Dripping Springs, on U.S. Highway 290 twenty-five miles west of Austin in northern Hays County, emerged as a community center before the Civil War. The first settler in the area is thought to have been a man named Fawcett, who arrived about 1849. Other families began farming the valleys of Little Barton and Onion creeks in the early 1850s, and in 1857 Dripping Springs opened what became a permanent post office. By 1884 the town supported several businesses, including a steam gristmill and cotton gin, and a population of 130. Education was provided by a public school and by the Dripping Springs Academy, which opened in 1881. The settlement's location on the Austin to Fredericksburg road made it a durable community center, and despite a population decline during the Great Depression, Dripping Springs developed into the principal town in northern Hays County during the twentieth century. With only minor fluctuations, its population has grown slowly but steadily since World War II. In the mid-1980s it reported twenty businesses and more than 600 residents. By 1990 its population had risen to over 1,000, and by 2000 it had grown to 1,548.