Although a fire destroyed most of downtown Bastrop in 1862, the town was rebuilt and now has over 130 historic buildings, making it the “Most Historic Small Town in Texas”. Spanish and Mexican heritage tie Bastrop to a tumultuous 19th century, starting as part of Mexico and eventually ending up as part of the United States of America after Texas was annexed into the Union as the 28th state in 1845. The Bastrop Advertiser began publishing newspapers shortly thereafter, in 1853, and continues to this day. It may just be the oldest continuously published newspaper in Texas.
The economy in Bastrop consisted primarily of lumber, cotton, and other crops throughout much of the 1800s. The burgeoning railway routes had a big influence on Bastrop and its population during this time. Oil was discovered in the county in the early 20th century. This, along with new coal, lignite, and clay mining operations, changed the landscape of this largely agricultural economy.
The mid-20th century brought a new, although short lived, military installation in Camp Swift and new jobs related to the war effort. As those jobs disappeared with the end of the war, and Camp Swift was repurposed, Bastrop saw an economic and population decline. It was around this time that agriculture in the area began to shift from cotton and corn to other crops, including a notable increase in the cattle industry.
The latter part of the 20th century saw continued advancement of the cattle industry but also diversification into tourism, a resurgence of manufacturing, and a small but notable film industry focused on Bastrop’s scenic spaces. Small businesses bolstered the economy throughout this period with a wide variety of innovation and local charm.
The city of Bastrop, and surrounding areas, saw very notable growth into the 21st century as larger businesses began focusing on this small Texas town. Big shopping centers were constructed while established chains either moved into town or expanded their existing stores. In some ways, this suburb of Austin is becoming more and more like its Capital neighbor all the time, while still maintaining its small town charm.
From its rich heritage to its Loblolly Pines and rolling prairies to its beautiful river valley, Bastrop remains one of the best small towns in Texas for both visitors and those looking to relocate. It has a lot of great restaurants, plenty of shopping, close proximity to Austin and its international Airport, along with a warm community of inviting people.