North Fork of the San Gabriel River Historical Marker, Georgetown Texas

Historical Marker text

The North Fork of the San Gabriel River, part of the Brazos River system, flows east across Williamson County to join with the Middle and South forks at Georgetown. Abundant fish and wildlife attracted numerous Indian tribes to the areas along the stream in historic times. Named Rio de San Xavier by Spanish explorer and priest Fray Isidro Felix Espinosa in 1716, it was known as the San Gabriel River by the time Williamson County was created in 1848. Anglo settlements along the river in the 1800s led to the establishment of four major crossings which took the names of families living at the sites: Booty, Russell (later Jenkins), Box, and Hunt. Located along the stream near the crossings were homes, mills, schools, churches, cemeteries, postal stations, and a gin. Booty, Russell, and Box Crossings were inundated by the waters of Lake Georgetown, but Hunt Crossing remains above the reservoir. Planned as part of a flood control measure for the Brazos River system, a dam creating Lake Georgetown was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1979. The lake and adjoining parks and recreational facilities were opened in 1981.

GPS Coordinates

North 30.674111 - West -97.723833
North +30° 40' 26.80" - West -97° 43' 25.80"
UTM 14 R - Easting: 0622280 - Northing: 3393979

Address: 599 Lake Overlook Dr

THE NORTH SAN GABRIEL RIVER Narrative submitted by Clara Scarbrough

The North San Gabriel River along with the Middle and South San Gabriels have their confluence at Georgetown to become the San Gabriel River, flowing approximately from west to east across Williamson County, its only river. The North Fork headwaters a few miles west of Williamson County in Burnet County moves through the hill country of the Edwards Plateau, then through the spectacular escarp­ment above the Balcones Fault which bounds Georgetown on the west side and the fertile Blackland prairies to the east. The San Gabriel River empties into the Brazos system just east of Williamson County.

Great seas once covered all Williamson County leaving fossils of aquatic life.

After the land emerged from underwater, both plant and animal life have been abundant, including huge trees, and buffalo, deer, and bear in historic times. These and other animals ranged along with the North Gabriel, crossing it at some of the same places forded by Indians and later by explorers, both Spanish and French, and by pioneer settlers. [1] The name San Gabriel is apparently a corruption of the Spanish name given the river by a Spanish priest, Fray Isidro, Felix Espinosa, who accompanied the expedition of Saint Denis-Ramon when it reached this river on June 1, 1716. Fray Espinosa called it Rio de San Xavier, for Francisco de Xavier (later Saint Francis Xavier), a well-known missionary who was sainted in 1622. [2] A number of early chronicles refer to Rio de San Xavier, and in 1779 Athanase de Mezieres wrote of it, "Few rivers can compare with the San Xavier in the clearness of its waters or in the abundance of fish" and recommended it for a place to establish mills, for irrigation, and as a place with horses, cattle and buffalo in incredible numbers. [3] But San Xavier was afterward also variously written Xabier, Javier, or Javriel, even on maps of the 1820s used by Stephen F. Austin. [4] By the time Williamson County was formed in 1848 its name had been generally accepted as San Gabriel.

Along the banks of the North San Gabriel, hundreds of springs tumble from the porous rock of the Balcones escarpment.

"The early movement of groundwater dissolved out softer limestone, leaving canyons of scenic beauty. . . and the springs that feed the streams of the county emerge from breaks in the rock and insured both timber and good water so necessary to early settlers." The abundant fish and good hunting had attracted numerous Indian tribes here, particularly the peaceable Tonkawas, who lived in the area, and the Lipan Apaches, Comanches, Tawakonis, and others who made sorties into the territory. The same good water and timbre prized by Indians, plus the fine timber and limestone for building, brought settlers from the states and from abroad during the nineteenth century. [5]

From 1848 until the automobile came into general use in the 1920s, a major road from Georgetown west to Liberty Hill was the River Road that ran alongside the North Gabriel River and over the four well-known river crossings where the Booty, Russell (later Jenkins), Box, and Hunt families lived. The crossings took the names of the residents at each crossing. The ride was rough but picturesque and not impassable so long as travelers rode horses. The winding, narrow path was improved sufficiently for the automobile to negotiate it, fording the river at the crossings just as buffalo, Indians, and the earliest settlers did. Soon after 1900, concrete causeways were constructed at the Booty, Jenkins, Box, and Hunt crossings, improving the trip by car. Besides the homes of residents near the crossings, there were several sub-post offices, schools, churches, and cemeteries along this route. [6]

Lake Georgetown lies over portions of a league of land granted to Joseph Fish by the Republic of Texas in 1846, and over portions of the Nicholas Porter, Joseph B. Pulsifer, and David Wright surveys and other small surveys upriver. [7] J. H. Booty purchased 800 acres along the river on September 25, 1884.

Booty Crossing, about four miles northwest of the Courthouse, became a favorite picnic, swimming, wading, and fishing spot, located in a scenic canyon-like place typical of the North Gabriel. A large gravel bar at the edge of the clear, gravel-bottomed stream was the gathering place for young and old, including many a student from Southwestern University. Near the crossing atop a cliff was a garden-like scene where springs fed the surrounding land and created a spectacular waterfall with lush ferns and other water plants. Possibly at this site or certainly near there, Benjamin Gooch and John W. Owen built a mill in 1855. James Knight bought the property about 1880 and grew strawberries in this fertile, moist soil, which he marketed in Austin. Humidity was always high at Knight's Springs, as it was called, and vegetation thrived there.

Knight sold his land in 1890 to R. M. and Q. M. Crockett and H. E. Townes, the Crocketts continuing to operate "Crockett Gardens" as a truck garden until 1903. Two Swiss settlers, brothers Eugene and Louis Regard, leased and ran the commercial garden in the early 1900s. Since Lake Georgetown was created, Crockett Gardens has been accessible by a two and a half-mile hiking trail. During James Knight's residence there, a sub-post office is said to have been established with mail being brought in from Georgetown or Liberty Hill by saddlebag. [8]

In its November 11, 1915, issue, the Williamson County Sun reported a dedicatory program on the completion of a causeway at Booty Cross­ing and the crossing above it.

"An embryo storm. . . threatened general disaster" to the three or four hundred people gathered there, but the main program remained intact, including selections by the Young Men's Business League (Y. M. B. L.) Band which put "the crowd in a good humor and ready to have a good time in spite of a few drops of rain and numerous flashes of lightning. . . . A number of automo­biles at each end of the causeway turned their electric lights full on the roadway, making it almost as light as day." The causeway cost $1,800.00. [9]

Russell Crossing area was settled by Frank Russell who built his limestone home there in 1868.

His daughter married Richard Jenkins and the crossing later took Jenkins' name. A sub-post office was also located there. Descendants of this family remained in Georgetown in the 1980s. A mile and a half above Russell Crossing was 'a small rural school called Fisher for Tom Fisher whose home was adjacent. It was active at least by 1883 and in 1893 had 19 pupils. Fisher, a cowhand, had traveled to Chicago when it was a small village.10

Noel Neal Box, owner of the land at the third crossing, gave Box Crossing its name. A son, Jessie, taught school in Georgetown in the early 1900s. Another descendant, Walter Box, patented a number of his inventions, including the Box Silent Automobile Motor. Southeast of Box Crossing was Hunt School established by the 1880s or earlier. Booty, Russell, and Box crossings were obliterated by the lake, but the fourth crossing, Hunt, remained above the eight-mile-long lake.11

Hunt Crossing, so-called for Hayden Hunt and his brothers who came to the North Gabriel and settled in the 1850s, was the site of their family home, first a log cabin on a creek near the North Gabriel River.

The Hunts built a corn mill and a cotton gin on the north bank of the river. The brothers caught and tamed wild horses, trading them for more land. Cedar Point School (sometimes called Cedar Grove) stood southwest of Hunt Crossing. It was created by the County Court in 1886. Another early community, Rock House, originally called by the Indian name of Draco, was west of Hunt Crossing. Rock House had a school, a Baptist Church which met in a tabernacle, a post office that opened there in 1890, a string band, and a village store. A new school called Baker, opened east of Rock House in 1905, absorbing students from Hunt and Rock House schools. A Primitive Baptist Church, first called Little Hope, later changed to Center Grove Church, was near Hunt Crossing to the northeast. It was moved to Andice in 1929. After Baker School was washed out by a flood, the Jim Hogg School was built and active by 1915. A Church of Christ group met under a brush arbor near this school during the summer, and in the school building during other seasons. [12]

The Hunt and Rock House cemeteries were not disturbed by the creation of Lake Georgetown, but a number of small family graveyards along the North Gabriel River had to be moved elsewhere by the U. S. Corps of Engineers in preparation for the building of North San Gabriel Dam and the resulting flooding of a lakebed.

They included the Boultinghouse, Bullion, Jenkins, Keating, Sawyer, and Sedwick cemeteries. Detailed records were made of these relocations and are found in the files of the Corps of Engineers and in the "Cemetery Records of Williamson County" compiled by the Williamson County Historical Commission of which copies are available in the public libraries of the county. [13]

The following section researched and written by Karen Cathey, U. S. Corps of Engineers, Georgetown Office, Feb. 29, 1988.

Due to massive floods in 1913 and 1921, the Brazos River Conservation and Reclamation District announced plans to conduct surveys for a proposed dam on the San Gabriel River in 1936. After several years of public debate, Congress authorized flood control of the Brazos River System in 1954, including the San Gabriel River. Initially, a single dam was proposed in the east end of Williamson County, but in 1962 these plans were modified by Congress to include two additional dams, one on the South Fork, and one on the North Fork of the San Gabriel near Georgetown. [14]

The U. S. Corps of Engineers began acquiring property for Lake Georgetown in 1965. Staff archeologists explored the river area to be inundated by the lake, documenting their findings, primarily concerning` Indian activity there, and construction was begun in 1972. The North Fork Dam was completed almost seven years later and on October 5, 1979, dedication ceremonies were held for the dam and reservoir. Dignitaries attending included Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall, Congressman J. J."Jake" Pickle and Marvin Leath, Lady Bird Johnson, and other high officials. In 1980 the reservoir was named Lake Georgetown by Congress. [15]

While created primarily for flood control, North Fork Dam also provided 1310 acres for water-related recreation and 1330 acres of parkland for camping, hiking, picnicking, and other sports. The lake also provides up to 2,000,000 gallons of water daily for Georgetown and Round Rock municipalities. The lake channel is about eight miles long and has a scenic shoreline of twenty-five miles. [16]

The foregoing section researched and written by Karen Cathey,
U. S. Corps of Engineers, Georgetown Office, Feb. 29, 1988.