Happy Birthday, Meridian!

As Old Glory waves across the country, Bosque County seat shares birthday with U.S.A, founded 166 years ago on July 4th

With flags flying everywhere, Americans celebrated the Fourth of July Saturday honoring the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress in 1776, marking the birth of a new nation, the United States of America.

Almost eight decades later in the Heart of Texas, one town shared the same birthday with Old Glory. On July 4th, Meridian became 166 years old. But how was the town founded, and how did it become the county seat?

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The Bosque County Courthouse on the square in Meridian (above); Old Glory fills a field of flags (top); Meridian shares its birthday with the nation as the first Meridian lots were auctioned off on July 4, 1854.

Back in the day, Texas Rangers were paid with acres, not dollars, and William H. King chose 1,476 acres in one survey and 1,256 acres in another along the Bosque River in 1846 as payment for his services. King was granted this land by the State of Texas because he and his family were some of the early settlers in the Robertson Colony, and also for his services as a Texas Ranger.

King worked as a surveyor under George Erath, who had been commissioned to scout for Indians and survey the Bosque Territory. He did not settle here, but sold his land, which was sold several more times before J. M. Steiner bought the 1,476 acres in which Meridian is located and Archibald Kell bought the 1,256 acres in which Clifton is located.

In 1853, settlers in the Bosque Territory petitioned the state for the territory to become a county. The state created Bosque County on February 4, 1854. The legislature appointed L.H. Scrutchfield, Samuel Locker, William McCurry, Jasper N. Mabray, William Gary and T.E. Everett as Locating Commissioners. These six men were charged with finding the best location for a county seat.

Israel Standifer knew that the county seat was normally located in the center of the county. He already owned much of that land, and busied himself with buying all he could close to the center. He then offered 100 acres to the Locating Commissioners at $1.00 per acre. Meanwhile, much to Mr. Standifer’s chagrin, Josephus M. Steiner, a physician attached to Fort Graham, donated 100 acres out of the William H. King survey and J. T. Eubank donated twenty acres out of the James J. King survey, to the Locating Commissioners.

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A pioneer family in the early days of Bosque settlement. Historic photo appears on The Portal to Texas History courtesy of the Bosque Collection.

The land was rich with flowing springs and was covered with beautiful old oak trees and close to the Bosque River. They accepted the generous offer and Meridian was born. Jasper N. Mabray is credited with the name, due to the approximate nearness to the 98 meridian. He also named Meridian Creek.

The County Commissioners were responsible for Meridian until it was incorporated permanently. They set aside land for a cemetery and a school. To raise capital for operating expenses until tax money could be collected they advertised all over the state that lots were to be auctioned off on July 4, 1854. Hundreds of interested people and dignitaries met under a stand of oaks near the Methodist church for an auction and a barbeque. George Erath and his crew started laying off lots on June 27 and finished just in time for the picnic.

Meridian did not develop quickly. By 1860, there were two doctors, blacksmith and livery stable, one school, a crumbling jailhouse, a log cabin for a courthouse, Goodlet & Jones Mercantile, the Emerson Hotel and three saloons. There were two springs that provided water for the citizens.

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Bosque pioneers in the early days of Bosque settlement. Historic photo courtesy of the Bosque Collection.

Further development was hindered with the onset of the War Between the States and then Reconstruction. Not until 1882, when it was known that the railroad was coming, did much growth begin. Most of the current town was built by 1920, including  a college, two banks, two hotels and two boarding houses, several mercantile and grocery stores, two drugstores, a movie theater, a public library, a newspaper, a flour mill, a Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian and a Cumberland Presbyterian church, and a three-story schoolhouse.

People and businesses have come and gone over the years, but Meridian is still the little town with a big heart.

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Old Glory waves on the Meridian Volunteer Fire Department’s ladder truck on the Bosque County Courthouse Square in Meridian.

When the Declaration was adopted in Philadelphia, cannons boomed, guns blasted, candles glowed and the Liberty Bell rang out. Against all odds, and even against reason, that Declaration told the world that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”

As John Adams said, “Americans should henceforth celebrate a great anniversary festival.” In a letter to his wife Abigail, he wrote, “It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.”

And so, while we all celebrated the unalienable rights endowed equally to all — among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it was also time to pause for a moment to celebrate the founding of a small town the Heart of Texas.

Happy 166th birthday, Meridian.

RUTH CRAWFORD is a regular historical contributor to ChisholmCountry.com. She currently serves as the Bosque Historical Commission archivist and formerly worked as the manager of Bosque Collection in Meridian until her retirement.

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS & courtesy of BOSQUE COLLECTION

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