Archive for the 'places' Category

Origins of Travis County Community, Landmark and Road Names

Have you ever wondered where the community, landmark, and road names you see around Travis County come from?  Many are named after early settlers and individuals who were significant in the history and development of Travis County and of Texas.  Here are just a few:
Anderson Mill Road – Named after a mill and its owner, Thomas Anderson, who lived in the vicinity in the 1850s.
Barton Springs – Named for William Barton, early settler who lived on land near the springs around 1837.
Burleson Road – Named for early area settler Gen. Edward Burleson, a statesman, surveyor, and soldier in the Texas Revolution army.
Burnet Road – Likely named for David G. Burnet, interim President of the Republic of Texas in 1836 and 1841.
Decker Lane – Named for Isaac Decker, early colonist and shoe cobbler who in 1835 was granted one league of land located in what is now south central Travis County.
Del Valle – Named for Santiago Del Valle, a politician who received ten leagues of land south of the Colorado River from the Mexican government in 1832.
Enfield – Named by Elisha M. Pease, Governor of Texas, after the town in Connecticut where he was born.
Garfield – Probably named for President James A. Garfield, who was in office when the community’s post office was established in 1881.
Hamilton Pool – Named for Morgan C. Hamilton, who owned the property in the 1860s.  His brother, Andrew J. Hamilton, was the 10th governor of Texas.
Hornsby Bend – Named for Reuben Hornsby, soldier, surveyor, and one of Stephen F. Austin’s earliest colonists.  Hornsby was granted one labor of land from the Mexican government in 1832.
Hudson Bend – Named for Wiley Hudson, an emigrant from Arkansas who secured a land grant in 1854 near a bend of the Colorado River.
Jollyville Road – Named after John Grey Jolly, a Civil War veteran who farmed, ran a store, and raised a family in the area in the latter part of the 19th century.

Lamar Boulevard – Named for Mirabeau B. Lamar, president of the Republic of Texas from 1838-1841 and key founder of Austin.

Manor – Named after Tennessee native James Manor, who followed Sam Houston to Austin and settled in the region east of Austin.
McKinney Falls State Park – Named for Thomas F. McKinney, trader and stock raiser who purchased part of the Del Valle tract in 1839.  The ruins of McKinney’s homestead are preserved in the park.
Moore’s Crossing – Named for Col. Moore and his family, early area settlers who opened a store there in the late 1800s.  Although its location has been moved slightly, the store is still in existence and in operation today.
Pease Park – Named for Elisha M. Pease, Governor of Texas from 1853-1857 and 1867-1869.
Pflugerville – Named for Henry Pfluger, who brought his family to the area from Germany in 1849.
Slaughter Lane – Named for Stephen F. Slaughter, an early settler from Kentucky who received a land grant for one league of land on Onion Creek in 1835.
Waller Creek – Named for Edwin Waller, surveyor of the city of Austin and its first mayor.
Webberville – Named for John F. Webber, retired physician and one of the earliest settlers in the Travis County area; he was granted land by the Mexican government in 1832.
Wells Branch – Named for Martin Wells, an early settler in Stephen F. Austin’s Little Colony who lived near Webber’s Prairie.
William Cannon Drive – Named for William Cannon, an early colonist from Ireland who was granted one league of land west of the Colorado River from the Mexican government in 1835.
Zilker Park – Named for political figure and philanthropist Andrew Zilker, who came to Austin in 1876.  He was the last private owner of Barton Springs.

Onion Creek

Click on the map to enlarge

In some ways, the Onion Creek area has not changed much from the time of its settlement in the mid-1800s.  Situated in southeastern Travis County, this rural area remains primarily agricultural in nature, with open pastureland and wooded, gently rolling hills. In stark contrast to the nearby bustling metropolis of Austin, many of the original open fields remain to this day, providing a unique glimpse into the area’s past.

Up until the 1840s, most of the lower Onion Creek area remained virtually unexplored by nonnative peoples.  The earliest settlers were farmers, who cleared the land to grow cotton and corn on the fertile soils, and whose livestock grazed the land.  Even after those first pioneers established their farms, the land remained only sparsely populated.  Just a few solitary structures, such as cabins, mills and barns, dotted the landscape, and wagon ruts, few and far between, served as rudimentary roads.  The area was considered by many to be too dangerous to inhabit, and those who did choose to settle had to protect themselves against Indian raids.

Continued lack of quality roads reinforced the pattern of dispersed, isolated farmsteads. By 1890, however, the population of southeastern Travis County had grown large enough to support a few small community clusters.  Moore’s Crossing, one such community, was established on a low water ford of Onion Creek.  By the end of the nineteenth century, it included a small number of one-story wood-frame buildings, most notably a general store, where the local farmers gathered to purchase supplies and talk crops.

Moore’s Crossing in the early 1900’s
Courtesy of C. Michalk

Moore’s Crossing today

While farm work was the primary livelihood for nearly all in the area, community life focused around the activities of church and school, for which Onion Creek provided the backdrop.  Members of the local Black Baptist churches used Onion Creek as a gathering place for services and week-long revivals, and baptisms were performed in the cool water of the Creek.

Families, too, enjoyed the tranquility offered by Onion Creek.  They fished in its waters and held picnics along the banks, under the cool shade of the tall pecan trees.  Yet, Onion Creek was not always so peaceful.  Being located in a flood plain, the area was apt to flooding, and some of the more severe floods over the years washed away bridges, homes, and in the 1920s, even an entire family.

Moore’s Crossing bridge

As the years have progressed, the city of Austin has grown, expanded and developed, inevitably changing the physical character of the Onion Creek area.  Paved roads and highways, modern housing developments, and commercial enterprises have begun to cover much of the formerly pastoral landscape, and the majority of families in the area no longer live on traditional farms.  For the most part, however, the rural nature of the Onion Creek area remains intact.  Large tracts of open land and even several buildings remain as tangible links to the area’s 19th and early 20th century history.

For more information on the Onion Creek area, the Archives has recorded several oral histories of past and present residents of the area.

Flickr Photos

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