Yes, that’s right. Not Willacy, and not Williamson, but Willie County. That’s not a typo.
The first time I drove through downtown Taylor, I thought it looked like it ought to be a county seat.
Of course, it’s not.
But if Howard Bland, Curren Mendel, and James A. Simons (who all served on the building committee for the 1891 First Christian Church of Taylor) and other leading figures of the area had gotten their way, it might be.
In fact, it was while researching James A. Simons that I found the first reference to Willie County, in the December 16, 1888 edition of the Fort Worth Daily Gazette:
A convention assembled in the opera house yesterday, composed of 102 delegates from the towns of Davilla, Bartlett, Granger, Taylor, Shiloh, Gentry, San Gabriel, Circleville, Union Ridge, Allison, Val Verde, Locklin, Catchings, and Clark’s schoolhouses, to organize a movement for the creation of Willie County.
That would be the opera house in Taylor, which seems to have been located on North Main where the Thrift Store is today.
It took a little more digging to find out where the name “Willie” came from, though. The October 17, 1888 edition of The Galveston Daily News provides those details:
Willie county, named in honor of Chief Justice A.H. Willie, is located in the central portion of the state and is bounded on the north by Bell county; on the south by Travis; east by Milam and on the west by Williamson.
That’s Asa Hoxie Willie, who served as Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court from 1882 to 1888.
Now what’s interesting about this article is that it is written as if Willie County actually existed.
In fact, The Galveston Daily News is actually quoting another paper.
And the name of that paper is The Willie County Democrat.
Yes, that’s right, Willie County had its own newspaper, with a circulation of around 400, and it was published in Barlett. The 1889 edition of N.W. Ayer & Son’s American Newspaper Annual has the details:
Now up until this point I thought that the move to establish Willie County had started around the time the club mentioned in the first article was organized in December 1888. But that listing also indicates that the Willie County Democrat was established in 1886.
And in fact, further digging turns up more references to Willie County.
The March 1, 1887 edition of the Austin Daily Statesman lists several arrivals at the Hotel Orr in Austin. Three of those, John Threadgill, H. Dickson, and J.A. Fink are all listed as being from Willie County.
And the July 31, 1887 edition of the Austin Daily Statesman reports on Willie County’s first bale of cotton for the year.
Five months earlier, the Austin Daily Statesman reports on two petitions regarding the creation of Willie County. Senator Glasscock brought a petition from the citizens of Washington County opposing its creation, and Senator Houston of Williamson County brought one in favor of its creation.
So what happened to Willie County?
Well, several articles note opposition to the creation of the county from folks in both Williamson and Milam Counties.
It seems the opponents won the day. The February 1, 1889 edition of the Fort Worth Daily Gazette contains a brief article that mentions a telegram sent from Austin to Cameron (in Milam County) stating that “Willie County is at last dead for the present.”
What exactly that means, I do not know yet. Perhaps the legislature declined to create the county?
I’ll have to dig some more. I hope to find more details on that, plus perhaps a copy of a map of Willie County mentioned by one of the newspaper articles I read earlier today.