Western Trips

Western Trips

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Round Rock Texas

The famous Chisholm Trail and the city of Round Rock Texas have a lot in common. Western Trips visits the historic city of Round Rock and some of it's frontier landmarks and history.

chisholm trail sign
The Chisholm Trail which led from southern Texas straight north to the the cattle rail heads in Kansas was one of the very first cattle trails in Texas.

William M. Owens House

The home shown in the photo was the residence of Dr. William M. Owens who was both a businessman and physician. The home also served as the St. Charles Hotel. The home was constructed in 1870. Adjacent to the Owens House is a one story stone building that was built about 1851. This small one story structure served many purposes. It was a mercantile store and post office. The store/post office was built and operated by Thomas C. Oatts. Oatts was the first postmaster of Round Rock Texas.

Both structures shown are on the designated Chisholm Trail Road. As was the case with many roads dating back to the mid 1800's, the Chisholm Trail Road was part of a military highway that ran from Austin Texas northward into Indian Territory, present day Oklahoma. The road was created during the days of the Texas Republic. Previously, much of the road in the area around Austin was an Indian trail and often used by the Comanches to raid white settlements along the Texas frontier line.

owens house in round rock texas
Owens House
The Chisholm Trail in Texas is believed to have started in either San Antonio or further south on the Rio Grande soon after the Civil War. The trail's terminus was the bustling cattle town of Abilene Kansas. Over the years, the trail would lead to other Kansas rail heads as the railroad kept expanding westward. Like all major cattle trails there were several feeder trails that joined it at various points. 

Texas cattle herds had built up significantly during the Civil War years primarily because of a lack of a market. When the Civil War ended there was a great rush to drive the large Texas cattle herds to northern markets.

To be precise, historians place the official beginning of the Chisholm Trail north of Round Rock in Indian Territory. The cattle route that went through Round Rock Texas along the route shown in these photos, and commonly referred to as the Chisholm Trail, was actually a feeder route of the Chisholm Trail. Thus the main Chisholm Trail and it's feeder routes are called the Chisholm Trail.

Naming the Town Round Rock

round rock texas mercantile store
Old Mercantile Store/ Post Office
There is a round rock in Round Rock Texas but the settlement was actually first named Brushy Creek. This is the area where the historic structures shown in this article are located. The post office shown was first named the Brushy Creek post office. The settlement name was chosen simply because the settlement was near Brushy Creek.

In 1853, U.S. postal officials decided that the name needed to be changed because Texas already had a Brushy Creek. Postmaster Oatts chose the name Round Rock from the large anvil shaped rock in nearby Brushy Creek. Official credit for naming the town Round Rock goes to both postmaster Oatts and a settler named Jacob M. Harrell. The town was officially named Round Rock in 1854. 

When 1876 came around the Great Northern Railroad built tracks not to the old site of Brushy Creek then renamed Round Rock but to a point east. This resulted in the entire commercial area relocating eastward toward the tracks. That is the present day site of Round Rock and the Brushy Creek area was and is referred to as Old Town.

chisholm trail stone structure
Stone structure from Chisholm Trail days
Sam Bass and Round Rock Texas

Round Rock Texas is also known as the town where the infamous train and bank robber Sam Bass met his end in 1878.

The Bass gang's first train robbery was in 1877 in Big Spring Station N. The station master was forced to signal the express train to stop where upon Bass and his gang boarded. They found only $450, couldn't open the time locked safe but did find several wooden boxes. These ended up containing some $60,000 in freshly minted gold pieces shipped from the San Francisco Mint. This was extraordinary large take and both soldiers and Pinkerton detectives were on their trail. The gang split up the gold coins and headed off in several directions.

The Bass gang was also responsible for a series of stage coach and railroad robberies in the Dallas Texas area.
outlaw sam bass
Sam Bass

Bass and his gang were on the Texas Rangers most wanted list. Indiana born Sam Bass had been able to elude the Rangers for quite some time but his fortunes turned when one of his gang members became an informant. Based on inside information, the Texas Rangers set up an ambush when they learned that Bass was planning to rob the Williamson County Bank in Round Rock.

Bass and the gang were spotted scouting the area they were approached by a sheriff's deputy. The deputy was shot dead and while Sam Bass tried to run he was shot by two men, one being a Texas Ranger. Bass ended up dying the next day at twenty-seven years of age and was buried in Round Rock.

See our Western Trips articles on the links below...

Battle of Gonzales / The Start of the Texas Revolution

A Visit to the Art Community of  Salado Texas

Visiting Round Rock Texas

Today,Round Rock is a bustling community with not only it's old frontier historic sites to visit but also is home to the AAA minor league baseball team for the Texas Rangers called the "Express". The team has a beautiful new stadium named the "Dell Diamond". Visiting Round Rock is a good companion trip when visiting the capital city of Austin.

(Photos from author's collection. Sam Bass photo from the public domain

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