Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

John Watson

December 18, 2011

John Watson: Milford, Texas

A town still connected to its past

JOSHUA — Milford is a small town on Texas 77 in the southwest corner of Ellis County, midway between Hillsboro and Waxahachie. Like many small Texas towns, it is rich in history.

The following information came from the Milford Cemetery historical marker: “The first settlers were W.R. Hudson and J.M. Higgins, who came from Cherokee County in East Texas in 1853. In 1854, the men laid out a town site and named it Milford. The town developed steadily and soon boasted homes, a school, post office, churches and other community institutions.”

The following information about the churches is condensed from the historical marker by each:

zx The First Baptist Church was chartered in 1855 with 11 members. A chapel on College Street built in 1856 served the fellowship until 1871, when the church was moved to it’s present location.

zx The Milford Presbyterian Church was organized in 1855 with 16 members, as one of four Presbyterian churches within a radius of 500 miles. The congregation built houses of worship in 1860, 1896 and 1921. The church bell, cast in New York, and brought here by ship, rail and ox-wagon, has called the area to worship since 1871.

zx Another old church caught my eye on the south side of town. This was the Saint James A.M.E. Church, which was organized by the Rev. Joshua Goins Sr., in 1883. The first services were held in the home of Pleasant Zollicoffer and moved to the Odd Fellows Hall before erecting the present structure in 1907. This is a wood frame building which incorporates Gothic Revival style details such as twin towers, gabled facade and Romanesque style rounded windows. Saint James is Milford’s oldest African-American church.

Our first stop was at Milford Depot, a little general store and snack bar. When I asked the lady at the store about some of the history of Milford, she told me that she was fairly new to town and that I should see the city secretary who could tell me anything I wanted to know about Milford. My next stop was city hall.

Just across the side street from the Presbyterian Church is a large, white two-story building with a first- and second-story porch across the front; reminiscent of an early day hotel. When I asked Sandra Smith, the city secretary, about this building, she told the following.

In 1902, the Presbyterian Church opened the Texas Presbyterian College for Girls in Milford. The college was located where the present school is located. The large, two-story building by the church was the girls’ dormitory. With dwindling enrollment, the college closed its doors in 1929 and merged with Austin School in Sherman. Since the school closed, the old dormitory has been a hotel, halfway house, bed and breakfast and now is a private residence.

Another question I had for Smith was about the old Interurban Depot I read about.

She showed me a building diagonally across the intersection from city hall and said that was the old Interurban Depot and some of the old track could still be seen on the other side of the building. She had an old newspaper clipping on the office bulletin board showing the old Interurban routes and named each one.

The Texas Electric Railway ran from Denison through Dallas and on down through Milford, Hillsboro and on to Waco. Another leg of the Texas Electric Railway ran from Dallas to Corsicana. The Texas Interurban Railway ran from Denton through Dallas and on to Terrell. The Northern Texas Traction Co. ran from Dallas to Fort Worth. The Tarrant County Traction Co. ran from Fort Worth to Cleburne.

The population of Milford peaked in 1929 at 1,200. After the college closed and the depression hit, the population dropped to 747 in 1931. Texas 77 through Milford was the main highway from Hillsboro to Dallas until I-35E was constructed in the 1950s, bypassing Milford. The population dropped again to a low of 490 in 1968. The population now is 711.

There is a sign over one of the office doors in city hall describing Milford as “A Town of about 700 friendly people and 3 or 4 old grouches.”

Smith described Milford as a bedroom community. A lot of the residents are retirees and the remainder work in either Waxahachie or Dallas.

After leaving city hall, I went to the school and met Jo Ann Dahl, the administrative assistant. Dahl told me that when she moved to Milford in the early ’70s, there was a bank, two stores and two service stations. Today, the bank is closed; there is a small general store, an antique mall, senior center and no service station.   

The Milford school is in one building containing pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. They may be a small school but they still offer a full range of sports for the students, including football, basketball, volleyball and tennis.

Being a small school, Milford has a six-man football team. Some of the other schools with six-man teams they play include Bynum, May, Abbott, Aquilla, Walnut Springs, Blum, Trinidad, Karnack and Fannindel.  

Driving around town you see many fine, old homes from the late 19th and early 20th century. Seeing these older homes and church buildings with minimum traffic reminded me of a line from an old song, “Summertime and the livin’s easy.” That’s Milford.

John Watson is a Cleburne resident who can be reached at texastraveler@sbcglobal.net.

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