Bev Zavits Rediscovered the Cemetery
Bowman Head Stone

MAXWELL CEMETERY(1)

Murphy, Texas
by
Joy Gough and the
Cemetery Association of Murphy, Inc.

The city of Murphy in Collin County, Texas, is located about five miles east of Plano and about the same distance west of Wylie in the extreme southern part of Collin County, approximately one mile north of the Dallas county line. Some of the earliest pioneers in Collin County settled in the area known today as Murphy. Peters Colonists started settling in this area before statehood in 1846. Whole extended families came together.

Head Stone William Kidd

One of these families was that of James W. Maxwell, Sr. and his wife Hannah. They came to Collin County, Texas, in 1846 from Arkansas with their four unmarried children and three married children and their families. Henry Maxwell and James Maxwell, Jr. and Comfort Allen McMillan(2), husband of Lydia Maxwell, each received headrights of 640 acres from the Peters Colony. James Maxwell, Sr. died by 1854 and his heirs received his 640 acres. They all settled near each other and called the area Decatur.(3) Before long the name of the community was changed to Maxwell because of the city of Decatur in Wise County. In 1846 possibly the first church in Collin County, Corinth Presbyterian Church, was established a couple of miles to the north of the cemetery in the town of Parker by the McMillans. It has a historical marker. The church is still active. A school was started at Murphy as early as the 1850s. William Murphy moved to the area in 1854.

When the St. Louis, Arkansas & Texas Railroad, or the Cotton Belt, came through the area in 1888 connecting Plano to Greenville, it passed about a mile to the north of the Maxwell community, going through the William Murphy property. A station was built there and the area was named Murphy. The original community of Maxwell died out to be replaced by Murphy. A business district developed near the depot. In 1891 the Murphy post office was established.

Murphy developed into a prosperous farming community with grocery stores, a bank, a school, a dry goods store, an ice house, blacksmiths and wheelwrights, three churches, a service station, several gins and grist mills, a drug store and doctors. The ice house was the center of social activity with speeches and games. Many of Murphy's early residents were prominent in county offices. The First Baptist Church of Murphy was started in 1900. It has a historical marker.

In 1920 Murphy had 85 voters. When women were allowed to vote, the number became 153. A brick one-story school building was built as part of the WPA projects.(4) The Murphy School district was in existence until 1950, when it consolidated with the Plano Independent School District. The building served as the city hall, fire department and police department until very recently when a new municipal center was built.

With the Depression and the wars, the community of Murphy started declining. The post office was combined with the Plano post office in 1954. Today Murphy is growing rapidly. Most of its historical buildings are gone, but the cemetery is still a reminder of the early community.

The Maxwell Cemetery is located in northeast Murphy on the James Maxwell, Jr. survey. The headright for James Maxwell, Jr. is registered in Vol. Q, p 454 of the Collin County deed records. The creek running through his headright, and on the east side of the cemetery, is called the Maxwell branch or Maxwell Creek. The road on the west side of the cemetery was once part of the McKinney-Kaufman County highway, built in 1858, and was called North Maxwell Creek Road locally.(5) An east-west road once ran along the south side of the cemetery connecting to a bridge across Maxwell Creek. A small branch runs along the south side of that road. At one time the cemetery had a tabernacle in the middle on its south side. Decoration Day was celebrated in May of each year to clean the cemetery and have fellowship with a picnic afterward.

In 1886, while a resident of Coryell County, Texas, James Maxwell, Jr. sold three acres of land for $5 for a public cemetery to trustees C. A. McMillan, H. Willaford, and W. Brinson, with the deed listed in Vol. 28, p 529. The deed states that the cemetery is known as the Maxwell Cemetery. Members of the families of all three trustees are buried in the cemetery. McMillan and Willaford were part of the original Maxwell wagon train. The McMillan Family Cemetery is about one mile to the north of the Maxwell Cemetery on McMillan Road. The Murphy Family Cemetery is about 1/2 mile to the south of the Maxwell Cemetery along the same road.

The Maxwell Cemetery served the Dublin, Parker, Sachse, Wylie, Plano and Murphy communities. It was in use long before the 1886 deed. The earliest marked grave on record in the Maxwell Cemetery was for Samuel McCreary, dated 1853.(6) The stone has since disappeared, although there is a photograph of it. There are five stones for 1855.(7) The cemetery contains over 300 graves.

Land Grant receivers buried in the Maxwell cemetery include William McCreary and John M. Salmons.(8) John M. Salmons was a son-in-law of Sanford Beck, whose land grant is located in the downtown Plano area. James Maxwell, Sr. (d 1854, no marker) was probably buried here, since the cemetery was in use as early as 1853. Family lore also says Sanford Beck died while visiting his daughter in Murphy and was buried in the cemetery. There is no proof of that.

Other Peters Colonists buried in the Maxwell Cemetery include Mrs. Mary McCollough, wife of Henry and mother-in-law of William Sachse; Jane Herring(9), first wife of Daniel Herring; plus 10 McCrearys, 15 McMillens, and 10 Salmons. The Maxwells moved further west in Texas and are not buried in Murphy. Also buried here is Nancy E. Murphy, a daughter of William & Dorothea Murphy. As a testament of how hard life was in pioneer times, over 100 of the graves - one third - are for little children, most less than one year old. The most poignant is the W. C. & S. E. Parker family.(10) They had 8 infants die between 1870 and 1880. Obituaries indicate that at least 9 burials died from consumption (tuberculosis) between 1902 and 1918. In one case, a mother and adult child, and in another, teenage siblings died on the same day. The highest number of burials in the cemetery occurred in Murphy's heyday, from the 1870s to the 1920s.

Many of the oldest markers in the cemetery were obviously made locally. At one time there were several bois d'arc markers, as well as a few carved from local stone. Fires destroyed several bois d'arc markers. It is believed that there are many unmarked graves in the cemetery. There are also a couple of cast zinc markers, rare in this county.

The Maxwell Cemetery has several veterans of the various wars buried there - Civil War and World War I. The last burial in the Maxwell Cemetery was in 1966.

Today the Maxwell Cemetery is inactive. The Cemetery Association of Murphy Inc. was formed in 1993 to watch over the Maxwell Cemetery. The land on the north, south and west of the cemetery belongs to the Plano Independent School District. A middle school and a high school with athletic fields have been built on the north side of the cemetery. The city of Murphy is building a hiking trail along the west bank of Maxwell Creek near the school and north of the cemetery.

The Maxwell Cemetery continues to be one of the few remaining records of life in this early Collin County community. The historical marker shall be placed inside the cemetery.

Citations

  (1) The cemetery has many names-Decatur-Maxwell, Maxwell, Murphy, Murphy-Maxwell. The deed says it is called the Maxwell Graveyard.
  (2) Sometimes the name is spelled with an 'A' and others with an 'E.' In later years it was McMillen.
  (3) Zavitz, Bev, LIVING IN MURPHY, TEXAS.
  (4) Franklin, Lolisa, 'Murphy Monitor,' WYLIE NEWS.
  (5) Gough, Joy, EARLY ROADS IN COLLIN COUNTY, TEXAS: THEIR ROUTES AND LABORERS.
  (6) Zavitz, Bev, LIVING IN MURPHY, TEXAS.
  (7) There are a couple of stones for the early 1840s. The dates have to be in doubt, since they are for times before people had moved to the area.
  (8) Everybody who was in Collin County at that time is considered a Peters Colonist, not just the land grant receivers.
  (9) Jane Herring's death date is listed as being in the 1840s in some records. Probate records say she died in 1855.
(10) W. C. Parker had 2 wives - L. A., who died in 1860, and Sarah Eva, who died in 1899. All of the infants would be Sarah's.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alice Pitts, Wanda O'Roark, Doris Posey, CEMETERY INSCRIPTIONS OF COLLIN COUNTY, TEXAS, Vol. I, p 259, 1972.
Beb Fulkerson, WYLIE AREA HERITAGE.
Bev Zavitz, THE DECATUR/MAXWELL CEMETERY, 1993, unpublished booklet.
Bev Zavitz, LIVING IN MURPHY, TEXAS, 1845 - 1945, 1984.
Collin County Deed Records.
Collin County Probate Records.
Friends of the Plano Library, PLANO, TEXAS: THE EARLY YEARS, 1985.
Henry Maxwell, DAY BOOK OF HENRY MAXWELL FROM 1853-1860, transcribed by Mary Maxwell.
J. Lee Stambaugh and Lillian Stambaugh, A HISTORY OF COLLIN COUNTY, TEXAS, 1958.
Joy Gough, EARLY ROADS IN COLLIN COUNTY, TEXAS: THEIR ROUTES AND LABORERS, booklet, 1997.
Joy Gough, HEAR THAT LONESOME WHISTLE BLOW: A HISTORY OF RAILROADS AND INTERURBANS IN COLLIN COUNTY, TEXAS, booklet, 1997.
Joy Gough & the Cemetery Association of Murphy, Inc., THE DECATUR-MAXWELL-MURPHY CEMETERY, 2001.
Lolisa Moores Franklin, 'A Look Back at a Town Called Murphy,' The Murphy Monitor, WYLIE NEWS, February 2, 1994.
Roy Hall and Helen Hall, COLLIN COUNTY: PIONEERING IN NORTH TEXAS, 1975.