Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

  William Oliver Spencer
Historical Marker
Liberty Hill, Texas

the marker is in the Liberty Hill Cemetery - 2 miles west past downtown
Liberty Hill on Hwy 29


 
 
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GPS Points
Latitude: 30.67780, longitude: -97.94810
 

 
 

William Oliver Spencer - - 1810 - 1896
Historical Narrative
 
The mid-nineteenth century brought a few families with a real pioneer spirit to the western part of Williamson County. At a time when Texas had fought for and gained its independence from Mexico and given statehood status in the United States, this area of Texas was confronted by raiding bands of Indians. Many people are remembered and revered for their part in establishing the frontier in the early days of Texas development. One such man should be remembered for all history to recall is the Reverend William O. Spencer, the founder and first Postmaster of Liberty Hill, Texas. [1]
 
He was born in the Territory of Illinois, what is now Lawrence County, one of seven children born to William and Rachel Spencer. [2] He spent his early manhood in Canton, Illinois where he was married to Miss Amy Wilcoxen, July 19, 1829. [3]
 
In 1838 he went to Washington County, Arkansas and lived there until the fall of 1847, when he came to Bastrop County, Texas. While residing in Bastrop his wife Amy died on January 12, 1863. [4]
 
The 3rd day of October 1853 found him in Williamson County where he lived in a new home he had built on 553 acres of land he had purchased, 3 miles west of the present town of Liberty Hill. [5] He was one of the earliest settlers in western Williamson County. At that time there was no Post Office in that part of the country. Sending and receiving mail was difficult.
 
One day in 1853 Congressman General Rusk, a prominent figure in early Texas history, accompanied by a body of Rangers camped near the Spencer home. General Rusk was invited to supper at the Spencer home. After the meal Mr. Spencer stated his desire to have a Post Office located in this part of the county. General Rusk being Chairman of the Post Office Committee in Congress, sat down and began writing a recommendation that a Post Office be located here and that William O. Spencer should be Postmaster. Congressman General Rusk asked for a suitable name for the new Post Office and Mr. Spencer thinking of the free and easy character of the people, answered "Call it Liberty Hill General." [6] William 0. Spencer served as Postmaster from December 2, 1853 to November 10, 1855 and again from November 3, 1856 to September 15, 1860. [7]
 
As a young man he was a soldier in the Black Hawk War, in Illinois, and was commissioned under the Governor as Major. [8]' During the Civil War he raised two small companies to guard against Indian raids, one to relieve the other. [9]
 
William O. Spencers' formal education consisted of nine nights in a grammar school. The rest of his education he picked up at home. He was licensed to preach in 1843 and ordained in 1856 at the Old Zion Baptist Church in Burnet County, Texas.[10] His field of labor as a preacher was from the lower end of Bastrop County through Burnet, Llano, San Saba and Lampasas Counties and the western borders of Bell County. He assisted in organizing the Zion Church, the Lampasas, the old and new Liberty Hill churches, and others that have since been dissolved. He baptized quite a number of people at all of these places. [11] He was Pastor of the Lampasas Baptist Church from 1861 until 1868. [12] He preached occasionally at Austin while living in both Bastrop and Williamson County. He preached the First Baptist Sermon ever preached in Burnet County, in the house of Bro. J.L. Roundtree. The congregation were all women. The men were absent surveying land. [13]
 
In 1854 William O. Spencer returned to Canton, Illinois and married Margaret Spencer, the widow of his brother, James Spencer. They returned to Liberty Hill with her three small children. He had three children by his first marriage and he and Margaret had three children. [15] They continued to reside on his farm until Christmas 1873, when he moved to Liberty Hill to the house known far and wide as the Spencer Hotel, where refreshments and lodging were provided for the passengers of the stage lines. In 1884 he gave up the Hotel business and moved to a new home he had built to live out his remaining years."
 
He was made a Mason in July 1856 at Mt. Horeb, Texas. In 1837 he was made a Royal Arch Mason. [17] He was a member of Mountain Lodge No. 277 in Burleson Springs, Williamson County, Texas. He was Worshipful Master of that lodge in 1868. He demitted from that lodge in 1871 and became a member of Mt. Horeb Lodge No. 127. He was a charter member of the Liberty Hill Masonic Lodge No. 432. The charter was granted on June 5, 1875. Although he never served as Worshipful Master of the Liberty Hill Masonic Lodge, he has had a son, great nephew and four great great nephews who have served in that capacity. [18]
 

Soon after the Austin and Northwestern Railroad was built through Liberty Hill in 1882, the two-room school held in the local church was outgrown. The railroad brought a burst of population growth. In a petition filed with the State of Texas, "praying for the establishment of a State Normal School at Liberty Hill", one petition stated the population of the town was 450, that the school grounds were ample and the new building had 5 school rooms, a good office with a small library, a good college hall; also a good underground cistern. The school ground was fenced, all complete and clear of debt. The charter to Liberty Hill for Liberty Normal and Business College was granted in 1884. Among the Incorporators of the new school was Reverend William 0. Spencer. The school had its grand opening in January 1885, claiming to be the largest and most progressive normal in the state. [19]
 
William 0. Spencer died on Sunday September 20, 1896 at the age of 86 years and 18 days, [20] having spent the last half of his life as a leader in the community which he gave its name. He was laid to rest in the Liberty Hill Cemetery one mile east of the farm on which he first settled upon coming to Williamson County, Texas.
 
  
1 - Texas State Archives - Wheat Collection, Postmasters and Post Offices of Texas 1846-1930. Film #976.4 - W56p -2.
2 - Biographical History of Milam Williamson, Bastrop, Travis, Lee and Berleson Counties, pp 740. The Lewis Publishing Co., 1893.
3 - J.M. Carroll Collection, File #441 - Texas Baptist Historical Collection, Ft. Worth.
4 - Biographical History of Milam Williamson, Bastrop, Travis, Lee and Burleson Counties, pp 740. The Lewis Publishing Co., 1893.
5 - J.M. Carroll Collection, File #441 - Texas Baptist Historical Collection, Ft. Worth.
6 - Biographical History of Milam Williamson, Bastrop, Travis, Lee and Burleson Counties, pp 740-741. The Lewis Publishing Co., 1893.
7 - Texas State Archives - Wheat Collection, Postmaster and Post Offices of Texas 1846-1930 Film #976.4 - W56P - 2.
8 - J.M. Carroll Collection, File #441 - Texas Baptist Historical Collection, Ft. Worth.
9 - Texas Magazine - Vol. 11, pp. 234, J.B. Fink Copyright 1892.
10 - Texas Magazine - Vol 11, pp 233, J.B. Fink Copyright 1892.
11 - Texas Magazine - Vol. 11, pp 233, J.B. Fink Copyright,
1892.
12 - Church records, First Baptist Church, Lampasas, Texas.
13 - Texas magazine - Vol. 11, pp.233-234, J.B. Fink Copyright, 1892.
no # 14 was used
15 - Passed down as family folklore.
16 - J.M. Carroll Collection, File #441 Historical Collection, Ft. Worth. - Texas Baptist
17 - J.M. Carroll Collection, File #441 Historical Collection, Ft. Worth. - Texas Baptist
18 - Lodge records - Liberty Hill Masonic Lodge, No. 432, Liberty Hill, Texas.
19 - Land of Good Water, pp. 254-255. Clara Stearns Scarborough - Williamson Co. Sun Press, Georgetown, Texas 1980 Third Edition.
20 - J.M. Carroll Collection, File #441 - Texas Baptist Historical Collection, Ft. Worth.
 

 
 
William O Spencer and Margaret Spencer
 

 

Margaret Spencer

 

 


William Oliver Spencer bio


William Oliver Spencer, a successful farmer of Williamson county, is a son of William and Rachel (Brooks) Spencer. The grandfather of our subject, Moses Spencer, was born and raised in New York, and after marriage located on a farm near Albany. His land was taken from him, however, by Van Rensselaer, who obtained a grant from the British Government, and he lost his entire possessions.

With a family consisting of a wife and one child, the father of our subject, he then emigrated to Pendleton District, South Carolina, where he remained until after the Revolutionary war, in which he served as a private soldier during the entire struggle. Late in the last century the family located in Barren county, Kentucky, where William Spencer grew to Manhood, having been born in 1771. He was married there to Lorania Snow, and they had three children, all of whom are now deceased. The wife. also died. The father then moved to Illinois, locating near the Indiana line, where he married the mother of our subject, a lady of Irish birth. The family continued to reside in Illinois until 1854, when the mother died, and the children having married and left home, the father went to live with a daughter in Iowa. He died there in 1857. Mr. and Mrs. Spencer were the parents of seven children: Betsy, deceased; William O., our subject; Jane A., John M.,• James B. and Rachel, deceased; and Thomas C., a resident of Livingston county, Illinois. Mr. Spencer was a farmer by occupation, a Whig in politics, a Baptist in religious faith,. and was a prominent man in his community. He served many years as a Justice of the Peace. During the war of 1812 he lived on the Wabash river, and by personal request of General Harrison, then Governor of Indiana,- remained at home and took charge of the mills of that section.

William Oliver Spencer, the subject of this sketch, was born in the then Territory of Illinois, in what is now Lawrence county, September 2, 1810. In 1824 he moved with his parents to Fulton county, west of Illinois river, where he grew to manhood, and was there married.

From 1838 to 1851 the family resided in Washington county, near Fayette, Arkansas. In 1847 they came on a prospecting tour to Texas, remaining in Bastrop about one year, and in 1849 returned to Arkansas. In 1851 they sold their possessions in that State, and again came to Texas, remaining in Bastrop until after the wife's death. Mr. Spencer then purchased 553 acres of land at his present location, three miles above the present site of Liberty Hill, and was one of the earliest settlers in this part of the county. For several years after locating here, Liberty Hill was without a post office. One day General Rusk, a prominent figure in early Texas history, camped a short distance from Spencer's home, with a body of rangers. He was invited to supper at the latter's, house, and after the meal Mr. Spencer stated his desire to have a post office located in this part of the county. As General Rusk was a member of Congress and Chairman of the Post Office Committee, he sat down and began writing a recommendation that an office be. located here, and that our subject should be the Postmaster.

Mr. Spencer was asked for a suitable name for the office, and, thinking of the free and easy character of the people, answered, "Call it Liberty Hill, General." Mr. Spencer held the office several years, and then resigned the position in favor of the first merchant that located in this section.

Mr. Spencer was first married July 19, 1829, to Amy Wilcoxon. They had twelve children, only four of whom grew to years of maturity, viz.: Eliza Ann, widow of J. T. Miller, and a resident of Austin; Emily, deceased; J. M., of Belton, Texas; and Ellen, wife of J. W. Owen, also of that county. The wife and mother died in Bastrop, January 12, 1853. In 1854 our subject returned on a visit to Fulton county, Illinois, and was there married to Mrs. Margaret Spencer, who was born in Fayette county, Pennsylvania, May 4, 1826, a daughter of William B. and Mary (Reagan) Smilie. On the maternal side, the family located in the latter county from Wales before the Revolutionary war. The Smilie family are of Irish descent, the great-grandfather of Mrs. Spencer, John Sniffle, having emigrated to America from that country. He was one of the first settlers of Fayette county, Pennsylvania, and while there was prominent in public: affairs, having represented Pennsylvania in the United States Senate. The grandfather, Robert P. Smilie, passed his entire life in that county. Mr. and Mrs. William B. Smilie had seven children: Weldon R., of Woodford 'county, Illinois; Margaret C., wife of our subject; Robert P., of Liverpool, Fulton county, Illinois; Harriet, wife of C. A. Babcock; Norvol, deceased; and Norman and David H., of Stella, Nebraska. Margaret Smilie was first married in Fulton county, Illinois, where her father had moved his family in 1841, in 1844, to James B. Spencer, a younger brother of her present husband. They had four children: Theodore, of Lovelock,. Butte county; California; Ann E., wife of J. M. Spencer, of Belton, Texas; Harriet E., widow of Jeff J. Miller, who lives with her parents; and William A., of Liberty Hill. Mr. and Mrs. .William O. Spencer have also had four children: Perry, deceased; Oliver, of Liberty Hill; Lizzie, wife of M. C. Hurley, of Ft. Worth, Texas; and 'Tau, now .Mrs. J. M. Grant, also of that city.
 


 

 

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