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The history of Murchison, Texas

The history of the City of Murchison, Texas

Murchison’s history dates back almost to the days of the earliest Texas settlements, part of the tribal grounds of the Caddo tribes.  They were later joined by the Kickapoo’s and together in the 1830’s united with the Cherokees to protect themselves from the white settlers.  In 1839 they were driven out and migrated north into the Red River country.  Many artifacts have been located in the area to include arrowheads and pieces of pottery of definite Caddo design.

The Texas legislature established Henderson County in 1846 and it was named in honor of James Pickney Henderson, the first Governor of the State of Texas.  The county was formed from parts of Nacogdoches and Houston counties.  In 1848 the Texas legislature formed Van Zandt and Kaufman counties out of Henderson County and reduced it to its present size.  That year the population of Henderson County consisted of 1,155 White persons, eighty-one slaves, and one free Black.  Farming was the chief source of income.

By 1860 Henderson County had grown to a population of 4,595: 3,478 Whites, 1,116 slaves, and one free Black.  Lumber, leather work, clay products, a lumber mill, a grist mill, and farming to include corn, sweet potatoes, tobacco, peas, oats and bales of cotton as well as milk cows, cattle, hogs and sheep were all part of the thriving economy.  Some of the communities at that time included Athens, Normandy, Science Hill, Brownsboro, Fincastle, Stillwater, New York, Goshen, Wild Cat, Carroll Springs and Cat Fish.

From 1860 to 1870 the county’s population had increased to 6,786.  During this time about 1500 Henderson County men served in the Civil War.  In 1870, during the postwar depression, manufacturing and farming had dropped dramatically.  In an attempt to recoup their previous financial status, citizens pooled their resources together beginning in 1871, donating right-of-way to build the bed of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway. 

At this time present day Murchison was known as Lindsey, honoring the Jacob Lindsey family.  J.M. Larue deeded a tract of land to the Texas and St. Louis Railway Company for the location of a depot and side track near Station 1500.  The station was named “MURCHISON”, in honor of Colonel T.F. Murchison of Athens, who had raised a company of cavalry for the Confederate service along with Captain Warren at the breakout of the Civil War and who also owned adjacent properties in the area.  Murchison was officially founded about 1876 and shipped among many other things, watermelons out of its depot.  Newspapers in the area during this time were the Athens Carrier, Henderson County Herald, the Trinidad Times, the Chandler Times, the Poynor Tribune, the Murchison X-Ray, the Murchison Star, and the Eustace Herald.

Before 1890 several men to include Tom Pascal, Charlie Williams, a Mr. Barfield, a Mr. Coffie and J.B. Lewis were associated in thriving businesses making harnesses, saddles, boots and shoes.

Robert Prather had established a brick factory north of town with several employees and supplied bricks for projects in the surrounding communities.  A cotton gin had been established and also a corn mill by a Carroll, John Curry, Edmondson and Sons, J.W. and Bill Splawn, D.W. Carnes, J.M. Royall and Will McMichael.

J.L. Townley operated a busy blacksmith shop, followed by Mitt Brownlow, Burl Cox, Will Chisenhall and the shops of Carson Ramsey and B.B. Yancy.  Yancy and Ramsey later developed the garage business in anticipation of the automobile.

The coming of the railroad brought many changes to Murchison.  The Star Route Postal System was eliminated and the Post Office was established with J.B. Murphree, Charlie Williams, and Blanche Ware as the first postmasters.

Murchison had many splendidly equipped doctors in its earliest days, to include Dr. Scott, Dr. Z.N. Thornton, Dr. West, Dr. T.O. Wells, Dr. A.C. Horton, Dr. E.F. Huddle and Dr. D.O. Jeter.

Early drug store operators included Bill Splawn, Daniel Cumbie, J Ollie Wells, R.E. Ware and Will Ard.

Many families during this time had well organized farming operations.  They are listed as “Rip” Underwood, James H. Gresham, Joseph D. Abney, Joseph LaRue, Harvey Hodges, Daren and James Hodge, Levi Morton, Travis and W.D. Scott, S.W. Dewberry, Thomas and S.A. Smith, R.D. and Tom Scott and Seth Scott.  There were the Bryan Hardin family, the O’Quinns, McSpaddens, Arb and Bill Rounsavall, Bill Murphree, J.J. Anglins, John Makerney, and Bill Cox.  All of these men and families were true pioneers to the community.  During this time a Farmer’s Union was organized in Murchison.

The earliest merchants were Joseph LaRue, Jim Emmerson, and J.B. Murprhee and established thriving businesses selling general merchandise.  Fire would later destroy all of the establishments except that of Mr. Murphree.

After the fire others joined in to rebuild the businesses.  They included Ness Germany, Robert and Will Graham, C.T. Williams and Warren Harrison and by 1897 Murchison’s trade territory extended for about 12 miles in every direction.  Unfortunately, the Depression of 1898 depleted all of these establishments and it was years before a recovery would be made.

In 1907 a General Merchandise Store was established as well as another General Store.  A Drug Store was built.  The First State Bank was established about 1908.

Around 1913 a pea-processing plant operated for many years in Murchison.  In 1920 a fire destroyed nine businesses in town.  All that remained was the bank building and the Ware Furniture Store.

Following the fire the R.E. Saxon General Merchandise Store recovered, as well as  2 drug stores, a grocery store, 2 cafes and a barbershop.  A moving picture show operated for a short time as well as an Ice business, a number of garages, a telephone exchange, a taxi service, the Hendrix Morton Hotel, and a shoe repair shop.  In all there were 24 establishments situated near the Cotton Belt Railroad Depot and was served by the rail line. 

In 1929, yet again, a fire broke out destroying all business establishments on Front Street, south of the rail line.

The first school house was built of logs for Murchison on Stella St.  The school house burned and classes were then held in a small church building north of town until a two-story structure could be completed near the railroad.  The building was enlarged and bricked, with brick supplied by Robert Prather.  This school building served the community until it was destroyed by fire in 1922. A third more modern building was erected and it too was destroyed by fire.  In 1941, the present Murchison ISD stone building was completed by Works Progress Administration men from the community.

Sometime in the early 1900’s watermelon festivals became popular.  The late Marshall Asher of Athens, who was then living in Murchison and was an active citizen in many affairs, instituted these festivities to celebrate the harvest of watermelons, peaches and other crops.

The late “Mama Morton” (Mrs. Hendrix Morton), who lived to be 102 years old, operated the Murchison Hotel.  Before Mama Morton’s death, she used to talk of the early churches in the community.  ‘Uncle’ Jake Lindsey (presumed to be her uncle), was a Baptist preacher and had moved to Murchison in its early days.  He operated one of the first mills and gins in the area.  At that time the area was called “Lindsey”, named after him.

Some of the early churches were Zion Missionary Baptist Church dating back to at least 1880.  In 1920, First Baptist Church of Murchison was organized.  The Methodist Church of Murchison dates back to October 22, 1895.

The pioneer women of Murchison helped blaze the trail to better and happier living as they ministered and served in many ways to better the community.  ‘The Egg Circle’, forerunner of the Women’s Home Demonstration Clubs were promoted vigorously by the Murchison women.  This women’s early rural club carried out many projects helpful to families in the area.  They helped raise money  for various community projects, fostering the “Library Shelf”, giving the people of the community reading material which was not otherwise available.  Participation of Murchison community women in several Henderson County Fairs was always vigorous and was a stimulus to more and better processing of the farm products.  Exhibits of Mrs. Porter Luker (Curry) always won high awards.  She exhibited jellies, marmalades, pickles and deliciously arranged fruit and vegetables at the fairs and then was invited to participate at the Texas State Fair, where she received “Top Awards”.  In 1930, she received “Honorable Mention” at the International Exhibit of Ball Brothers Glass Company entry in Shenandoah, Iowa.  That same year she was honored with a full page in the LADIES HOME JOURNAL for her fine jellies.

The City and the Murchison School continued to flourish through the 60’s and 70’s. The City of Murchison was incorporated in 1960, elected officers were, R.E. Saxon Jr. as mayor, Dale Jones as secretary and five council members as J.T. Richards, Homer Tedford, D.J. Tidmore, Newel Lewis and W.H. Barton.  In 1965, a 625 foot deep well was completed for the city water supply.  There were 80 new brick homes built through the 60’s and 70’s.  There were three dairies in the area.  Gulf States United Telephone System placed new underground cable service and a new exchange building was constructed in Murchison, completed in 1972.  Other new businesses were Morrison Ceramics, a laundry mat, a self-serve gas station and the Thornton Café.   The area was served for many years by A.P. Hardin’s Grocery Store, which was a continuation of the R.E. Saxon General Merchandise business.  Another grocery store, Ralph Whittington’s Grocery also served the area, located at the corner of FM 773 and St Hwy 31.  Other business included Glover’s Grocery and Filling Station, Shavor’s Grocery and Market, Exxon Filling Station, Reagan Store and a Texaco Station, and several beauty shops.  The city’s sewer system was completed in 1975.

During the 80’s and 90’s the population of Murchison hovered around 510, by 2000 and 2010 the population had increased to about 590.

Today the population is about 600.  Murchison ISD is still in operation and still uses the building constructed in 1941.  There is a new Post Office located on St Hwy 31.  The area is protected from fire by District 8 Fire Rescue (formerly Murchison Volunteer Fire Department) and police services are currently provided by The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office.  The city’s water service currently has about 358 customers.  Businesses include a Chevron and Super Stop Gas Station, Dollar General, Penrod Tire Shop, Milner Auto Service, Wagon Wheel Antique Mall, Lee Boy Construction, Bee-Line Promotions, Splawn Landscape Sales, Texas Star Fabrication and Equipment, Super Bee Auto City, Blackjack Clay Inc., Smith and Son’s Tractor and Equipment, GRID Solar and Electric, Xtreme Auction Services and Stone Oak Venue.  First State Bank Brownsboro also has a bank branch in Murchison.