The following history of Bastrop, Texas is taken from The New Handbook of Texas published by The Texas State Historical Association.
The town served as a business, commercial and political center for an area that stretched far beyond Bastrop County; it was the place where settlers rallied for retaliation and forted up for protection when Indian depredations occurred in the vicinity. In May 1835, Mina citizens became the first to organize a committee of safety to stockpile arms and keep citizens informed of revolutionary developments. The town suffered greatly in the Runaway Scrape of 1836, when residents returned to find it completely destroyed by the Mexican army and Indians. Three Bastropians signed the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836, several died at the Alamo, and 60 men are recorded as having fought at the Battle of San Jacinto.
The town was incorporated under the laws of Texas on December 18, 1837, and the newly established Congress of the Republic of Texas changed the name back to "Bastrop." The community then comprised of a courthouse, a hotel, a stockade, a gunsmith shop, a general store, and a number of residences. With farming, the timber industry provided a mainstay for the local economy. The Lost Pines forest, the westernmost stand of the eastern pine forest and the only timber available in what was then western Texas, contributed to the economy.
In 1839, when Austin became the capital of the republic, Bastrop began supplying the city with lumber. Soon ox teams were carting Bastrop lumber to San Antonio, along the western frontier, and into Mexico.
In the 1850s, Bastrop was rapidly developing. In 1853, the Bastrop Advertiser began its long publishing history. The Bastrop Academy opened, and in 1856 the Bastrop Military Institute opened in the same building. Although the citizens of Bastrop voted against secession, they aided the Confederate cause in raising money to equip companies and in providing a supply warehouse. Fire destroyed most of the downtown buildings in 1862. In 1869, the highest flood in the town’s recorded history forced evacuation.
The railroad arrived in the early 1870s. The period during and after the Civil War saw various industries in Bastrop. By 1884, Bastrop had a population of 2,000 with three schools, two cotton gins and several general stores. A wrought-iron bridge built across the Colorado in 1890 put in-town ferries out of business.
In the 1920s, Bastrop was the scene of extensive lumber operations, and coal existed in large quantities. The population in the Bastrop area increased tremendously during World War II after the establishment of Camp Swift. Industries in 1947 included a pecan-shelling plant, a cedar chest factory and a cedar oil manufacturer.
From 1950 through the 1970s, Bastrop’s population ranged between 2,950 and 4,050. In the 1960s and 1970s, several changes occurred in Bastrop including complete school integration and the establishment of the LCRA Sim Gideon Power Plant. Later, residents began restoring many historic buildings and Austin commuters began arriving.
In 1979, the National Register of Historic Places admitted 131 Bastrop buildings and sites to its listings. At least 30 display a Texas Medallion marker.
A Texas Main Street City since 2007, Bastrop was also named a Distinctive Destination in 2010 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in recognition of the city's work to preserve its historic character, promote heritage tourism, enhance the community and extend its welcome. In 2012, the Texas Commission on the Arts designated Bastrop a Cultural Arts District. In 2013, Bastrop became one of two designated Culinary Districts in the country.
In September 2011, 95 percent of Bastrop State Park was destroyed by wildfire; however, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) buildings from the 1930s were saved. It was deemed the most destructive wildfire in Texas' history. Volunteers came from across the country to help fight the blaze which continued for several weeks. Thankfully, the historic downtown escaped damage.
Today Main Street is lined with century-old structures housing antique shops, specialty stores and restaurants. The 1889 Bastrop Opera House continues to offer an array of entertainment. Fisherman’s Park provides access to the river for fishing or kayaking. Several historic homes are now bed-and-breakfast inns, recalling the elegance of the period.
Bastrop is home to excellent golf courses and spacious, new hotels including the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa in nearby Cedar Creek. There are also cabins for the more adventurous. All of this makes Bastrop, Texas an ideal place to live, work and play.
Stephen F. Austin
Fort Puesta del Colorado was established at the future site of Bastrop in about 1805. Stephen F. Austin traveled through the locale on August 7, 1821, and noted “…near the river heavy pine timber, grapes in immense quantities….The bottom where the road crosses is…mostly high prairie…Pecan, Ash, Oak, Cedar, abundance of fish…”
It was Moses Austin's dream to colonize Texas. He received the help of the self-styled Baron de Bastrop, Philip Hendrick Nering Bogel. Baron de Bastrop had escaped prosecution for embezzlement in Holland by coming to the Spanish territories in 1795. When Moses died in 1821, his son, Stephen F. Austin continued his efforts.
The Baron gained influence with the Mexican government that Empresario Austin much needed. Austin recognized his contributions by having the new town named “Bastrop.”
The Town of Bastrop (Villa de Bastrop) was formally established on June 8, 1832, as the principal settlement in the Stephen F. Austin Little Colony of 1827. The founding grant, signed by Mexican Land Commissioner Jose Miguel de Arciniega, recognized the special nature of the locale as the “place on the Colorado River where it crosses the road which goes from Bexar (San Antonio) to Nacogdoches…considering it to be a very suitable site for the founding of a new town…”
In the three years following the 1832 establishment of the town, the population of the area swelled to 1,100 or so, adding many new immigrants to pioneers such as Edward Burleson, Reuben Hornsby and Josiah Wilbarger. In 1834, the Mexican government renamed the town Mina, after a Spanish war hero.