Hills Prairie, Texas
Hills Prairie, or Hill's Prairie, is an unincorporated community in Bastrop County, Texas, United States. It is located off Farm to Market Road 304, eight miles southeast of the town of Bastrop, 8 miles northwest of Smithville and 40 miles southeast of Austin.
Hills Prairie was founded in the 1830s by the area's first settlers, Elisha Barton and Edward Jenkins. In 1833, John Gilmer McGehee visited the town, returning two years later with 140 homesteaders from Georgia and Alabama. By that time, Jenkins had died. His widow, Sarah, sold 2,200 acres to Abram Wiley (Wylie) Hill who built a home on the land. Thereafter, the settlement was known as Hills Prairie.
The community constructed a private school. Religious services (Methodist) were held in the Hill and McGehee homes. Hill himself built a cotton gin in 1843. A post office request was granted in 1877. In 1888, under postmaster John McDonald, the facility was renamed McDonald's Store. When Sarah Hill became postmistress four years later, it reverted to Hills Prairie.
The population was estimated at 30 in 1884. When an extension of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad arrived, the figure rose to 50. By the mid-1890s, town businesses included a drug store, a general store, a swine dealer and a second cotton gin. In 1914, Hills Prairie's population was 75; however, in 1925 records, it is listed as only six. The town's nearness to fast-growing Bastrop is thought to have played a part in the decline. In 1925, Hills Prairie closed its school; in 1930, the post office was shuttered. Following the Great Depression, the population rose again, reaching 62 in the late 1960s, then fell to 35 according to the 1990 census.
Hills Prairie today
The 2000 census listed 50 residents. There is no updated population information. Area residents are engaged primarily in farming and ranching. Notable businesses include the Hills Prairie Livestock Co., which holds auctions every Wednesday at noon, and The Gas Station (formerly Ryan's Hills Prairie Grocery), a barbecue restaurant housed in the building featured as the Last Chance Gas Station in the film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
- "Hills Prairie, Texas". Texas Escapes. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
- Mitchell Marks, Paula. "Hills Prairie, Texas". Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
- Uhler, Andy. "Today's cattle business is way more than cowboys". Marketplace. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
- Barrera, Ralph. "Hills Prairie Livestock Auction". Statesman. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
- Kreps, Daniel. "'Texas Chain Saw Massacre' Gas Station Turning Into Horror-Themed BBQ Pit". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 13 August 2018.