It was January 1839. On the fourteenth of that month, while Houston was still capital of the Republic of Texas, an Act of Congress passed directing Sam Houston’s successor, President Mirabeau B. Lamar, to choose a new site for a new capital of the Republic. The new site was supposed to be between the Trinidad and Colorado Rivers, above the San Antonio Road.
President Lamar chose the Capitol Commission to find just the right spot for the Republic of Texas’ new capital city. They picked the site, then known as Waterloo. It was situated on the east bank of the Colorado River in Bastrop County.
Judge Erwin Waller, who was a veteran of the War for Texan Independence, was appointed as the agent of the Republic. His job was to lay out the capital city. The city would be named after Stephen F. Austin. Judge Waller set aside the most valuable lots for the capital and government buildings. He then sold not more than half of the remaining lots at a public auction.
In May of that same year (1839), the judge and a surveyor by the name of William H. Sandusky went to Austin. They took 200 construction workers with them to build the new capital city. They established two camps. One was on Waller Creek. The other was at George Durham’s spring. Sandusky marked off a square mile, which is the same as 640 acres, on the bluff of gradually rising land. It overlooked the river.
Then, Sandusky got to work on establishing streets and laying out lots. He set aside lots for a hospital, churches and a university. There were also lots for the president’s house, a capitol, government buildings and homes. It was a beautiful little capital that has grown by leaps and bounds into a thriving metropolis today.
In the shade of the live oaks, now known as the Auction Oaks, located in Republic Square near the intersection of 4th and St. Antonio Streets in what is now downtown Austin, they held a public auction for the remaining lots. It was near Durham’s spring at the time. Sherriff Charles King of Bastrop acted as the auctioneer and sold 301 city lots. The grand total paid for the lots was $182,585. It was almost enough to pay for the government buildings that were built.
You can see the Auction Oaks in Republic Square. We think they’re beautiful examples of live oaks. If you have a live oak that needs attention, don’t hesitate to contact Austin Tree Service. Our certified arborist would be happy to assist you. We can be reached at 512-341-8888.