FYI Taylor County Texas

Friday, December 15, 2017

History

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Williamson County remains one of the fastest growing counties in the state and the nation. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, its population has now topped 425,000 and the county continues to flourish. Williamson County occupies more than 1,100 square miles of Hill Country and Blackland Prairie to the north, east and west of Austin.

The county was carved out of Milam County (now adjacent to the east) and established March 13, 1848. It was named for prominent judge and soldier Robert M. Williamson, also known as “Three-Legged Willie” because of a birth defect that deformed one leg, which he accommodated with a wooden prosthesis.

Williamson County was probably first explored by Europeans in the late 17th Century, when Capt. Alonso De Leon sought a route between San Antonio and the Spanish missions in East Texas that would serve as a drier alternative to the more southerly Camino Real. Anglo settlement began during the Texas Revolution and the early days of the Republic of Texas, when the area was part of Milam County.

Williamson County was one of only 19 Texas counties to vote against secession from the Union during the Civil War. Post-war years were marked by bloodshed and banditry at the hands of outlaws like Sam Bass. With the coming of the railroads to the county in the 1870s, Taylor became an important rail center for the cattle trade. Cotton, the second boom industry in Williamson County, developed about the same time as the cattle industry. In 1900-01, Williamson County ginned more cotton than any county in Texas except Ellis County.

Both the cattle and the cotton booms were aided by the improved communications available in the county in the late 19th Century. The International-Great Northern Railroad, which later was consolidated with the Missouri Pacific, was built across the eastern part of the county in 1876 and led to the founding of Taylor and Hutto and to the relocation of Round Rock. It also opened up large areas in eastern Williamson County to commercial farming.

The county also became more ethnically diverse in the later 19th and early 20th centuries. Significant numbers of Scandinavians, Germans, Czechs, Wends and Austrians moved to the county in the 1880s and 1890s. The proportion of foreign-born in the county population remained at about 10 percent from 1890 to the 1930s. Mexican immigration reached a significant level about 1910, just as Europeans stopped arriving in the county. There were 294 Hispanics in 1900, 732 in 1910, and 4,967 – or 11 percent of the population – in 1930.

Between 1930 and 1940, cotton continued to be an important crop in Eastern Williamson County but farmers increasingly turned to other crops, like sorghum and wheat, and to raising livestock.

Williamson County CourthouseThe agricultural diversification of the middle decades of the 20th Century was followed by significant social and economic changes in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The black population, which had remained at between 15 percent and 18 percent of the total in the early and mid-20th Century, began to decline, both proportionately and in real numbers, from the 1940s on and had fallen to 4,111, or about 5 percent, by 1980.

As in other areas of Texas, blacks were relegated to segregated and inferior housing and educational facilities until the 1960s, when some improvements were brought about by federal desegregation policies.

Along with changes in racial composition, Williamson County experienced a dramatic increase in population in this period, growing from 37,305 inhabitants in 1970 to an estimated 85,700 inhabitants in 1982. Much of the growth in population was related to the development of new housing communities in the area of the county bordering Austin.

Urbanization, or rather ‘suburbanization,’ increased the population of Round Rock from 2,811 in 1970 to 11,812 in 1980. Cedar Park went from 125 to 3,474 inhabitants over the same period, and even Georgetown’s development was affected by the growth of Austin’s area of influence. In 1980, almost 60 percent of the county’s inhabitants lived in urban areas. In 1990, the population reached 139,551, an increase of more than 60 percent during the 1980s. The U.S. Census Bureau recorded a population of 249,967 in 2000. The most recent estimate approaches 330,000.

In 2001, Williamson County was the fifth fastest-growing county in the United States by percentage change and the 20th by numeric change.

The 2000 Census showed Williamson County to be, by and large, both prosperous and relatively youthful with a median household income of $60,642 and a median age of 32.3 years. Ten percent of the population was 60 years old or older. In 2000, there were 90,325 housing units in the county with a median home value of $125,800.

Sources: The Handbook of Texas Online; Texas State Data Center; U.S. Census Bureau

Last modified on Friday, 20 July 2012 16:50