Smithville, TX – Bastrop County

Population 3,927 // Official Website // Schools

Smithville is located 10 miles southeast of Bastrop and 45 miles southeast of Austin. The town was established in 1827 by Dr. Thomas Jefferson Gazley. Gazley built the first house and established the first store, which served incoming settlers as well as the Lipan and Tonkawa Indians. He worked as Clerk and Secretary in the Mexican government and was granted a Mexican license to practice medicine. Gazley helped write the Texas Declaration of Independence and the Texas Constitution. During the Texas War for Independence, he fought as a citizen soldier-surgeon in the battles of Gonzales, Concepcion Mission, and San Jacinto. After the war he moved to Harrisburg, where he practiced Probate Law, and was elected to the Second Legislature of the Republic of Texas. The city of Smithville was named after William Smith, another of the area’s early settlers.

William Smith’s family arrived several years after Dr. Gazley. They owned a store and had a prominent standing in the community. In 1887 the railroad constructed a “terminus” (now called a “depot”) at the new town site, and the TB&H began passing through the area. Almost overnight the town was flooded with railroad workers, and subsequently commerce and service industries to support the town’s incoming residents followed.

By May 1879 Smithville was a thriving village. Extensions of local railroad lines through the community bolstered a huge boom to Smithville in the 1890’s. This gave rise to growth that made Smithville the largest city in Bastrop County for nearly fifty years. The growing population necessitated the building of homes, stores, and infrastructure. The Hill family brought retail marketing and established the first bank. A number of prominent families involved in land-based activities united to establish cotton gins, general stores, drugstores, lumber and brick yards and to develop churches and fraternal organizations such as the Masons and the Oddfellows.

By 1900, Smithville’s population had grown and was now roughly ten percent of Bastrop County’s entire population, making it the largest city in the county. It was a modern town with indoor plumbing, electricity, and telephone service. The town’s population reached a peak in the mid-1940’s, then experienced a slow decline over the next few decades. By the mid-1970’s Smithville once again had a burgeoning population, along with a new city hall, library, and storm drainage system.

Smithville’s two historic districts, Independence Park (the location of Dr. Gazley’s historic homestead), and the “undertold stories” marker (commemorating the Chitlin Trail musicians and the Negro Baseball League) celebrate the importance Smithville places on its history. Many buildings constructed during the 1890s-1930s still stand and are a source of pride…and sometimes additional income thanks to the flourishing film industry.

Centrally located between Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Bryan-College Station, today’s Smithville is a manufacturing and trading center, but agriculture is also an important part of the economy, namely farming and raising livestock. Plays, concerts, art and films have had a long tradition here, and are part of the fabric of community life and economy in Smithville. The town’s assets include a small-plane airport (initially a private landing strip in 1947), the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center / Science Park Research Center, the exceptional Smithville Independent School District, and the Colorado River. Its rural nature, small town soul, historic backdrop, sense of pride and artistic inclinations are key components that comprise Smithville’s eclectic character.

Smithville’s places of interest include the Texas Veterans Memorial Park plus splash pad for the kids, world class biking and hiking trails, and a rodeo arena, just to name a few. Activities abound with kayaking, biking, skateboarding, a dog park, antique shopping and more. The City of Smithville Recreation Center is a 22,500 square foot multi-purpose facility featuring a gymnasium and theatrical stage. It is also equipped with a kitchen, computer room, meeting rooms, weight room, cardio room, racquetball court and locker rooms with showers. Fitness classes and programs for adults and kids are offered throughout the year. Annual events such as the Smithville Jamboree, the Gingerbread Man 5K/3-mile Fun Run/Walk and the December Festival of Lights draw residents as well as visitors from afar.

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