Round Rock, Texas, was established on the north bank of Brushy Creek where Jacob M. Harrell, formerly a blacksmith in Austin, set up his shop during the spring of 1848. The settlement was first called Brushy Creek. Thomas C. Oatts, who became the first postmaster in 1851, was asked by postal officials to submit another name, and on August 24, 1854, the town officially became Round Rock, as suggested by Oatts and Harrell, who often fished together from a large anvil-shaped limestone rock in Brushy Creek near their homes. The Chisholm Trail, used by early cattle drivers on their way to Kansas, passed through Round Rock, crossing Brushy Creek near the rock.
In 1876, when the International-Great Northern Railroad was built through Williamson County, its tracks were laid a short distance south and east of Round Rock. The community began to move toward the railroad and the south bank of Brushy Creek, building at first a tent city that was referred to for a time as “new” Round Rock. The original site was largely abandoned and was called Old Round Rock in official records. Since 1970, the town has developed in all directions, and so-called Old Town, consisting of a few restored limestone structures, is now surrounded by the rest of the city.
Within a year after the coming of the railroad, the town had a dozen businesses and professional offices, several hotels, a new broom factory, a lime plant operated by William Walsh, and two short-lived newspapers. The town’s prosperity drew outlaw Sam Bass to the area in 1878; his capture and death after a shootout that year are commemorated annually during the town’s Frontier Days celebration. In 1879, the Round Rock Searchlightwas established. This newspaper became the Round Rock Leader in 1896 and is still operating today.
During the first six decades of the 20th century, Round Rock had a population between 1,000 and 1,400. The town began to grow in the 1960s and became the site of much historic restoration and preservation work. The 1970s brought dramatic growth, as nearby Austin expanded and brought large-scale development to Round Rock. The town became a bedroom community for Austin and a site for manufacturing and industry. Its population rose between 1970 and 1980 from 2,811 to 11,812. Growth continued in the 1980s as the city became home to several computer-related industries, including Dell and over 300 retail businesses. Today, the greater Round Rock population is approximately 155,000.