Archive for February, 2015

The Travis County Seal

Transparent TC Logo

The Travis County seal was designed by County Treasurer Johnny Crow and adopted in 1975. A document called “The Legend of the Official Travis County Flag and Seal” details the history of the seal:

An act of the 64th Legislature of the State of Texas in 1975 amending article 2344, enabled the counties of Texas to optionally allow an official seal to be designed depicting imagery indigenous to their respective counties.

Such a seal for Travis County was designed and submitted to Judge Mike Renfro (1971-1986) by Johnny Crow (1959-1986), County Treasurer of Travis County.

The Judge liked the design and brought the same before the Commissioner’s Court for their consideration and possible adoption.

The seal’s overall design is original, but the symmetry and dignity of the famous State seal remains; it uniquely preserves the oak and pecan tree wreath as it encircles the Texas Lone Star (which is as it should be since county government is an arm of the State). Travis County government was created out of the Mina District of the Texas Republic in 1839, thus the date is portrayed so prominently.

Things in the seal that are indigenous to Travis County are fairly obvious in silhouette form, viz: The State Capitol building, the University of Texas tower, the City of Austin skyline and two vapor trailing Bergstrom AFB jets. Other pertinent forms depicted, yet somewhat less indigenous are a hill country white-tailed deer bounding over a native cactus, a farmer plowing on the rolling east plains, a sailboat sailing on highland lakes…and lastly the perennial justice scales as they symbolize the Travis County and District Court systems.

In summary, the seal is intended to categorically symbolize through imagery the governmental, educational, industrial, military, farming, ranching and recreational factors that predominantly represent the life and economy of the citizenry of Travis County.

The seal was officially adopted and is recorded in the court minutes of June 16, 1975, volume 16 page 371. The following were the presiding officials of the adoption order:

Judge Mike Renfro

Commissioner David Samuelson, Pct. 1

Commissioner Bob Honts, Pct. 2

Commissioners Johnny Vidouris, Pct. 3

Commissioner Richard Moya, Pct. 4

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One of the most noticeable aspects of the Travis County seal is 1839 date. Because Travis County was formally established by an act of the Republic of Texas Congress on January 25, 1840, the 1839 date is a curious detail.

actestablishingtc

It may be that the date came from the very first entry in the first volume of Commissioners Court minutes, which is dated February 15, 1839. This entry records a proclamation by Chief Justice James W. Smith that divided the county into four militia beats. Closer examination, however, shows that the 1839 date was likely written in error.

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The next entries in the Commissioners Court minutes, which assign Justices of the Peace to patrol the militia beats, date from March, 1840. More importantly, James W. Smith was not elected by the Republic of Texas Senate as Chief Justice of Travis County until January 30, 1840, five days after Travis County was established. In fact, James W. Smith did not move to Austin until the fall of 1839. All of these clues indicate that the date should have been February 1840 rather than 1839.

That is not to say, however, that Travis County did not exist in 1839, at least in theory and in name. An election return from October 1839 records the election of a first lieutenant to patrol a militia beat in Travis County. According to this document, the name “Travis County” was already in use by some of the area’s early residents. According to the journals of the Republic of Texas House of Representatives, the name for Travis County was officially proposed and carried on December 16, 1839 (names that did not carry included Campbell, Lamar, and Wharton). So, although Travis County was not formally established until 1840, discussions about the formation of the county were well underway in 1839.

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