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Texas | Columns | "Texas Tales"

Roxton

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
Anyone who knew how the community of Prairie Mount came to be called Roxton is long buried in Roxton's cemetery, a resting place graced by lighted Texas and U.S. flags that fly around the clock.

Unless you're from Lamar County, chances are you haven't even heard of Roxton, much less how its name evolved.

Only 18 miles from Paris (Texas, not France), it seems much farther. No straight road connects Roxton to Paris or any other place, for that matter. The farm to market roads leading to town twist and turn with the contours and drainage of the land.

Settlement in the area began in 1837, with the establishment near Cane Creek of Fort Shelton, a privately owned blockhouse built by Jesse Shelton as a safe place in the event of an Indian attack . The next community in the area was Prairie Mount, about two and a half miles from the fort. It's post office was opened in 1853 with James H. Stevenson as the first postmaster.

In 1869, for whatever the reason, the post office at Prairie Mount was renamed Roxton. The name is believed to an abbreviation of Rockstown or maybe Rockston. If that's the case, there are even two versions of the inspiration behind that name: An outcropping of limestone in the area or the rock gate and posts that made William Klyce's place something of a local landmark. A creek that flows on the edge of town is known as Rock Creek.

Roxton rocked along until 1887, when the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad put down tracks to tie in with the Paris and Great Northern Railroad in Paris. Surveyors laid out a route about a half-mile west of Roxton, so what could be called New Roxton (at least then) grew adjacent to the tracks. The buildings left behind became Old Roxton. In time, the "New" and the "Old" faded away.
 Roxton Texas former depot
Former Roxton Depot
Photo courtesy Mike Price, April 2008
Several well-to-do Paris families built summer homes in Roxton, perhaps attracted by wading and swimming possibilities offered by the clear waters of Rock Creek. Some of these Victorian structures have been lost to fire and time, but quite a few still stand.

The railroad brought economic vitality to the town. Between 1890 and 1914, it grew in population from 226 to its peak size of 1,200. To provide for the needs of those residents, Roxton had 30 businesses. Three of those businesses were gins, since cotton was the big cash crop. After the first world war, and even more so following the next world war, Roxton weathered to more of a pebble town.

Today, Roxton's down to around 650 residents. In addition to the businesses needed to support a community of its size, Roxton may be the smallest town in Texas with three museums. One is in the old City Drug Store, one is the Chaparral Rails to Trails Museum and the other is a taxidermy studio.

Of course, the railroad is long gone and even the tracks have been removed. But the wooden depot has survived and on FM 38, just north of town, is a relatively unique stone and brick, triple arch railroad bridge built by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. Supposedly, Texas has only two other WPA railroad bridges.
Roxton TX WPA railroad bridge over Cane Creek
WPA railroad bridge over Cane Creek on FM 38 as you enter Roxton from the north
Photo courtesy Mike Price, April 2008
City Drug Store, Roxton Texas
City Drug Store
Photo courtesy Mike Price, April 2008
The best place to eat is an all-you-can eat catfish restaurant in nearby Pecan Gap, a town even smaller than Roxton.

How small is it? The restaurant is so popular that on weekend nights there's usually a waiting list for a table. But when a table becomes available, it's only necessary to call out the person's first and middle name. No need bothering with someone's last name.


© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" March 30, 2017 column

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