No Author given on this very early description of the origins of Burnet County, TX
THE BURNET CITY Line Demonstration Club voted unanimously that the following, recently read by one of their members, be published for the benefit of school children:
The long gone days of sparsely settled country, great. distances, horseback, ox wagon and lumbering stagecoach transportation made those great strips of country then designated as counties extremely cumbersome as governmental units; consequently, as the population began to increase, part of two or more of those counties were often made into another county—hence came our Burnet County from Bell, Williamson and Travis counties—named for David G. Burnet of Texas history fame.
Our county was created in February P452, the Texas Almanac states that it was organized in 1858. Records show that all county officers were elected in 1852. Those first county officers were: Judge, John Scott, Clerk, A. G. Horne; Treasurer, S. E. Holland: assessor collector, Wm. D. Reed; District clerk, and Justice of Peace. Geo. Joy; Sheriff, J. C. Bradley; commissioners, Wm. T. Cheeser and John Jennings, Sr. Not until 1912 did Burnet county have its first woman to hold an office when Miss Myra Erwin (later Mrs. Prank Atkinson) was elected county treasurer. The area of any county is 974 square miles; its present population is guessed by good authorities, to be between eleven and twelve thousand. The assessed valuation for 1934 was $5,191,580. Burnet, the county seat, had its origin in 1849 when old Fort Crogan was established a few hundreds yards west of the present town site. Fort Crogan was first established at Holland Springs three miles south of Burnet hut because of objections raised by the few settlers of that place it was moved. When established Burnet was known as the town of Hamilton. Just when the name was changed seems to be somewhat obscure.
It is a matter of record' that when the county was organized the people became divided into two bitter factious. One faction contended to put the county seat east of the divide on Oat Meal creek; the other faction led by Peter Kerr, Sam Holland and Logan Vandiver, fought to keep it at Burnet. Peter Kerr donated 100 acres of the John Hamilton survey, to the commissioner's court in order to induce the majority to vote for the present county seat.
At that time. Logan Vandiver and Peter Kerr owned or controlled the surveys upon which the town of Burnet and surrounding territory stands. Most of the town lots within the present city limits were conveyed by Kerr and Vandiver, Vandiver being Kerr's agent and attorney. I failed to learn whether or not those two men remained a part of Burnet until their deaths. Pew or our Burnet school children know that in 1861 or 1862 there was left a will by Peter Kerr donating 6,500 acres of land and about $24,000 worth of notes for the establishment of their free school; however the aftermath of the Civil War disrupted the will and nothing was left to it except the block upon which their present school buildings now stand.
The first marriage license was issued in 1852 to S. E. Holland and Miss Mary Scott, daughter of the first Judge. Their only child was the first born in the county and is still living, being in his 83rd year. Records show that S. E. Holland was in all probability the first permanent settler of this immediate section, he having settled at old Holland Springs three miles south of Burnet during the late 40's.
From the earliest pioneer days, even on up into the 1890's corn and wheat were ground for bread and feed stuff by old water mills situated in widely separated sections of the county. Among those old mills were Gabriel mill situated just across the county line from Mahomet, old Smithwick Mill, old Cedar Mill and the historic old Mormon Mill, so named from the fact that in the very early days a colony of Mormons settled in those lower reaches of Hamilton creek.
The coming of the telephone, automobile and highways discontinued a number of post offices over the county. I may stand for correction, but I am under the impression that at one time or another a post office was located at Sunny Lane, Joppa, Mahomet, Sage, Striekling, Tamega, Naruna, Smithwick and several other places. In early days mail was received once a week, often only once a month.
With the coming of the railroad in 1882—1883 Burnet became a terminal for most parts of Llano, Mason and San Saba counties and points north and south. With the extension of the road to Marble Falls and Llano the superiority was lost.
The county courthouse was burned in 1873 (f) In 1875 our present courthouse was completed. At that time th e jail was also in the courthouse being situated where the assessor-collector's office is now situated. Our present jail was built in 1884.
All settlements were made near some stream or Spring of everlasting water. All pioneer homes were built of logs or of native stones. In fact, numerous until the 1880’s. A log cabin situated on Cow Creek in the southeastern portion of the county, and still standing, is said to have been the first house built within the county. Smithwick Mill, Mormon Mill, Cedar Mill, Council Creek, Cow Creek, Spicewood Springs, and Holland Springs and other creeks and springs are among the pioneer settlements. Smithwick is the only one of these old settlements preserved in history. Years ago a daughter of Noah Smithwick, founder, came from California, gathered authentic data and later wrote the history while her father was yet living at a very advanced age.
The few days in which I had allotted to prepare this paper prohibited my gathering data as to when old,Gabriel Mill village was moved over the line to its present site—now Bertram—or as to the founding of Marble Falls, the building of the factory and of its old toll bridge.
Praise should be given Dr. Neyron Cheatham for his patriotic act in gathering and preserving many of the relics of Burnet county in his museum which will become a sort of shrine to our natives.
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These are only a few rambling comments bearing upon some of the high points of our county history. There is a history connected with each, and every pioneer community—their origin, their pioneer settlers, their achievements in the face of great adversities. Each old mill site, each old gin site has a story all its own. It would take many pages to chronicle Indian depredations, Civil war days, Reconstruction days, . Our Granite Mountain, our days of outlawry and political turbulence, our Ichthyol Deposit, our Graphite mine, our Longhorn Cavern, and our other bountiful natural resources along with the story of our flora and our fauna would make a written volume—and soon, the interesting story of our latest achievement—the building of Buchanan Dam.
The editor of the Bulletin has read with' great interest the short sketch of the history of Burnet County prepared by a member and read before a recent meeting of the Burnet City Line Demonstration Club, and which is published in this issue of the paper. I am almost an old-timer myself and knew personally only two of the officers that were elected in 1852—S. E. Holland, Treasurer, and John Jennings, County Commissioner; all the others I know by reputation. With my father, I have gone to Mormon Mill to have our wheat ground into flour. I remember when post offices were at Sunny Lane, Joppa, Mahomet, Sage, Strickling, Tamega, Naruna, and Smithwick. I remember when the railroad reached Burnet. Major Ray Wingren of this place was born on that night and it is no trouble for him to remember the Date. I can recall the first time I ever tried to talk over a telephone; I was as skittish about it as a locoed mule, and when the answer came back to me I jumped ten feet high and called for help. I have been inside the first log cabin, on Cow Creek, built in Burnet County. I have known descendants of every name mentioned as the forefathers of the county, and knew some of the patriarchs themselves, notably Uncle Peter and Johnnie Fry, M. H. Corker, B. II. and C. C. Stewart; L. C. Kincheloe was my grandfather; I knew .Jeff, Harrison, and Clint Breazeale, and.lohn, Dr Dick, and Flem Jennings, A..1. Covington, who died only a short time ago in Wyoming, Capt. T. D. were first cousins, Dr. Field, Uncle Vaughan, whose wife and my father Hugh McCoy, Capt. Dorbandt, father of Chris. Dorbandt, Uncle Alex La- Forge, John Pankey, Alex and Poinsett Barton, Dr. Jack and King Mc- Farland, Judge J. T. Woodard and Gen. A. R. Johnson. I perhaps knew some of the others mentioned but they passed on before I was old enough to remember. Some of the old-timers will recall that my grandfather Chamberlain, sometime in the sixties, was the first man to build and run a cotton gin in what was then called West Texas. It was on what is highway 29, between Burnet and Bertram. At the time it was built., it was probably the only gin in all the state west of Round Rock. I do not know how others feel about it, but I get a great kick out of articles published concerning old times in Burnet County. I got strung out and cam e near forgetting the correction I was going to make in the article that inspired these remarks. It was about old Gabriel Mills village being moved to Bertram. It was the town of South Gabriel that was moved a distance of two or three miles to Bertram which was built after the railroad calve. South Gabriel was south of Bertram some two or three miles, situated upon the Burnet-Austin road.
For more early Burnet County Texas History see:
Burnet County Hills Reveal Hidden treasure
Explosion at Burnet Mill
Pioneer Days in Burnet County