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 The History of McDade, Texas 


A view of Main Street in downtown McDade.

The Houston and Texas Central Railroad brought about many changes in Bastrop County. A new town sprang up along the railroad. Early writings note the town was called “Tie Town,” most likely because ties for the railroad were stored here. At some point the name changed to McDade, named for James W. McDade who at that time lived in Brenham. The town was formally established in 1869 and officially platted two years later, becoming a center for shipping cotton and other freight traveling to and from Bastrop and Travis counties. It was incorporated in 1873.

McDade became a thriving railroad town with a saloon, post office and a cotton gin; however, but by the end of the Civil War, it had become an outlaw hotspot, specifically for a gang the locals referred to as “the notch cutters.”

The first known incident took place in 1875 when vigilantes hung two men who were suspected of being outlaws. Then came the murder of two vigilantes, possibly in retaliation. In turn, a third outlaw was hung.

A year later, in 1876, two men were shot and killed when they were found in the possession of a cow skin carrying the brand of a local ranch family, the Olives. Once again, retaliation may have been behind the murder of two men at the Olive ranch five months later, after which the Olive family home was set on fire.

A year after that incident, in 1877, vigilantes removed four men from a local dance and hung them.

In 1883 came perhaps the most well-known incident. It began with the murder of two men in Fedor that November and later, the beating of another man.

Deputy Sheriff Heffington was shot while investigating the two crimes. Four men, suspected of having taken part, were hung. That Christmas Eve, three local men were removed from the saloon and taken to another location and hung.

Said Melba McLemore, an ancestor of those hung and those who retaliated the next day, “The story most often told about Christmas Eve has 40-50 men standing guard at Oscar Nash's Saloon while masked vigilantes led three men out of the bar room.


Brothers Thad and Wright McLemore, along with family friend Henry Pfeiffer were mounted on their horses, hands tied behind their back, and led into the woods. There, vigilantes left all three men swinging on low lying limb of a hickory tree.”

The Nash Saloon is now the McDade Historical Museum.

McDade grew with the addition of a broom factory and a pottery. The business eventually became known as McDade Pottery. There were also coal mines. Blacksmiths, milliners and physicians came to the area. Schools and churches were established.

In 1890, the same year the Elgin Courier began, the McDade Mentor, a weekly newspaper, was founded.

The town grew from 150 in the early days to 600 in 1925. Then came World War II. The population began declining. McDade Pottery, along with other businesses, closed. McDade became known for its watermelons. In the 1940s, residents created a popular county event which became the McDade Watermelon Festival, which celebrated 75 years in 2018.  

In this tour, you’ll learn the history of the historic buildings comprising the downtown of McDade.

Click here to view map and list of tour sites.


1. Guaranty State Bank/McDade Post Office, Lot 1, Built 1913;

George Milton family home, Circa 1876

Lot 1 was owned by the George Milton family from 1876 until 1913. Before the building on Hwy 20 was built, the bank opened in the Milton’s home. A sign, McDade Guaranty State Bank, was painted on the side and is still visible today. 


In 1913, George Milton and wife, Emaline Petty Milton, sold to A. C. Harvey, president of the new bank, 60 feet on the front (east) end of the property. A charter was issued in 1913 and would continue for 50 years. The bank opened for business in 1913 and remained open for 20 years, closing in 1933. All who had accounts received their money when the bank closed. In 1935, J.F. Metcalfe, bank president, and his wife, Louise Taylor Metcalfe, deeded the space to J. H. Watson. Watson rented the building to the U. S. Government as a post office until 1945.

2. & 3. George Milton’s Store, Lots 2 & 3, Built 1883

George Milton’s store was located here in 1883. Milton’s store is mentioned in the story, “Shoot-out on Christmas Day” in the Frontier Times Magazine. It was where Haywood Batey kept his money in Mr. Milton’s safe, and it was in the street in front of Lot 2 where a fight broke out on Christmas morning in 1883, killing the two Batey brothers, Jack and Asbury, and wounding several others. George Milton and Thomas Bishop were engaged in this affray. The next building was on this lot was the Julius Kastner General Store and, in recent years, Seigmund’s General Store.


4. Building erected for the movie, True Women, Lot 4, Built 1996

Lot 4 was left vacant after the Julius Kastner Store burned in1935, until the movie people built this. This wooden building was erected by a movie company in 1996 to be a blacksmith shop in the movie, True Women.

5. S. W. Billingsley & Co, aka DeGlandon Barber Shop, 565 Old Hwy 20, Lot 5, Circa 1870s, Rebuilt 1909

The earliest owner of Lot 5 was J. P Billingsley. In 1878, he and S. W. Billingsley made an agreement and the store became known as S. W. Billingsley and Co. Billingsley sold to Felix H. McLemore in 1880. Sheriff H. N. Bell seized the estate of McLemore in 1887 and was sold in Bastrop for $25 to J. W. Westbrook. Sales of the property continued. In 1909, Otto Ehlo and his second wife Caroline, sold the property for $150 to E. F. Brown of Harris County. (Lucy Ehlo died in 1895 due to labor following a fire that burned the Ehlo Saloon.) Brown built the present brick building as his private bank. The Brown Bank folded four years later.

This building served as the DeGlandon Barber Shop in 1913. Albert DeGlandon was known as “Bud” and was elected to represent Bastrop County in the Texas House of Representatives in Austin, serving in the 45th legislature.


6. Ehlo & Wynn Saloon, aka Dungan Drugs, 561 Old Hwy 20, Lot 6, Circa 1871

If this building could talk, you would hear more scary stories here than from any others. It is in the center of the block and has been many saloons such as the Ehlo Saloon, Otto Ehlo’s store, Ehlo & Wynn Saloon, Herman Klemm Saloon, Sam Walker Grocery, S. T. Hillman’s Confectionery, the Dungan Drug and possibly others. A refreshing soda, ice cream and other goodies could be purchased here. The McDade News was written here by Mrs. Sam Dungan, known to all as “Ms. Emma.” Everyone took their news to “Ms. Emma” for her weekly column in the Elgin Courier. The drug store has been closed since 1992.

7. Dr. E.S. McMullen Pharmacy, aka Southern Pharmacy, Lot 7, Circa 1872

Lot 7 is very popular. It has sold at least 25 times to date. In 1881 King Henry Barbee sold Henry M. Green Lot 7 for $120 who deeded it to John W. Kennedy the next year for $50. Kennedy and his wife, Fannie, sold the lot in 1885 for $300. Five years later Lots 6, 7, 15, 16 and 17 were sold to Otto Ehlo for $2,000. Ehlo sold to A. E. Wynn in 1896 who sold to T. P. Bishop in 1902. Dr. Ezra Smith McMullen came to McDade sometime after 1916. He worked as a border guard and then a medical doctor in McDade. A sign painted over the windows and on the front of the building once read “The Underwood Pharmacy” over one window and “Dr. E. S. McMullen over the other window. Prescriptions, patent medicines, stationery, candies and cigars were sold there.


8. Nancy Boswell Hodges Townhouse, Lot 8, Rebuilt circa 1907

This building has a long history of ownerships. The lot completely burned due to arson and was rebuilt by Mr. R. L. Williams in about 1907 or 1908. In about 1985 it was rebuilt by Nancy Boswell Hodges, an interior decorator. She loved her home and filled it with beautiful furnishings. The yard was a private “Garden of Eden.”

9. Koppel & Bro., aka “Barroom,” 559 Old Hwy 20, Lot 9, Circa 1873

In 1869, before there was a McDade, the firm of Koppel & Bro. had a store in Bastrop. The building it occupied belonged to McDade’s John D. Nash. This lot was sold by A. Groesbeck and F.A. Rice, trustees of the Houston & Texas Central Railway Company of Houston to Koppel & Bro for $300. Jacob Koppel sold his interest in the Bastrop and McDade stores to Henry and Samuel Koppel in 1873. The Koppels were offered a “trade-out” by John W. Brown, who owned Lot 3 in Block 9 and agreed. In 1874, John W. Brown moved his business to Lot 9. On February 15, 1881, a fire consumed lots 7, 8, 9 and 10. The fire was believed to be arson. The Browns went backrupt. Apparently John Hancock and Charles S. West held the lien as they sold Lot 9 to John D. Nash. The McDade Historical Society currently owns Lots 9 and 10 in Block 9.


10. Captain John Nash Saloon, aka Rock Front Saloon, 557 Old Hwy 20, Lot 10, Built 1874

This historic sandstone rock building, with its two-foot thick walls, was built by Captain John Dempsey Nash in 1874. It is the oldest building in town, but before it was built, two wooden structures, both saloons, burned here. This building was once gutted by fire as well. Mr. R. L. Williams restored the rock building in about 1907 to sere as the U.S. Post Office. It was the infamous Nash Saloon, better known as the Rock Front Saloon, a freight office, stage stop, U.S. Post Office, drugstore, Dr. D.C. Atkinson’s office, telephone office, Quinton Allen’s Café, the Royston Grocery, T. E. Dungan Grocery, storage and, now, the McDade Historical Museum Depot Museum.

Many thanks to Audrey Rother of the McDade Historical Museum.

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