Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

  Double File Trail
Historical Marker
Round Rock, Texas


 
 

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Latitude: 30.520153 - Longitude: -97.643856



 
 

THE DOUBLE FILE TRAIL In Williamson County

by Myreta Matthews July 3,1979

 

(Brushy Creek Crossing at Kenny Fort)

The Double File Trail was carved through Williamson County in 1828 by the Delaware Indians. They were moving from the "Redlands" in East Texas to the Southwest and into Mexico. On the way the trail crossed many rivers and creeks. Beginning in northeast Williamson County the trail crossed Donahoe Creek, San Gabriel River, Brushy Creek and many small streams in between. It crossed, what is now Texas Highway 95, south of Bartlett, Texas 29, east of Georgetown, and United States Highway 79, east of Round Rock as well as the network of Farm-Market Roads and County Roads. This early "highway" was used not only by the Indians for their visits back and forth, but by early Texans, including Texas Rangers and the Santa Fe Exped­ition effort.

 

The history of the Double File Trail was, well documented in the narrative by Clara Scarbrough [1] and W.K. Makemson [2] in the application for the marker placed on SH 29, in 1978.

 

The 1978 application for an Historical Marker was approved for The Double File Trail [3] in Williamson County and was placed 4.2 miles east of Georgetown on Texas Highway 29, a short distance from where the trail crossed the San Gabriel River. Permission was granted by

the Texas Historical Commission to relocate the Santa Fe Expedition Marker [4] and erect the two side by side as recent research indicated the two historical events were closely related. The Santa Fe Expedition Marker was moved about one mile west from its former location to this apparently more accurate site and where it is now more accessible and where it is less likely to be vandalized. (It has bullet holes, now.)

 

Dedication ceremonies were held for the two Markers on March +,1979. [5]

 

The program is included The Williamson County Historical Commission believes another place on this "Trail" is significant enough to be considered an Historic Landmark.  The Double File Trail laid out by Delaware Indians in 1828, continued in use by settlers as well as Indians, crossed Brushy Creek Matthews Double File Trail - Brushy Creek near Round Rock where ten years later a settlement was established by Dr. Thomas Kenny and Joseph Barnhart.

 

Mr. Makemson [6] stated, "There is no fact in the history of this section of the country better established than that Kenny's Fort was situated on the south bank of Brushy Creek and about 250 yards below the point where the Katy Railroad bridge crosses the Creek, and where the public road now crosses a short distance below this bridge is where the old "Trail" crossed."

The Kenny Fort Historical Marker was erected by the Texas Centennial Committee in 1936. This Gray granite shaft is 21- miles east of Round Rock on the south side of United States Highway 79.

 

The script [7] of the Kenny Fort Marker presents evidence that the trail was indeed an important factor in the early history of Texas and, is of particular interest to Williamson County.

 

It seems this site is an appropriate place for a second Double File Marker. Some Round Rock citizens hope that a small roadside park can be arranged with the help of the Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation.

 

On the small hand drawn map [8] it will be noted that the existing "Trail" marker is on a Texas Highway (SH 29) and the proposed second marker is to be on a Federal Highway (US 79). Both roads are east-west in direction and only ten or twelve miles apart but are essentially different routes of travel.

 

We want to call attention to this significant beginning of roadways. It compares favorably with the present day Interregional Highway 35 ----one hundred and fifty years later. It even , more or less) parallels it through one-half of its course in Williamson County. Our old pathways in Texas History are becoming lost in the rapidly expanding and changing communities and transportation systems in the immediate area surrounding Austin. This marking could be a step in preservation of the story.

 

 

FOOTNOTES

1. Clara Scarbrough, Double File Trail Narrative in 1978 application

for marker on SH 29

2. W.K. Makemson, FRONTIER TIMES, March 1929, page 230

3. The Double File Trail Marker Script (1978)

4. Santa Fe Expedition Marker Script (1970)

5. Program of Dedication, March 4,1979

6. W.K. Makemson, FRONTIER TIMES, March 1929, page 230

7. Kenny Fort Marker Script (1936)

8. Map of section of Williamson County

Bibliography

Clara Scarbrough, The Double File Trail in Williamson County, 1978 William K Makemson, The Double File Trail, Frontier Times, March 1929 Marker Scripts for The Double File Trail

The Santa Fe Expedition

Kenny Fort

Dedication Program

Area Map of Williamson County

 


 

 
 
 

The Double File Trail in Williamson County

by Clara S. Scarbrough May 8, 1978

 

The Double File Trail, laid out about 1828 or 1829 by Delaware Indians, joins "The Redlands; as the Delaware called their onetime East Texas home, with a section of Mexico near the Rio Grande in the area of present Nuevo Laredo. [1]

 

Some of the Delaware tribe, who gradually migrated westward as the Anglo movement west from the American colonies made expedient, had moved west of the Sabine River about 1820. In the early 1600s, they occupied New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania and Delaware; about 1770 they moved to Indiana, and in 1789 some went to Missouri and later to Arkansas. From there they drifted into Texas, living in the general area of present Nacogdoches. Jean Louis Berlandier cited figures of Stephen F. Austin, David G. Burnet and others estimating that from 200 to 250 families of Delaware occupied the section of East Texas the Indians called "The Redlands" during the decade of the 1820s, but by 1830, Berlandier states that only 150 families remained there. [2] Those who left established the Double File Trail as they sought new living space south of the Rio Grande. Some of the tribe remained in East Texas and periodically they used the trail to visit their relations in Mexico, or those to the south returned to their former home in Texas via that route. 3

 

The route chosen by the Delaware joined good river and creek crossings in Williamson County--crossings which had been used by buffalo for fording the streams--and followed in a general way the smoother contours of the land a few miles east of the rugged Balcones Escarpment. Within a few years after the trail was cleared, it was utilized by the Texans, including surveying parties, explorers, the earliest settlers to what would become Williamson County the Texas Rangers, and military expeditions. [4]

 

More specifically, the Double File Trail crossed the Colorado River (in present Travis County) near Webberville, east of Waterloo/Austin; entered Williamson County south of Kenney Fort and crossed Brushy Creek where Kenney Fort was established a decade later. This crossing was 250 yards below the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad bridge near the Fort and also not far from Palm Valley Church east of Round Rock. As the trail approached Palm Valley, it turned west and passed just west of the Freeman Smalley graveyard, which is about .7 mile north of State Highway 79 and a few hundred feet south of a gravel road which leads east from FM Road 1460. It continued over the hill in Merrell's field past Frank Smalley's house south of Chandler Branch, went by the Bony Ferguson (later J. M. Jester) place and up Chandler Branch past the widow Chandler's home (later Thomas Thaxton), crossed Chandler Branch and turned east, passing by the west end of Mesquite Flat near the east line of Henry Tisdale's field. Near there, it climbed to a high point near a clump of live oaks, passing east of

the Joseph Barnhart place (later owned by William and Henry Palm, John Caldwell, and in 1978 is the fine, restored home of John Nash). It continued northward and east to near the two story home of J. J. Johnson (near County Road 100), turning east to cross Mankin's Branch

near the Richard Sansom (later LaRue) place, and on to the San Gabriel River, where it crossed the stream 75 or 80 yards below where Towns Mill Dam was later built. It crossed a small branch near the Elias Queen residence on Queen Hill, east of present Weir, forded Opossum Creek on the Dick Robbins place east of Walburg, and continued in an easterly direction, bearing a little to the north, across Donahoe Creek and into present Bell County. It then headed for Bryant's Station on Little River (between Davilla and Buckholts), crossed Little River between Bryant's Station and Three Forks (just below the Forks). The Trail crossed the Brazos River at Sarahville de Viesca  (later the town of Milam), near the Falls and present Marlin. [5]

 

Jim (sometimes Jem) Shaw, a Delaware who served as scout and interpreter to the Texas Army in the 1840s and 1850s, said that those of his tribe who made the trail rode in two files as they moved from East Texas to Mexico, so that two horsemen could ride along it side by side, or wagons could use the double trail for the wagon wheels. [6]

 

In addition to serving the Delaware tribe as a highway across Texas, the Double File Trail figured in a number of significant historical events of Williamson County. In 1838, pioneer Doctor Thomas Kenney built a fort on Brushy Creek where the Double File

 

** See map.

 

Trail intersected it. Kenney Fort was a way-station for Texas Rangers, explorers, surveyors and pioneers who occasionally passed through this then-sparsely settled section of central Texas. In 1841, the Santa Fe Expedition assembled across the Creek from Kenney Fort,

joined the Double File Trail before reaching Chandler Branch, and continued on that Trail through Williamson County. Its campsite on the first night of the trip was at Double File Trail on San Gabriel River, for which Kendall, Loomis and others have provided considerable

description. The awkwardly-managed Expedition camped at the Trail crossing on Opossum Creek the second night and are believed to have camped on Donahoe Creek their third night. [7]

 

Texas Rangers of the early years often rode the Double File Trail and the confrontation ending the Archives War took place at the Kenney Fort-Double File Crossing site late in 1842. [8] Quartermaster and commissary supply wagons traveled the Trail in the 1840s. In 1846, Captain Shapley Prince Ross and his Rangers were stationed at the Double File Trail crossing on San Gabriel River during the fall and winter. About the same time, Col. W. C. Dalrymple raised his log home on the northeast bank of the River near the Trail and, within a few years, Elias A. Queen and Calvin Weir settled their homesteads nearby. [9]

 

As Williamson County became more populated and roads were built, the Double File Trail was used less and less, but it continued to be useful at times, and in sections, through cattle drive days. The Trail was said to have been easily recognized, if not in continuous use, until the coming of the twentieth century. Early county historian W. K. Makemson, whose interviews with Jim Shaw and knowledge of the early days of the county have provided us much information about the Trail, wrote in 1923 that "this 'Trail' has now, with few exceptions, faded from the memory of man, yet it can be identified at many places . . . by marks still on the around. [10]

 

Probably the best-known section of the Double File Trail in Williamson County after the Civil War was at, its San Gabriel River crossing. Here in 1870, James "Jim" Francis Towns, then age 20, built a flour mill called Excelsior Mill on the east bank along with Towns Mill Dam. He and his brother, Robert W. Towns, and their sons, all mechanics and engineers, operated a thriving business, soon adding a gin nearby, other businesses elsewhere in the county and also at Salado. A community sprang up, known as Townsville. Lucy Weir ran a general store and in 1895, James F. Towns was appointed postmaster of the new Post Office. The projection and building of a railroad nearby from 1890 to 1904 eventually led to the transfer of the store and post office to the new town of Weir created by the railroad, by 1903. The mill, gin, and a blacksmith shop continued to operate at the Double File Crossing site for a number of years, however, a short distance west of Weir. [11]

 

In this same area, just above Towns Mill Dam, the large San Gabriel River spread into a lake. The new railroad also crossed the River at this point and officials decided the lake would make a good resort development. So Katy Lake was widely advertised by the railroad, which offered boat docks, boats, camp grounds, picnic sites, a dance pavilion "and the finest scenery anywhere on the railroad between St. Louis and Georgetown." The place opened in 1904 and operated until 1913, when a flood carried away all the facilities. [12] This last place actively in use along the Double File Trail was out of business, "obliterated by the mutations of time," as Makemson described it. [13]

 

** County map with route of the double File Trail indicated is enclosed.

 

 

FOOTNOTES

 

1. William K. Makemson in Williamson County Sun, April 27, 1923; Scarbrough, 73.

2. Berlandier, 113, 125.

3. Makemson in Sun, ibid.

4. Scarbrough, 73-75.

5. Makemson in Sun, ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Scarbrough, 83-85, 97-101; Kendall, 84-85, 89-91; Loomis, 25.

8. Scarbrough, 73, 101-03.

9. Makemson, Historical Sketch of Williamson County, 10

10. Makemson in Sun, ibid.

11. Scarbrough, 234, 333-34, 459-60.

12. Scarbrough, 334.

13. Makemson in Sur, ibid.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Williamson County Sun, April 27, 1923.

Clara Stearns Scarbrough. Land of Good Water. Sun Publ., Georgetown, 1973.

Jean Louis Berlandier. The Indians of Texas in 1830. Smithsonian

Institution Press, 1969.

W. K. Makemson, Historical Sketch of Williamson County. Sun Print,

Georgetown, Texas, 1904.

 

 

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