The Historic Round Rock Collection
The Historic Round Rock Collection is a project documenting Round Rock’s history, funded in part with a grant from the Texas Historical Commission. These pages are adapted from the original 1991 print version.
Dr. Thomas Kenney, his wife Mary Jane and their daughters Mary Jane and Clarissa, came to Texas around 1833 and settled in Bastrop. The doctor practiced medicine there and joined the army during the fight for independence. He served in the Battle of San Jacinto and after the war, returned to Bastrop for a few years (Scarbrough 85). During the spring of 1838 Dr. Kenney, Joseph Barnhart and others built Kenney Fort, the first permanent settlement in Round Rock (“Some Early…” 79). The fort was near the banks of Brushy Creek, between Lake Creek and Dyer Branch at the intersection of the military road from Austin and the Double File Trail (Scarbrough 83, 99).1
The fort “consisted of four log cabins with port holes on the exposed sides, and it was enclosed with a pocket stockade of logs about eight feet high with wide strong gates on the East and West. It fronted North on the bluff of Brushy Creek, and the east side was near the branch (“Some Early…” 79).” The inside grounds covered half an acre and it was known to house as many as fifteen people at one time (Scarbrough 103; “Some Early…” 78).
Once the Kenneys opened the frontier and provided a place of refuge, many homes were built nearby. Davis Chandler, Captain Ladd, Captain Nelson Merrell and Sam Wadkins all settled near the fort in the years immediately following the Kenney’s arrival (Scarbrough 84). Kenney Fort provided safe haven to many settlers moving into Williamson County. Major John Chennyworth, James Rice, Henry Castleberry, Jack Angel and others lived at the fort from its founding. In addition, it is known that Jacob Harrell, who founded Austin (then known as Waterloo), lived at the fort for a time in 1838 and planted a corn crop. Another man named Rogers or Rodgers also planted corn at the fort the following year (Ibid.). W. K. Makemson reported that “While he [Dr. Kenney] occupied the Fort, all who called there received a cordial welcome and were generously entertained. It is said that his establishment was the home of every transient, homeless man in the country (“Some Early…” 79).”
At that time Round Rock was part of the frontier, wild and dangerous. Alligators filled the creeks and streams of Williamson County, buffalo were plentiful, as were bears and wild mustangs (Scarbrough 30, 106, 200).
Attacks by Native Americans were a constant threat and several incidents were recorded. Shortly after the fort was built, smoke was spotted by the new settlers. The next day, while they were investigating, the group was attacked by a party of Indians and several of them were injured in the battle. In August of 1840 the fort itself was attacked. This time the residents fared better as Joseph Weeks correctly interpreted strange owl calls as Indian signals (Ibid. 84). The following year Rogers, who planted the first corn crop, was killed by Native Americans. On April 6, 1844, Dr. Kenney, Henry Castleberry and John Courtney left the fort and never returned. Nelson Merrell (who built the Merrell house on Highway 79) found their bodies a few days later and attributed their deaths to the Caddo tribe, which was known to be in the area (“Some Early…” 78-79).
1 The Double File Trail consisted of two side-by-side tracks marked by the Delaware Indians. return to text
Scarborough, Clara Stearns. 1973. Land of Good Water, Takachue Pouetsu: A Williamson County, Texas History. Williamson County Sun Publishers, Georgetown, Texas.
“Some Early Williamson County History” in Frontier Times. No date. Photocopy in Round Rock Public Library. Article reprinted from Williamson County Sun (Georgetown) April 7, 1936. Original W. K. Makemson. Historical Sketch of First Settlement and Organization of Williamson County. Sun Print, Georgetown, Texas. 1904.