Florence, est. 1857 Williamson County Texas, History

Florence was first known as "Limp Rag," but no one knows why. In a letter dated January 25, 1854, the town was called Brooksville, but in a deed dated February 7, 1856, the name had changed to Florence.)

Florence is on Farm Road 195, about 13 miles west from Georgetown in northwestern Williamson County. The site was settled in the early 1850s and briefly called Brooksville. By 1857 it was known as Florence when its first post office was established.

Acme Tailor Shop in Florence. Ozias Cantwell stands on the right with two unidentified men. Previously known as Brooksville, the Florence area is noted for ranching.

Courtesy of Jonathan Cantwell

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Florence, earlier called Brooksville. Postmasters were John W. Atkinson (1857), J. C. Smith (1858), John W. Atkinson (1859), P. H. Adams (1864), Smith Brown (1866), Miss Nancy Adams (1868), Ozias Benedict (1868), Philip H. Adams (1870), Wesley Surginer (1871), James P. Moore (1872), Robert B. Caskey (1873), Stephen K. P. Jackson (1882), Sam’l. B. McClain (1885), Madelein Surginer (1890), Mattie A. Surginer (1894), Samuel F. Perry (1895), Joel Preslar (1897), Bessie Cannon (1901), James F. Atkinson (1918), Alton Mullen (1940), W. Henry Taylor (1940), Ernest A. Mullen (1954), James D. Lewis (1966), Oran T. Gray (1967), Cecil Jenkins (1972), Joe Earl Massey (1972).

The population for Florence in 1998 was 1,147.  Florence schools had about 500 students in the 1998 census and 42 teachers. There is a pre-school and elementary building, a junior high, and one high school, although another high school was being built in 1998.  The city park with swimming pool is heavily used, and the football field is just adjacent to the park.  In the 1990s, the already existent Florence Clinic was given to Scott and White Clinic and was being renovated, and was staffed by one doctor. The community has four churches. The Florence Grain Company was the community’s large industry. Florence has three new restaurants, but the community’s growth is inhibited by its limited supply of water. There are many residential subdivisions now, but these use all the water the community gets.  Florence once had considerable agriculture, but this has decreased in recent years. The main crop is hay, and there is some cattle industry.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:
Clara Stearns Scarbrough, Land of Good Water: A Williamson County History (Georgetown, Texas: Williamson County Sun Publishers, 1973, Fifth printing, 1998).

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Early Church - Historical Marker Text

On land given March 8, 1845, by John C. Caskey for cemetery and meeting house. Originally 2-story, the native stone structure is believed to have been built before 1855, financed by J. W. Atkinson and Dr. O. Benedict. in that era it housed a school, Baptist and Methodist worship services, and Masonic and Odd Fellows lodges. It was purchased in 1924 by Primitive Baptists and reduced to one story in an extensive remodeling in 1950. Recorded Texas Historic Landmark - 1970

First Baptist Church of Florence - Historical Marker Text

Settlers in the farming and ranching community of Florence gathered in April 1856 to hear the Rev. Robert Hay Taliaferro (1824-1875) preach and help them formally organize a church. Originally known as the Baptist Church of Christ, the congregation changed its name to First Baptist Church during the first decade of the 20th century. Several noted Baptist ministers have been associated with this congregation, including Taliaferro, the organizing pastor, who came to Texas from Kentucky in 1847 and established a number of Baptist congregations in the new state. Brother E. McDaniel served as first permanent pastor, from 1856 until 1869, soon followed by the Rev. George Washington Baines, from 1870 until 1877. Baines, great-grandfather of U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson, came to Texas in 1850 and served as president of Baylor University at Independence, in addition to pastoring a number of Baptist churches in Texas. In 1869, the congregation built its first sanctuary, which also served as a community schoolhouse and as a meeting place for other religious and fraternal organizations in Florence. New facilities were built as needed to accommodate First Baptist Church's growing membership. The congregation's programs of outreach and community assistance have played a significant role in the social and religious heritage of this part of Williamson County. (2001)

Historical Marker Text

In 1856, Florence was a small settlement of log cabins and a store or two. It also had a stone building (300 ft. Ese), used as a church and meeting place, on land donated in 1845 by john c. Caskey. Before that time, settlers worshiped in homes and other meeting places.

The Methodist congregation in Florence shared the stone building, just as it shared its pastor. Early Methodist ministers in Texas rode circuits, serving several communities. The Florence mission, part of the Waco district, was at the head of a circuit. In 1858, rev. John carpenter was officially appointed to the church as its first pastor.

The congregation bought additional interest in the building, with full ownership in 1910. Members remodeled it and used it until 1924, when they sold it for use as a primitive Baptist church. The Methodist congregation built a new church at this site in 1924 and used it until erecting a brick church in 1968.

Over the years, the Florence Methodist church has served the community through its organizations. The home mission society, established in 1890, later became the women's society of Christian service. The Methodist men, in 1957, created a live stock program to raise funds for a new parsonage. Youth groups have also been an important part of the church's mission, with the first junior league established in 1900. The congregation was voted church of the year in 1960 by the central Texas conference of the Methodist church. Its name changed in 1968 to the first united Methodist church of Florence, and it continues to be a vital part of its community.

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Marker Text: 

Founded before mid-1800s. Named for early settler L. T. “Uncle Lee” Lawler. Beloved by citizens, for years he leased land free to community for school, church, and cemetery. First school, named for Edward Stevenson (land donor) began before 1872. Now farm and ranch area.     (1971)

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