McDade, on U.S. Highway 290 eight miles southeast of Elgin in northern Bastrop County, was established in 1869 in anticipation of the arrival of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. Two years later the first train reached the site, and the town was officially platted and named after James W. McDade, who lived in Brenham. In its early days McDade was also called Tie City or Tie Town. Two explanations for the name are given, the first being that ties and logs cut for the railroad were gathered at the site. The other story is that it was known as Tie City because of its status as a regional freight and cotton shipping center. The first business in McDade was a tent saloon, where a tin cup of whiskey sold for ten cents. With the coming of the railroad McDade became a shipping center for cotton and freight going to and from Austin, Bastrop, and Smithville. By the time the town was incorporated in 1873 it had a post office, a cotton gin, and a twelve-member Baptist congregation. The next year the first school was established. In 1879 McDade was called a "thriving depot town" of 150 people, but following the Civil War lawlessness and violence in the area had become a serious concern. The area was a stronghold for a group of outlaws known as the notch cutters, and county law enforcement was far away and ineffective. By 1875 local citizens took the law into their own hands and hung two suspected outlaws, provoking retaliation with the murder of two vigilantes, which led to the hanging of a third outlaw. Early in 1876 two men were caught with a skinned cow, and the skin showed the Olive brand. Both men were shot on the spot. Five months later fifteen men, believed to have been led by the son of one of the men shot, attacked the Olive ranch headquarters, killing two men of the ranch and burning the ranch house. On June 26, 1877, vigilantes stopped a dance, took four men out and lynched them. For five years after there was little crime or trouble. However, in November 1883 two men were murdered in Fedor, and in a separate incident another man was beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Shortly afterwards the deputy sheriff investigating these crimes was shot to death in McDade. A vigilante committee hung four of the suspected perpetrators. But the violence continued with the McDade Christmas hangings on Christmas Eve 1883, when three more suspected outlaws were executed. This event led to a gunfight in front of a McDade saloon on Christmas Day that left three more men dead. This ended the vigilante "justice," but violence and gunfights continued until 1912.
At a Glance
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McDade is classified as a Town
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McDade by the Numbers
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