Historical photographs can say a thousand words, but a mural tells the whole story.
The Williamson Museum, located in the heart of historic Georgetown, unveiled the first phase of its Museum Works Project (MWP) in May 2007. Each mural, based on an historical event, industry, or individual that contributed to the history of Williamson County, now adorns the upper panels of the Museum’s exhibit gallery. In Your Space artists and the Williamson Museum collaborated on the project to create seven original, hand-painted murals on 8’ X 12’ and 8’ X 10’ canvases that are now on exhibit at WCHM.
The murals created through the MWP are based on the murals of the 1930s and 40s created through President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), a division of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). This project was designed to provide economic relief to Americans who were suffering during the Great Depression.
The PWAP and subsequent Fine Arts Project (FAP) resulted in the production of almost 250,000 original works of art for the American public and the creation of over 5,000 jobs for American artists. Many of these murals still exist in public buildings and historic post offices throughout the state of Texas and across the United States.
With this project, the museum captures the spirit, nostalgia, and beauty of the 1930s and 40s public art style with seven stunning history-themed murals. Significant historical events and individuals were common themes of the original PWAP, and the Museum will continue in this tradition with the creation of the Phase I murals.
This exhibit was made possible by
Early Inhabitants of Williamson County
Paleo-Indians arrived in the San Gabriel River area at least 10,000 years ago. These early people lived by hunting animals and gathering plants. They traveled in small family groups, but had no permanent homes and few personal possessions.
Around 8,000 years ago, a warming trend changed the Texas climate and people changed their way of life. They followed streams looking for deer and smaller animals, collecting a variety of plants, and hunting bison. People began to use seasonal base camps. They cooked in earth ovens lined with rock.
Around 1,400 years ago, people developed an important technology: the bow and arrow. People replaced the larger projectile points, like the spear and atlatl, with the bow and arrow, which was more accurate for hunting and easier to carry. These people lived on river terraces and in rock shelters.
Before Europeans moved into the area over 300 years ago, the Tonkawa lived here. The Tonkawa, meaning “they all stay together,” consisted of a number of semi-nomadic groups who shared a common language. The people depended on deer and bison. Their diet also included rabbits, squirrels, skunks, rats, fish, acorns, pecans, and edible roots.
The Founding of Our County Seat
In May 1848, five men met under a large live oak tree a few blocks south of the two forks of the San Gabriel River with the purpose of establishing a new seat of government for Williamson County. As the commissioners discussed their options, George Washington Glasscock rode up on a white steed. He presented the men with an offer: if the commissioners chose this site and named the town Georgetown, he would donate the land for the county seat.
The commissioners accepted the generous offer, and Glasscock donated an area of about 173 acres. The pie-shaped area included all the land from the live oak tree where they met, north to the South San Gabriel River, and from the tree west to the same river.
The land was surveyed into lots, and on July 4, 1848, a public sale of property was held. At an election held on August 7, 1848, the following officials were chosen: Greenleaf Fisk, Chief Justice; Whitfield Chalk, Sheriff; George T. Williams, County Clerk; Ira E. Chalk, District Clerk; John Gooch, County Treasurer; and Jacob M. Harrell, W.I. Anderson, D.H. McFadin, and Richard Tankersley, County Commissioners.
Stampede on the Chisholm
The heyday of the Texas cattle drive started immediately after the Civil War and lasted until 1885. Adventurous young men, usually in their teens and early twenties, set off every spring for northern railheads with herds of Texas beef— some herds were as large as 1,400 head of cattle. In less than 20 years, cowboys moved more than five million cattle and one million horses up the trail from Texas, making it the largest known migration of livestock in world history. Averaging eight to ten miles per day, destinations as far away as Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana often took as long as four months to reach.
The work was grueling and dangerous, the weather was harsh, the hours were long, but an American icon—the Texas cowboy—was born.
The Dickey Clinic, Taylor
The tireless efforts of Dr. James Lee Dickey, the first African-American doctor in Williamson County, significantly impacted the citizens of Taylor, Williamson County, and Texas.
Dickey was born in central Texas, near Waco, in 1893. He attended Waco public schools and later graduated from Tillotson College in Austin. In 1921, Dr. Dickey graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. After his father’s death, Dr. Dickey and his wife, Magnolia, traveled to Taylor, Texas, to help take care of his mother and eight siblings.
In the 1930s, Dr. Dickey helped stop a typhoid epidemic ravaging the black population by administering shots. Through his work with community leaders, Dr. Dickey helped supply clean drinking water to underprivileged citizens and developed recreational facilities for the youth of Taylor.
In 1953, during a time of racial segregation, Dr. Dickey was honored as Taylor’s Citizen of the Year for his accomplishments.
Dickey later said, “The hand of destiny guided me to Taylor; I came to stay a few years; I remained to do my life’s work.”
Agriculture in Eastern Williamson County
Farmers cultivated the rich blackland soil of eastern Williamson County to grow wheat and corn. Cotton was introduced in the 1850s, and production continued to rise in the following decades.
Improved communications in the late 1800s aided the cotton boom. The International and Great Northern Railroad was constructed in 1876, which led to the founding of Taylor and Hutto and the relocation of Round Rock. It also opened up large areas in the eastern portion of the County to commercial farming.
From 1900 to 1901, Williamson County was second only to Ellis County in ginned cotton. In terms of cropland, cotton production was at its peak. However, the cotton industry was on a downswing. The effects of soil depletion, overproduction, and the influx of the boll weevil damaged the industry by the late 1920s. The depression further worsened the cotton growers’ situation, especially the county’s black population.
The depression encouraged diversification and a shift away from staple crops to livestock. Between 1930 and 1940 the number of acres used for growing cotton fell by almost half, and cropland used for corn production increased over the same period by about one half. While cotton continued to be an important crop in eastern part of the county, farmers turned to other crops like sorghum and wheat and raising livestock in the later 1900s.
You Did It, Dan Moody!
Dan Moody, one of the youngest governors in Texas history, was born in Taylor, Texas, in 1893. Moody graduated from Taylor High School and took law courses at the University of Texas. Moody was admitted to the bar in 1914 and began a private practice in Taylor.
From 1922 to 1925, Moody served as district attorney of the Twenty-sixth Judicial District, which included Williamson and Travis counties. During his term, Moody successfully prosecuted a group of men for criminal activities allegedly connected with the Ku Klux Klan. With this trial, he became the first prosecuting attorney in the United States to win a legal battle against members of the Ku Klux Klan.
He achieved state-wide recognition for the prosecution and was elected attorney general at the beginning of Governor Miriam A. Ferguson’s first administration. Subsequently, the citizens of Texas elected Dan Moody governor of the state for two terms (1927-1931). After he completed his terms as governor, Moody returned to private law practice in Austin.
Education and Transportation
Williamson County takes pride in its education and transportation history. The county organized its public school system in the 1860s and by 1873 had 31 schools, 36 teachers, and 1,408 students. Today, Williamson County is home to Southwestern University and Round Rock Higher Education Center. However, early education can be traced back to institutions such as the Liberty Normal and Business College and educators like Annie Purl.
The Liberty Normal and Business College, depicted here, opened in 1885 and claimed to be the most progressive Normal school in Texas. The first graduating class (1887) included students from Georgetown and Liberty Hill. The original building burned in 1903 and was rebuilt. The last class graduated in 1910, and the facility was converted into a public school, which was needed for the growing population spurred by railroads.
The county had five rail lines by 1900. Railroads brought change including new population centers, the decline of towns bypassed, and the creation of new towns. They spurred the development of the frontier and opened the county to industrial growth. For the first time, county businesses could export goods quickly.
In the 1880s, the Austin and Northwestern Railroad transported granite for the new state capitol in Austin. The tracks passed over the trestle at Brushy Creek in Cedar Park. In one incident, the entire load of granite derailed, and the stones fell in the creek where they remain today.
Continuing the proud tradition of education and transportation, Southwestern University established the first airport with aviation training in Georgetown in 1941. Upon completion of the course, students qualified for military service, which helped prepare the nation for entry in World War II.
The Williamson Museum (TWM) is a non-profit corporation established to collect, preserve and exhibit documents and material objects relating to the history of Williamson County and help to preserve the unique stories of the county for both present and future generations. In addition, through exhibits and the archived files of Williamson County, the TWM will provide insight, information and relevant material about life in Williamson County in a variety of areas. This focus allows the WCHM to educate, inform, and entertain the public. For more information, contact Lisa E. Worley—Museum Curator: firstname.lastname@example.org
The In Your Space team collaborated closely with the museum to create the historically-themed MWP murals. For weeks, artists from In Your Space volunteered time to paint each of the murals, taking into consideration color, materials, composition, and historical accuracy. The result are unique murals that are educational, exciting, and breathtaking.