Williamson County, Texas
|Williamson County, Texas|
The Williamson County Courthouse after renovation in 2006–2007
Location in the state of Texas
Texas's location in the U.S.
|Founded||March 13, 1848|
|• Total||1,135 sq mi (2,940 km2)|
|• Land||1,123 sq mi (2,909 km2)|
|• Water||12 sq mi (31 km2), 1.05%|
|• Density||394.2/sq mi (152/km²)|
Williamson County (sometimes abbreviated as "Wilco" or "wilson") is a county in the U.S. state of Texas located on both the Edwards Plateau to the west, consisting of rocky terrain and hills, and Texas Blackland Prairies in the east consisting of rich, fertile farming land. The two areas are roughly bisected by Interstate 35. It is part of the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area and included with Austin in the Best Cities to Live in for 2009 by the Milken Institute The 2010 census population for the county is 422,679, a 69.1% increase from the 2000 figure. Its county seat is Georgetown. The county is named for Robert McAlpin Williamson (1806?–1859), a community leader and veteran of the Battle of San Jacinto. He was also affectionately known as "Three Legged Willie" due to a childhood illness that withered his right leg which he pulled up behind this thigh and upon which he also wore a wooden leg extension.
- 1 Topography
- 2 Modern growth factors
- 3 Prehistoric Williamson County
- 4 Geography
- 5 Transportation
- 6 Demographics
- 7 Sun City Texas
- 8 Communities
- 9 Economic development and business
- 10 County Courthouse
- 11 Williamson County flag
- 12 Government and politics
- 13 Newspapers
- 14 Education
- 15 Notable people
- 16 See also
- 17 References
- 18 External links
The eastern portion of Williamson County lies within the low-lying prairie areas east of the Balcones Escarpment (the escarpment is also known locally as the Balcones Fault) although it is not an active fault. It is an area which is made up of the Blackland Prairie consisting of rich, fertile, clay-like soils where the land is still used for agriculture, growing cotton and other crops, and for raising cattle. These prairie lands essentially run from Williamson County all the way down to the Gulf Coast and have a rich heritage of being farmed by German, Polish and other settlers.
West of the Escarpment is the beginning of the "upland" Texas Hill Country, characterized by rocky terrain with thin layers of soil lying on top of limestone. Some ranching occurs in the uplands, but mostly it has been the target of residential development because of the rolling terrain, vistas, hardwood trees, abundant wildlife, and rivers and streams (the very same reason that early Indians camped in this area). The Hill County areas are characterized by their porous "vugular" (honeycombed) rock where rain water slowly percolates down to replenish the underground Edwards Aquifer. For that reason development restrictions are in place and several endangered species are being protected by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. (See Endangered Species Section below). Interstate 35, the main artery of Williamson County, runs along the fault line dividing the two distinct regions.
Modern growth factors
Williamson County's fast growth rate is due in large part to its location immediately north of Austin coupled with Austin's rapid expansion northward. Austin's city limits cross into Williamson County making Austin the largest city in Williamson County. Most of the growth has been residential but also large employers, such as Dell's international headquarters, have changed Williamson County from just a bedroom community into a more vibrant community where its citizens can live and work in the same general vicinity. This has transformed Williamson county over recent years into a dynamic self-sustaining community with less dependency on Austin. Major retail and commercial developments began appearing from 1999 to present, including the Rivery in Georgetown, and the Premium Outlet Mall, the IKEA-area retail, the La Frontera mixed-use center in Round Rock. Health care and Higher Education have both become major factors in the growth of Williamson County as well. Two news colleges and two new hospitals have opened within the last five years. Another very significant factor has been the opening in of the North Loop 1 toll road and Texas State Highway 45 toll road which have made a major difference regarding the accessibility of Williamson County to and from Austin.
Prehistoric Williamson County
Much of Williamson County has been the site of human habitation for at least 11,200 years. The earliest known inhabitants of the area lived during the late Pleistocene (Ice Age), and are linked to the Clovis culture around 9,200 BCE (11,200 years old) based on evidence found at Bell County's much-studied Gault Site. One of the most important discoveries in recent times is that of the ancient skeletal remains dubbed "The Leanderthal Lady" because of its age and proximity to Leander, Texas. It was discovered by accident by the Texas Department of Transportation workers while drilling core samples for a new highway. The site has been extensively studied for many years and samples from this site carbon date to the Pleistocene period at approximately 10,500 years ago (9,500 BCE). Pre-historic and Archaic "open occupation" campsites are also found throughout the county along streams and other water sources including Brushy Creek in Round Rock and the San Gabriel River in Georgetown. Such evidence of Archaic Period inhabitants is often in the form of relics and flint tools recovered from burned rock middens. Many such sites were inundated when the San Gabriel River was dammed to create Lake Granger.
The earliest known historical native American occupants, the Tonkawa, were a flint-working, hunting people who followed the buffalo on foot and periodically set fire to the prairie to aid them in their hunts. During the eighteenth century they made the transition to a horse culture and used firearms to a limited extent. After they were crowded out by white settlement, the Comanches continued to raid settlements in the county until the 1860s. There also appear to have been small numbers of Kiowa, Yojuane, Tawakoni, and Mayeye Indians living in the county at the time of the earliest Anglo settlements.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,135 square miles (2,939 km²), of which 1,123 square miles (2,908 km²) is land and 12 square miles (31 km²) (1.05%) is water. The county is divided into two regions by the Balcones Escarpment, which runs through the center from north to south along a line from Jarrell to Georgetown to Round Rock. The western half of the county is an extension of the Western Plains and is considered to be within the eastern fringes of Texas Hill Country and has an average elevation of 850 feet (260 m). It features undulating hilly brushland with an abundance of Texas Live Oak, Prickly Pear Cactus and Karst topography. Eastern region of the county is part of the Coastal Plains and is flat to gently rolling with an average elevation of just 600 feet (180 m). It consists of flatter land, with dark clay and rich fertile lands for agriculture, but is quickly being developed as the county's population continues to increase and expand out. Williamson County is drained in the center and south by the San Gabriel River, which is the only river in the county, and in the north by creeks that run into the Lampasas and Little rivers north of the county line.
Environmentally protected areas
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge is located in the Texas Hill Country to the northwest of Austin, Texas including parts of western Williamson County. The Refuge was formed in 1992 to conserve habitat for two endangered songbirds: the Golden-cheeked Warbler and the Black-capped Vireo and to preserve Texas Hill Country habitat for numerous other wildlife species. The Refuge augments a similarly named preserve in Austin called the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. The vegetation found in the Hill Country includes various oaks, elms, and Ashe juniper trees (often referred to as "cedar" in Texas). The endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo depend on different successional stages of this vegetation. Both of these birds nest in the Edwards Plateau, the Warbler exclusively.
Williamson county is home to five endangered species. Two endangered species are songbirds protected by the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve in Travis and Williamson counties. (See above). The other three are invertebrate species found only in Williamson county and which live in the cave-like fissures on the west side of the county. Karst topography is the name for the honeycomb type limestone formations (including caves, sinkholes and fissures) that are typical in the county's limestone geology west of Interstate 35. In the 1990s a group of concerned landowners, individuals and real estate developers formed the Northern Edwards Aquifer Resource Council (NEARC) with the goal of obtaining a United States Fish and Wildlife Service 10-A permit (known as an Incidental Take Permit) for the entire county by identifying and preserving a sufficient number of caves with endangered species to ensure survival of the species. These species would be preserved through voluntary donations of land rather than required setbacks, grants, and other involuntary means typically enforced on landowners without an incidental take permit. The group transferred their successful work on an Environmental Impact Statement to the county in 2002 and a county-wide 10-A permit was obtained in October 2008. Property owners are able to participate in the County's 10-A permit by applying through the WCCF at www.wilco.org/wccf. 
On September 9 and 10, 1921, the remnants of a hurricane moved over Williamson County. The center of the storm became stationary over Thrall, a small farming town in eastern Williamson County, dropping a storm total of 39.7 inches of rain in 36 hours. The 24-hour rainfall total ending 7 am on September 10, 1921 (38.2 inches) at a U.S. Weather Bureau station in Thrall remains the national official 24-hr rainfall record. Thrall rainfall was 23.4 inches during 6 hours, 31.8 in. during 12 hours, and 36.4 in. during 18 hours.Eighty-seven people drowned in and near Taylor, and 93 in Williamson County.This storm caused the most deadly floods in Texas, with a total of 215 fatalities.
1997 Tornado Outbreak
On May 27, 1997, Williamson County was hit by the worst tornado outbreak in county history. The 1997 Central Texas Tornado Outbreak caused 20 tornadoes including an F-5 (the strongest rating used for tornadoes on the Fujita Scale), which remains the only F-5 to strike Williamson County. The F-5 tornado killed 27 people and completely destroyed the Double Creek Estates neighborhood in the city of Jarrell, Texas, Texas, located in far northern Williamson County. Another strong tornado, an F-3, struck the City of Cedar Park, killing 1 person. Two F-2 tornadoes also struck Williamson County. The outbreak cost the county over $190 million USD in damage and a total of 30 fatalities.
Texas Almanac: 1850–2010
As of the census of 2000, there were 249,967 people, 86,766 households, and 66,983 families residing in the county. The population density was 223 people per square mile (86/km²). There were 90,325 housing units at an average density of 80 per square mile (31/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 82.41% White, 5.12% Black or African American, 0.45% Native American, 2.64% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 7.19% from other races, and 2.11% from two or more races. 17.20% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 17.9% were of German, 9.8% English, 8.8% American and 8.1% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000.
There were 86,766 households out of which 43.90% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.00% were married couples living together, 9.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.80% were non-families. 17.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.82 and the average family size was 3.21.
In the county, the population was spread out with 30.00% under the age of 18, 8.10% from 18 to 24, 35.60% from 25 to 44, 19.10% from 45 to 64, and 7.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 99.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.70 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $60,642, and the median income for a family was $66,208. Males had a median income of $43,471 versus $30,558 for females. The per capita income for the county was $24,547. About 3.40% of families and 4.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.40% of those under age 18 and 5.90% of those age 65 or over.
Sun City Texas
One of the most significant growth factors of modern day Williamson County is the location of a new Sun City community in Georgetown. Opened in June 1995, and originally named "Sun City Georgetown", Sun City Texas is a 5,300 acre (21 km2) age-restricted community located in Georgetown, approximately 10 miles (16 km) west of IH-35 on Andice Road (RR 2338). It is part of the chain of Sun City communities started by the Del Webb Corporation (now a division of Pulte Homes)  Residency is restricted to persons over age 55 (at least one person in a couple has to be 55 or older) and the community is generally oriented toward retirees.
As originally planned the project would double the size of Georgetown's population. Sun City Texas is made up mostly of single-family dwellings, but also has duplexes. . The Sun City project includes three golf courses.(Legacy Hills, White Wing, and Cowan Creek) Although the community attracts residents from all over the majority come from within Texas to stay close to their original home. There has been vocal opposition to the project at times, especially at the start during the zoning process, with arguments against the size of the community, its effect on Georgetown as a family-oriented town, concerns about the costs of providing city utilities, and concern about lowered city and Williamson County property taxes which are fixed for retirees under Texas law, and the disproportionate effect of City voting.
But by and large the community has been welcomed and well accepted into the Georgetown populace. In the 2008 city elections, for example, two residents of Sun City were the only two candidates for Mayor of Georgetown. They also were both formerly elected city council members.
While Austin is primarily in Travis County, it is technically the largest city in Williamson county. Thorndale is primarily located in Milam County. Bartlett lies on the line between Williamson and Bell counties. Cedar Park, Leander, and Round Rock all have portions that extend into Travis County. Jollyville, Brushy Creek and Serenada are not communities as such but were census-designated
Economic development and business
Williamson County was an agrarian community for most of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Chisholm Trail, a cattle trail that led from Texas to the railcenters in Kansas and Missouri, crossed through the both Round Rock and Georgetown. Cotton was the dominant crop in the area between the 1880s and the 1920s and Williamson County was the top producer of cotton in the State of Texas. Primarily to transport bales of cotton, the county was served by two national railroads, the International-Great Northern Railroad, which eventually was merged into the Missouri Pacific, and the Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad. The town of Taylor in eastern Williamson County became the primary center for cotton production, cotton ginning (to remove the cotton seeds, and compressing the cotton into bales to transport by rail.
Other agriculture activities, farming and dairy were also a part of rural Williamson County east of the Balcones fault, and ranching occurred to the west in the Hill Country area. Both gradually gave way to more modern business, services, and retail as the overall area begin to become more urban. However, still today cattle ranching is a major business in some areas of the county, and cotton is still a significant crop east toward Hutto and Taylor.
Today the largest employer in Williamson County is Dell Computer Corp located in Round Rock, employing approximately 16,000 exployees. Retail and Health Care (including St.David's Hospital, Scott & White, Seton Medical Center Williamson hospital (a Level II certified trauma center, and the A&M Health Science center that opened in early 2010) are among the area's largest employers. Other than Dell, retail is the second most significant business group in the county. The new IKEA store and Premium Outlet Mall in Round Rock, as well as those located in the La Frontera mixed-use project in Round Rock are significant to the county. Wolf Ranch and The Rivery are also major retail centers located in Georgetown. In addition, Higher Education has a large positive effect on the county with the opening of the Texas State University Campus in Round Rock, the Texas State University Round Rock Campus (RRC), and the new Austin Community College campus which opened in 2010. The Round Rock campus is ACC's single largest campus in their system, providing two-year degrees as well as training in the high tech sector, nursing and other specialties.
The current courthouse, built in 1911, is an example of Neoclassical Revival architecture.| The courthouse has had a tumultuous past, surviving three major renovations and many modifications including the demolition of its key architectural features in 1966. With the assistance of the Texas Historical Commission and preservation-minded county citizens and officials, the courthouse was returned to its original 1911 state during a major 2006–2007 renovation, once again becoming a focal point of the county.
Williamson County flag
The stars on the flag surrounding the state of Texas represent the thirty-three viable communities identified by Clara Stearns Scarbrough in her 1973 book, Land of Good Water. In 1970, these communities ranged in population from twenty (20)people in Norman's Crossing to more than 10,000 residents in Taylor. It is difficult to establish how many communities exist in Williamson County today, because the determination of "community" is subjective and without set criteria. However, in Williamson County in 2004, there were 11 towns with populations of over 1,000 people and seven towns with populations above 5,000.
Government and politics
The Commissioners Court is the overall governing and management body of Williamson County. The Commissioners Court is responsible for all budgetary decisions and setting the tax rate each year. Among the duties of the Commissioners Court is administration of all the business of the County, including the building and maintenance of county roads and bridges. The use of a Commissioners Court as the governing body of county government is used in several US states, including Texas. The principal functions of the commissioners' court are legislative and executive. Although referred to as a court, commissioners' courts generally exercise only limited judicial powers.
The Commissioners Court consists of five members. The County Judge presides as chairman over the court, and is elected every four years by all voters in the county. Four Commissioners are elected by single-member precincts every four years. Currently, all five elected members of the Williamson County Commissioners Court are Republicans.
Congressional and state representation
Williamson County is a strongly Republican county. Every elected official in the county is a Republican.
All of Williamson County is within Texas Senate District 5, and is represented by State Senator Charles Schwertner (R). Both Carter and Schwertner were easily reelected in November 2012.
Williamson County includes three Texas House of Representatives Districts: District 20, District 52, and District 136. District 20 is represented by Republican Marsha Farney, who was unopposed in her campaign. District 52 is represented by Republican Larry Gonzales who was reelected in 2012 with over 70% of the vote. District 136 was newly created after the 2010 census and was won by Republican Tony Dale, a former Cedar Park city councilman, with 53% of the vote to 41% for his Democratic opponent and 6% for the Libertarian.
Presidential election results
Williamson County was traditionally a very solidly Democratic county. For example, in 1976 voters in Williamson County voted for President Jimmy Carter by a higher percentage (55%) than did voters in Travis County (52%). Since the early 1980s however the county has become increasingly Republican, to where by 2004 President George W. Bush won 68% of the vote in Williamson County while garnering only 42% in neighboring Travis County. John McCain received 55% of the vote to Barack Obama's 42% in the 2008 election. In 2012 Republican Mitt Romney defeated President Obama by a total of 59% to 38%.
Also of note is that election turnout reflects the tremendous growth of Williamson County as the 1960 total votes cast were only 3,650 while in 2012 over 163,000 votes were cast.
The newspapers that serve Williamson County include the Round Rock Leader, Williamson County Sun (Georgetown), Taylor Daily Press, Hutto News, Hill Country News (Leander), ''Liberty Hill Independent'', and Tribune-Progress Bartlett).
In 2005 Community Impact Newspaper (founded by John Garrett formerly of the Austin Business Journal) became the first county-wide newspaper. Local editions are produced and written for certain geographical areas: Cedar Park/Leander; Georgetown/Hutto/Taylor; and Round Rock/Pflugerville.
The following school districts serve Williamson County:
- Bartlett ISD (partly in Bell County, small portion in Milam County)
- Burnet Consolidated ISD (mostly in Burnet County, small portion in Llano County)
- Coupland ISD (very small portion in Travis County)
- Florence ISD (small portion in Bell County)
- Georgetown ISD
- Granger ISD
- Hutto ISD
- Jarrell ISD
- Leander ISD (partly in Travis County)
- Lexington ISD (mostly in Lee County, very small portion in Milam County)
- Liberty Hill ISD
- Round Rock ISD (small portion in Travis County)
- Taylor ISD
- Thrall ISD
- Thorndale ISD (mostly in Milam County)
- Nolan Ryan is a retired Major League Baseball pitcher and current president and majority owner of the Texas Rangers. Ryan played in a major league record 27 seasons for the New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, and Texas Rangers, from 1966 to 1993. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.
- Sam Bass (1851–1878) Outlaw and train robber, killed in a famous shootout in Round Rock in 1878. The shootout is re-enacted once a year as part of the Old Settlers Day celebration in Round Rock.
- King Fisher (1854- March 11, 1884) was a Texas rancher and gunfighter who lived in Williamson County during his boyhood.
- Dan Moody. Daniel James Moody, Jr. (June 1, 1893 – May 22, 1966) was a US political figure and Democrat. Born in Taylor, Texas, he served as the 30th Governor of Texas between 1927 and 1931, and is best remembered in Texas history as a reformer and an opponent of the Ku Klux Klan as the District Attorney for Williamson County. At age 33, he was elected and served as the youngest Governor in Texas history.
In popular culture
- Williamson County is depicted in the Coen Brothers movie Blood Simple.
- The 1996 film Michael (A Nora Ephron film) was shot principally in Georgetown and in and around Williamson County.
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Original version (1974). Primary filming occurred at a dilapidated farmhouse on the site of what is now La Frontera. In 1993 the house was moved to Kingsland, Texas and restored to become a restaurant at The Antlers Hotel. The story in the movie is not a true story and no such chainsaw massacre ever occurred. See also Texas Chainsaw House for more detail.
- List of museums in Central Texas
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Williamson County, Texas
- http://www.wilco.org Williamson County, TX Home Page
- "Austin-Round Rock, Texas MSA". The Milken Institute.
- United States Census Bureau. "2010 Census Data". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
- State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- Robert McAlpin Williamson Handbook of Texas entry
- Jordan, Terry G. "Hill Country". Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved November 7, 2009.
- "Handbook of Texas Online, "Gault Site" entry". Retrieved 2010-07-18.
- Thompson, Karen R.; Jane H. Digesualado. Historical Round Rock Texas. Austin, Texas: Nortex Press (Eakin Publications). pp. 4, 7. ISBN none Check
- "Pre-history" Handbook of Texas entry
- "Williamson County" Handbook of Texas entry
- United States Fish and Wildlife Service. "Overview". Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. Retrieved 2010-03-21.
- U.S. Senate, Committee on Appropriations. 2006. Prepared statement of Friends of Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. Senate Hearings, Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations, HR 2361, pp. 174–175.
- United States Fish and Wildlife Service. "Welcome". Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. Retrieved 2010-03-20.
- Barrios, Jennifer (September 30, 2004). "Grant will help creepier residents. $2.35 million to save beetles, spiders and other endangered species". Austin American-Statesman. p. A1.
- Doolittle, David (October 23, 2008). "Plan to protect species gets OK; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service gives approval.". Austin American-Statesman.
- "Significant Weather Events of the 1900s". National Weather Service. Retrieved 2009-03-22.[dead link]
- "Major and Catastrophic Storms and Floods in Texas". United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
- U.S. Decennial Census
- Texas Almanac: County Population History 1850–2010
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- Novak, Shonda. "Builders Pulte, Centex to combine in deal with national significance: Merger might be sign of industry rebound". Austin American-Statesman: B–07.
- Ward, Pamela (December 29, 1996). "On course for a grand opening in sun city". Austin American-Statesman: B–1. Retrieved 2010-07-18.
- Banta, Bob (April 10, 2008). "Mayoral hopefuls let their work talk". Austin American-Statesman. pp. W–01.
- McLemore, Andrew (August 15, 2010). "Cotton County". Williamson County Sun.
- THE COURTHOUSE OF WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Georgetown, Texas
- commission.org/Courthouse/Williamson_County_Texas_Courthouse.htm "Williamson County Courthouse". Williamson County Historical Commission. Retrieved July 16, 2010.
- Trollinger, Ben. Cox to purchase Round Rock Leader, The Williamson County Sun, October 18, 2006. Retrieved July 16, 2010.
- "Community Impact Newspaper, About Us". JG Media. Retrieved July 16, 2010.[dead link]
- "Rates and Circulation". Austin American Statesman.[dead link]
- 'Austin Business Journal, Austin, Texas, November 11, 2010, by Sandra Zaragosa,
- "Plans revealed for Austin Community College." Austin Business Journal, Austin, Texas, September 3, 2008. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
- "Plans revealed for Austin Community College." Austin Business Journal, Austin, Texas, September 3, 2008. Retrieved July 2, 2010.
-  "Texas A&M Health Science Center Opens" KBTX-TV, Retrieved July 21, 2010
-  "Now Open – National American University" Community Impact Newspaper, Retrieved August 2, 2012
- antlers.com "The Antlers".
- Pack, MM (October 23, 2003). "The Killing Fields: A culinary history of 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' farmhouse". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-02-02.
|Library resources about
Williamson County, Texas History
Government & Non-Profit Sites
- Williamson County government's website
- Williamson Central Appraisal District web site
- Williamson County Historical Commission
- Williamson County Historical Commission Photos
- Robert Williamson Father of County
- Robert M. Williamson's entry in the Biographical Encyclopedia of Texas hosted by the Portal to Texas History.
- Williamson County from the Handbook of Texas Online
Blogs and other sites
- Eye on Williamson – Liberal political blog
- Williamson County Conservative – conservative political blog
- Williamson County chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas
- Williamson County Weather and Climate Data
||Bell County||Milam County|
|Burnet County||Lee County|
|Travis County||Bastrop County|