"Smithville had already been named; it seems that a Mr. Smith and a Mr. Gazley each owned a lot of land, and the people couldn't decide who they wanted the town named for, so they tossed a coin and Mr. Smith won. But the Creek that flows into the River right below Mr. Nance's Cedar Products business runs through Mr. Gazley's land, so the little stream was named Gazley Creek.
The railroad chose to have its depot farther west than the village upon the River, so the "new" town was laid out in that area with the Main Street , the one we have now, going straight to the River where a new ferry was started. In 1887, one hundred years ago this year, the Katy railroad came to our town and things really began to happen! A group of men formed a company called the Smithville Town Company. Mr. Murray Burleson was one of the leaders of the Smithville Town Co. which did much to help settle the town. Their main job was selling land to the newcomers for homes, but they gave land for most of the Churches, and for the first public school. The school was a wooden building on a corner of the block where the Head Start school is now. It was several years before the brick building was built.
Mr. Yerger Hill and his father-in-law, Mr. Yerger, had a store across the River at Alum Creek which was larger than Smithville then. When news came that the railroad was coming here the Hills left Alum Creek and put their store in Smithville where it is now. They also built their home here. It is the big white house across the street from the Post Office, and it was the first house built on Main Street. There were only cotton fields and corn fields, and trees to be seen at that time. for the streets hadn't been established. they also opened the town's first bank, The First State Bank.
Another Buescher business was the Smithville Gin, one of 3 cotton gins here at first. The gin where part of Texas Cedar Products is now on First St. was a large operation. The cotton was ginned there, the bales set out on the concrete platform for shipment by railroad cars which came right up to the loading dock by way of a short railroad track which crossed 1st. street from the main line. The track continued along side the gin and crossed Hwy. 95 at the Upton Road and went down the side of the metal Cedar Products warehouse almost to Zimmerhanzel's Locker Plant. There were 2 large red brick buildings there then, and a large red wooden building. By a highly "modernized" process, the cotton was pulled from the cotton seeds and the hulls were blown into an elevated wooden hopper and carried by an electric enclosed conveyer trough which went across the street over the railroad spur track into the wooden building or hull house where they were later troughed into the 1st brick building, the oil mill, and the cottonseed oil was extracted, and finally they went into the 3rd. building where they were ground into meal as feed for cattle.
During the summer cotton ginning season, the white lint from the gin fell on everything around like a light snow fall. And you could stand on the main line of the railroad track on Hwy 98 (95) and call 'Hello" and the 3 big buildings would echo back 'Hello-o-o';
Mr. Murray Burleson's first family home was the white house on Main St. which burned last summer. He moved it there from the end of Gresham St. at Colorado Road on the river when he built the large house that's now behind the iron fence. He called it the 'Mansion' and it hasn't been changed except for the furniture in 85 years. Mrs. Sammie DeSpain lives there now.
The first bridge across the river was a wooden bridge which washed away in a great flood in 1900. It was replaced by a large steel bridge much like the old river bridge in Bastrop. During WW II a big tractor blade accidentally knocked out part of one span and the bridge was closed for a while. During that time the Army Engineers from Camp Swift near Bastrop came and built a pontoon bridge across the river down at the foot of Ramona St. below Mr. Martin Goebel's house. It was fun crossing on the floating bridge!
During a great winter storm in 1898 the river froze over, and people went skating on the ice. The house where Mr. Erwin Walicek lives behind the Entex Gas office was moved from Alum Creek and floated across the river on a raft by Dr. J.H.E. Powell who was the father-in-law of Mrs. Ann Powell who lives in the white house across from the First State Drive-In window. A Mr. Whit Turney flew his airplane under the iron bridge one time. Once there was a man who brought his airplane to Smithville and for 50 cents would take a person for a ride.
The two story house next door to Mrs. Ann Powell was the home of an early Smithville Dr. W.E. Curham who was also mayor at one time. The brick house next to it was the family home of Mr. J.H. Chancellor who owned the dry goods store, now Shetsko on Main St.
The Post Office was in one of the buildings where Western Auto is now. Marrs-Jones Funeral Home used to be a livery stable where people rented Horses and buggies, etc. Miss Lillian Rabb's father and another man owned the building on the corner of Main St. where Milton's warehouse is. They had a furniture store and funeral parlor, and a human skeleton nicknamed 'Charlie' that the school children used to be frightened of as they passed by that building.
There was once a professional baseball team here; there was and Opera House upstairs above Winns Store where plays, musicals and magic shows and all kinds of entertainment was held. It burned many years ago.
Circuses and Carnivals and medicine shows often come to town. Even a man walked across Main St. on a tight wire where the traffic light is now!
The land on the bank of Gazley Creek behind Zimmerhanzel's and where the old Texas Cedar Products building is was once the Confederate Park, and large picnics and meetings, etc., were held there under the big oak trees. The City firemen's BarB-Qs were there and they had a band and gave concerts, etc.
There used to be two passenger trains through here each day; and there was a very loud shop whitele (whistle) which the railroad blew at 8 am, 12 noon, and 4 pm for all the town to hear.
Hiway 71 used to come down Main St. from the old iron river bridge, and go out First St. by the railroad. There were large lamp posts with 4 big globes on Main St., one at each block; and there was a cannon on the lawn by the old City Hall.
In 1913 there was another big flood which washed out the bridge across Gazley Creek on the Upton road and also the one across the Creek on the street to Mt. Pleasant 'the Hill'. and Dr. Tansey, a dentist, drove his Model T car across the railroad bridge to deliver supplies to the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood which was cut off from town. The last major flood was in 1935, then the dams were built above Austin to form the Highland Lakes."