Heritage, Volume 5, Number 2, Summer 1987 Page: 12
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Georgetown's public square has been the commercial and cultural heart of the city ever since the
original fifty-two-block grid of uniform lots that constituted the new village were offered for sale at
public auction on July 4, 1848.
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This spring the Georgetown Heritage Society established a long-range program designed to encourage
and assist property owners and civic groups who are willing to sponsor state historical markers for
outstanding Georgetown structures, sites, and historic personages.
Excerpted from Exploring Historic Georgetown, a
driving/walking tour booklet
(/j/ilelcome to historic Georgetown,
Texas. Gone are the
dusty streets and board sidewalks of our
frontier days, as well as the rows of whimsical
picket fences of the town's Victorian
heyday. But Georgetown's quiet, tree-lined
inner neighborhoods and lovingly restored
square continue to lend the charm
of yesteryear to Williamson County's
bustling seat of government.
People of diverse ethnic and geographical
origins have been attracted to
Georgetown-either to visit or to put
down permanent roots-ever since the
town's founding by early developers under
a live oak tree in 1841.
Prominently sited on high ground near
the San Gabriel River, Georgetown still
provides the same natural resources which
encouraged early settlers to make their
homes here. And it continues to offer the
commercial, governmental, cultural, and
educational opportunities that stimulated
later residents to share in the community's
superior quality of life.
The economy of Georgetown during its
settlement period depended heavily upon
agriculture. U.S. census records of 1850,
1860, and 1870, for example, reveal that
most area residents worked in farm-related
jobs. These farms were generally small,
with farmers growing such staple crops
as wheat and corn to ensure their selfsufficiency.
The majority of these early
settlers were Anglos who had migrated
from the southern states. Swedes com
prised the largest European immigrant
Development was temporarily hampered
by the general economic chaos of
the Civil War ear. Following Reconstruction,
however, Georgetown experienced
an era of rapid growth that transformed it
economically, culturally, and architecturally.
The small pioneer village with an
estimated population of 320 in 1870
would boast an impressive 2,790 residents
by 1900, an increase of more than 800
Four factors were primarily responsible
for the exciting burst of energy which the
already flourishing county seat experienced
during its golden age from 1880 to
1910: the cattle industry, the cotton industry,
the railroad, and the university.
Although the local cattle boom was
relatively short-lived, ending by the mid1880s,
it was responsible for much of
Georgetown's early rough and tumble
cowtown flavor. Georgetown was fortuitously
located along the feeder routes
used by many South Texas cattle drives
on the way to the main cattle market
trails. In addition, the open ranch land
west of town was ideal for raising livestock,
and several successful cattlemen
operated in and around Georgetown.
The arrival of the railroad in 1878 had
a more profound and lasting impact. Fearing
the consequences if the city were not
linked with the new International and
Great Northern Railroad, the county's
first major line, many of the town's leading
citizens financed the Georgetown Tap
Line. Georgetown residents could then
obtain an unprecedented variety of merchandise
and building supplies, from
pianos and sewing machines to pressed
metal trim and leaded glass windows.
Furthermore, the ease of crop shipment
and the availability of advanced farming
implements stimulated Georgetown to
become a major cotton-producing center.
Related industries, such as an oil mill and
cotton gin, were soon established. These
and other manufacturing enterprises, including
an 'ice plant, a flour mill, and a
furniture company, were all located at the
west end of town near the railroad tracks.
This new prosperity motivated residents
to forsake their unassuming log or
frame buildings for more substantial and
stylish shops and dwellings. This building
demand quickly spurred the establishment
of local lumber mills and construction
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 5, Number 2, Summer 1987, periodical, Summer 1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45437/m1/12/: accessed October 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.