Hamilton Pool 1980s

The Hamilton Pool Preserve, unknown date

A Brief History of Travis County

Travis County, located in Central Texas, was established on January 25, 1840, by an act of the Fourth Congress of the Republic of Texas, days after the community of Waterloo had been renamed Austin and designated the capital city. The county was named after William Barret Travis, legendary commander of the Republic of Texas forces at the Battle of the Alamo.[1]

Travis County was created from Bastrop County, one of the original twenty-three counties formed in 1836. The encompassing area was known as the Travis District, which consisted of roughly 40,000 square miles. Counties that were later carved from the Travis District include Comal in 1846, Gillespie and Hayes in 1848, Burnet in 1852, Brown and Lampasas in 1856, and Callahan, Coleman, Eastland, Runnels and Taylor in 1858. Today Travis County is comprised of 989 square miles.

The first election of county officials was held in February, 1840, at which time the population was reported to be 856.[2] Local government began work immediately, by establishing four militia beats and by locating a suitable place in which to administer justice for the young county. The first officially recognized courthouse was constructed in 1855. Since then, Travis County government has operated out of two additional Courthouses, including the ornate 1876 structure, and our current Courthouse building, which was constructed in 1930.

Travis County has grown rapidly since its formation, and so has its government. Offices such as the Commissioners Court, County Clerk, Treasurer, Sheriff, Courts of Law and Judges have been a part of Travis County government since establishment. Over the years numerous new offices and departments have been added; today there are over 40 departments, including 48 elected offices, within the County.

Read the full entry on Travis County in the Handbook of Texas Online.


[1] The Heman Marion Sweatt Travis County Courthouse, Austin, Texas: A Historical Perspective (Austin, Texas, 2008). A copy of this brochure can be obtained at the Travis County Courthouse.

[2] Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. “Travis County,” http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hct08 (accessed February 10, 2009).