Midlothian, Texas

Ellis County

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from This Was Ellis County

A publication of the Junior Historians, Waxahachie High School, 1979

Barker, Midlothian

And "The Mexican Mustang"

by

Brian Bennett

"Blessed with the most philanthropic people under the sun, surrounded by an expanse of rich and fertile country, the finest spring in the state, the ugliest men, railroad facilities, beautiful, captivating young ladies, her future is anything but dark. " This was written of Midlothian by the Waxahachie Enterprise correspondent, "Don Quixote," in 1882.

The headwaters of Waxahachie Creek was the site of one of the earliest settlements in present Ellis County. Before 1850, the William Hawkins family settled here and the area where they made their home has since been known as Hawkins' Spring. Other families came to the vicinity-Garvin, Newton, Phillips, Griffin, Singleton, Beall, Barker, Morgan, Munden, Burks, Ludewich, Hinkley, Forbes and Witherspoon. Residents of this area were active in the formation of Ellis County. Four of their number were elected to public office in the first county election in 1850.

What became the Hawkins Settlement was on the raw frontier when the county was organized. Soon after arrival, religious services were held in the William Hawkins home and in 1850 there was a small schoolhouse. Some of the residents of the area were active in the formation of the Methodist Society which was formed in the Emory Rogers cabin. Both the Rogers cabin and the Hawkins Settlement were visited by circuit riders during the ensuing years. In the 1850's a church was built in the area of the spring but it burned in 1861 and Lebanon Church was built shortly thereafter. This church was about one half mile from the future town site of Midlothian and near the Hawkins Spring. During the 1860's and 1870's, settlers continued to come to the area to take advantage of the good farming land.

By February, 1877, a post office called Barker (about one mile south of the present town site) was established. This was on the farm of C. H. Barker and the mail was brought weekly from Waxahachie as was the Waxahachie Enterprise. The Enterprise referred to the new post office as "Charles Barker" post office.

In July the Enterprise reported that there had been a Temperance and Sabbath School picnic at Lebanon, near the spring and the church.

By 1879 the settlement, Barker and Lebanon, was reported to have a Grange co-op store, a post office, a Methodist church and a school house, and was referred to as Barker. The active Temperance Council was meeting every two weeks. The school at this time was under the direction of Mr. Jones. Merchants were reported as having good trade and there was a Dr. Crawford in the area who was farming part time.

By the late 1870's a railroad company, The Dallas and Cleburne Railroad, had been chartered with the intentions of building track to connect those places. The line did not materialize under this company name and it was reorganized and the name was changed to Dallas, Cleburne and Rio Grande in 1879. The company planned to have track completed between Dallas and Cleburne through Alvarado by March of 1881.

In early 1880 the company made efforts to encourage Lancaster and Ovilla to make subscriptions so that the proposed line would pass through their towns, but these efforts proved futile, for by October no line had been started. The subscribers at Cleburne had been disappointed at the company's efforts and felt that they had been deceived by the Dallas, Cleburne and Rio Grande Company. With some influential Dallas businessmen becoming interested in the line to Cleburne, the company was reorganized in 1880 and took the name of Chicago, Texas and Mexican Central.

Ellis County deed records show that the Chicago, Texas and Mexican Central began acquiring the right of way in 1880. By January of 1881 a railroad line had been surveyed through Barker and a depot "on the square" was expected. The company had purchased from G.W. Hawkins six hundred acres of land, his residence and spring for the depot ground. Barker residents felt that the railroad would make Barker a large city. By June, Barker was referred to as Midlothian (the first instance of this name appearing in the Waxahachie Enterprise was June 3, 1881). The Enterprise reported that the new name of Barker was Midlothian and the correspondent there predicted that it would be "the" town between Dallas and Alvarado. During this same month, R.M. Wyatt of Waxahachie was in Barker to survey the new city on the Chicago, Texas and Mexican Central railroad line.

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Track laying was progressing well by September and October and trains were expected to be running to Alvarado by December 1 and by January 1 to Cleburne. By October grading contractors sublet the grading work between Alvarado and Cleburne in one and two mile jobs. Their work was to be completed by October 15. The Enterprise reported, however, that in mid-October rains had delayed the railroad work probably until November.

Some time between November and January the tracks had been completed to Cleburne and passenger trains were running. With a railroad, Midlothian needed a hack line from Waxahachie. However, this did not come about until early July of 1882, when such a service was started. With the coming of the railroad, business was so good in Midlothian that the Grangers needed a new building and were making preparations for such. By April of 1882 there was daily mail service by rail from Dallas.

By May of 1882 citizens had sent a petition to Washington to seek a change in the name of their post office from Barker to Midlothian (it is undetermined when this change became effective).

After the extension of the railroad to Midlothian, groups of excursionists made the rail trip to Midlothian from Dallas for the pleasures of the Hawkins Spring area.

By June, a semi-daily train was operating between Dallas and Cleburne and the line had reduced passenger rates to three cents per mile and freight rates accordingly.

The Enterprise in early June reported that rumor had it that the "Mexican Mustang" (C.T. & M.C.) had sold out to the Santa Fe line. At first this rumor seemed unfounded because the company treasurer had been in these parts with $100,000 and was paying off the indebtedness of the line, but sometime between June and October the Chicago, Texas and Mexican Central was purchased by the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Company.

During the early days of the rail line, both the C.T. & M.C. and the G.C. & S.F. changed schedules frequently. Most of the time from the beginning of the traffic until 1884 there was only one or two trains each day going in both directions. An interesting incident took place in early June of 1882 when three passenger trains ran into the Midlothian depot simultaneously.

The advantage of the rail line for Midlothian can be seen by the activities of Mr. King of Waxahachie. In January of 1883, King was buying cotton in the Midlothian area and shipping it from there. He began operating a train of cotton wagons from Waxahachie to Midlothian to take advantage of the better rail rates that the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe had to offer.

Little can be found concerning the first rail depot at Midlothian. However, railroad officials were in town in January of 1883 to make arrangements for a depot which was assured of completion within thirty days. By late March the Enterprise reported that the depot, 50 by 120 feet, had been constructed and by May 8 had been painted.

Surveyors were again in Midlothian in February laying out "a large city" and plans were being made for "a grand excursion from Dallas to this place, sale of town lots, public speaking, etc." for about the first of May.

In the May 4th edition of the Waxahachie Enterprise, the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad ran an article announcing the details of a public sale of town lots in Midlothian to be held on Thursday, May 10. Terms of the sale were listed and a brief description of the advantages of the town were made. Excursion trains were to leave Dallas at 9 a.m. and from Fort Worth at 7:30 a.m. on May 10, to transport interested parties to Midlothian for the sale and the day's events. The trains were to return immediately after the sale. Maps of the sale sites could be obtained from the headquarters in Galveston. S.W. Sydnor was to auction off the lots. This day was quite an event for Midlothian.

After the excitement of the sale, Midlothian was then reported to be "dull and void of anything interesting." However, soon after the sale, the company built a stock yard below the depot. By late May there were 2,500 head of cattle in the yard awaiting shipment to the north.

After the railroad began operation, Midlothian experienced a considerable growth during 1882 and 1883. Before the arrival of the rails the area was in need of flour and corn milling facilities. Rumor had it in the summer of 1881 that a gin and mill were to be operated near the spring. Also, a Dallas merchant was investigating the area with intentions of opening a store. Dr. Moore of Ovilla planned a move to Barker as soon as he could find a place.

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With the completion of the C.T. & M.C. a small town grew up in 1882 with the construction of a number of buildings. The Grangers needed a larger building, since business had been so good. In April they were constructing the building and had moved into it between May 15th and 20th. The building was of two-story construction with dimensions of about forty by sixty feet. With the Grange hall upstairs and the store below, this building was the largest and most complete in Midlothian. E.P. Curtis, who had moved from Dallas, was considered the leading merchant in town. He had constructed a grain elevator and a dry goods and grocery store. In addition to these businesses, Curtis was also engaged in cotton ginning. In October, Curtis sold his grain elevator and ginning business to Mr. Chamberlain of Dallas who installed a corn mill at the gin. M.T. Hawkins, the postmaster, and Jim Newton operated a grocery store in the same building as the post office. Dr. Haskett and his wife operated a drug and grocery store. Dr. A.W. Crawford practiced medicine at this time in Midlothian. In addition to the above buildings, it was reported that carpenters had contracted to build five dry goods stores. This was what Midlothian looked like in the summer of 1882.

In November, there were reports that several new homes were to be built soon. There were two gins, the Witherspoon and Chamberlain's. The correspondent of the Enterprise reported good business for Midlothian and that the town had "one peanut stand, one restaurant and one hotel."

Midlothian made continued progress in 1883. In January a lumber yard had been opened by Mr. Vinson. There was more than one boarding house and Professor Ratliff's school had forty to fifty students.

In May the public sale of lots, which caused considerable excitement, was held. The Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Line had a large number of blocks surveyed to the northwest of the company tracks. The streets had been lettered from A to K from east to west and the north-south streets were numbered through ten, which was located nearest the tracks. The company had the plat recorded in the County Clerk's Office. The Methodists and Presbyterians were taking steps for the erection of churches. A real estate office had been opened near the depot by Mr. Hale. New buildings had been erected and the stockyard near the depot was complete. By summer there was telephone connection with Waxahachie and by September there was direct telephone communication expected to Dallas. Mr. Umsted of Dallas was investigating the possibility of piping water from the spring to town, and by August efforts were being made to obtain subscriptions for a water works.

In July a new hotel of two stories and fifteen or twenty rooms was under construction, but a storm delayed it. Twelve workmen were injured. Work resumed and it was completed in September. It was operated by Dr. McJunkin. In July Professor Works had visited Midlothian to look it over and by September his new academy was almost ready for operation. In September Mr. Tucker opened a photograph gallery east of the railroad and Charles Gelm was fitting out a poultry yard to supply the residents of Midlothian. Slaughter and Davis were erecting a store east of Mr. Morgan and there was talk of establishing an Odd Fellows Lodge.

From these beginnings of brave frontiersmen and the arrival of the railroad, Midlothian grew into the fine agricultural and industrial town that it is today.

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