Taylor is at the intersections of the Missouri Pacific and the Missouri, Kansas and Texas lines and State Highway 95 and U.S. Highway 79, in southeastern Williamson County. In 1876 the Texas Land Company auctioned lots in anticipation of the arrival of the International-Great Northern Railroad. Taylorsville (which officially became Taylor in 1892) was named after Edward Moses Taylor, a railroad official. An influx of settlers from Czechoslovakia and other Slavic states, as well as from Germany and Austria, helped establish the town. It soon became a busy shipping point for cattle, grain, and cotton. By 1878 the town had 1,000 residents and thirty-two businesses, twenty-nine of which were destroyed by fire in 1879. Recovery was rapid, however, and more substantial buildings were constructed. In 1882 the Taylor, Bastrop and Houston Railway reached the community, and machine shops and a roundhouse serviced both rail lines. In 1882 the town was incorporated with a mayor-council form of city government, and in 1883 a public school system replaced a number of private schools. By 1890 Taylor had two banks and the first savings and loan institution in Texas. An electric company, a cotton compress, and several newspapers were among the new enterprises. A water line from the San Gabriel River, a 100-man volunteer fire department, imported and local entertainment, and a yearly fair made noteworthy news items by 1900.
Taylor continued to grow during the early years of the twentieth century. An artesian well was drilled, a city hall was built, and a hospital was opened. Two daily newspapers, as well as weekly German and Czech papers, were published. By 1940 the town had 7,875 residents and 225 businesses. Though other industries were added in the early 1900s, cotton was the leading local product, and Taylor proclaimed itself "the largest inland cotton market in the world." In 1951 the local press noted that 150 to 300 crews were at work but that 3,000 more pickers were needed; mechanical harvesting soon reduced the need for migratory workers, however. By 1954 the Agricultural and Industrial Foundation sought a more diversified local economy, a program that the Development Corporation for Industrial Financing continued in the 1980s. By 1983 twenty-two manufacturers and processors were located in Taylor, and cotton production had been joined by maize, wheat, and cattle. In the 1980s transportation facilities in Taylor included the two railroads, a bus line, an airport, five freight lines, and the two main highways. Residents were served by a daily paper, a radio station, Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, Lone Star Gas, and Texas Power and Light. Sources of water included four artesian wells and the Lake Granger Water Supply Corporation.
The diverse population included people of English and Scots-Irish background, as well as Czechs, Germans, Swedes, Hispanics, and Blacks. In the mid-1980s the population was about 57 percent Anglo, 25 percent Hispanic, and 18 percent Black. The thirty-four local churches represented fifteen denominations. Educational facilities included public elementary schools, a middle and a high school, and parochial schools. The public schools offered vocational training; junior-college extension courses and adult-education programs were provided in a number of fields. Public sports facilities included parks with swimming pools, several tennis courts, a rodeo arena, a hike and bike trail, and several lighted baseball diamonds. The country club had a pool and a nine-hole golf course. Taylor now has a commission-manager form of city government; a planning committee, zoning ordinances, and a master plan have been established to guide development. A hospital, a medical clinic, several nursing homes, and ambulances provide local health care. Taylor has offices of the State Department of Highways and Public Transportation, the Texas National Guard, and the Child Development and Neighborhood Center. The town has sent a governor and a number of state representatives to Austin. Interest in downtown revitalization resulted in the hiring of a Main Street project manager in 1983 (see TEXAS HISTORICAL COMMISSION), and restoration work began. In 1983 the city limits encompassed some ten square miles, and the estimated population was 10,900. Historical markers, a museum, and library archives reflected local participation in historic preservation. In 1990 the population of Taylor was 11,472. The population reached 13,575 in 2000.