Wheelock is fifteen miles northeast of Bryan in south central Robertson County. The town's founder, Eleazer Louis Ripley Wheelock, first became interested in the area in 1823 while on a business trip to Mexico, and in 1826, after meeting with Sterling C. Robertson, he decided to move to the empresario's grant. In 1833 the Wheelock family left their home in Illinois for Texas, and a year later the townsite was laid out. Wheelock built a blockhouse for protection from Indians, who raided in the area until 1843. Wheelock originally planned to name the town Lamar, after Vice President Mirabeau B. Lamar, but in 1837 the name Wheelock was chosen, after Wheelock, Vermont, which had been named for E. L. R. Wheelock's grandfather, the founder of Dartmouth College. In the late 1830s several attempts were made to make Wheelock the state capital, and in 1837 the town was one of the sites considered for the University of Texas. The town of Wheelock flourished economically from the early 1840s to the late 1860s. In 1841 it had twenty businesses, including several general stores, a number of land and freight offices, a horse track, some cock-fighting pits, a cotton gin, and numerous saloons. The main economic activities were cattle ranching and cotton farming, and, although cotton has declined, cattle ranching remains one of the primary economic activities in the area today. By 1845 Wheelock was one of the best-known towns in Central Texas, partly because it was on the main stage and mail routes through the area. A post office was established in 1846. Wheelock was named the county seat in 1850. Sam Houston, a frequent visitor during the town's heyday, stopped there during his last campaign for governor. Owensville became county seat in 1856, and that reduced the political importance of Wheelock. Many of the men from the area served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War; the defeat of the Confederacy brought with it the loss of wealth and citizenship to many of the town's residents. More importantly, the rapidly-expanding rail network of the 1860s bypassed Wheelock, causing further isolation. As a result, many residents began to move away, many of them to Hearne, which was named for the Wheelock man who donated the land for the rail station in that town. In 1890 Wheelock had a population of eighty-five, three churches, and mail delivery from Hearne. A bank was established in Wheelock in 1915. In 1947 the town had a post office, six businesses, and a population of 150. In 1988 one business remained, and the population was estimated at 125, where it remained in 1990. The population reached 225 in 2000.
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Wheelock by the Numbers
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