Saturday, August 7, 2010

Frisco, Texas

It's always good to start at the beginning and that usually involves a discussion about where one lives. When we chose to move to Texas, it was due to a job transfer offer for my wife Dianna. I was on the cusp of retiring from 30 years in California law enforcement, the kids were grown up and there was no need to hang around for schools or my job. We were ready for a new adventure.

At that time she was working for Countrywide Mortgage in San Diego and the offer was for a job in Plano, Texas. Though Countrywide was a California based company, the Plano office was a large campus containing most of the central mortgage operation for the nation. Plano is a modest sized city within the greater Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in North Central Texas.

The Metroplex is a vast accumulation of cities and townships that encompass 16 large and small Counties (Texas has 254) all with their own individual identities, amenities (like the enormous Cowboy Stadium in Arlington), and politics. The dichotomy is such that though the Metroplex is very urban (think Los Angeles or the Bay area of California) within a short drive in any direction from downtown Dallas or Fort Worth, you can be in the wide open countryside of winding two lane roads where the only things moving are the horses, cows, and cattle. The only people you see are the ones driving the slow moving farm implements between ranches.

Dianna was given an allowance and moved to Texas in 2005 while I prepared our Santee home for sale. This was at the apex of the housing boom in California and we expected a quick and profitable sale. Little did we know we were at the precipice of the housing crash.When looking for homes, Dianna had set up shop in a rented home in eastern Frisco, Texas and I made occasional trips there to spend the weekends with her looking at houses. Frisco is a town on the northern border of Plano and very close to the Countrywide office. While I was gone, she had a realtor working the listings and driving her around when I wasn't there. Suffice to say the sale in California never took place as the housing crisis took hold there and everywhere. Thus a hard decision was made to ultimately rent the Santee house and hope for the best with a purchase in Texas.

Let's talk about where Frisco came from:

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 (Texas 289), was used by wagon trains moving south bringing immigrants to Texas and by cattle drives going north from Austin. The seminal 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.

By 1869 the laying of track, which would become part of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad 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 for watering holes about every twenty to thirty miles. Since water was not as available on the higher ground along Preston Ridge where Lebanon was located, the Frisco Railroad looked four miles west to lower ground. There they dug a lake called Frisco Lake, on Stewart Creek to provide water for the engines.

In 1902, what would eventually become Frisco was a piece of land owned by the Blackland Town Site Company, a subsidiary of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad (the railroad now a part of the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe 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.

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 rest is history. Where wheat, cotton, corn and feed once grew, you see people, houses, businesses, churches, schools, offices, and parks. Frisco Lake served its purpose as a railroad lake (and a swimming hole). 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. The once small village of Frisco has reached perhaps adolescence. The next census will show our little town has blossomed to more than 100,000 residents. 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 (Source: City of Frisco website  ). Map: Frisco,TX
The town mirrors many early Texas settlements in that it was once rural, surrounded by vast open space, and it's creation, survival, and fate were dictated primarily over access to water and the railroads. Throughout Texas you can see many history-rich towns which initially thrived due to the influx of immigrants, both domestic and foreign, and their desire to own and work the land, but ultimately failed because a promised railroad line moved two or three miles to the east or west dooming the little community to obscurity. Frisco persevered only because the members of the community made a hard choice to literally move themselves to the new track. How many communities would be willing and strong enough to make a decision like that today? It says a lot about those folks and the what America was like then and now.
Back to the story of us. In our travels of North Texas we came to a couple of conclusions. Texas, no matter if it's hot or cold, is a beautiful state. Now let me preface by saying Dianna is a native Californian and I spent most of my life there and California is a beautiful place. But little compares to the vast expanses of Texas. In our minds we pictured turn-of-the-century prairie homes with cowboys in period garb, spurs jingling down the covered wooden sidewalks amidst the choking dust kicked up as a cattle drive moved through town.
What we found was a wonderful mix of urban/rural lifestyle where just about EVERYBODY smiles and waves as they drive by in their ornate SUVs and pick up trucks. Complete strangers say, "good morning," and actually say,"excuse me, yes ma'am, no sir", and hold doors open for you just because they were brought up that way. Now it doesn't have snow covered peaks but it has everything else.
The other is that Texas has huge (they call them Supersized, with an apology to the Mc Donald's Corp.) dirt cheap modern homes. All the major players are here, Meritage, Lennar, KB, Centex to name a few, and they build LOTS of homes from the more contemporary brick faced homes to some exotic stucco/wood designs. Back before the crash you could pick up a 3,000 sq. ft. two story, all the bells and whistles, three car garage home for $250,000. Now post crash, the same home could run you anywhere from $190-$200,000. Lets not even talk repos and foreclosures. Having had the California home buying experience, it makes your eyes tear to know how far your dollar goes here. As of this posting, we're still buying gas here for $2.58 a gallon.
After all the riding around, the many weekends spent wandering into and out of a plethora of new and used homes, a lot of research and soul searching, we concluded that Frisco was a great place to live and settled on a nice two-story in a development on the north end of town. As time (and the mortgage crisis) has come and gone, Countrywide was absorbed by Bank of America and I kicked around with part time work landing at the Frisco Police Department (go figure).

The Homestead
We've met some great folks here in our new home town who have given their advice about places to go, history to discover, and other points of interest. In future editions, we'll talk and show you more about our travels in Texas and more about our little slice of heaven.....Frisco, Texas.

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