Ellis County Communities

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Ghost Towns & Communities (link)


Communities with additional information: Ennis, Ferris, Italy, Maypearl, Midlothian, Milford, Ovilla, Palmer, Red Oak, Waxahachie

All information on this page is the result of research conducted by Hardy - Heck - Moore Cultural Resource Consultants. The information was compiled for the U.S. Department of Energy in support of the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory.


Community Overviews

 

Alphabetical Listing:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, L, M, N, O, P, R, S, T, U, W

Communities Synopses

The many historical factors discussed earlier in this section (see Ellis County History) played influential roles in community developmental patterns. This part of the report provides brief summaries of most cities, towns and villages that survive or existed at one time in Ellis County. The location of most of these communities appear on a county highway map prepared by the Texas Highway Department in 1936 which appears as Figure 5.


Alma

1987 Population - 218

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 15

Alma was originally known as Willow Pond and served as a stagecoach stop on Grant's Stage Line between Waxahachie and Marshall. Located about five miles southeast of Ennis, the town was renamed Alma in honor of Alma Hemming, daughter of Brenham banker C.C. Hemming. One of the earliest settlers was Thomas Smith from Tennessee who arrived in the area about 1844. The first church and school in Alma were built in 1880. The Texas Electric Interurban reached the town in 1911.


Alsdorf

1987 Population - NA

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 3

Alsdorf is in eastern Ellis County between the small farming communities of Sand Lake and Crisp. It was named for Alsdorf Faulkner, a former agent for the Texas and New Orleans Railroad. A post office was opened in 1895, and the Texas Midland Railroad maintained a depot there until the early 20th century.


Auburn

1987 Population - 12

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Auburn is about 16 miles west of Waxahachie on the Johnson County line and was established in 1870. By 1880 Auburn had a population of 250, with four church organizations, three stores, a school, three cotton gins and several corn mills. Because it was bypassed by the railroad, the town steadily declined in population after 1900.


Avalon

1987 Population - 130

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 45

Avalon is in southern Ellis County between Italy and Ennis and was named by early settler William John. The first post office was established in 1881 (discontinued in 1907 and reestablished in 1937) and a combination schoolhouse and church facility was constructed in 1887. The community is centered around farming and ranching, and in the early 1930s the population exceeded 300.


Bardwell

1987 Population - 449

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 67

Bardwell, a small agricultural community in southeastern Ellis County, was named for John W. Bardwell who once owned a cotton gin one mile southwest of the town. In the early 1900s, as many as three cotton gins operated in the community.


Bethel

1987 Population - NA

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Located about eight miles southwest of Waxahachie, Bethel was created in the late 1880's when the Cooke and Neel settlements were consolidated. It was originally called Wilton but its name was later changed to Bethel. One of the early businesses was a horse-powered cotton gin which was later converted to steam power.


Boyce

1987 Population - 75

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Boyce, a small farming community in central Ellis County, was named for its first resident, Captain William A. Boyce, who settled in the area in 1874. The town became a stop on the Houston and Texas Central Railroad in 1878 (now the Southern Pacific) when William Boyce gave land for the construction of a station, known as the Jeffries station. In 1892, the town had a cotton gin, a post office (established in 1883), bank, store, and blacksmith shop. At that time, there were also three churches and a school. The Boyce school was also used as the meeting place for the Boyce Literary Society.


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Boz

1987 Population - 15 Number of Identified Historic Resources - 8

Boz is a farming community in west-central Ellis County. In the early 1900s, Boz claimed over a hundred residents and had three general merchandise stores, two churches, a post office, blacksmith shop, cotton gin and school. By 1940, the population was less than 75.


Bristol

1987 Population - 94

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 46

Bristol was settled in the mid-1860s when Jack Ellis built the first house in the community. Located in the eastern part of Ellis County near the Trinity River, Bristol's soil is of the black, fertile type characteristic of the "cotton belt" area. Consequently, Bristol is a farming community. The population in 1890 was approximately 300. In 1928 fire destroyed many frame buildings in the town, including the original post office, two schools and the Methodist Church.


Burnham (Burnam)

1987 Population - NA

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Burnham was a small trading community about six miles southwest of Waxahachie near Cummins Creek. The town was originally called Cummins Creek, and a post office was established in 1859. A town plat was surveyed in 1861 and included 25 blocks clustered around a public square. Census records of 1870 show that the population of Burnham was about 1,600. When the Houston and Texas Central Railroad arrived in Ellis County in 1872, the town was bypassed and most residents relocated to Ennis. The post office was discontinued one year later.


Byrd

1987 Population - 15

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

The community of Byrd is in Southwestern Ellis County, about five miles southeast of Bardwell. H. L. Parker was the first settler in this area which was first initially known as Byron. Its name was changed to Byrd after local resident Charlie Byrd donated land for the first school and community center. A post office was established in 1894 but was discontinued in 1905.


Center Point

1987 Population - NA

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Center Point is a former turn community two miles south of Italy. The name comes from the location of the town, which is the midpoint between Dallas and Waco (about fifty miles from each city). The Harpold family were the first settlers, arriving in the area in 1860.


Crisp

1987 Population - 90

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Crisp, in east-central Ellis County, was named after Charles F. Crisp, a one-time speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. The town was laid out on the Texas Midland Railroad and a post office was first established in 1892.


Derr's Chapel

1987 Population - NA

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

The community of Derr's Chapel is four miles southwest of Italy and four miles north of Milford. The Derr's, an early settler family, donated the land on which Derr's Chapel was built.


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Ennis

1987 Population - 16,450

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 1,286

Ennis is about fifteen miles southeast of Waxahachie in eastern Ellis County. The town was founded in 1872 when the Houston and Texas Central Railroad purchased land for the town site and railroad. Many settlers relocated in Ennis from nearby communities which were not served by the railroad.

The town grew rapidly as a regional center of transportation, particularly after 1891 when the Houston and Texas Central Railroad established shops there. Consequently, Ennis developed a bustling downtown with banks, restaurants, hotels and other businesses to serve local residents as well as the increasing number of railway travelers.

Other railroad companies eventually extended their lines to Ennis. The Texas Midland Railroad came in 1894 and erected both a passenger and freight depot. This railroad was later absorbed into the Southern Pacific railway system and it continues to service the community. Ennis was also on an interurban line that extended from Dallas to Corsicana. It was discontinued shortly after World War II.

Although known as a railroad town, Ennis and its economy also relied heavily on the production of cotton. Many local farmers brought their cotton to Ennis for processing and transportation to market. Ennis became one of the largest communities in the county and soon rivaled Waxahachie in significance and importance. At the turn of the century, Ennis had two cotton compresses, a cotton oil mill and several cotton gins.

Most residents of Ennis and surrounding areas were immigrants from the Upland and Lowland South, however a significant portion of the population included immigrants from Germany, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. A small Jewish community also formed in early Ennis; several members were instrumental in inducing the railroad company to locate their headquarters there.

A large number of blacks also settled in Ennis; many arriving as former slaves of white farmers in Southern states. After Emancipation, blacks lived in small enclaves within Ennis, especially in the northeast and western sections of the town, and they attended their own neighborhood schools and churches. Although most blacks remained employed as servants or field laborers, several opened businesses within or near the predominantly white commercial district.


Ensign

1987 Population - 10

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

First settled in 1895, Ensign originally consisted of several cotton gins, blacksmith shops and general stores.


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Ferris

1987 Population - 2,920

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 293

Located in northern Ellis County, Ferris was first settled in 1850 by the McKnight and the Andrews families of Tennessee and consequently known as McKnight-Andrews Corner. When plans were made for a railroad to extend through Ellis County in the early 1870s, a formal town site was platted and the new community named Ferris in honor of Judge Justus Wesley Ferris of Waxahachie.

Ferris is best known for its brick manufacturing plants which fueled much of the city's growth during the early 20th century. The first brick plant, the Atlas Brick Company, was established by T. J. Hurst around 1900. A year later Thomas J. Weatherford organized the Ferris Press Brick Company. By the early part of the 20th century, six brick plants were in operation in and near Ferris and they produced from 300,000 to 350,000 bricks daily. According to Texas Magazine (1911 4[l]:82), Ferris, "in proportion to its population is the biggest brick manufacturing town in the world.' The six companies consolidated in 1923 to form the Ferris Brick Company.

Agriculture was also an important element of Ferris' economy and several cotton gins operated in the city. The Mutz and Cassidy Gin Company (later the Merchants and Planters Gin) was established in 1880 but closed in 1957.


Five Points

1987 Population - NA

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Five Points, about nine miles south of Waxahachie, is named for the five roads which converge nearby. The community was first settled around 1850 by Pinckney Sims and was known as one of the better farming areas in the region. Cotton was grown in abundance in the area, and in 1936 Five Points had two cotton gins.


Forreston

1987 Population - 300

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 58

Forreston, located about seven miles south of Waxahachie, is one of the oldest towns in Ellis County. William R. Howe initially settled the area in 1843 and the community that subsequently developed was called Chambers Creek after T. J. Chambers, who received a land grant from Mexico. Captain Carr Forrest gave land for a formalized town site along the right-of-way of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, which arrived in 1891. Consequently, the town was renamed Forreston and it soon had two cotton gins, stores, a church and a school.


Garrett

1987 Population - 277

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 67

Once known as Guide, Garrett is a small farming community about two miles northwest of Ennis. It was renamed in 1894 after Claiborne and William Garrett, who gave land for the railroad. At one time, Garrett had a busy freight and passenger depot, since it was at the junction of the Waxahachie Tap and the Houston and Texas Central Railroads. Mail and freight were transferred in Garrett to westward points. In the 1890s, Garrett had a post office, cotton gin, two schools and a church building shared by several denominations.


Greathouse

1987 Population - NA

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Archibald Greathouse and Major Thomas I. Smith settled on tracts of land between Chambers Creek and Maypearl during the late 1800s and the dispersed settlement became known as Greathouse. By the mid 1930s, the community had one school and a church.


Griffith (Griffith Switch)

1987 Population - 10

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Griffith is in western Ellis County near the Johnson County line. The community was named for J. W. Griffith, an early settler and businessman. It was first known as Griffith Switch after the International and Great Northern Railroad installed a switch and a cattle depot in the area, but its name was later shortened to Griffith.


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Howard

1987 Population - 26

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Located about eight miles southeast of Waxahachie, Howard was originally known as White League after Carey White, an early settler who owned a league of land in the area. In 1896, a post office was established which took the name of Howard in honor of Howard Williams, the son of a prominent citizen in nearby Nash.


Ike

1987 Population - 10

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Ike is a dispersed rural settlement about four miles northeast of Waxahachie. The community was probably named for Ike Henley, whose father donated land for the post office in 1898 (discontinued 1903). Mainly a farming community, Ike's population never reached more than 100.


India

1987 Population - 12

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Originally called Morgan, India is four miles east of Ferris. In 1853, A. J. Mayers first settled in this area near the Trinity River. This small community was the site of one of the earliest cotton gins in the county, a horse-powered gin complete with a human-powered press that was later modernized to steam power.


Italy

1987 Population - 1,595

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 285

Located in the southern part of Ellis County, Italy was first called Houston Creek after a rumor that Sam Houston once camped at the site. The town was renamed "Sunny Italy" because its weather was supposedly comparable to that of the European country. The name was later shortened to Italy. The first house was built by the Aycock brothers in 1879 and also served as a post office and grocery store.

Early Italy grew rapidly and by 1880 the town boasted three churches, four stores, a blacksmith shop and a cotton gin. The Italy Institute, a private school, was built in 1879 but burned in 1888. Other early educational facilities in Italy were the Southwestern Normal School and the Hope Institute. The town also had six religious organizations, including a large black congregation which attended the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Natural resources were a major attraction to the area. Early settlers found that timber and water was plentiful, and the soil near Italy is rich and dark, well-suited for cotton growing. Italy farmers also grew corn, sweet potatoes, wheat, peaches, and apples.

The Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad reached Italy in 1890, and the International and Great Northern Railroad later added a line. The presence of the railroad attracted many new settlers, who were eager to take advantage of the rapid transport of freight, which was formerly carried by teams of oxen.

Due to the addition of the railroad, the cotton industry boomed in the Italy area. By 1890, there were ten cotton gins serving the Italy area cotton growers. In 1911, Italy gins produced 15,000 bales of cotton and had three cotton gins and a cotton seed oil mill to process the crop.


Lone Elm

1987 Population - 20

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Lone Elm was settled in 1855 by the Jones, Delk and Johnson families. Located about five miles west of Waxahachie, the town was reportedly named after a large elm tree from which horse thieves were hanged. Lone Elm is an area of farming, cattle raising and dairy production.


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Maypearl

1987 Population - 847

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 134

Maypearl, in western Ellis County, was once called Eyrie (or Erie). G. G. Brindley of Alabama was an early settler who reportedly was told of this area by Indians who claimed that it was populated by many birds. Brindley and his traveling companions began a settlement and named it Eyrie, a term for a nest of predatory birds.

In 1903, the International and Great Northern Railroad came to the area and the town was renamed Maypearl in honor of the daughters of two railroad officials. Maypearl received postal service in 1894 and was incorporated in 1914.

Mainly a farming and stock raising community, Maypearl was one of the later Ellis County towns. In the early 1900s, Maypearl had two cotton gins, a lumberyard and a grist mill.


Midlothian

1987 Population - 4,601

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 283

Known as both Hawkins Springs and Barker until 1883, Midlothian is about twelve miles northwest of Waxahachie. Its rich, black soil attracted settlers in the early 1870s and a post office was established several years later. Crops such as cotton, corn and grains thrived in the fertile soil of the Midlothian area.

The Fort Worth railroad line was the first in Midlothian, reaching the town in 1886. The Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe line arrived several years later. The population of Midlothian has grown slowly but steadily. In 1890, there were approximately 300 residents.


Milford

1987 Population - 828

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 2 10

Milford is an older settlement in southern Ellis County, about twenty miles south of Waxahachie. It was settled in the late 1840s by Arvin Wright, William R. Hudson and J. M. Higgins who donated land for the town. Hudson opened the first store there in 1853. A post office was established in 1854. Local historians claim that the town was named for nearby Mill Creek.


Mountain Peak

1987 Population - 20

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Located in the northwestern part of the county in a cattle raising and farming area, Mountain Peak was originally known as Singleton, after its first postmaster, John H. Singleton. The first house in the Mountain Peak community was built by Granville Pettes in 1875.

In 1880, Mountain Peak had a population of 140, gaining about twenty inhabitants by 1890. Mountain Peak had a church, school, cotton gin, and blacksmith shop by 1900.


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Nash

1987 Population - 25

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Nash, located near Onion Creek, is about eight miles southeast of Waxahachie. First called Willow Springs, then Garden Valley, Nash was established in 1880. The town was named after N.J. Nash, an Ellis County attorney. In 1887, fire destroyed much of the commercial area.


Oak Grove

1987 Population - 10

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Oak Grove is located in the Southwestern part of the county, about six miles south of Ennis. In 1847, John and Mary Humble of Mississippi moved to the area and settled on Cummins Creek which runs near the community. The area attracted many farmers and settlers from Alabama.

Early resident Frank Cook built the first cotton gin in 1900, which was destroyed by fire in 1949.


Ozro

1987 Population - NA

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Ozro, once known as Nation Town, was founded by early settler Alexander Nation, a native of Alabama who arrived in 1868. After Nation's death, the name of the town was changed to Ozro, the origin of which is unknown. The town is in the southwestern part of the county near Maypearl. The International and Great Northern railroad set up stations in neighboring towns, but bypassed Ozro. As a result, many residents moved to towns served by the railroad and the community was virtually abandoned.


Ovilla

1987 Population - 1,979

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 43

Ovilla is an early settlement about ten miles northwest of Waxahachie on Red Oak Creek. The Billingsleys, Woolseys and James McNamarra were the first settlers who arrived around 1845, and by 1849, the settlement had a church (Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian, built in 1847) and a school. By 1900, Ovilla consisted of businesses, a post office, and a cotton gin, but fires destroyed several structures in 1918 and again in 1926.


Palmer

1987 Population - 1,606

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 151

Located in the east central part of Ellis County, Palmer was settled in the 1870s. Early residents were attracted to the area by the fertile farm land. Alfred Anthony, one of the earliest settlers, donated land to the Houston and Texas Central Railroad Company; the railroad reached the town in 1874.

The first structures in Palmer included the house built by J. J. Crawford, the Roland and Hill general merchandise store, and the T. H. Andrews grocery store. The town is noted for its brick manufacturing plants.


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Reagor Springs

1987 Population - 45

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

First settled in 1844 by Southerland Mayfield, Reagor Springs is between Waxahachie and Ennis. Captain John Reagor, who came to the area in 1849, was one of the earliest settlers. Hal and Rose Pointer arrived in the town in 1847 and were some of the first blacks in the county. When the post office was established in 1882, it took the name of Ray in honor of one of John Reagor's sons-in-law, but the name of the town was later changed to Reagor Springs.

Served by the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railroad, Reagor Springs is traditionally a cotton-producing area.


Red Oak

1987 Population - 2,716

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 85

Red Oak is ten miles north of Waxahachie. Early settler Joel Davis gave the town its first name, Possum Trot, when the town was a part of Navarro County. The first house was built in 1856 by I. P. and Elijah Jeffries. The Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad arrived in 1884.


Rockett

1987 Population - 124

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 17

Rockett is in the northern part of Ellis County near Red Oak Creek. The town was originally called Liberty, but its name was changed to Rockett after the John Rockett family who settled in the area in 1853. Primarily a cotton growing area, the first cotton gin was built in 1900 by J. T. Andrews. By the 1930s, there were as many as 30 cotton gins in the Rockett vicinity.


Sand Lake

1987 Population - NA

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Sand Lake is a small, dispersed farming community near Kaufman County, twelve miles east of Ennis.


Sanderson Community

1987 Population - NA

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Named for G. C. Sanderson, who settled in the area in 1869, the Sanderson community is located about one and a half miles southeast of Bardwell.


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Sardis

1987 Population - NA

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Sardis is halfway between Midlothian and Waxahachie and is one of the earliest settlements in the county (1845). A post office was established in 1866 and the town was named Hurley Station. In 1888 the name was changed to Saralvo and the town consisted of a church, cotton gin, store and blacksmith shop. The post office was discontinued in 1907 and the town became known as Sardis. The origin of the town's three names is unknown.


Sterrett

1987 Population - 28

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 7

Located in northern Ellis County, Sterrett was named for early settler James Sterrett. The town received railroad service on the Missouri, Kansas and Texas line in 1889. Early Sterrett had a cotton gin and a post office (established in 1900, discontinued in 1929).


Telico (Tellico)

1987 Population - 95

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Telico is about ten miles northeast of Ennis near the Trinity River. Probably named after Tellico, N. C., a plantation and manufacturing town, the original site was called Trinity City and was about two miles northeast of present-day Telico. In the 1850s Thomas M. McCray opened the Tellico Manufacturing Company. McCray envisioned the emerging Texas settlement as a major manufacturing hub. Although Telico never became the manufacturing town that McCray hoped it would be, farmers settled the area for the agricultural opportunities it offered. The original community was abandoned around 1900 in favor of the present site which was considered safer than the flood-prone area near the river.


Trumbull

1987 Population - 65

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Trumbull is a small community in northeastern Ellis County. It was first called "The Switch' when the Houston and Texas Central railroad built a switch through the town. The town was renamed Trumbull in 1904 in honor of a railroad official. Trumbull was later served by the Southern Pacific and the Texas Electric Interurban Line.


Union Hill

1987 Population - NA

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 0

Union Hill is a small farming settlement southeast of Bristol, first settled in 1867 by John and Martha Ann Davis Mullican.


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Waxahachie

1987 Population - 19,543

Number of Identified Historic Resources - 1,988

Waxahachie, the county seat and largest city in Ellis County, is 15 miles northwest of Ennis. The town was named Waxahachie after the Indian name for a creek that runs nearby. Early settler Emory W. Rogers built a log house on the site where the present-day Rogers Hotel stands. The first structures included a church, jail and a courthouse. The first courthouse was a log structure that was moved from Dallas County to the location near the early Rogers homestead. The town was incorporated in 1870 and commercial activity was centered around the courthouse square area.

Agriculture was an important part of early Waxahachie's settlement. Although cotton was the predominant crop, little of it was grown until after the Civil War. The lack of farm labor forced growers to rely on crops that did not require intensive labor, like wheat, corn, sweet potatoes and oats.

The town was bypassed in favor of Ennis by the Houston and Texas Central Railroad in 1872 and the first rail line did not reach the city until 1879 (Houston and Texas Central Railroad). The Missouri Kansas-Texas reached Waxahachie in 1886 and the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railroad arrived in 1907. The Interurban line from Dallas to Waco was expanded to include Waxahachie in 1912.

The arrival of the railroads was a key factor in the subsequent growth and prosperity of Waxahachie. Its location between Dallas and Waco allowed the town to import manufactured items and to export raw goods. One of Waxahachie's most profitable exports was cotton and equipment was easily available from larger neighboring cities to process the crop. As a result, a large amount of cotton was grown, harvested and shipped via the railroad, generating huge profits for the growers, processors and the railroads.

The town experienced a boom during the late 19th- and early 20th centuries as a result of the flourishing cotton economy. A new courthouse was constructed which remains one of Waxahachie's most spectacular structures. Concurrently, structures in the downtown area were built, as well as many of the impressive west-end residences. In addition, many educational, social and religious buildings were constructed during the economic boom. The first hospital was built in 1921 and citizens donated money for the construction of several public facilities, including the Sims Library and Getzendaner Park.

Waxahachie continued to prosper until the late 1920s, when the economy floundered due to a competitive market from increased West Texas cotton production. Many of the cotton gins, mills and compresses were abandoned as cotton prices plummeted from the effects of higher production and the economic Depression in the 1930s. Although Waxahachie's economy has never been as prosperous as in the cotton boom era, the town's proximity to Dallas has attracted several manufacturing plants since the early 1970s.

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