When Reverend Dr. Richmond Kelley Smoot, minister of the Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green, Kentucky, first travelled to Austin, Texas in 1874, he did so against the wishes of his wife, Sarah Jane Graham (Sallie), whose whole life and family history was wrapped up in Kentucky, and the entirety of his congregation, who feared losing their beloved minister to the allures of the untamed West. He’d been called upon by the Southern Presbyterian Church of Austin, then only a fledgling group in a town of less than five thousand, for his guidance and expertise. He concluded his work and returned happily to Bowling Green within a year, but not without fond, lasting memories of the frontier. Five particular acres of rolling green hills, rife with a freshwater spring and lake, one and a half miles from the capitol building had stirred the Reverend especially, and by the time he was called upon again, in 1876, this time to become Southern Presbyterian’s new minister, Austin, Texas felt like destiny.
To the chagrin of his congregation, and now with Sallie’s support, the Reverend left Bowling Green for good, to set up a homestead in central Texas with his family. He called their future home Pecan Place, for the Kentucky pecan trees he loved and would plant all over the property, and drew a building plan based on homes he had visited in his travels and admired.
In July of 1877, The Butler Brick Company began carrying dusty rose-colored bricks by mule wagons from Barton Springs and Zilker Park to the West Austin property, and built in such a frenzy the bricks were still soft as they were laid, such that the hands of the workers are still visible all over the face of the house today. Builders completed construction by the fall of that same year, and the Reverend, Sallie, and their two boys, Asher and Lawrence, moved in on November 10th.
The house consisted of four rooms and a sweeping staircase. By the following summer, after bearing witness to her second Texas wildflower season, and resigning to the reality that her husband’s beloved Kentucky pecans simply would not take to the property’s soil, Sallie suggested they’d better change the home’s name, perhaps, more appropriately, to Flower Hill.