This historical marker is all that remains of the town of South Gabriel, which was originally called Lewiston. The town was moved to the current location of Bertram in 1882.
Rudolph Bertram established the town of Bertram, originally a square block of forty acres bounded by North, South, East, and West Streets. These streets still exist today.
Captain Thomas Davis Vaughn was a Confederate Army veteran and a merchant at South Gabriel. He and his partner, J.D. Riley moved their store to Bertram where it was the first mercantile to operate in the new town.
The Austin and Northwestern Railroad was constructed to ship granite from Marble Falls to Austin for the building of the Texas State Capitol building, and the new railroad tracks passed through what is now Bertram. Rudolph Bertram was the principal stockholder in the Austin and Northwestern Railroad, and he was also an astute business man. With an eye to the future, in 1882 he secured a 40-acre square tract adjacent to the tracks and laid off lots for a town named Bertram. A train filled with prospective buyers came in on June 25, 1882, and the buyers bought 70 lots.
The path of the train tracks had missed the nearby town of San Gabriel, so the people of that little town decided to move to Bertram. In order to accomplish this, a large swath was cut through the woods. L. R. Gray and his brother, Will, moved 13 homes and two stores from San Gabriel to Bertram by pulling them along with a yoke of 13 oxen. It took two days for each two mile trip. Other rock buildings in San Gabriel were dismantled and rebuilt in the new town.
Bertram grew rapidly and became an important trade and shipping center. Wool, sheep, goats, cotton, hides, and cattle were shipped. Bertram hosted the Burnet County Fair in 1903 and continued to host it thereafter for more than 30 years. The town began a decline after the war for many reasons, including the soil bank, which paid farmers to not farm, the decrease in cotton production, the drought, and the shift of the whole country from an agrarian to a manufacturing society. Even so, Bertram remained a solid community, though many of its residents left for better jobs in the big cities.
Today, 125 years later, the town of Bertram still has a close connection to the railroad, and the town is on the verge of a revival. The big cities are “growing” our way, and more and more people are moving to the area, drawn by the scenic beauty of the area and it’s proximity to big-city amenities. Bertram’s many historic buildings afford a charming look into the past and its friendly people make the visitors and new-comers feel at home.
The Round Bale Gin was located near the current site of the water tower. In its heyday, Bertram had at least six gins and shipped thousands of bales of cotton.
10,000 bales of cotton shipped from Bertram
Vaughan Street in the 1930’s. The building on the right was once a drugstore and currently hosts the Library Thrift Store.
Buster Brown called Bertram home toward the end of his life. If you look closely, you can see him on a platform in front of the middle window of the Reed Building, which is now called McGill’s, and is located on Highway 29. An unfounded rumor has it that Buster’s dog Tige is buried on property along FM 1174 S.
John Owen “Chief” Wilson
Saturday, March 31, 2007, the Bertram Little League Sports Complex was dedicated to Bertram baseball hero J.O. “Chief” Wilson. Born in Austin in 1883, Wilson died in Bertram in 1954. He started his baseball career as a right-handed pitcher with various independent teams before playing with the Austin Senators as an outfielder. He began his semi-pro career in 1905 – 06 with Fort Worth, and in subsequent years he was traded to Little Rock, Des Moines, Pittsburg and finally to the Saint Louis Cardinals. In 1911, while playing for the Pittsburg Pirates, Wilson came into baseball fame by hitting an even .300 and led the National League in RBI’s (107), ranked third in doubles (34), and fifth in home runs (12), setting a Pittsburgh team record that wasn’t broken until 1925. He also hit three triples that year in one game at Forbs Field. In 1912, the NL had the best year ever for triples (683), and the Chief accomplished 36 of those, breaking the previous record of Dave Orr (31) in 1886. That record has stood for 95 years and may never be broken. Chief Wilson retired from baseball and moved back to Bertram in 1916.
If you are interested in more of Bertram’s history, the 125thCommemorative Booklet is full of historic pictures, information and interviews with some of Bertram’s historic figures. The booklet is available at City Hall for $5.00, or you may have it shipped to you by sending $8.00 (includes shipping and handling) to Bertram City Hall, P.O. Box 1604, Bertram TX 78605. For more information, call City Hall at 512.355.2197. You will also find much of the history of Bertram and the surrounding area at the Bertram Free Library (512.355.2113).