Churches, a log cabin, and a wooden courthouse were the first public structures in Bellville. Most of the residents were farmers, and the town grew slowly until the coming of the Santa Fe Railroad in 1880. This brought a rapid increase in population and business development.
The Courthouse Square remains as it was laid out in 1846 and many of the historic buildings have now been transformed into a collection of unusual and unique shops and businesses. In 1883, there were six saloons on the square alone. Local legend tells the story that Irish immigrants were brought in to construct the railroad and bridge over Mill Creek. On Saturday nights a flatcar was used to bring them into town and later they were loaded back on the railcar (in a horizontal position) to take them back to the work camp. Bellville is a city rich in local Texas history.
The many markers in the area chronicle incidents from the early days of Texas, both as a republic and later as a state. Noted with plaques are the original school sites in the county, over 170 cemetery locations (some on private property), the Austin County Jail as well as many buildings and homes located about the town square and in the residential districts.