Stephen F. Austin State University

"Ossie" Methvin's good deed created a new town (December 2013)

"Ossie" Methvin's good deed created a new town
By Van Craddock

Longview's future was assured on April 7, 1870. That's the day farmer Ossamus "Ossie" Hitch Methvin Sr. deeded 100 acres to the Southern Pacific Railroad for one gold dollar. In September that same year, Methvin and his wife, Margaret, deeded additional acreage to the railroad, this time for $500.

The agreement ensured the rail would "enhance the value of lands along the line … opening up and developing the resources of the country." The railroad agreed to bypass the settlement of Earpville and instead locate a depot and plat a new town site a mile or so west. The new village was to be named for the "long view" from Rock Hill, where the Methvins' three-story home was located.

A railroad meant prosperity for little Longview.

The area's first railroad was the tiny Southern Pacific (no relation to the behemoth rail company that later bore the same name). By 1857 the Southern Pacific had built 23 miles of line from Swanson's Landing at Caddo Lake south to Marshall. However, on the day service was to commence, the company's steam locomotive hadn't yet arrived. The railroad had to use oxen to pull the cars until the locomotive was available.

By 1870 the line extended from Marshall westward to Hallsville. The first train from Hallsville to the new village of Longview arrived on Feb. 21, 1871, a trip that was slowed by several mechanical failures. Reported early Longview businessman Oliver Pegues:

"Two or three miles out of Hallsville, the train jumped the track … Since I had no idea how long it would take to get things going again, I went over to old man Green's (farm) and borrowed a horse to get into Longview. It took that train over two days to come to Longview and return to Hallsville, a round trip of 20 miles. It jumped the track about five times." (Early riders insisted T&P stood for "Time and Patience.")

The following month, in March 1871, U.S. Congress granted a federal charter to the Texas Pacific Railroad Company (soon to be called the Texas & Pacific) with the mandate to build the line from East Texas all the way to San Diego, Calif. The T&P absorbed the Southern Pacific line.

The T&P line was to run due west to Dallas, missing the town of Tyler. Said one Tyler newspaper, "The extreme southern survey now contemplated will pass about 12 miles north of Tyler. We hope this is a mistake … Have the people of Tyler slept too long?"

For a couple of years Longview remained the western terminus, meaning farmers had to bring their produce to town for rail shipment back East. The village, incorporated in June 1871, quickly became a bustling shipping and trade center. The aforementioned Oliver Pegues became Longview's first postmaster.

In 1873, Gregg County was created from acreage taken from Upshur and Rusk counties. That same year Longview was selected by residents to be the county seat.

In addition to a downtown T&P depot, in 1872 the International & Great Northern Railroad opened a second depot just east of town and extended its line southward to Palestine.

The Texas & Pacific finally reached Dallas in July 1873. By December that year the Texas & Pacific line ran from Texarkana to Dallas.

"Ossie" Methvin, today considered to be the "father of Longview," died in 1882. Widow Margaret outlived him by 12 years.