The Ghost in the Square

Who Haunts Georgetown’s Square?

Georgetown, Texas, is booming. Just up the road from Austin, the small Central Texas town has seen a surge in growth over the past five years. It’s the home of Southwestern University, the county seat for Williamson County, and has one of the most charming historic downtowns in Central Texas. Georgetown also has ghosts. 

The Early Years in Georgetown, Texas

Georgetown Historical Commission

Founded in 1848, Georgetown was once a frontier town. Part of the Chisholm Trail, rough around the edges and composed mainly of shacks and log cabins, Georgetown’s beginnings were very much the wild west. 

By the 1890s, the town of cowboys and farmers had grown into a destination for education, commerce, and 19th century Texas influencers. One of the families that shaped the culture and growth of Georgetown was the Taylor family. Josiah Taylor was one of the early settlers, and his son, Emzy, led the town’s progression and growth. 

Georgetown’s Emzy Taylor

Emzy Taylor was born in 1841 in Arkansas. His family moved to Hutto when he was a young boy, then to Georgetown when he was seven. His father, Josiah, founded the Mercantile in what is now the historic downtown and where the MB Lockett building stands today. 

Emzy was a go-getter – an ambitious, goal-oriented mover and shaker. Total Type-A. And he would be an important figure in Georgetown’s past and future. 

Emzy’s Time in the Civil War

DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Emzy joined the Confederate Army in 1861. He enlisted in Hood’s Texas Brigade and fought with General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. But while serving with General Lee, Emzy became ill and lost close to 100 pounds.

He was discharged for health reasons, and as soon as he was well again, he organized an infantry company that became part of the 16th Texas Infantry. They fought a series of battles along the Red River in Louisiana – the Red River Campaign. It was during this time that Emzy soon became Captain Taylor. 

After the Red River Campaign and spending ten days held as a prisoner, Captain Taylor returned to Georgetown in 1864 and married Margaret Henderson from Round Rock. And after his father passed away in 1868, he took over the family business.

Return to Georgetown

While running the Mercantile, Emzy became an active community leader. He helped establish Georgetown College – which quickly became Southwestern University. And as a member of the Chautauqua organization, he brought speakers and entertainers to town. 

Emzy was the President of the Georgetown Railroad, opened the First National Bank of Georgetown, and one of his longest-lasting contributions was the Georgetown Volunteer Fire Department – to which he was chief. A team of mules pulled a fire truck called “Captain Emzy.” 

Leslie Knox – Own work

Emzy sold the Mercantile when he opened the bank, and his main focus was the Railroad. He had big plans to develop a line between Granger and Georgetown. Emzy acquired investors and used personal financial resources to make it happen, but he kept getting hit with setbacks. 

When the investors started pulling out, and the work stopped, Emzy seemed to lose hope. He had acquired so much debt that he could no longer see any light at the end of the tunnel. 

It wasn’t just financial woes and shattered dreams that caused Emzy’s suffering; he had struggled with debilitating headaches and bouts of depression since returning from the War. Back then, the headaches and woes were referred to as “spells.” Today he would probably be diagnosed with PTSD – leftover trauma from his service in the Civil War.

Emzy Taylor’s Surrender

At 3:00 PM, on June 29th, 1895, Captain Emzy Taylor, president of the Link Line, Trinity, Cameron, and Western Railroad, walked into the First National Bank and headed to his office on the second floor. He put a revolver to his head and pulled the trigger. 

Before he took his life, he wrote a letter to the people of Georgetown. According to the June 30th, 1895 issue of the Austin American Statesman, the letter stated: 

When found he would be beyond censure or approval, forgave his enemies and prayed God would enlighten their minds; returned grateful thanks to friends, etc., and signed it “Your Erring Fellow Mortal, Emzy Taylor.” 

54-year-old Emzy Taylor had taken his own life, and Georgetown’s citizens were devastated. His obituary in the Round Rock Republican said, “one of the longest – if not the largest processions that ever was in Georgetown, followed his remains to the burial ground.” 

Captain Emzy Taylor was buried in IOOF Cemetery. His grave can still be visited today.

Emzy’s Legacy

Firehouse Number 1, the “Hook and Ladder Company,” home of Georgetown’s first Volunteer Fire Department, was definitely one of Emzy’s most significant legacies. Now it’s Georgetown’s Art Center, but it operated as a firehouse well into the 20th century. 

Some of the firemen who spent their days and nights inside Firehouse Number 1 began telling tales of ghosts and specters that haunt the building.  

The Roaming Cowboy

Is the ghostly specter seen for decades in the old firehouse the same misty cowboy who floats through Georgetown’s Square? Is it the spirit of Georgetown’s beloved Emzy Taylor? 

Next door to the Art Center is a Subway sandwich shop, initially added in the 1950s to hold modern-day fire engines. The ghost stories started around the time this new edition was built. 

Firemen told stories of hearing disembodied footsteps and mysterious voices coming from the second floor. When there was nobody up there. Some firefighters claimed to see full-body apparitions of whom they believe to be the same ghost walking and talking upstairs. 

When asked to describe the apparition, they all said the same thing, “a tall cowboy-like figure, wearing a hat and long duster.” He was usually seen descending the staircase and walking out of the building.

Williamson County Courthouse, Georgetown

Interestingly, this ghost was not only seen in the firehouse. Others have described seeing, for decades, a misty apparition similar to what the firemen have seen: A tall cowboy-type figure who fades into the night air as he walks through The Square.

So, who could it be? Is it the same specter in the firehouse and roaming through Georgetown’s Square? 

Is it the Ghost of Captain Emzy Taylor?

As we all know, most hauntings are attributed to traumatic events or tragedies. And many ghosts don’t specifically haunt the locations where their lives ended but tend to return to places of comfort, places that are familiar to them. 

It’s not hard to believe, if you are a “believer,” that the mysterious ghost cowboy could not only be the same spirit, but maybe he’s Emzy. Still playing the role of Chief in Firehouse Number 1. And perhaps that’s Emzy traversing the Square and heading to his office at the former First National Bank. 

I guess it’s impossible to know, but we like to think Emzy is still keeping tabs on Georgetown. And we hope he knows his contributions and legacy are not forgotten.

To hear more about Emzy Taylor and the hauntings in Georgetown, join us on our Ghosts of Old Georgetown Tour.