City Names in the Texas Hill Country and Their Fascinating Origins

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Tony Maples Photography


Oatmeal? Gruene? Bee Cave? Where do some of these unusual Hill Country city names come from? The tales behind some Hill Country city names can give you a glimpse into the past and its people. Often city names came from prominent people, but other towns earned their titles from other things. Take a look into the tales of some city names in the Texas Hill Country.


Austin, Texas Skyline

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The state capital earned its name from one of the founders of the mass settling of Texas. But, two Austins played a major role in the founding of Texas. Was Austin named for the father, Moses Austin, or for his son, Stephen F. Austin? For two years after its founding in 1837, Austin went by the name Waterloo, but later, its name changed to Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin, who continued his father’s works in bringing Americans to Texas.


Early School Building in Oatmeal, Texas

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Among city names in the Hill Country, Oatmeal may be one of the most memorable. There are a pair of theories as to the origins of this town’s name. Some think it comes from a misapplication of the name Othneil, which was the surname of a man who owned the town’s gristmill. It could also have come from an English translation of the surname of one of the founding families, the Habermills.


City names like Gruene often come from founders like Henry D Gruene who built this house.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

No longer a city by itself, Gruene, has one of the most unusual-to-pronounce names in the Hill Country. Residents say “Green” when referring to this suburb of New Braunfels. How did the spelling and pronunciation become so different? Like many other hard-to-say city names, Gruene comes from the surname of the first family in the area, headed by Ernst Gruene. Many of the homes and buildings constructed by Ernst’s son Henry D. still stand. Henry D.’s projects you can still visit include Gruene Mansion Inn, Gruene House, and Gruene Hall.

Bee Cave

Bee Cave, Texas City Hall

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Though you might think the name for Bee Cave came from some tall tale, those in the area have associated bees with the region. Along the banks of both Little Barton Creek and Barton Creek, honeybees lived long before people moved to the area. These honeybees give this town its name. Despite not getting its own name and government until 1987, since Dietrich Bohls moved there in the 1850s, people have lived in the area now known as Bee Cave.

Round Rock

The round-shaped rock that gave Round Rock, Texas its name.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Is there actually a round rock near the town of round rock? If you answered yes, you’d be correct. A circular rock in the middle of Brushy Creek gives this town its name. Today, this round rock marks where the famed Chisolm Trail cattle drive crossed the creek, and you can find it at Chisolm Trail Street in Old Town Round Rock.


Lampasas County Courthouse in Lampasas, Texas

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Lampasas has another debated name origin. Some believe it comes from the Spanish word for lilies, but others argue that the Spanish named the nearby river “Lampazos” to honor a Mexican town. Like Lampasas, the Mexican town with the similar name was also well-known for its natural springs.


Historic Downtown Buda, Texas

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Unlike many other city names, Buda did not get its name from a person. Like Lampasas, historians dispute this city name origin. Initially, those in the area called the town DuPre, but eventually, residents changed it to Buda. Some speculate that it relates to Budapest, Hungary, while others believe that it honors the widows who cooked at one of the local hotels. How does Buda come from a widow? The Spanish word for widow is viuda, which sounds like Buda.