Lo­cal his­to­rian shines light on Hill Coun­try

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Rachel Rice Lake Travis View

LAKE­WAY — When it comes to the his­tory of west­ern Travis County, not much is known. But lo­cal his­to­rian Elaine Perkins made it her task to col­lect ex­ist­ing sto­ries, mem­o­ries and records and to make a book, cap­tur­ing what life was like in the Texas Hill Coun­try in the late 1800s.

“A Hill Coun­try Par­adise? Travis County and Its Early Set­tlers” con­tains 20 years’ worth of Perkins’ re­search.

“My hus­band’s fam­ily was one of the first fam­i­lies that came up here, and we were in­ter­ested in where dif­fer­ent peo­ple came from,” Perkins said. “I started out with ceme­ter­ies, and he wanted to know where Lizzie Nolan was buried — she was the mail car­rier. We said this needs to be put down, be­cause there were so many sto­ries peo­ple told me.”

The book chron­i­cles the 1800s all the way to the 1930s, Perkins said, and cov­ers the area west of Austin bor­dered by the Colorado River be­tween Hays and Bur­net county lines. Writ­ten ac­counts of the early set­tlers in west­ern Travis County are scarce, so most of Perkins’ re­search en­tailed talk­ing to fam­i­lies of orig­i­nal set­tlers.

“There was a 1937 school­book they put out in small schools in Travis County, and I talked to older set­tlers that were still here or their fam­ily was,” Perkins said. “I talked to them (and) got sto­ries, and it took about 20 years. In the mean­time, I cat­a­logued ceme­ter­ies and put that out, too.”

The orig­i­nal set­tlers in the area, Perkins said, are mostly Ger­man. They came to the area be­cause they heard it was a par­adise, eas­ily arable and full of an­i­mals to hunt. When they got there, as her book de­tails, they found soil was tough and life was hard.

“They fished and farmed what they could and hunted mostly,” Perkins said. “They hunted bear and deer and things to eat, and they used rocks to build houses. There was no school or any­thing here ei­ther. There were still In­di­ans here. They had to fight off In­di­ans try­ing to build their homes, and the In­di­ans would take their cat­tle.”

The book is filled with sto- ries of tragedy and tri­umph, of vi­o­lent death and hardy sur­vival.

There were fights be­tween fam­i­lies who sym­pa­thized with dif­fer­ent sides dur­ing the Civil War, and dur­ing times of law­less­ness, the book de­tails how jus­tice was of­ten served at the hands of the Texas Rangers.

The book also tells the tales of his­tor­i­cal build­ings in the area, such as the old school house near the Bee Cave po­lice sta­tion.

“I just like his­tory and ge­neal­ogy,” said Perkins, a re­tired nurse.

In the ac­knowl­edge­ments at the be­gin­ning of her book, Perkins wrote: “If this slice of his­tory is passed on to gen­er­a­tions to come, I will have ac­com­plished my ob­jec­tive.”

Elaine Perkins (left) signs copies of her book on West­ern Travis County his­tory with Bee Cave li­brar­ian Mary Miller at Bee Cave’s 25th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion Dec. 12. LAKE TRAVIS VIEW

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.