Florence is on State Highway 195 thirty-four miles north of Austin in northwestern Williamson County. The site was settled in the early 1850s and briefly called Brooksville but had become known as Florence by 1857, when its first post office was established. The origin of this name is uncertain: it may have derived from Florence, Alabama, an early home of the first postmaster, or it may refer to Florence Brooks, the daughter of the town's first merchant. A successful cattle industry developed around Florence after the Civil War, when wheat and cotton were significant local crops. In the 1890s Florence had a number of retail stores, mills, churches, schools, lodges, hotels, doctors, and photographers, and a stone quarry, a bank, and a cheese factory. Florence College opened around 1895 under the direction of W. S. Holden and offered classes for about eight years. Beginning with the Florence Flower in 1890, the town has had five newspapers; in 2003 the Florentine was the local paper. The Bartlett and Western Railway (originally chartered in 1909 as the Bartlett and Florence Railway Company) served the town from 1912 until the line was abandoned in 1935. Florence grew steadily from an estimated population of 350 in 1900 to a high of 1,000 recorded from 1927 to 1929. By 1931 its estimated population had dropped to 421, where it remained for eight years before beginning a slow but steady growth that reached an estimated 672 by 1976. In 1978 its reported population was 837, and in 1982 it was 744. In 1986 Florence had twenty retail businesses, a post office, a bank, and a medical clinic. In recent years the town's population has increased from 829 in 1990 to 1,054 in 2000.