Our Roots

Collin McKinney

Collin County's roots run deep, established by brave and hardy pioneers, visionary leaders, strong men and women of faith and conviction, and even a few scoundrels and outlaws, weaving a rich and storied past that even the explosive urbanization and growth of the last twenty years can't completely bury. And though the county is rapidly evolving into a diverse and modern mecca for both Texans and not-yet Texans, it remains uniquely historic and unapologetically traditional.

Collin County and its county seat, McKinney, are named after one of the first settlers here: Collin McKinney (1766-1861). A land surveyor, merchant, politician and lay preacher at various times in his life, McKinney was born in New Jersey and had lived in Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas before he moved to northeast Texas in 1830-31, a time when the area was part of Mexico but under an Anglo-American colonization grant.

When the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos approved the Texas Declaration of Independence, McKinney was six weeks shy of his 71st birthday. Being the oldest delegate to the convention and one of five men asked to help draft the declaration, McKinney received the pen used to sign the document, presented by the 58 other delegates on March 2, 1836.

Four days later, The Alamo fell to Santa Anna's army after a 13-day siege with all of its defenders killed in the final assault. The battle became a rallying cry that spurred Texans to defeat Mexican forces at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.

In 1840, McKinney moved with family members to a part of Fannin County that grew out of the Peters Colony, which was eventually subdivided into a separate county (as was Grayson County) and named in his honor on April 3, 1846. The county's population at the time totaled about 150, a scattering of family-run farms that raised wheat and corn. The town of McKinney - 32 miles north of Dallas - was made the county seat in 1848 and also named after the statesman, though the 120-acre town site wasn't donated and platted out for another year.

Local historians point to isolated instances of violence between early white settlers and Native American tribes in the 1840's, mostly attributed to nomadic tribes, not resident natives like the Caddos. In Plano, two separate attacks were chronicled in 1842 and 1843. By the 1850's, however, most Caddos moved away from local white settlements to the Brazos River area.

Though Collin County residents voted against secession from the Union in 1861 by more than a 2-to-1 margin, once Texas joined the Confederacy some 1,500 residents enlisted to fight for the South.

Reconstruction in Collin County belied some violence in the form of the Lee-Peacock Feud, which ebbed and flowed from 1867 to 1871 in the common corners of Fannin, Grayson, Collin, and Hunt counties. Bob Lee, a former Confederate officer, aroused the enmity of Lewis Peacock, a supporter of the Union authorities. There was killing on both sides. Lee was waylaid and killed in 1869, and a systematic hunt for his friends and supporters brought more bloodshed. When Peacock was shot on June 13, 1871, the feud ended.

Like most Texas counties, the arrival of the railroad led to the first major growth spurt for Collin County. In 1872, when the first tracks connected McKinney and Plano to Houston, about 900 small farms were scattered over a 851-square-mile area. In 1880, outlaw Sam Bass purportedly committed one of Texas' first train robberies in Allen.

By 1920, rail lines crisscrossed the county, and more than 6,000 farms harvested millions of bushels of corn and wheat - and about 49,000 bales of cotton -- out of the dark soil of the Blackland Prairie.

The 1920's also brought more roads and easy access to Dallas and Fort Worth via State Highway 289, which roughly paralleled Old Preston Road, a cattle path also known as the Shawnee Trail, once a well-traveled route for native tribes, cattlemen and settlers. The county population topped 49,000 and McKinney grew to 6,600. The Great Depression marked a decline in farms and population for the next 40 years. From 1930 to 1940, the numbers of farms dropped to 4,771. Unemployment here stood at 19 percent.

Flood control and advances in mechanization in the following decades kept farming alive though the numbers of farms continued to shrink: 3,166 in 1950; 2,001 in 1960 - with a corresponding drop in population.

By 1980, though dairy farming had remained an important part of the county's economy, light industry and Dallas' expansion northward triggered a new period of growth that has yet to slow down. Plano saw the first mercurial growth spurts, but Allen, Frisco and McKinney have undergone phenomenal growth of their own, while former sleepy small towns like Prosper, Celina, Anna, Melissa, Fairview, Lucas and Murphy grew by 16 to 28 percent between 2005-2006 alone.

Census Allen Frisco McKinney Plano Collin County

*Estimates from the U.S. Census & the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

And today Collin County is the sixth most populous, and still the fastest growing, large county in Texas. But even with all this change, and with more and more people and businesses moving into the county from other parts of Texas and the nation, we still maintain our ties with our roots through the Collin County Historical Commission and other local guardians of our history.