Round Rock, Texas History est. 1848

This rock formation, located in Brushy Creek, is the source of the name of the city formerly known as Brushy Creek. “Round Rock” was chosen by Thomas C. Oatts and Jacob M. Harrell as the new name of the community in 1854. Site of the outlaw Sam Bass’s final shootout in 1878, Round Rock has become the largest city in the county, with its population more than doubling from 30,923 in 1990 to 82,040 in 2004.

Courtesy of Karen Thompson


Photographic policies prohibit reproduction - please contact the Williamson museum for reproduction rights. Your interests and the preservation of the materials will be assured by the observance of these policies and procedures. To inquire about the use or purchase of any of these photographs, please contact the museum at (512) 943-1670


An excerpt from the collection of newspaper accounts, stories, articles and many other interesting and unique items. Round Rock, Texas, 1840-1965 (125 Years)


(Historical sketch by Noel Grisham in collaboration with Robert G. Griffith)

Uncertainty and obscurity prevent the fixing of an exact date for the beginning of Round Rock which was first called Brushy. As early as 1835 the area of Round Rock in Williamson County was providing opportunities for settlement by the white man. Tumlinson Fort was built west of Round Rock at the headwaters. Of Brushy Creek as an outpost for the protection of whites and friendly Indian$ of the area. The Comanche Indians were stern enemies of the Tonkawa, friendlier and more nearly civilized tribe which lived along the banks of Brushy Creek (called by eighteenth-century European explorers "Creek of the Blessed Souls"). Indian mounds and campsites are found in abundance from west of Round Reek in the Hutto area. Collectors of Indian relics continue to find, on the surface and through mound diggings, many fine relics left by the red man.

Four years after Fort Tumlinson was established, another fort was established about two miles east of Round Rock on Brushy Creek south of the present Palm Valley Lutheran Church. This fort was built by Dr. Kenney, a medical doctor in the Texas Revolutionary Army. Dr. Kinney, together with a pioneer Round Rock settler, Capt. Nelson Merrill carried on farming interests and capitalized on a good market for buffalo hides and mustang horses. Kinney's Fort, also called Fort Cazeneau, was the site of Texas' Archives War, the historic battle in which not one shot was fired. After this battle, the State Capitol was no longer in transit and was restored to Austin.

With the passing of Indian and Mexican opposition to white settlers, the forts were no longer needed and Round Rock was soon to emerge as a significant early frontier town. Many Swedish families, including the Nelsons, Jacksons, Gustafasons. Andersons, Johnsons, Berkmans, and Petersons came to Round Rock following S. M. Swenson, a fellow countryman who had well established himself in business and farming.

The town of Brushy came to be called Round Rock in tiff! Year 1859 when the first post office was established.

Very soon there was to be Old Round Rock and New Round Rock with Brushy Creek as a boundary line between the two early settlements. With the coming of the railroad in 1876, the Texas Land Company aided in developing a new townsite at the end of the line. As the westernmost limits of the railroad, Round Rock became a booming and prosperous trade center. Merchants came from San Antonio and Austin from the south and from settlements further west to pick up in wagons the merchandise and goods coming in by rail from the North and East.

The Texas, New Yorker, in its February. 1878 issue, describes the towns of Center.; Texas. Round Rock had 1.5011 people: Taylor had 250 settlers, Round Rock had fourteen general merchandise stores, four drug stores, four lumber yards, one bakery, six hotels, and other shops. (At this date Austin had only five hotels compared to Round Rock's six.) Texas, New Yorker stated this about Round Rock in 1878: "The trade of Round Rock is very extensive, and includes a large portion of Williamson County, the Counties of Burnet, Lampasas, San Saba, Mason, Llano, McCulloch, Concho. Coleman, and Brown and portions of Comanche and Hamilton Counties. . Round Rock is the actual gateway to ten of the finest and most rapidly growing frontier counties in Texas. . . "

With Round Rock's strategic location, educational institutions were established between the time of the Civil War and the turn of the century.

Greenwood Masonic Institute dates from the close of the Civil War. Soon after the establishment of this school, the Presbyterians established Round Rock Institute with a fine faculty of scholars front the North and East. Classical studies were stressed. Latin and Greek were offered on a four-year basis. Rev. C. II. Dobbs was the institution's distinguished principal. The Lutherans established Trinity Junior College, which continued until the early 1930s. With the closing of the junior college, there succeeded a children's home, then a home for the aged err the oldest campus in the eastern part of New Round Rock.

In the year 1870, John Wesley Hardin, "Fastest Gun in the West" came to Round Rock and graduated from school with his brother Joe. At this time Professor Landrum, a friend of the fast gun's Methodist Circuit-riding preacher father, administered a test to "Wes". As an able and "fast" strident, Wes passed the test and graduated. Wes Hardin, then eighteen years old, and with eighteen notches on his gun, was being pressed by the Texas Rangers who had followed him from Brenham where he had been gambling and attending horse races with Bill Langley, "The Texan".

Since in early days almost all Central Texas roads led to prosperous Round Rock, another notorious bad man found his way to the thriving town at the intersection of the Chisholm Trail and Brushy Creek. But it was a one-way trip to Round Rock for "Texas Beloved Bandit" or "Robin Hood on a Fast Horse,"— Sam Bass. Sam's attempted bank robbery led only to the digging of new graves after the fury of a gun battle on Main Street, Round Rock. Sheriff Crimes and Sam Bass went to their common and long home at the western limits of Old Round Rock while Frank Jackson, one of Bass' more fortunate accomplices, moved further west and; as the legend suggests, became a respected medical doctor in Arizona.

Significantly, both the good and bad grow side by side, even in Round Rock. If it can be said that Round Rock attracts bad men, it can also be said that Round Rock produces good men as well. Ira Aten, the protagonist of a new book by Hastings House Publishers—The Lone Star Man, portrays the dignity and prowess of the Texas Ranger. Aten was reared in Round Rock. Like Wes Hardin, Aten was the son of its preacher, but the similarity ended here. After a successful and colorful career as a Ranger, Aten retired to California and helped develop the Imperial Valley, which honors him by giving his name to one of its prominent streets.

Round Rock in recent years has recaptured some of its earlier pioneer spirit and has restored some of its zest for enterprise and growth.

Its educational system has been expanded and developed into one of the better systems of Central Texas. Banking and business in general are beginning to expand. An increase in the value of land is becoming phenomenally. Lime plants, stone quarries, and burned dolomite processing plants supply Round Rock with vigorous industry. Cattle and sheep raising together with farming keep the Round Rock economy stimulated.

Through the recent benevolence of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Henna, the Baptists of Texas have established in Round Rock one of their largest children's homes. Trinity Lutheran Home, under the guidance of the Lutheran Welfare Society, is expanding into one of the State's finest homes for the aged.

The expanding, historic town, superbly located as a gateway to the State Capitol and the Highland Lakes, keeps pace with Texas progress. Historically rich in pleasure and pathos, and as a mecca for a large area with beautiful homes on oak-shaded acres, the emerging suburban city of Round Rock continues to display an exciting blend of the old and the new.

(Historical sketch by Noel Grisham in collaboration with Robert G. Griffith)