Mexia is located in Limestone County in east central Texas. It was founded in the 1800s and lies just north of Fort Parker with Groesbeck being the nearest town to the south of the fort. Before the Anglo settlement began in the area, it was home to Native American tribes including the Comanche.
The first Anglo settlement to gain a foothold in the area was called Fort Parker, established around 1834 by the John Parker family. It provided shelter for several nearby families until the overwhelming Comanche, Kiowa, Caddo and Wichita attack on May 19, 1836 (less than a month after the Battle of San Jacinto) in which Cynthia Parker and four other youths were captured and five men were killed. Several other men, women and children survived by not having been in and around the fort or having escaped into the woods when the attack began.
The current town of Mexia was established around 1870 by an official of the Houston and Texas Central Railway Company to help promote economy for its newly completed rail line from Hearne to Groesbeck. A post office was established in 1872 and the town was officially incorporated in 1873. Another rail link was completed around 1904-5 when the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway completed a line from Hillsboro to Houston.
The town is named for José Antonio Mexía Hernández (1800-1839), a Tejano patriot. He is thought to have been born in the Mexican state of Veracruz. His father and brother were killed in the Mexican war for independence from Spain after which he came to the United States and learned the English language. By 1822, Mexía had returned to Mexico serving the Mexican federalist government in several capacities. He was also a Mason and once he enlisted in the Mexican army, he received a number of promotions, up to and including that of brigadier general.
Once a supporter of Santa Anna, Mexía opposed him after he declared himself to be the sole ruler of Mexico in the 1820s. Mexía participated in an unsuccessful revolt against Santa Anna resulting in his captured and exile. He found his way to Louisiana where he helped organize and also participate in an unsuccessful invasion of Tampico in 1835. Some of the fighters were killed or captured, but Mexía escaped. Mexía then served honorably in the Republic of Texas army during the Texas Revolution. Finally, following Santa Anna’s defeat by Texas forces in 1836, Mexía again participated in an attempted revolt against Santa Anna when he joined Mexican General José de Urrea’s rebellion in 1839. The attempted rebellion was a failure. This time, Mexía was captured and later executed by firing squad on May 3, 1839. Santa Anna, who had ordered his execution, had given Mexía some three hours to pen his final letters to his loved ones. Upon learning this, Mexía reportedly said that if the situation had been reversed, he would have only conceded Santa Anna three minutes.
In 1823, Mexía had married an English woman by the name of Charlotte Walker with whom he had two children, Adelaida and Enrique. During Mexía’s lifetime, his daughter and son were granted title to a considerable amount of land in Limestone, Freestone and Anderson counties and were still well known when the naming of the town occurred.
The town of Mexia has also been home to many interesting individuals including model and actress Anna Nicole Smith, NFL player and coach Ray Rhodes, judge and inventor Quentin Corley, former CEO (now incarcerated) Allen Stanford, and first president of Hardin Simmons University W. C. Friley. However, one of the most gifted persons was song writer Lucille E. “Cindy” Walker.
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Cindy was born in 1918 on a farm outside Mexia. She was the granddaughter of a well known and prolific composer of hymns by the name of Franklin L. Eiland who wrote nearly 300 hymns before he died of complications of pneumonia in 1909. Cindy’s mother, Oree Eiland Walker, was an accomplished pianist and her father was a cotton broker. When Cindy was still a teenager she composed a song that was later recorded by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.
When she was 22, Cindy went on a business trip with her parents to California in 1940. They were driving down Sunset Boulevard when Cindy spotted the Crosby Building. She asked her father to stop the car, grabbed her briefcase of songs and walked into the building unannounced. Bing Crosby was not available, but his brother Larry agreed to listen to a song. Cindy was not a good pianist so she went outside and prevailed on Oree to come in and accompany her as she sang “Lone Star Trail.” Bing Crosby later recorded this tune and it became a top ten hit for him. Cindy went on to do some singing in westerns and she also recorded a solo album, but her main gift was always song writing. With her talent and determination, she became a success at a time when female songwriters were generally not taken seriously in the music business.
During her celebrated career, Cindy would go on to compose over 500 songs, 400 of which would make the top 40 charts. She would compose songs in pop and country genres that would be recorded by such artists as Bob Wills, Gene Autry, Ernest Tubb, Jerry Vale, Lenny Welch, Ricky Nelson, Webb Pierce, Eddy Arnold, Hank Snow, Sonny James, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Ricky Skaggs, Merle Haggard, Jim Reeves, Roy Orbison, the Ames Brothers, Jerry Wallace, Dean Martin, Willie Nelson, Mickey Gilley, even Spike Jones and his City Slickers, among others.
Cindy had a workmanlike approach to her writing. She would get up each day, make coffee and write her songs, composing lyrics on her old pink Royal manual typewriter. While her mother Oree was living, she and Cindy would try out the songs. Cindy resided in the same house in Mexia for over 50 years and reportedly kept her awards under the bed.
Her many honors include being inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, being named as a charter member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and also being named to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Walker has been referred to as one of the 40 greatest women in country music. Cindy passed in 2006 and is interred in Mexia City Cemetery. Her memorial stone includes a carved guitar, in honor of her long and successful musical career.
YouTube link to Bing Crosby singing Lone Star Trail.
YouTube link to Ray Charles singing You Don’t Know Me.
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