Milford, Texas History

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History of Milford, Texas

Abstracted from A Memorial & Biographical History of Ellis County, Lewis Pub. Co. Chicago. 1892, and History of Ellis County, Ellis County History Workshop, 1972,with additions from "Milford, TX" The Handbook of Texas Online.

Contributed by Jean Caddel

Milford is one of the oldest towns in Ellis County, located on a rolling ridge half a mile from Mill Creek, abut twenty miles south and slightly west of Waxahachie. It originated in the early 1850s when Colonel Arvin Wright, (who had purchased 640 acres of land) William R. Hudson and J. M. Higgins laid off town lots. A number of these lots were donated for a school and Hudson opened the first store followed by a second by Major J. P. Burnett [Bennett?] Hudson also served as the first postmaster. Population in 1890 was 400 (per census) but the next two years saw much expansion [1892].

The O. S. Presbyterians organized Saturday, June 23, 1855 when twenty persons met with Rev. Dickson, who served as the first regular pastor in addition to teaching school. They held their services in the Rock schoolhouse. The sixteen enrolled as members were W. R. Hudson, Lucinda T. Hudson, N. S. Couchman, Ann Couchman, and John D. Couchman, from Mt. Olivet Church, Texas; J. A. Wilson, Susannah Wilson, Joseph C. Wilson, Martha Wilson, Sarah Ramsey, Sarah Ramsey, Jr., Thomas Ramsey, Joseph Ramsey, H. G. Bostwick and Mary Bostwick from Brunswick Church, Illinois; and Matthew M. Houston, Cedar Bluff Church, Alabama. Sometime prior to 1860 the congregation erected a small frame house of worship, and later added a belfry and columned porch. Their second church building was completed in 1886 and dedicated in 1888, and the third was dedicated November 27, 1921. In 1972 it still served the Milford Presbyterian congregation.

Milford's Baptist Church was organized the second Sunday in July 1855. Brother J. M. Perry preached the sermon and after services he was chosen as Chairman with Brother S. C. Dyer n clerk. Charter members were: James M. Higgins, Sr., Eliza A. Higgins, James M. Higgins, Jr., Robert Smith, Mildred Smith, Nancy Smith, Martha E. Wardlow, Uriah Dodson and Elizabeth Dodson.

The Cumberland Presbyterians soon began to meet and the second church building (built about 1867) was the joint property of the two denominations last mentioned. Their first preacher was Rev. Richard Groves. who began about 1855, or possibly before, in the schoolhouse.

The Methodist Episcopal Church South was built in 1887. This church was blown down some years ago, but promptly rebuilt. About twenty years ago an extremely hot and violent wind blew from the southwest, resembling very much the burning simoom of Africa, and carried away the roof of the Presbyterian Church, together with the steeple. Both the Christian and the Cumberland Presbyterians contemplate building church edifices shortly.

Milford's religious, social and business interests are as follows: O. S. Presbyterian Church - Rev. C. L. M. Lee; Cumberland Presbyterian Church - Rev. A. W. Paisley; Baptist Church - Rev. A. D. Brooks; Methodist Episcopal Church - Rev. Mr. Rowland; Christian Church - Rev. M. Holt.

The Lone Star Institute, a private school, is taught by Mrs. Mollie E. Poe.

The Milford Gazette, edited and published by Joseph Kirgan, lasted only a short time. The Milford Courier made its appearance December 26, 1890. with Hugh P. Jones as editor and proprietor. His office, although not the largest, is the neatest and cleanest in Ellis County, which says much since printers are generally careless about dirt and dust.

Milford was incorporated in April, 1888. W. R. McDaniel was the first [and present] Mayor. First Aldermen: N. R. Rutherford, H. L. Caldwell, F. E. McKnight, W. G. Suggs, W. T. M. Dickson. Present Aldermen: N. R. Rutherford, W. T. M. Dickson, J. E. Davis, J. K. McDaniel, W. F. Weekly. First [and present] Marshal: S. L. Dickson. First [and present] City Attorney: H. N.C. Davis.

Milford Lodge, No. 262, F. & A. M

Charter for the Milford Lodge, Nol. 262, F. & A. M. was granted June 14, 1861. Charter members: Champ Carter, W. M.; J. P. Burnett, S. W.; L. H. Gideon, J. W.;R. T. Brown, Arvin Wright, M. Dickson, James McDaniel, N. A. Willet, David Cook, James McCright, J. M. Higgins, William T. Smith. Present officers: W. E. Ellison, W. M.; J. E. Davis, S. W.; G. M. Bounds, J. W.; C. L. Davis, S. D.; J. K. McDaniel. Lodge has a membership of sixty two.

Milford Chapter, No. 144, R. A. M.

This chapter was chartered June 29, 1878, and has a membership at present of twenty. The present officers are: C. P. Haskins, H. P.; W. E. Ellison, K.; S. M. Love, S.; W. Weekly, C. Of H.; J. R. McFadden, P. L.; H. C. Haynes, R. A. C.; J. K. McDaniel, Secretary; N. R. Rutherford, Treasurer; W. R. McDaniel, M. 3d V.; G. M. Bounds, M. 2d V.; J. P. McCain, M. 1st V.; C. Kearse, Guard.

Businesses in Milford: two cotton mills one connected with a roller process mill, which has all the latest improved machinery, with a capacity of seventy-five barrels of flour per day; three general stores, four grocery stores, a grocery and confectionery, drug store, hardware, furniture and agricultural implement establishment, one implement and undertakers' goods house, a saddle and harness shop, two meat markets, a hotel, three blacksmith and wagon repair shops, a barber shop, a cotton yard, an opera house and two millinery stores,. In addition to two good schools, there are two lawyers, three physicians, a fine cornet band of twenty members. The M. K. & T. R.R came December 15, 1890.

Other postmasters (in addition to W. R. Hudson) have been: Lewis H. Gideon, July 15, 1858; William C. Holt, July 19, 1859; Lewis H. Gideon, August 25, 1859; Samuel M. Sneed, December 12, 1859; Wm. A. Long, December 17, ?; John K. Wemple, May 4, 1866; Edwin French, February 10, 1868; Lewis Tomlinson, August 16, 1870; Samuel P. Jones, March 6, 1871; John F. Dickson, April 8, 1878; Calvin I. Wilson, March 11, 1880; Joseph Wilson, December 26, 1890; Finis E. McKnight, August 21, 1897; Walter W. Thompson, October 20, 1903; George H. Griffin, August 17, 1906, reappointed December 16, 1907, reappointed December 20, 1911; Z. T. Bundy, January 5, 1916; George B. Wray, June 2, 1917; Wm. J. Hamlett, September 15, 1918; Commodore V. Varner, April 29, 1922, reappointed May 5, 1926, reappointed April 28, 1930.

Milford's population in 1890 (per census) was 400 but by 1892 it had doubled.  There were then three churches, a weekly newspaper (the Courier), a bank, hotel, two cotton gins, some two dozen other businesses, and two schools - Mollie Poe's private Lone Star Institute and the Milford Academy.

By 1926, the rail line of the Dallas Waco electric interurban had reached the city, and three years later the population soared to 1,200. Milford began a slow decline during the Great Depression, and by 1931, the population was 747.  It continued to decline over the next several decades and reached a low of 490 in 1968, when the town reported thirty businesses. In 1990, the population was 711.

Milford was affected as most smaller towns by good highways and automobiles. However in 1972, the cultural atmosphere remained the same and the businesses  left were very active: First State Bank; T. R. Leslie Insurance Company; Coats Dry Goods Store; Ennis Business Forms; The Cash Grocery; Littlejohn's Grocery; a good café; three garages; three beauty shops; a washateria. There was also an American Legion and Auxiliary and a good volunteer fire department. The Christian church building had been made into a community or "Youth Center" supported by donations.

Pride of Milford

The great pride of Milford is her college, described as:

Main building, 54 x 72 feet, with five rooms, a music room, a library and apparatus room, two halls, tower containing stairways, two closets, two halls, belfry and promenade above. The auditorium, 54 x 60 feet, is on the second floor.

Milford is today and always has been a solid moral and literary community, and proudly points back to the first settlement of our now thriving town. As early as 1853, when only a few families were here, they constructed a large two-story stone school building where their children were taught by competent teachers until it was burned in 1863. They then used a two-story frame building until it was thought to be unsafe, and was torn down. The Presbyterian and Baptist churches were used until 1878, when the Masons and community built the present two-story school and lodge building jointly, which has been used for school purposes til April this year.

Milford has always enjoyed peace and plenty, and her people have always dwelt together as a large family, as it were, with excellent church buildings and regular services.

Because of the pressing need for better school facilities, a mass meeting of citizens from Milford and the surrounding area was called to discuss ways and means to secure a building adequate to the present and to accommodate our growing little city. Matters in general were discussed at this meeting and it was decided to meet weekly until a schoolhouse was planned and a site selected. Our people being liberal to every public enterprise, Messrs. J. M. Webb, W. T. M. Dickinson, Captain James Chapman and Frank Hill offered to donate land and money for the location and at another meeting Mr. Frank Hill's offer of two and one half acres of land, a large cistern and $100 in cash was accepted. A committee of six gentlemen, Messrs. J. K. McDaniel, W. W. Darrow, G. C. Rosson, W. F. Weekley, J. M. Webb and J. E. Davis, were asked to solicit subscriptions up to $5,000, and entered on their duties with such a good will that in less than three weeks they had subscribed within a few dollars of $4,000. The weekly meetings were kept up with unabated interest, and on May 9 articles of organization for building a fine schoolhouse were adopted, and, on the 15th of the same month, Professor T. N. Elliott, J. K. McDaniel, Dr. H. E. Rogers, J. E. Davis and W. W. Darrow were made a building committee to solicit plans, adopt one, let the contract and superintend the work of building. They labored zealously, and adopted the plan and, on May 29, let the contract of building it to Mr. H. Galbraith. Judging Milford from its past, and as to how well it has succeeded in this undertaking, it is only necessary to state that ten carloads of lumber and one of brick are now on the ground, and work is progressing on the building.

Could one ask for, or seek a better location to raise a family? We think not, and leave the question with you, after saying further that a healthier section than Milford and vicinity does not exist in Texas.

After the completion of the elegant new school building, the school was organized under the name of Milford Academy with the following faculty: T. N. Elliott, Principal, Latin, French, Natural Science; F. I. Crocker, Greek and Mathematics; Miss Sue McFadden, Primary; Miss Bernice Caradine, General Assistant; Miss Mamie McFadden, Elocution; Miss Adele Jennings, Music; Miss Maud Brooks, Art. Doors were opened September 14, 1891, and classes were organized in a full academic course.

In founding this school it is proposed to furnish the scientific and classical training to fit young men and women for the ordinary professions and vocations of life.

T. N. Elliott, Principal of Milford Academy, was born April 12, 1849, in Marshall Co. Ky. Maternal ancestry, Scotch; paternal ancestors came over from England in an early day, settled in Culpepper County, Virginia, and became tobacco planters along the Chesapeake. T. N. Elliott  finished his college education at Blandville, took a thorough course in the State Normal at Carbondale, Illinois and for a number of years alternated in teaching, surveying and timber business.  After his arrival in Dallas, August 4, 1881,  he taught one year there before taking charge of the school at Ovilla, Ellis County. in 1882.  After teaching for six years he resigned, receiving official thanks from the board of Diorectors for his conduct of the school.  He took charge of the Milford school in the fall of 1890. After a very successful term,  public interest rose to the emergency , a new building was erected and the school reorganized .

OIOn christmas day, 1888, he married Miss Tenie Dance at Woodville, Ky.   To better his qualifications for his work, Professor Elliott carried on a lengthy correspondence in French and Latin with M. Thevenard and the school men of Nevers, France, on the school system and manners and customs in France.  He now  has two works ready for publication -  problems in geometry and mechanics with applied calculus, and notes and oddities in general history.

The annexed sketch of Milford contains so many good and interesting points that we print it in its entirety:

"Having prepared a historical sketch of Milford for deposit in the cornerstone of the new school building laid here on July 4, 1891, I send an enlargement of the same. These data have been carefully collected from the pioneers and we believe this scrap of history will be interesting both to a younger generation living here now, and to the general reader.

"In 1853, N. S. Couchman, J. D. Couchman, W. R. Hudson and I. R. Hudson with their families were living in Cherokee County, Texas. The whiskey traffic and bad morals generally in their neighborhood determined them to seek a moral and religious community in which to rear their children. After several prospecting trips by some of these parties, at the solicitation of Mr. A. Wright, living about three miles southeast of the present site of Milford, some or all of these parties bought at fifty cents an acre of Mr. Wright, the land on which Milford now stands. The first three parties above named arrived with their families in 1853; L. R. Hudson came out in the following year. In the year 1854 a rolling ridge half mile south of Mill creek was laid off in town lots with broad streets crossing at right angles.

"Out thirty miles from Boston, Massachusetts, is a factory town of 10,000 inhabitants named Milford. From reading of this place in current literature W. R. Hudson took a fancy to the name and called their new town Milford. Mr. I. R. Hudson gave me these facts. He was here at the time, and says Milford was not named from a ford on Mill creek, as is commonly thought.

"The first house built in Milford was a combined residence and store erected by W. R. Hudson on the site now covered by the McDaniel Hotel. This was in 1853. The second house was a residence built by a Mr. Goodale in 1854. It was a mansion of the time, 13 x 28 feet, from floor to ceiling seven feet, and a shed room seven feet wide; built of plank with shingle roof very flat. Under those ancient rafters there may have been tales of love and feasts of pleasure for aught I know; but the thirty-seven winters have lashed its dingy gables in vain; for the mansion yet stands between the residence of Dr. McFadden and Ray's blacksmith shop. It is now presided over by some colored washerwoman. Dr. A. Long built the third residence. With perhaps considerable addition and improvement, it is now owned and occupied by Dr. H. E. Rogers. The fourth residence is the one occupied by Rev. A. D. Brooks. It was built by I. R. Hudson in the fall of 1854. Mr. Hudson tells me the lumber for this house was hauled from the mills in Anderson county, and that lumber was then hauled from the mills on ox wagons and delivered in Milford at $30 a 1,000.

"W. R. Hudson was the first merchant to sell goods in Milford; he opened a general mixed store here in 1854. In those early days goods were freighted by ox teams from Houston. In 1857 I. R. Hudson and W. F. Hague built the first mill. It was an ox tread mill to grind wheat and corn. It stood on the hill-side near the railroad, below Mr. Dickson's barn. Mr. Hudson says their old treadmill was profitable; wheat grown here in that day was of better yield and quality than it is now.

"The first stock of goods brought to Milford was shipped from New Orleans by Galveston, then up the Trinity by steamer to Pine Bluff; thence over the prairie by ox teams to Milford. After this, goods were hauled from Houston. For the first three years the colonists hauled their supply of flour from Dallas county. It retailed here at from $5 to $7 a barrel, that is $2.50 to $3.50 a hundred. From 1854 to the beginning of the civil war, goods retailed as follows: Best prints 15 to 18 cents a yard. (Here I queried: ‘A better grade of calico than is measured over the counter now?' ‘Yes,' replied he, ‘and the grange caused the making of the shoddy, inferior line of dry goods we have now. A general agitation for cheaper goods resulted in lower prices; but the factories took the difference out of the fabric.") Domestic 10 to 12 cents, best jeans all wool 75 cents, sugar 5 to 10 cents a pound and molasses, pure best, $1.00 a gallon; bacon a bit to 15 cents a pound. Brogan shoes $1.00 to a $1.50 a pair. Farm labor, $10 to $15 a month.

"For several years all deeds to town lots contained a clause prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors; but this prohibition was declared null as coming under entailment. However, there has never been a saloon or at least none that cut any figure, in Milford, and the temperance and law-abiding sentiment here is strong. One was licensed, but the keeper could not get patronage enough to sustain him."

In 1902 Texas Presbyterian College for girls was opened with Dr. Henry C. Evans from Missouri as president. The school accepted young local girls as day students and boarded out of town girls. Numerous Presbyterian families moved to Milford to enter their daughters in the only Presbyterian college for girls in the Southwest. The first graduate was Miss Minnie Ewing, in 1902. The following men served as presidents of the college: Dr. Henry C. Evans, 1902-1916;; R. C. Sommerville, 1916-1918; Dr. Henry C. Evans, 1918-1921; Dr. French W. Thompson, 1921-1924; Dr. John G. Varner, 1924-1927; L. E. Petty, 1927-1929.

See Texas Presbyterian College in the Photo Gallery

1st Photo Page ---- 2nd Photo Page

Texas Presbyterian College for girls closed its doors at the end of the 1929 session. It was consolidated with Austin College at Sherman, Texas and all the furnishings and the library were moved there.


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