg drawn back at the knee. Since he wore a wooden leg from that knee to the ground, he was known as "Three-Legged Willie".  Williamson came to Texas in 1826, fought in the the Battle of San Jacinto, and served with Sam Houston on the commission to draft the Texas constitution. [11] In a speech before the Texas Senate in 1891, more than thirty years after Williamson's death at Wharton County on December 22, 1859, The Hon. George Clark of Waco eulogized the "judge statesman, soldier and patriot", attributing him with "a patriotism and an eloquence at least equal to Patrick Henry". [12]

 

The landmark tree which had played such an important role in the history of Williamson County was felled by a storm on June 15, 1886. In 1930, desiring to "mark for posterity the spot on which history was made in Central Texas", [13] the Daniel Coleman Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, obtained permission of property owner John Cluck, and commissioned stonemason N. R. Lewis to erect a 4' x 3' x 19" red granite monument on the spot where the large oak once stood. Mr. Lewis' original bid of $125 for materials and labor was later increased by $5 after Lewis deemed it necessary to remove the tree roots before he could provide his usual guarantee of 35 years. [14]

 

More than one thousand people gathered to hear Governor Dan Moody's address at the dedication ceremony on May 8, 1930. Because of rain, the event was held in the district court room, opening with a prayer by the Honorable J. E. Cooper. Accompanied by the Pirate Band, under the direction of Ed Onstat, the audience sang "America". Eagle Scout Elizabeth Edwards led the salute to the flag and the American's Creed. Boy Scouts participated as color bearers. Representing the Daniel Coleman Chapter, Mrs. W. H. Moses presented the marker as a double memorial, "to the county as the spot on which the county site was located, and to the city as the spot of [its] birth." Judge E. M. Grimes, Jr. and Mayor M. F. Smith accepted on part of the county and the city. [13]

 

Present that day were descendants of George Washington Glasscock, Sr., and five of the Commissioners responsible for locating and naming Georgetown. No descendants of D. C. Cowan had been located. Also attending were Mrs. Sabra Smalley Purcell, born in the county two years before its creation; Ed. R. Anderson, first child born in the county after its creation; John H. Griffith, president of the Williamson County Historical Association; Judge James R. Hamilton of Austin; and other prominent citizens. 94-year-old Dave Makemson was presented as the only living witness to the historic event being commemorated. [13] This writer has found no written evidence to substantiate his claim that, as a lad of 12, he was present and heard the conversation between Glasscock and the Commissioners.

 

Gavels made of wood from the old oak tree were presented to Mrs. John M. Cluck, on whose land the tree had stood; and to Mrs. W. H. Moses, Regent of the Daniel Coleman Chapter, NSDAR. A third gavel, presented by Robert Fulton, who made it, was accepted by F. C. Humphrey, vice president of the Old Settlers Association in the absence of the president, James H. Faubion. [13]

 

Until 1991 when the City of Georgetown acquired the land for the purpose of enlarging an adjacent parking lot, the property on the corner of Church and Ninth (formerly Locust) streets where the famous tree once stood had remained in private ownership. The concept of establishing a park originated after a group of concerned citizens joined in a crusade to preserve the site where the decision was made to create the town of Georgetown as the seat of government for Williamson County. Today, it is the site of the new Founders Park designed by local architect, David Voelter. Deemed to be a potential traffic hazard, the massive granite monument was moved from the southeast corner of the lot to a prominent place in the center of the park.

 

The Daniel Coleman Chapter and citizens of the county would like to see an Official Texas Historical Marker erected on the site where the tree and monument once stood. Without obstructing the view of traffic at the intersection, it would serve to pinpoint a very significant spot in the history of our town and county.

 

 

Researched and Written By:

Irene Varan

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. SCARBROUGH, Clara Stearns. Land of Good Water. Georgetown: Williamson County Sun Publishers, (Third Ed.) 1980, p.124

2. MAKEMSON, W. K. Historical Sketch of First Settlement and Organization of Williamson County. Georgetown: Sun Print, 1904, p. 14

3. SCARBROUGH, Clara Stearns. Land of Good Water. p. 125.

4. Ibid, p. 166

5. Ibid, p. 83

6. Ibid, p. 87

7. WEBB, Walter Prescott. The Handbook of Texas, Vol I. Copyright Texas State Historical Association. Fort Worth: Marvin D. Evans Co. 1952, P. 694

8. SCARBROUGH, Clara Stearns. Land of Good Water. p. 127

9. Ibid, p. 108

10. Ibid, p. 122

11. WEBB, Walter Prescott. The Handbook of Texas, Vol II, p. 78

12. HUNTER, Marvin J. Frontier Times, Vol 5, No.10. Bandera: July 1928, pp 385-387

13. TAYLOR, Maggie Bell. Report on Dedication Ceremony, May 8, 1830. For original, contact Nelma Wilkinson, 904 River Bend, Georgetown 78628, Tel. (512) 863-5608. (Copy in possession of Williamson CHC.)

14. Minutes of Meetings, Daniel Coleman Chapter, NSDAR, April 8, 1930. p. 184 For original, contact Nelma Wilkinson, 904 River Bend, Georgetown 78628, Tel. (512) 863-5608. (Copy in possession of Williamson CHC.)

 

 


 

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