City Council recognizes 2019 Local Legends

Faye Johnson, Sauls family, Tonkawa Tribe honored for contributions to Round Rock's history

The Historic Preservation Commission announced this year’s three Local Legend Award honorees at the City Council meeting on Thursday, Nov. 14.

Faye Johnson, the Sauls family and the Tonkawa Tribe were recognized for their contributions to the culture, development, and history of the community.

The Local Legend Awards program was established in 1991 and has since honored not only people, but organizations, places and even a book. 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.

Local Legends are awarded a certificate of recognition and recognized on a plaque that lists all past honorees since the program’s inception.

Historic Preservation Commission Chair Sharon Whitaker and Vice-Chair Pamela Sue Anderson presented the awards and highlighted some of the accomplishments of each of the award recipients. This year’s award honorees were:

Faye Johnson

Dorothy Faye Johnson is a legend in Round Rock’s growth. The mother of four children, she was born and raised in Alabama where she met her future husband Charles at a skating rink her mother operated, just before he became a WWII sharpshooter. They settled in Round Rock in 1956 and quickly became part of the community. Charles ran the Tap and Texaco downtown for decades and was Round Rock’s first Planning and Zoning Commission Chair. The Tap and Texaco was a “men only” bar for beer, shuffleboard and washers, until it was destroyed in an explosion in 1984. 

Faye was a social worker and attendance aide for RRISD for 39 years and was one of many individuals credited with the establishment of the Round Rock Public Library by beginning a home demonstration club and manning a book mobile on summer afternoons. She earned her Associate’s degree at the age of 63, and encouraged students to attend the Texas Girls and Boys States, a youth leadership function of the American Legion. Faye was a champion for women and veterans and supported the Agape Foundation and the American Legion Auxiliary. 

Faye often helped clean up Brushy Creek and campaigned to protect native species such as the Brushy Creek Turtles and the McNeil overpass bat colonies. Her efforts in the growth of Round Rock helped promote economic development, redevelopment, growth and tourism downtown.  She was also a longtime member of the Williamson County Mental Health Board and was the Chairman of the Housing Authority when the first public housing was constructed. Faye was a member of Round Rock First Baptist Church from 1956 until her death in January 2019.

The Sauls Family

The Sauls family’s influence is woven into the history of Round Rock and can be seen in the land, economy and buildings that make up Round Rock today. Wade Sauls Sr. was born in 1879 to former slave parents. He was overseer of the Palm Farm for 36 years and also owned his own farmland in areas northeast and southwest of Round Rock where he raised cattle, hogs, horses and mules. He built the low-water crossing on Hairy Man Road near one of his farms in 1911, which was the only crossing until Creek Bend Boulevard opened in 2015.  Wade Sr. was known as the “Cotton King” because he was the only local farmer who could yield a bushel of cotton per acre. 

Wade and Louisa Sauls had 15 children. Their son, Wade Sauls Jr., had a farm south of town that is now the site of the Joe Lee Johnson STEM school. Another son, Ollie, farmed areas northeast and southeast of Round Rock, growing cotton and raising cattle and hogs. Yet another son, Otto “Winzell,” was a carpenter and built homes in Round Rock, Brenham, Georgetown and Fredericksburg.

The Sauls family has a long history of service to the community. Otto and several of his brothers, nephews and granddaughters served in the military during WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War. Wade’s great-grandson, Ollie Leslie Sauls Jr., was the first Round Rock resident killed in action in Vietnam. Otto’s daughter, Ella Sauls Morrison, was a nurse for over 50 years and currently serves in many community organizations including as Historian of the Heart of Round Rock Neighborhood Association. The Sauls family was instrumental in establishing St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1885, now the second-oldest church in Round Rock. In 1958, Otto assisted in relocating and rebuilding the structure when it was moved to make way for IH-35. Other family members have served as stewards, trustees and missionaries, and continue to do so today.

The Tonkawa Tribe

The history of Round Rock, Texas as a community began long ago with a small tribe that became known as the Tonkawa. Native American groups are known to have camped along Brushy Creek and the San Gabriel River as far back as 9,000 B.C. The Tonkawa were known to be hunter-gatherers who were also resolute and accomplished warriors. The small group unified as a tribe sometime in the 1840s after suffering staggering losses to disease brought on initially by the Spanish, who were known to have close and frequent contact with the Tonkawa beginning in 1690. The Spanish established Mission San Xavier on the San Gabriel River for the Tonkawa in the mid 1700s, establishing the first European “footprint” on U.S. soil connected with the Tonkawa.

Texas fought for and won its independence with the help of the Tonkawa and other tribes, and the Tonkawa acted as scouts for the Confederate Cavalry during the Civil War. In the 1840s, the State began the removal of the Tonkawa to settlements near San Marcos until 1859, when they were removed from Texas to Oklahoma. Due to their perseverance, the Tonkawa survived their “Trail of Tears” and settled in a small town that bears their name in Northern Oklahoma. At present, there are 858 enrolled members of the tribe who founded the beginning of Round Rock. “As Round Rock citizens, we celebrate the American Indian who once roamed Central Texas, but mostly the Tonkawa Tribe who selected the Brushy Creek area as their homestead long ago,” Anderson said. “We hope to collectively live up to the meanings of the Tonkawa name, ‘Real people’ and ‘They all stay together’ as a community.”

This year’s nomination and selection process was assisted by a citizen volunteer committee that included Selection Committee Chair Jen Henderson and Committee members Kami Barron, Frank Darr, Jesus Franco, Laura McManus, Julio Palacios, Richard Parson, Dale Ricklefs, Audrey Simmons and Ella Sauls Morrison. After reviewing nominations, the committee made its recommendation to the Round Rock Historic Preservation Commission in September.

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