Travis County: A History of Progressive Thought, Innovative Expression and Effective Management

Travis County and its residents are known by their fellow Texans as being progressive in their thought, innovative in their expression, and effective in meeting their goals. Judging by their history, Travis County’s residents have displayed these traits from the start. Travis County was created on January 25, 1840 from a portion of Bastrop County, one of the original 23 counties formed when Texas won its independence from Mexico.

In about 1838, Mirabeau Lamar, then President of the fledgling Republic of Texas, became enamored with an area on the Colorado River and began to consider making it the site of the new Republic’s capital. Beginning in August 1839, Stephen F. Austin started selling “city lots” to speculators and potential business owners in a local settlement, then called Waterloo. In December 1839, the Congress of the Republic of Texas authorized the growing settlement as the capital and renamed it Austin.

Most counties throughout Texas were created by survey. Surveyors would then locate the county seat roughly in its center to provide equal access to all its residents. But not Travis County, because the City of Austin was already off and running a full month before Travis County was established around the new Texas capital city.

Technology Built This County — The Railroads and High Technology

In 1850, Austin businessmen impatient for vital transportation and the economic boon it would provide, established The Austin Railroad Commission to encourage railroad construction into the area. Initial optimism was temporarily frustrated by the onset of the Civil War. The war ultimately delayed coveted rail service through Travis County until the early 1870s.

A century after those early efforts, Austin again began an initiative to attract new business. This time, the focus wasn’t on locomotives, but instead on high tech. One of the first companies successfully lured to town was a start-up known as Texas Instruments. In the late 50s, Tracor and a branch of industry leader IBM were persuaded to locate in Austin.

Over the next few decades, Travis County became known as the Silicon Valley of Texas as the effort continued to attract tech giants such as AMD, Apple, Dell Computers, Google, Motorola, Samsung, Sematech and 3M (among many others) to the region.

For more than 150 years, Travis County residents have continued to make ambitious goals, and they retain a progressive and innovative reputation that has grown throughout the state, the nation, and now throughout the world.