By John Ronan Broderick
Branches of the Caddo Indians could be found in what is now Collin County long before the arrival of the first Anglos. When white settlers started coming into what the Indians regarded as their land, it was inevitable that there would be occasional violent clashes between the two races. By the mid-1850s, however, the Caddos had mounted no organized resistance and had decamped the area for happier hunting grounds.
Prior to Texas’s statehood in December 1845, the vast Republic of Texas was divided into districts or counties much larger than the 254 counties which comprise the state today. For instance, what is today known as Collin County was created, along with several other adjacent counties, from the immense Fannin County. Similarly, most of what is now West Texas was in the Bexar District, an even larger region that was eventually subdivided into dozens, if not scores, of counties in the State of Texas.
When Texas won its independence from Mexico on April 21st, 1836, at the Battle of San Jacinto, the new republic’s legislature got busy and did a preliminary organization as best it could, not imagining what would come to pass in the not-too-distant future. Whereas the former Mexican government had initially allowed what they referred to as empresarios to bring settlers into Texas from America, the new Anglo powers-that-be saw no reason, initially, to change that term and continued on with the policy.
One of these early empresarios was an Englishman named William Smalling Peters. According to Harry E. Wade’s biographical entry on the Texas State Historical Association’s (TSHA) website about Peters, he and 20 investors—half of them English, half American–convinced the Republic of Texas legislature, in February 1841, to pass a law enabling the president of the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau B. Lamar at that time, to give Peters a land grant to colonize the region with settlers from outside of Texas. He was given three years to recruit 200 families. The first settlers arrived later that year.
This vast swath of land known as Peters Colony eventually included all or parts of 26 future Texas counties, a total of some 10 million acres added when three additional contracts were signed after the first in 1841. Though Peters had originally envisioned the colony as a “philanthropic project populated by industrial middle-class English, it was ultimately settled by Americans” (Wade).
And the Americans were only too happy to take up their free 640-acre portions, a complementary gun to hunt with and ward off rascally Native Americans, and the help of their new neighbors to construct their first cabins. This was in keeping with the true pioneer spirit of the times—neighbors helping neighbors. Peters himself never settled in Texas. His colony was simply a business venture in his eyes.
The original Fannin County encompassed much of northeast Texas, including a large chunk of Peters Colony, and in 1846, Collin County and several others were carved out of Fannin County. Each was approximately 900 square miles in area. Texas law mandated that the county seat be located within three miles of the center of the county.
One of the drafters and signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico in 1836 had been a pioneer, politician, merchant, lay preacher, and land surveyor named Collin McKinney. The new Collin County was named for him, as was its eventual county seat, McKinney. Thus was this early Texian founding father twice honored.
The state legislature designated McKinney the county seat of Collin County on Thursday, March 16, 1848, the day before St. Patrick’s Day, when they knew revelries would ensue and no work would get accomplished by any legislators of Irish heritage, of whom there were many. Prior to McKinney being named the county seat, nearby Buckner had initially served in that capacity for the first two years.
Perhaps the next chronologically significant event to occur in McKinney was the gathering of its first Christian congregation on April 1st, 1848, in the home of Nancy and Joseph Bryson Wilmeth. The 20 people there gathered traveled to McKinney and founded the First Christian Church on the present site of the courthouse square. Initially they worshipped in an unfinished barn, then in the county’s log courthouse. Ten years later the congregation erected their first church building which they shared in a true ecumenical spirit with other denominations. They did not get a full-time pastor until 1872.
The first nonresidential building in McKinney was the Lovejoy Store that was relocated–lock, stock, and barrel–from nearby Buckner on May 3, 1848. It, too, took a place on what would become the courthouse square. In March 1849, a local resident, William Davis, donated 120 acres for McKinney’s townsite from the 3,000 acres he owned where the city now stands. McKinney was incorporated that same year, then re-incorporated in 1859.
Though the fledgling town grew slowly at first, the coming of the railroad changed all that almost overnight, as it did so many other frontier Texas towns during this period. McKinney was among the first to be so blessed, many towns not getting a tie-in to the railroad until near the end of the 1880s. The coming of the railroad was always a game-changer. And the fact that McKinney received not one but two railroads within a decade meant that it had arrived.
For in 1872, the Houston and Texas Central Railway laid tracks to the town, which enabled its farmers and manufacturers to begin the expeditious shipping of their goods to places—big cities like Dallas and Fort Worth, even faraway Houston—they had not dreamt of before.
Then, beginning in 1881, the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad likewise came to McKinney to cash in on the growing regional commercial center, which now boasted “flour, corn, and cotton mills, cotton gins, a cotton compress and cottonseed oil mill, as well as banks, churches, schools, newspapers, and from the 1880s, an opera house. Businesses also came to include a textile mill, an ice company, a large dairy, and a garment-manufacturing company” (TSHA website, general entry entitled “McKinney, TX,” by David Minor). Moreover, for 40 years, starting in 1908, the Texas Electric Railroad also served McKinney, running from Denison to Dallas and Waco.
McKinney can lay claim to a total of 57 properties that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Of these, 16 have the additional distinction of being included as Recorded Texas Historic Landmarks, and one holds the additional honor of being counted as a State Antiquities Landmark (SAL). Moreover, there are five other sites or buildings that hold the RTHL title that are not included on the NRHP. Most of the NRHP sites are houses, though there is one commercial historic district in downtown McKinney, which the SAL previously mentioned is located.
It is not within the scope of this article to provide a complete listing of all 57 properties, but I will list the 16 that are shown on both the NRHP and RTHL simply because they hold these dual distinctions. They are the: 1848 Collin McKinney Cabin, which for some reason was delisted from this inclusion, possibly due to its being relocated from its original site to Finch Park in McKinney, where it was restored; 1848-1937 McKinney Commercial Historic District, now home to over 100 specialty retail shops and more than a dozen unique restaurants; 1854 Faires-Bell House in Chestnut Square Village; 1850-1910 McKinney Residential District; 1875 Joe E. Dulaney House; 1886 Beverly-Harris House; 1887 Crouch-Perkins House; c. 1890s John C. Rhea House; c. 1895 J.R. Coggins House; 1897 Estes House; 1897-1908 Judge Harvey L. Davis House; 1898 Gough-Hughston House; 1900 Heard-Craig House; 1902 E.W. Kirkpatrick House and Barn; 1903 Thompson House; and c. 1916 Joseph Field Dulaney House.
What follows is a list of the five that are on the RTHL but not on the NRHP: the 1856 Law Office of James W. Throckmorton, who was a veteran of the Mexican War of 1846 as well as serving on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War. In both these wars he served as a physician, not a combatant.
Throckmorton became disenchanted with medicine and became a lawyer and politician, serving in the Texas State Legislature, first as a congressman, then a senator, and finally as Governor of Texas after the Civil War in the initial Reconstruction period. It should be noted that Throckmorton was an ally of Sam Houston’s in his struggle to prevent Texas’s secession from the Union. But, after losing that political battle, Throckmorton, originally from Tennessee, served honorably on the side of his adopted state.
The other four structures still extant that are worthy of note are the: 1880 Collin County Prison (never referred to as a mere jail, probably due to its construction of limestone); 1911 McKinney Post Office; 1912 First National Bank Building; and the 1876 Collin County Courthouse, which has been renovated and now serves as the McKinney Performing Arts Center and still occupies its original home on the old courthouse square.
I would be remiss in my reporting if I did not mention the Chestnut Square Historic Village, where many of these buildings are preserved, along with others that were not included on either list for one reason or another. In this unique Village one can find houses dating from 1854 to 1930, as well as a church and a general store. It is here that architectural history spanning more than 75 years comes alive. This is due, in no small part, to the efforts of the Collin County Historical Commission and Museum, which is to be commended for its ongoing efforts in the preservation of McKinney’s historic roots.
THE 20TH CENTURY AND BEYOND
According to the Texas Almanac, the population of McKinney in 1900 was 4,342. A half-century later it had more than doubled, to 10,560. With the passage of another five decades, it had grown to 54,369 by the year 2000, an exponential increase of more than 400%. In the score of years since the turn of the 21st century, McKinney’s population has nearly quadrupled, to 208, 487, making it the 15th largest city in Texas, this according to the World Population Review website. Strategically located a mere 33 miles from Dallas, McKinney is often considered the “burbs” because of its proximity to the third-largest city in Texas. What, precisely, is the cause of its spectacular growth?
In a word, “diversification.” For 21st century McKinney is now home to defense contractor, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, which runs neck-and-neck with the city’s second largest employer, Collin College. And nipping at the heels of the college as the number three employer in the city is another education-oriented employer, McKinney I.S.D. The fourth-largest employer, Torchmark Corporation, specializes in life insurance and supplemental health insurance. The number five employer in the city is Encore Wire Corporation, which is a leading manufacturer of copper and aluminum residential, commercial, and industrial wire.
The City of McKinney (government) holds down the sixth position, and the number seven and eight positions are in the healthcare industry–Medical Center of McKinney and Baylor Scott & White Medical Center, respectively. Two other manufacturers account for the number nine and ten spots as the largest employers in the city, TimberBlindsMetroShade and Watson & Chalin Manufacturing Inc. In 21st century McKinney, diversification is the name of the game. Plano, the largest city in Collin County, better watch out. Number two McKinney is one old dog that has demonstrated its ability to learn some new tricks.
According to World Population Review, McKinney’s population for the 2020 U.S. Census is 208,487. With a land area of 66.9 square miles, this gives the city a population density of 3,114.6 people per square mile. Its current annual growth rate since 2019 is 4.21%, and since the most recent U.S. Census in 2010 it is 59.01%. Average household income in McKinney is $110,051 with a poverty rate of 6.88%. The median rental costs in recent years comes to $1,272 per month and the median house value is $281,300. The median age in McKinney is 35.4 years and for every 100 females there are 93.1 males.
Based on the U.S. Census 2018 ACS (Annual Community Survey) 5-Year Survey, 77.28% of McKinney residents speak only English while 14.13% of the population speak Spanish and the remaining 8.59% speak a different foreign language. 45.86% of McKinney’s population was born in Texas whereas 38.9% were born elsewhere in the United States; another 15.24% are foreign-born and 9.29% are non-citizens, while 5.95% are naturalized citizens.
There were 8,909 veterans in McKinney of which 7,892 were males and 1,107 were females, this based on the same 2018 ACS survey cited above. The breakdown per war served in is as follows:
First Gulf War 3,142 39.7%
Vietnam 2,354 29.7%
Second Gulf War 2,016 25.5%
Korea 323 3.6%
World War II 82 0.9%
ACTIVITIES IN McKINNEY
In addition to the historical sites listed above, some of the other interesting and fun things to experience in McKinney, according to Tripadvisor, are: Heard Natural Science & Wildlife Sanctuary; Mitas Hill Vineyard; Tupps Brewery; Dog Park at Bonnie Wenk; Obstacle Warrior Kids; Towne Lake Recreation Area; Landon Winery; Adriatica Village; Third Monday Trade Days; Antique Company Mall; Erwin Park Hike & Bike Trail; Myers Park and Event Center; Heard-Craig Center for the Arts; Franconia Brewing Company; Lone Star Wine Cellars; Veterans Memorial Park; Wales Manor Vineyard & Winery; and LAST Art Gallery.
If you are the type of individual who likes to chase that little white ball around all over creation, trying to sink it into 9 or 18 too-small holes, there are at least a dozen golf courses in McKinney, never mind those located in nearby communities. Several courses are at private, membership-only, country clubs, though most are public courses.
EATERIES AND WATERING HOLES
Among the more than a dozen locally owned and operated restaurants in McKinney that are highly rated by the website, dallas.eater.com, for the quality of their food, are the following: Hutchins BBQ & Catfish; Sugarbacon Proper Kitchen; Butcher Board; Patina Green Home and Market; Rye; Éclair Bistro; Snug On the Square; Rick’s Chophouse; Cookie’s Mexican Food; The Pantry Restaurant; Harvest; Emporium Pies; Cadillac Pizza Pub; and Gregory’s Bistro.
When it comes to wetting your whistle, McKinney can quench just about any type thirst in its vast array of saloons, bars, cocktail lounges, and pubs. Among the most popular, according to yelp.com, are: The Garage; CT Provisions Cocktail Parlor & Kitchen; The Boardwalk; Bottled in Bond Cocktail Parlour & Kitchen; The Nook CKMC; Local Yocal BBQ and Grill; The Fifth Fireside Patio and Bar; The Gin; W XYZ Bar; 360 Restaurant. Many of these bars also serve meals.
HOTELS, CHURCHES, AND HEALTHCARE
If you are visiting from out of town and need a place to lay your weary head at the end of a busy day of sightseeing and shopping in McKinney, there are at least two dozen inns, hotels, motels, and B & Bs to choose from, most of them nationally known chains that everyone is familiar with and has his or her own personal favorite. Naturally, there is one to suit almost every budget.
According to expedia.com, among them are: Home2 Suites by Hilton; TownePlace Suites; The Grand Hotel; La Quinta Inn & Suites; Holiday Inn & Suites; BEST WESTERN PLUS McKinney Inn & Suites; Holiday Inn Express & Suites; Motel 6; Sheraton McKinney Hotel; Hampton Inn & Suites; Comfort Suites; EVEN Hotels; Quality Inn; Days Inn by Windham; WoodSpring Suites; Entire One Bedroom Apt; SpringHill Suites by Marriott; Econo Lodge Inn & Suites; Elegant Ranch House With 20 Acres of Pure Serenity. And this list does not include those in nearby communities such as Plano, Allen, Frisco, and Fairview.
In my review of the dozens, perhaps scores, of Christian churches, I do not think there was one major denomination, or non-denomination, not represented. From that first 20 worshippers that gathered to establish the First Christian Church of McKinney in 1848, which then graciously lent its building to other denominations, has sprung a plethora of churches in the intervening 172 years. There are also Jewish synagogues and Muslim mosques located in nearby cities as well.
The roster of denominations that are affiliated with the Christian faith in McKinney evoke images of Norman Rockwell paintings with stained-glass windows: Episcopal; Lutheran; Catholic; Mormon; Baptist; Methodist; Church of Christ; Church of God; Church of the Nazarene; Presbyterian; Full Gospel; Pentecostal; Assembly of God; even Russian Orthodox and Cowboy Church.
If I have failed to mention anyone’s personal denomination, please forgive my poor memory, but there is a lot to take in, church-wise, in this all-American city with its lengthy history of worshipping its Creator. Believe me, if you truly desire to find that ideal church home in McKinney, your wishes will be fulfilled. As I alluded to earlier in my list of types of employers in McKinney, the watchword here with churches is the same: “diversification.”
In terms of healthcare, McKinney takes a backseat to no city of a similar size in Texas. As with the variety of places to worship, there are literally dozens to choose from: hospitals; emergency rooms; specialty clinics of every stripe imaginable; retirement homes; physical therapy; rehabilitation; dialysis; even several veterinary clinics made the cut.
THE BOTTOM LINE If you are looking for a Texas community with an historic past that is preserved by responsible civic leaders who also have an eye on the future, McKinney, Texas, is as good as it gets. Don’t take my word for it. Just ask the people who have decided to relocate there since the turn of the current century, all 154,118 of them, nearly quadrupling the population in the last 20 years. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that that lay preacher, Collin McKinney, is sitting on his perch up in Heaven, staring down on that North Texas town that bears his name, wondering, “Where in the world did all those folks come from?”