While a majority of the state sided with secessionists, Gov. Sam Houston attempted to stall any progress toward the state seceding, according to The Handbook of Texas from the Texas State Historical Association.
Houston was unable to stop the Secession Convention, and a group of 174 delegates from throughout the state gathered in Austin on Jan. 28, 1861, to discuss the ordinance of secession.
Georgetown resident Thomas Proctor Hughes, a staunch unionist, was elected to represent Williamson County during the convention and cast the first vote against seceding on Feb. 1, 1861. Just seven other delegates joined him, losing the vote 166-8.
Williamson County voters agreed with Hughes when on Feb. 28, 1861, they rejected secession; however, it was not enough to stop the state from joining the Confederacy. The secession of Texas from the union became effective March 2Texas Independence Dayand the Secession Convention voted to join the Confederate States of America on March 5, 1861.
Although he was the first to vote against seceding, Hughes joined the Confederate Army and served as a private in Arkansas and Missouri. After the war in 1872 he was elected to serve as district attorney for Burnet, Brown, Lampasas, Llano, San Saba and Williamson counties.
Upon hearing the news that Texans had voted to secede from the union, Houstons oldest daughter, Nancy, said "he dropped his head on his chest and his whole being shook with emotion." Houston eventually resigned as governor on March 16, 1861, in protest of the states secession.
Nancy, also known as Nannie, later married Capt. Joseph Clay Stiles Morrow, and the two opened a mercantile store in Georgetown. She is buried in the Georgetown I.O.O.F. Cemetery on Seventh Street.
Many Williamson County residents stayed loyal to the Union during the war, including Round Rock resident Bartlett Asher, who left Texas and joined the Union Army. He served as Andrew Jackson Hamilton's bodyguard in the Unions First Regiment Texas Cavalry during an attempt to regain control of South Texas, according to Karen Thompson. Another group of Williamson County residents looking to escape to the north were captured and killed in Bandara, Texas, said Mickie Ross, executive director of The Williamson Museum.
Others, such as Hughes, joined the Confederate Army, including at least five companies of men.
Ross said more than 350 Civil War veterans are buried in Williamson County.
In April the museum will open the Courage and Contradiction: The Civil War Stories of Williamson County exhibit highlighting stories of President Abraham Lincolns election, war and life on the homefront in Williamson County during the war.
Ross said museum staff members spent the past year and a half gathering information, photos and letters to tell the story of life in Williamson County during the war.
The exhibit will feature rotating information and items gathered from various sources, including Williamson County residents whose family members lived during and died in the war.
While compiling information for the Civil War exhibits, Mickie Ross, The Williamson Museum executive director, said many stories that had been passed down through generations were discovered. However, many of the stories could not be verified, including one involving former Gov. Sam Houston. According to his son, Temple, Houston was passing through Georgetown when he received a letter. Temple said the letter was from President Abraham Lincoln offering Houston federal troops to keep Texas in the Union. However, Temple said his father immediately burned the letter, and no evidence of its existence remains.
Ross said visitors will be able to uncover other Civil War mysteries during the exhibit.
The Williamson Museum schedule of events
- April 24: Courage and Contradiction: The Civil War Stories of Williamson County opens
- May 15: History Happy Hour, Williamson County Courthouse, 710 S. Main St., 5:30-7:30 p.m.
- June 10: The Salon at WildfireJuneteenth and the Texas Black History Project, The Wildfire, 812 S. Austin Ave., 6:30 p.m.
- June 13: Hands on History*Juneteenth, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
- July 24-31: Summer History Explorers CampRally the Troops!, The Williamson Museum
- Sept. 12: Hands on History*The Gettysburg Address, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
- Sept. 18: History Happy Hour, Williamson County Courthouse, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 23, 24, 30, 31: Civil War Ghost Tours, The Williamson Museum, times TBD
- Nov. 7: Civil War Cemetery Tales, I.O.O.F. Cemetery, 701 Smith Creek Road, 4-6 p.m.
- Dec. 12: Hands on History*A Civil War Christmas, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
- Jan. 9: Hands on History*Secession Convention, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
- Jan. 23: Civil War Ball, Williamson County Courthouse, 7-11 p.m.
*Hands on History events are held at The Williamson Museum