You are here

Waxahachie (Ellis County)

-A A +A

Waxahachie, named for an Indian word meaning “buffalo creek,” contains some of the most impressive late-nineteenth-century commercial and residential buildings in Texas. The city is located on gently rolling land in the fertile Blackland Prairie region. Emory Rogers from Alabama, the first known settler to occupy the area, constructed a log cabin east of the current town square in 1847. When the state legislature created Ellis County in 1850, Rogers donated a sixty-two-acre site for the county seat.

The town grew slowly at first, becoming an important trade center only after 1879, when local investors completed a rail spur twelve miles to the east to connect with the main line of the Houston and Texas Central Railway. Ellis County’s cotton growers ginned over 50,000 bales of cotton within a year of the line’s completion. Additional rail connections established between 1886 and 1907 provided the basis for an economy of gins and cotton yards, warehouses, cottonseed oil mills, and a textile mill. In the early twentieth century, Ellis County had become the largest cotton-producing county in the nation, and Waxahachie reigned as a thriving metropolis of “King Cotton.” The vibrant economy fueled a construction boom that included a new courthouse (CW19), expansion of the commercial area, and new subdivisions west and north of downtown, many of them served by mule-drawn trolleys, and later, by electric streetcars. Developers built attractions at the terminus of two of these lines: Getzendaner Park (see CW29) and the county fairgrounds at the east end of Marvin Avenue. Waxahachie was also served by an electric interurban system, the Texas Electric Railway, which operated a 250-mile network from Dallas. The Great Depression ushered in an abrupt downturn to Waxahachie’s cotton prosperity. The city’s architectural heritage has been spared demolition by sluggish growth over the ensuing decades. Waxahachie’s late-nineteenth-century character has made it a favorite of Hollywood filmmakers, with four major movies completed during the 1980s.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.