"William Barton"

Everyone knew him as “Uncle Billy,” but in 1828, 48 year old William Barton came to Mexican Texas with his family as part of Stephen F. Austin's second colony.  This consisted of his wife Stacy, two sons, and three daughters.  He received a headright grant from the Mexican government for a league of land on the west side of the Colorado River, near present-day Bastrop.  This area of Texas was extremely rough, remote, and wild.  Any settlers this far out on the western edge were in constant peril of Indian raids.

In the spring of 1837, Stacy became ill and died.  Billy was heartbroken and only wanted to be left alone.  When a new settler began building a cabin within ten miles of his, Billy said “This is getting too crowded for my liking,” so he moved his family forty-five miles farther up the Colorado River to a site near present-day Austin where three beautiful springs flowed out into a creek.  He named the three separate springs after their three young daughters; Parthenia, Eliza, and Zenobia.  


A beautiful location it was.  But...these springs had been used for centuries by the Indians that inhabited this part of Texas.  And as Billy continued improving the area around the homestead, he and his family were understandably subjected to Indian attacks, who considered them invaders of their springs.  But Billy eventually completed his home, and was able to keep his family safe while doing so.

On a sunny afternoon some years later, the aging Billy had some old friends visiting him.  His two sons were late coming home from a trip over to Bastrop and the sun was beginning to get low in the sky.  Realizing how late it was getting, the old man started worrying about them and excused himself from his guests.  He took his musket rifle and climbed the nearby hill south of the springs in order to get a better view downriver in the direction that they should be coming from.  As Billy was walking past a cedar thicket, a handful of Indians suddenly stepped out and fired at him.  All of their shots missed him, except for one ball that nicked the rim of his hat.  Being completely surprised, Billy flinched as the balls flew past him, and he quickly swung his musket up and fired off his one round in their direction, wounding one of the Indians.  The rest of the party then charged, whooping and yelling at the top of their lungs.  Billy turned and ran for his life.  Knowing that his old body couldn't outrun them very far, he did something, "...completely spontaneous."  As Billy reached the edge of the hill that he’d just come up, he suddenly stopped.  Then, in plain view of the Indians, he looked over the edge and began shouting “Here they are boys, come quick!” waving the unseen reinforcements towards him and pointing in the directions of the Indians.  As the Indians had no view over the edge, they could only imagine a force of men with loaded rifles racing up the hill.  They fell for the trick.  Instantly, both the Indians and Billy took off running in opposite directions.  He ran down the hill as fast as his old legs could take him and towards the cabin by the springs.  

His guests had heard the shots, and had stepped out on the porch of the cabin to see what was going on.  Here came old “Uncle Billy” running out of the woods at full speed and then dropping in complete exhaustion in the yard and saying, “Boys, it’s a good thing it wasn’t you...or you would have surely been killed.”

Like their father, his sons made it home safely as well.

The Barton's remained at the springs fairly isolated for a good while, being 11 miles farther west than anyone else at the time.  But, this too would eventually change and people began moving closer and settling the small town of Waterloo, which would later become Austin.  Billy Barton’s springs were becoming a popular place to fish, swim and sightsee.  For a time he had two tame buffalo that became an attraction at the springs.  He, and subsequent owners of the property, recognized its value as a tourist attraction, and promoted it vigorously, thus leading to the swimming hole's lasting popularity.

Barton died on April 11, 1840, and was buried near the springs. His body was reportedly re-interred near Round Rock in 1862, but no record of reburial has been found. 

~ Frank Brown’s Travis county Annals
~The handbook of Texas online