Marlin, founded in 1867, once flourished as an agricultural community, principally cotton cultivation along the Brazos River bottoms. The river flows over a number of natural falls in the county and that may have determined the county's name. Two railroads, the Houston and Texas Central and later the International and Great Northern, sustained Marlin's growth through the early twentieth century. Prosperity realized from cotton growing led to the development of the small central business district and the building of major late-nineteenth-century houses. Early houses largely line Walker Street, once a major route from Waco, and neighborhoods to the north of the downtown. At the turn of the twentieth century Marlin gained a reputation as a resort and health facility due to natural springs or hot mineral water produced in wells near the center of town. Dr. J. W. Cook first promoted this asset and contributed to the town's growth as a health center by establishing several bathhouses, hotels, sanatoria, and hospitals catering to temporary residents. The medical community built impressive residences, commercial and community buildings, and hotels. By the start of World War II, Marlin had declined as a health resort and new businesses were sought. United States senator Thomas T. Connally, a native of Marlin, helped bring a Veterans Administration Hospital ( WT47) to Marlin in 1949. In the late 1990s, Marlin initiated a Main Street project for revitalization of the central business district that has met with some success.
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