History of Frisco Tells of Growth from Rich Soil and Good Farm Land
By Bob Warren, Former Mayor of Frisco
In February 1902, a town we now know as Frisco, was formed from the fertile black soil of west Collin County’s beautiful rolling prairie land. However, to get a true picture of the history of our City, we need to look much further back in time, perhaps to the early 1800s.
At least three vital ingredients were present in the birth of Frisco. An abundance of rich soil made excellent farmland, but two other things were needed, transportation and water. Let's see how these three ingredients worked together to grow the Frisco we know today.
As with any successful city, transportation has been key to the development of Frisco. Settlers first came to this area while traveling the Shawnee Trail.
In 1838 the Congress of the Republic of Texas appropriated money for the construction of a north – south road, there by opening northern Texas to trade. The Shawnee Trail from Austin to the Red River was followed for this route. This road, for which our Shawnee Trail Sports complex is named, ran through the heart of what later became the City of Frisco.
A military post near the Red River was named for Captain William C. Preston, a veteran of the Texas Revolution. The Shawnee Trail, which would ultimately become Preston Trail, then Preston Road, was used by wagon trains moving south bringing immigrants to Texas and by cattle drives going north from Austin. The town, Lebanon, then a thriving a cattle town and now a part of Frisco served as an assembly point for the cattle drives. South of this area in 1841, John Neely Bryan began the settlement of Dallas.
Next came another mode of transportation, the railroad, which gave birth to Frisco. The origin of railroads in this area began in 1849 in the state of Missouri. The Pacific Railroad Company was granted a charter to build a line from St. Louis to this western boundary of Missouri. Fifty- three years later the line had become a part of the St. Louis, San Francisco Railroad. Men at depot stations along the line soon shortened the name of the line to “Frisco”.
By 1869 the laying of track, which would become part of the Frisco line, was being completed in Texas. In 1902 one such line was completed from Denison to Carrollton through the center of what is now Frisco. The thirst of the steam locomotive brought the need of watering holes about every twenty to thirty miles. Since water was not as available on the higher ground along Preston Ridge, the Frisco Railroad looked four miles west to lower ground. There they dug a lake called Frisco Lake, on Stewart Creek to provide water, (the second ingredient in our growth story) for the engines.
Soil or Land
In 1902, what would eventually become Frisco was a piece of land owned by the Blackland Town Site Company, a subsidiary of the Frisco Railroad. The property was subdivided into lots and sold to potential settlers. The auction, which was held on February 13 and 14, 1902, was advertised up and down the rail lines as far away as Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City. The sale also attracted residents and merchants from surrounding communities that had no rail access. Businesses and residents began moving here from Little Elm to the west and from Lebanon, which was seeing fewer and fewer cattle drives.
With the decline of Lebanon, some of the houses were physically moved from Preston Road to what is now downtown Frisco. One was the T.J. Campbell home which was rolled on logs and pulled into Frisco where it now stands, a historical monument, at the corner of Main and Fifth Streets. It has become the home of Randy’s Steak House.
The settlement was first called Emerson, named for Francis Emerson, owner of the farm where the town site was located. However, when application was made for a post office under the name “Emerson” the application was refused. There was a town called Emberson in Lamar County, and authorities ruled that the names were too similar.
An existing post office called Eurida was transferred to the new town site from a community only two miles to the northwest. The postmaster, Tom Duncan, came along in the move. For some time the office continued to operate under the name Eurida.
Later, in 1904, the people selected the name “Frisco City” for their town in honor of the railroad that founded the young city. It was soon shortened to Frisco, and the Post Office Department approved the new name.
Frisco became a thriving town, serving as a trade center for the surrounding farming community. It was not until 1908, however, that the residents elected to make their community an incorporated City. On March 27, 1908 the citizens elected their first municipal government which included four alderman, an alderman at large, a town marshal and Dr. I.S. Rogers, the town’s first physician and mayor. Dr. Rogers, for which Rogers Elementary is named, served as mayor the first three years of the City’s incorporated life.
The census of 1910, Frisco’s first, showed a population of 332 pioneers. By the next census in 1920, the count was 733, and the town’s population remained near that level through the 1950 census (736).
Quadruple digits were recorded in 1960 when the count showed 1184. Slow but steady growth continued, bringing the total to 3,499 in 1980 and 6,141 on 1990. The nineties ushered in a “population explosion” bringing an estimated 21,400 people as of January 1, 1997.
Today our three ingredients are still working to build Frisco. With 69 square miles of land (soil) within its boundaries the City is seeing a diversified crop produced. Where wheat, cotton, corn and feed once grew, we see people, houses, businesses, churches, schools, offices, and parks.
Frisco Lake served its purpose as a railroad lake (and a swimming hole), then went the way of the steam locomotive. But water continues to be a key factor in our growth. Once served by water wells, today we have a contract with North Texas Municipal Water District to furnish up to 29 million gallons of water per day. In 1996, we consumed as mush as seven million gallons per day, so the contract provides ample water for the future growth.
Though rail continues to be very important, automobiles and trucks, and how to keep them moving now claim our attention. Frisco is blessed with a toll road and major State and Federal highways, but they all need to be completed or widened, new streets and thoroughfares are being built as fast as practical. Within the next three to five years an estimated $61.2 million is to be spent on highway, toll road, street and thoroughfare improvements within the City of Frisco.
The once small village of Frisco has reached perhaps adolescence. Its mother, the railroad, hardly recognizes her child. But, what of the future? The City’s Master Plan says when the City develops fully into its 69 square miles, it may house as many as 350,000 people.
We will be challenged to keep our ingredients in order!