Though the homestead itself is breathtaking—especially against the backdrop of 21st century Austin—the Smoots were a middle-class family of little inheritance and have left us with letters, diaries, photographs, sermons, lesson plans, and objects of sentimental value to be remembered by. Miss Smoot, the original Flower Hill collector, curator, and director, recorded hours of audio and video to tell her family’s story. The offspring of journalists, historians, and English teachers, she did a beautiful job telling this story.
Like any great story, it’s the people in them that make them memorable.
Lawrence Smoot served as the Texas Supreme Court reporter for 66 years, and still holds the title for longest serving Texas civil servant. His writings and rich Texas law library reside in the home, and have attracted the interest of professors and students of law for decades.
The acclaimed short story writer William Sydney Porter (aka O. Henry) was a family friend of the Smoots, eloped in the Flower Hill wedding parlor, and carved illustrations into wood blocks for the family’s mail order catalogue of Fancy Indian Game Hens. The wood blocks are still in the house today.
Amelia Worthington Williams, Ph. D., resided in the house while she worked towards earning her doctorate from the University of Texas in 1935 with a project that would eventually make her the foremost Alamo scholar of her time.
The Smoot family members are highly regarded in their respective communities. Jane Smoot was a 40 ½ year educator with the Austin public school system, Asher Graham Smoot co-founded The Austin American newspaper, and Rev. Dr. R.K. Smoot helped to establish the Austin School of Theology. Their lectures, letters, articles, sermons, and diaries are all preserved at Flower Hill.
Flower Hill celebrates the significance of underrepresented national figures. The Smoots were a family of strong-willed and -minded women who sculpted a family dynamic valuing hard work, honesty, and integrity.
The family matriarch, Julia Emma Williams, a teacher, claimed anyone’s feet were welcome under her dining table, regardless of their walk of life, just as long as their hands did something to put food atop it.
Following in the footsteps of her mother and her aunt Amelia, Jane Smoot became a lifelong scholar and educator. Her UT master's thesis is preserved, as well as her high school and college English curricula. Throughout her lifetime, Jane also became an independent traveler, visiting China, Africa, and South America on numerous occasions, going against social norms. Her travels are documented in slides, diary entries, and artwork, and wares. In this way, the Smoot family provide a historical pillar for the cultural, legislative, and economic movements defining the American woman of today.