BASTROP COUNTY HISTORY


Last Updated: Tuesday, August 4, 2009


The Beginnings of Bastrop County

From January 8, 1836 to December 13,

1837, the Municipality and County of Mina

consisted of parts of present day Mason, Kimble,

Llano, Burnet, Williamson, Gillespie, Blanco,

Comal, Hays, Travis, Caldwell, Bastrop, Lee,

Gonzales, Fayette, Washington, and Lavaca

counties. On December 14, 1837, the Second

Congress passed legislation changing the

geographical limits, creating Fayette County,

removing Gonzales and Caldwell Counties

from the boundries and, five months later,

added parts of Kimble and Comal Counties.

On December 18, 1837, Sam Houston signed

an act incorporating the town of Mina and,

on the same day, changing the name of the

county and town of Mina to Bastrop.

May 24, 1838 to January 24, 1840, shows

the borders of Bastrop County to contain

parts of present day Blanco, Burnet, Williamson,

Travis, Hays, Comal, Caldwell, Bastrop, Lee,

Gonzales and Fayette counties. From January 25,

1840 to January 25, 1850 the border changed

to almost it's present size with a small portion of

Lee, Williamson, Caldwell, Gonzales and Fayetts counties included.

In 1839, Bastrop was one of the locations being

considered for the permanent site for the seat

of government of the Republic of Texas.

The seat of government, first on the Washington-

on-the Brazos, moved to Columbia, then

Houston until a more suitable site could be

established. After three seperate commissions

were held to investigate areas on the Brazos

and Colorado Rivers, Waterloo and Bastrop

became the final two locations being considered,

with Waterloo being chosen as the permanent site.

Bastrop was able to benefit from the selection as

travelers on the Old San Antonio Road and

Gotcher Trail had to pass through Bastrop

on the way to the new Capital now known as Austin.

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Furnished by Bastrop County

Spanish explorers arrived at the Lost Pines

when they crossed the Colorado River near

Bastrop in 1691. The future site of Bastrop

became a military post along the Spaniard's

Old San Antonio Road in the 1700's. In 1823,

the Mexican Government awarded Stephen F.

Austin a land grant in the area, in exchange

for a pledge of loyalty to the Mexican government.

The land grant was apparently hoped to serve as a

buffer between Mexico and its upstart

neighbor, the United States, to the north.

In 1827 Austin received permission to

enlarge the station along the Colorado and

establish a town at the site. In 1832 the town

of Bastrop was platted. It was named after

a friend and business associate of Austin's,

Philip Hendrick Nering-Bogel, who called

himself the Baron de Bastrop. Originally

from the Netherlands, Nering-Bogel arrived

in San Antonio after questionable dealings

in Europe, South America and Louisiana.

Among the problems facing the colonists was

dealing with the indigenous inhabitants. Of

many tribes in the area some, such as the

Tonkawa, were peaceful and assisted the

settlers. Others, particularly the Comanche,

were determined to eliminate the newcomers

and resisted the Anglos with considerable ferocity.

Bastrop's colony faced another problem as well.

Tensions between the Anglos and the Mexican

government grew, and in 1835 many local

volunteers rushed to assist in the armed uprising

against Mexico. A Bastrop resident was the first

killed in the War of Texas Independence, at

the Battle of Concepcion in October 1835.

When the Alamo fell, 12 Bastropians died

along side Davy Crockett. After the fall

of the Alamo, settlers in Bastrop fled Santa

Anna's advancing forces, taking as many

of their farm animals, slaves and other

possessions as they could. The young town

was looted by a detachment of the

Mexican Army (and by Indian raiders).

Not much was left of the town when its residents

returned after Santa Anna's defeat and Texas

independence, but they quickly rebuilt. Bastrop

County, with Bastrop as county seat, was among

the original 10 counties established by the Republic

of Texas in 1836, and was a likely site for

permanent Capitol of the new Republic.

However, that honor went instead to the unimportant

village of Waterloo, 30 miles further up the

Colorado. As Waterloo, now renamed in honor

of Austin, grew in importance, so too did Bastrop

become an important supplier of

timber for the growing Capitol City.

The area continued to thrive on the timber trade

and cotton production after Texas joined the

United States in 1845, until the Civil War.

Both industries depended on plentiful slave

labor to keep production costs low. By 1853

the young city had a newspaper, which is still

publishing and is the oldest weekly in Texas.

The Civil War led to economic tragedy. The

end of slavery caused a transformation of life and the economy.

But the community survived and prospered.

During the 1880's and 1890's, the railroad

reached Bastrop, a new Court House (still standing)

was constructed, and the town's first bank

was chartered. Many fine Victorian style

homes were built, which still grace the older

areas of Bastrop. The first tax-supported public

schools and a public water system were also

organized in the 1890's. In 1889, Bastrop's

cultural life received a big boost with the

completion of the Bastrop Opera House.

This facility has been restored in recent

years and serves as a venue for local

and visiting theater and musical groups.

Today Bastrop retains much of its historical

flavor. Many of the historic homes and other

buildings have been restored, and over 120 are

listed in the National Register of Historic

Places. The historic atmosphere has been

heightened by commercial development

focusing on Texana, antiques, crafts and

arts. With its rich heritage and proximity to

dynamic, high-tech Austin, Bastrop

is looking forward to a bright future.