Nearly a million people visit Austin’s Barton Springs swimming pool each year. Most aren’t aware that the cool springs of Zilker Park were once part of the William Barton homestead. Barton, a widower with six children, arrived in 1828 with Stephen F. Austin’s second colony. His headright from the Mexican
government was a league of land 4,428 acres on the west bank of the Colorado
River in Bastrop County. Considered a recluse, when a neighbor moved within 10
miles, he moved upriver 45 miles to a creek that would be named for him. In
1837, Barton and his second wife, Stacy Pryor, patented the property at the
Springs. His nearest neighbor was Jacob Harrell on the opposite side of the
Colorado River. Austin was founded on the north side of the Colorado on
December 29, 1839. Barton seldom ventured across the river in his dug-out
canoe. His son, Wayne, was appointed the first Travis County Sheriff in 1840.
William Barton had three daughters and once said “keeping the Indians away
from his remote location was much easier than keeping Austin’s young men away
from his daughters.” He died shortly after Austin’s founding. He was known as the
Daniel Boone of Texas, Indian fighter, citizen of Colonial Mexico and first footer of
the Republic of Texas.