Milam County, Texas - History

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SOURCE: Paddock, B. B., Capt., ed. A History of Central and Western Texas – Compiled from Historical Data Supplied by Commercial Clubs, Individuals and Other Authentic Sources. Chicago, IL: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1911, p. 661.

Milam County, Texas

The history of Milam county begins with the empresario grant made to Robert Leftwich in April 1825. This grant covered the territory north from the San Antonio road, between the Navasota river and the ridge dividing the waters of the Colorado from the Brazos, so that the northern portion of the present counties of Brazos, Burleson and Lee and a large territory of Central Texas to the north were included in the tract. In 1827 Leftwich turned over his contract to the Nashville Colonization Company of Tennessee, whose active agent was Sterling C. Robertson. The first settlements began in 1826, and in 1830 Robertson arrived with 200 families. But under the Mexican decree of April 6, 1830, forbidding further immigration from the United States, these colonists were refused admission, and many of them settled in Austin’s colonies. Soon after, the contract with the Nashville Company was annulled and its lands included in the grant to Austin & Williams of 1831. Robertson’s premiums and rights as empresario were restored to him by the decree of April 29, 1834, but that act was repealed May 18, 1835, and the colony returned to Austin & Williams. However, the families which had been introduced by Roberson were granted their rights as settlers under the original contract. A commissioner was appointed May 24, 1834, to issue titles to the settlers. In November 1835, the provisional Texas government suspended the land office, and December 2, 1835, an order was issued for the arrest of the commissioner of the Nashville Colony, who had failed to obey this law and had continued to place the settlers in possession of their lands.

The published laws of Coahuila-Texas have no record of the organization of a municipality in the territory above the San Antonio road. At the convention of October 1832, the “district of Viesca” was represented by Jared E. Groce, William Robinson and Joshua Hadly. Probably none of these lived in the limits of the present county of Milam. At the general consultation of October 1835, the “municipality of Viesca” was represented by J. G. W. Pierson, J. L. Hood, S. T. Allen, A. G. Perry, J. W. Parker, Alex. Thompson. The settlers above the San Antonio road between the Navasota and Colorado were included in this local government of Viesca. The principal seat of this settlement and the capital of the municipality was at the “falls of the Brazos,” (in Falls county). On December 27, 1835, the Texas provisional government decreed that “the town at the falls of the Brazos river in the Nashville colony, heretofore known by the name of Viesca,” should be changed to the name of Milam, and the name of the municipality was changed to correspond. Viesca was the last of the governors of the Mexican state of Coahuila-Texas. In Falls county the site of the old capital town is still known by the name of Viesca, thus preserving in geography the name which was formerly applied to a large part of Texas. At the Washington convention in March 1836, George C. Childress and Sterling C. Robertson were delegates from the municipality of Milam, and the former was chairman of the committee, which drew up the declaration of independence.

After the establishment of the Republic, the old municipality of Milam became Milam county, one of the 23 original counties. In the Texas Telegraph of September 30, 1837, is a sketch of Milam county, containing the following statements: “Sarahville, situated at the great falls of the Brazos, was the county seat fixed by congress; but the depredations of the Indians have compelled the inhabitants to abandon their homes. . . . Nashville (the place known as Viesca on the map) is now the county seat and principal town. . . . Tenoxtitlan, twelve miles below, is an old Mexican station, but is now nearly deserted. It contains but four or five houses.” While the substance was correct, it appears that the writer confused the locations of the towns somewhat.

December 14, 1837, Milam county was divided, all that part north of the San Antonio road and between the Brazos and Navasota being included in the new county of Robertson. The Brazos was thus the east boundary of the reduced Milam county, but from the area that remained a large number of the counties of Central Texas have since been formed. The county has had its present limits since 1850.

Cordova’s Texas (1858) states that in 1833 only five persons were settled in Milam county above the Yegua. The town of Viesca, at the falls, was laid off in 1834, and in 1835 settlements were formed on Pond creek and Little river, and at Nashville, on the Brazos, about three miles below the mouth of Little river. The town of Nashville was incorporated June 5, 1837.

In 1835-1836, during the war with Mexico, these settlements on the northern frontier were exposed to Indian hostilities, which continued, resulting in great loss to life and property, throughout the existence of the Republic. During these raids five persons were killed on the site of the present town of Cameron. The old Mexican post of Tenoxtitlan had been established on the Brazos near what is now the south line of Milam county, about 1831, during 1836 all the settlers were driven back to this post and the town of Nashville. Bryant’s fort, on Little river, near the west line of Milam county, was soon afterward founded as a nucleus of settlement. The lack of adequate protection hindered settlement for a number of years, and the litigation over land grants was another cause that retarded the permanent growth of the county.

Besides dispersing a majority of the settlers, these troubles resulted in a practical disorganization of the county government for several years. The location of the county seat was changed several times. An act of January 15, 1842, names William D. Thompson, Daniel Monroe, Shaply Ross, Winford Bailey and Major Bryant, commissioners to select a permanent county seat, to be called “San Andres.” Later the county business was transferred to Caldwell and remained there until the organization of Burleson county in 1846. Under the act of April 4, 1846, commissioners were to locate the county seat at the center of the county, and until that could be done the county business should be transacted at the former county seat, Nashville. The central location selected by the commissioners was named Cameron, and that has since been the permanent county seat. An item in the Telegraph of March 1, 1849, mentions the new town of Cameron, which was said to contain about forty houses. From that time the old towns on the Brazos, Nashville and Port Sullivan, began to decline. In the Texas Almanac for 1861 Cameron was said to have a brick court house, five to six stores, an equal number of lawyers and doctors, an academy and Baptist church. Port Sullivan, on a bluff of the Brazos, had a hotel and high school. At that time the H. & T. C. Railroad had reached Millican, and the trade of the county was through that town to Houston and Galveston.

After the war, though without railroads, the county developed more rapidly, both in population and general improvement. The total population in 1870 was 8,984. At that time communication with the outer world was by stage from Cameron to Calvert on the railroad. Port Sullivan, Devilla, Maysfield, Bryant’s Station, Smith’s Mills were the villages outside of the county seat. At Port Sullivan was a college, which had great favor as a local institution.

The first railroad to pass through the county, the I. & C. M. from Hearne to Austin, was built in 1876. This caused a diversion of trade to the south side of the county, and the towns along the line profited while the rest of the county was without rail facilities. In 1881 the Santa Fe was built from Brenham to Belton, giving Cameron its first railroad. The “Sap” railroad was completed through the county about 1890.

The population of the county in 1880 was 18,659 (3,934 negroes); in 1890, 24,773; in 1900, 39,666 (10,473 negroes); and in 1910, 36,780—this being one of the few counties of the state that has lost in population during the last decade.

Rockdale, from its location on the first railroad in the county and the coalmines near by, during the seventies and eighties took the position of metropolis of the county. In 1880 Cameron was the second town in the county, and Milano and Devilla were smaller villages. In 1890 the population of the principal towns was: Cameron, 1,608; Rockdale, 1,505; Milano, 416; Baileyville, 237; Gause, 88; Branchville, 86; Buckholts, 64; San Gabriel, 42. In 1900 the towns having a population of a hundred or more were: Cameron, 3,341; Rockdale, 2,515; Milano, 481; Thorndale, 448; Buckholts, 182; Gause, 298; Baileyville, 175; San Gabriel, 132; Minerva, 118; Tracy, 133; Maysfield, 138; Ben Arnold, 148.

In 1870 the taxable property of the county was valued at $1,354,208; in 1882, $3,581,491; in 1903, $8,386,411; and in 1909, $16,754,303.

We must say a special thank you to Karin Galindo of Omaha, NE, for typing the above biographical sketch for use on the Milam County TXGenWeb site.

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Created on 15 Feb 2001 and last revised on 2 Dec 2006

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