MIDLOTHIAN, TX — On April 27, a grand old lady celebrates her 125th birthday, and everyone is invited! Midlothian is having a birthday and throwing one wingding of a party. Get ready for a full day of celebrating, beginning with an invigorating 5K run before breakfast. The annual Spring Fling Arts and Crafts Festival will also be in full swing. Take time out in the afternoon for the birthday celebration proclamation and warm up your dancing shoes for the 8th Street Dance that evening with the Electric Cactus band. The Midlothian Chamber of Commerce led by Sara Garcia, is partnering with the Community Development Corporation, Midlothian Education Foundation, Midlothian Parks and Recreation Department and Midlothian Area Historical Society.
Since taking the reins of the Chamber as president, Sara has continued its traditions and come up with a few new ideas of her own. Her professional career began in business development/marketing, which led her to participate in the Chamber of Commerce. She served as membership director and administrative coordinator before becoming president of the Midlothian Chamber. “I’ve officially held every position at the Chamber,” Sara remarked. “Becoming president was one of those unintentional opportunities. My intention was to take over as interim until they could find the person we thought was the best fit. Once I got to know the aspects of the position, it felt like a good fit for me. One of my first priorities for the Chamber has always been increasing our membership benefits, to know essentially how much bang for the buck each member is getting with their membership. We want to offer all the essentials we can to provide benefits to our businesses and help them be successful within the community. Midlothian is such a tight-knit community that if we don’t have all the resources needed, there are other organizations here we can build a solid partnership with and work on getting it done.” The Chamber has approximately 900 businesses with 425 members. Many activities are organized by the Chamber for networking. There are after-hours events hosted for members by members and weekly membership luncheons.
“Our diamond in the rough networking opportunity is our Leadership Midlothian program,” Sara added. “Not only are you learning about the city, but you are essentially building your core business network for your professional career. The Leadership program takes more of an in-depth look at the inner workings of Midlothian.” Once a year, the Chamber provides the opportunity to acknowledge some of the standouts in the community. One of the new awards is the Non-Profit Award of the Year. Midlothian is a very civic minded community and has 41 nonprofit organizations. “It’s amazing how much work of the city gets done by volunteers and with nonprofit organizations,” Sara remarked. “Many needs of the community are met this way.
There are a lot of people behind the scenes who help take care of our fellow residents. I enjoy being president of the Midlothian Chamber, because I truly believe our work is an invaluable resource to the community. Whether I am making introductions between businesses, promoting one’s services or just educating businesses on the resources available to them, it doesn’t feel like work to me. I love being able to answer questions or solve predicaments for our businesses and residents alike.” Midlothian produces its volunteers and businesses from a rich history that deserves to be celebrated on its birthday. Karen Kay Esberger, a member of Midlothian Area Historical Society has written two books chronicling the story of the city. She exposes the myth of the popular tale of Midlothian being named by the train conductor on May 10, 1883, the day lots were first sold for Midlothian. Karen recounts the history to set the record straight.
“As early as June 3, 1881, the Waxahachie Enterprise referred to this community as Midlothian,” she wrote. “At that time, R.M. Wyatt was surveying and securing right-of-way for the Chicago, Texas and Mexican Central Railway to build a track near the Barker community. In August, 1881 the Enterprise reported work was progressing rapidly, and the Lebanon Grange Store was talking about building a large building near the depot. The newspaper reported on May 19, 1882, that a petition had been signed and sent to ‘Washington City’ to ‘change the name of our post from Barker’ to Midlothian. The Enterprise noted on June 9 of that year that the ‘Mexican Mustang’ had been sold to Santa Fe. All this led up to the sale of lots in Midlothian on May 10, 1883. In April 1888, the community was incorporated into a city.” And thus, a city named Midlothian was born. Karen can actually point back in history to the first location of our community before it became a town. “The first village was called Lebanon on land belonging to B.F. Hawkins, a son of William Hawkins who settled Hawkins Spring. Lebanon was on the west side of 14th immediately south of the cemetery.
It is just weeds and brush now. Lebanon Spring can be reached through the MidTowne development, last I knew. The first church and school were there.” By 1892 the population was between 600-800 people, and the businesses had grown to 25. It is fitting on the 125th birthday to take a look back at the people and images from the town’s beginning, and a part of Midlothian’s history is the buildings. Some of them are still standing, one of which is the Smith house located on Avenue D. The Gothic Revival style home was built by John Campbell in 1885. Long before Navarro Community College opened in our city, the first institution of higher learning was Polytechnic Institute founded in 1883. At one point during the early years, it was called Midlothian College. When it was demolished, it is rumored that some of the bricks were used to build the bandstand at Kimmel Park where the institute was located. Karen explained her passion for history.
“I think it’s important for all the early families to be remembered, to know the hardships they endured to make us a town, to know the roles of churches and schools in building our society. We need to know the history of buildings, too, both homes and businesses. It’s interesting to know who built what, when they did so, and how architecture changed over time. Oral history is especially important to preserve memories of those early days.” Midlothian’s birthday is a great time to look back and celebrate.
Written by Betty Tryon.