Though there were settlers in the area as early as 1851, Bartlett was founded when the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company began surveying for a right-of-way in 1881. The town is named for John T. Bartlett, who with J. E. Pietzsch donated the land for a townsite. Town lots were offered for sale in 1881, and there were two stores by the time the railroad reached the town in 1882. A post office opened the same year. In 1884 Bartlett had 300 inhabitants, a gin, a hotel, a grocer, a meat market, four churches, and a school; the town shipped wool and cotton. When Bartlett incorporated in 1890, it had a bank, two weekly newspapers (the Democrat and the Tribune), a Masonic lodge, and a waterworks. In 1909 investors chartered the Bartlett-Florence Railway Company (eventually renamed the Bartlett Western), which slowly built a new railway west from Bartlett; the town prospered as the eastern terminus and main depot of the line. Bartlett served as a shipping point for cotton, grain, livestock, and produce in 1914, the same year it reached its peak population of some 2,200 inhabitants and had three banks, electric lighting, and three cotton gins. With the decline of the cotton industry in the 1920s and 1930s, the Bartlett Western experienced financial difficulties and eventually closed in 1935. The town was also heavily dependent on cotton and declined somewhat in this period, though in 1931 it was still a substantial community of 1,873 people and ninety-five businesses.
A two-block area of Bartlett, centered on the intersection of Clark and Evie Streets, was listed as a Historic District by the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 (ID# 80004076). The district is described as “…cohesive grouping of early 1900s commercial buildings and reflects the town’s prosperity…as a cotton shipping center…” and “…the structures remain as good examples of Texas vernacular commercial architecture of that period.” The Old Bartlett National Bank Building (above) is constructed of crème-colored brick in the Beaux-Arts Classic style. Plaster eagles are set between paired pilasters on the south and west sides of the building flanking its entrances.
Bartlett continued to shrink during the depression; by 1940 its population was estimated at 1,668, and it had seventy-five businesses. The population was 1,622 in 1970 and 1,567 in 1980. In 1988 the town had 1,556 inhabitants and fifteen businesses. In 1990 the population was 1,439. By 2000 the population was 1,675.
REFERENCE: Mark Odintz, Handbook of Texas Online, Mark Odintz, “Bartlett, TX,” accessed October 20, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hjb03. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association. Clara Stearns Scarbrough, Land of Good Water: A Williamson County History (Georgetown, Texas: Williamson County Sun Publishers, 1973).
LOCATION: Bartlett is a station on the Katy Railroad, State Highway 95, and the border between Williamson and Bell counties.