Wylie, Texas

Wylie would not exist if a railroad hadn’t been built, or if it had been built in a different area of Collin County.

Wylie’s story begins in the ‘Golden Age’ of railroading, which radically altered the American economy from the 1880s to the 1920s. Despite the fact that some Americans had problems with trains (an Ohio school board called them “a device of the devil”), nobody could dispute the effectiveness of rail transport for goods.

Origins of Wylie

Prior to the development of Wylie, a settlement known as Nickelville existed. Its name has been attributed to either the presence of a nickel store or the joviality of a local resident who claimed that no one in the area “was worth a plug nickel.” In 1885, news of the impending arrival of the Santa Fe train tracks spread through Nickelville and the surrounding communities, bringing with it an era of prosperity.

But after several surveys, the railroad’s right-of-way engineers settled on a location to the north of Nickelville. Col. W.D. Wylie, an agent and engineer from Paris, Texas, is said to have been eager for the town to be named after him. Some say the colonel even promised to buy new baseball uniforms for the town’s team if they would agree to call it after him. What voter could possibly say no to a promise that big? Nickelville’s first resident, Dr. John Butler, proposed the name Wylie to town officials, and it was accepted on June 10, 1886, when the application for a new post office was received. After buying 100 acres of land, Col. Wylie began subdividing it into residential lots. Incorporated as Wylie in November 1887, the town was established alongside a railroad corridor.

On October 13, 1886, dignitaries from Dallas rode on the inaugural Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway train into Wylie. A brass band played, speeches were given, and kegs of free beer were unloaded from the train for everyone to enjoy. Don’t forget to learn about Balch Springs, Texas here too.

Col. Wylie timed the arrival of the train with the auction of his lots. There was brisk bidding from both locals and Dallas visitors, though the free beer may have had something to do with it. According to legend, Wylie made between $8,000 and $10,000 from the sale of the first lot, which he reportedly sold for $150. The Cotton Belt railroad (St. Louis and Southwestern) reached Wylie from Greenville the following year.

Agriculture in Wylie was gaining ground, and by the middle of the twentieth century, rail transport was becoming a lucrative industry. Both fruit and swine were transported weekly. Cotton was the most valuable crop, earning the title “king.” Time spent in school coincided with the growing season so that kids could pitch in when needed. The town’s cotton gins attracted migrant workers who, in exchange for a few bales of cotton per night, often made their homes on the open platforms throughout the town. Cotton and onion both sat on the throne as co-rulers. Wylie was known as the “Onion Capital of the World” until the early 1960s, and a shed full of onions still stands next to the Santa Fe railroad tracks. The white onions grown in Wylie have made the town famous for their sweetness. Migrant workers were brought in to wash onions in large tanks in the downtown area before they were shipped out to market during onion topping season (when the above-ground, green part of the onions died and fell over, signaling it was time to harvest and remove that leafy portion).

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