Round Rock Texas goes Urban

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Bob Brinkman - Texas Historical Commission


Round Rock goes urban

Williamson County in the 1870s was an entirely rural place. Small farms filled the countryside, growing such crops as corn and cotton. It was a dependent economy, as cattle were driven northward to markets in Kansas, and raw products were shipped out of the area. Finished products were available only in larger cities that were more than a day’s horse ride away. But the county became the center of economic activity for Central Texas in 1876 when the International and Great Northern Railroad extended its lines westward. Now citizens were directly linked to the large cities of the eastern seaboard, and large regional cities like St. Louis and New Orleans. The railroad also brought a population boom and new towns to Williamson County. First Stiles Switch was created, later renamed Thrall. Then Taylorsville was established. Later shortened to Taylor, it became the largest city in the county for the next 105 years. The railroad also created Hutto, and finally arrived near the established town of Round Rock in July 1876.

A crowd of 500 turned out for the sale of lots in the new railroad town, laid out just under a mile from the established town of Round Rock.

Twenty-six business lots were sold the first day, with one lot going for $320.

Austin’s Daily Statesman reported that many of their merchants, including Brueggerhoff, Koppel, Tobin, C. C. Johnson, Steinbock, Davis, Penn and Michael, had purchased lots and were moving their stores to Round Rock. The Statesman noted, perhaps jealously, that in Round Rock “the drinking of crooked whiskey and card playing are carried on without limit”. The merchants boasted they could undersell Austin by securing goods faster and at a lower freight rate. Round Rock’s wagon roads into the Hill Country were also superior, so that for a time Austin’s economic growth was undermined. The I & GN did not extend their lines into Austin until late in 1879, during which time Round Rock had become the trade center for ten Central Texas counties. The railroad brought all manner of goods from cities in the East, and made Round Rock a truly developed town, with lumber yards, jewelry stores, blacksmiths and all the modern conveniences available. It also changed the face of Williamson County, laying the foundation for the urban population boom that continues to this day.