The Round Rock Historic Preservation Commission announced four Local Legend Award nominations at the City Council meeting on Thursday, Nov. 14. The Rev. Freeman Smalley, Jack Jordan, Bob Bennett and the Stagecoach Inn were honored for their contributions to the culture, development, and history of the community.
As in the past, Local Legends were awarded a certificate of recognition. Recipients are also recognized on a plaque that lists all past honorees since the program’s inception.
Historic Preservation Commission Chair Jerry Hodges presented the awards and highlighted some of the accomplishments of each of the award recipients.
FREEMAN SMALLEY (1790-1881)
Freeman Smalley was a Baptist minister who preached tirelessly to frontier settlements in the earliest days of Williamson County, and was one of the founders of the Andice Baptist Church and the Anti-Slaveholding Union Baptist Church in the Palm Valley area of Round Rock. Smalley had difficulty holding a congregation together because he preached against slavery, and remained a staunch supporter of the Union through the Civil War. For this he was robbed, and faced threats of retaliation. In 1866 he left Williamson County and sold his land to Capt. Nelson Merrell, who later built his home there, which is now an historic landmark. The Anti-Slaveholding union Baptist Church was never built, but the graveyard still sits off of A.W. Grimes Boulevard. It is often referred to as the Smalley Cemetery because of its association with the family.
JACK JORDAN (1872-1959)
Jack Jordan was the first Mayor under the city’s 1912 incorporation, serving from 1913-1914, but was most influential in his 44 years as City Secretary. For most of that time he was the only paid employee, and he organized and performed most of the city’s administrative processes that are now the functions of the City Clerk, City Manager, tax assessor/collector, and Census-taker. He worked closely with Round Rock’s Congressman, Lyndon Baines Johnson, to secure Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds for the city’s first water system (the water tower) and the city hall and fire station that stood where the library is now. He retired in 1958 at age 86.
Bob Bennett was the City Manager of Round Rock between 1979 and 2002, when its population grew almost six-fold from 12,000 to 71,000. He led the city to create a firm foundation for its growth by securing a long-term water supply, expanding city parks, services and facilities, and in the careful recruitment of major employers. He also created a supportive working culture at the city, and encouraged staff to expand their skills and leadership.
Bob Bennett and his family were at the Council meeting to accept the award.
STAGECOACH INN (built between 1848-1853; 901 Round Rock Avenue)
The Stagecoach Inn, built between 1848 and 1853 by John J. and Susie Anna Harris, is one of the three oldest surviving buildings in Round Rock (the oldest if counting from when construction started). The Inn was built on the Old Military Road (Chisholm Trail) soon after regular stagecoach service was established, using limestone quarried from the slope below. The Inn was a place for travelers to eat and rest, for the drivers to change horse teams, and for locals to receive mail and packages. Overnight visitors were not as common, but notable guests include John Wesley Hardin, Ira Aten, cattleman Print Olive, Soapy Smith and Sam Bass. After the railroad redirected most business activity to “New Town,” the Inn was used as a home, and later a restaurant.
Present at the Council meeting were members of the Davol family who lived in the Inn from 1966 to 1984. Also present were Trina Gibson, Susie Mallard, and Lisa Robinson, all great-great-great grand-daughters of the Harris’ who built the Inn.
The Local Legend Awards program was established in 1990. To date, 55 recipients have been honored. Award recipients in the past have included not only people, but organizations, places like Round Rock Donuts, and a book, “Historical Round Rock Texas”, written by local authors.
Award recipients are selected based on the following criteria:
- Importance to the City’s founding or growth
- Association with an historic place or event
- Impact of service to the community’s history, development or culture
- Achievements that have brought honor and distinction to the City of Round Rock.
This year’s nomination and selection process was assisted by a citizen volunteer committee that included Kami Barron, Jesus Franco, Cathy Kincaid, Dora Owens, Dale Ricklefs and Rufus Honeycutt. After reviewing nominations, the committee made its recommendation to the Round Rock Historic Preservation Commission in August.
Local Legend Award nominations are accepted throughout the year by the Planning and Development Services Department. For more information, contact Joelle Jordan at 512-218-5422.