For a small town with a population of 1,374, Hico’s got a lot more going on than most towns its size.
On the perimeter of the Hill Country, it’s a perfect day trip for visitors from the Metroplex. It has chic shopping with rustic roots. It hosts large, impressive events such as The Texas Steak Cookoff, the Homestead Antique Fair, Billy the Kid Day and Six Man Super Saturday Football.
Attractions such as Dinosaur Valley State Park, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center and The Somervell County Expo Center are on its doorstep. Fifty-acre Hico City Park hosts campers and RVs, outdoor music events and an abundance of family reunions.
The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star Telegram, Texas Highways magazine, Southern Living magazine and many other publications have sung Hico’s praises. Several of its businesses, including Homestead Antiques, the Koffee Kup and Wiseman House Chocolates have well-deserved gold-plated reputations.
How can such a small town do so much? Maybe it has something to do with Hico’s pioneer determination and fortitude. For example, in 1880, after hearing the railroad wouldn’t be routed through their town, the residents dismantled the entire town, moved it 2.5 miles and set it all up again next to the railroad line. Now that’s get up and go. Literally.
Hico’s needed all the resilience and staying power it could get throughout its history. It was an isolated, rough and tumble place when the first settlers, Dr. John Rankin Alford and his wife Martha, arrived in 1859 and pretty much continued to be that way until the arrival of the railroad.
Alford named the town Hico after his home town in Kentucky. A post office was established in 1860 and he became the first postmaster. By 1874, the town had eight businesses, including one cotton gin, although most residents still raised cattle and horses.
Rail traffic created an explosion in commerce and changed Hico into a small but thriving economic center. Retail businesses emerged, several doctors set up shop in Hico and an element of culture was added with the construction of an opera house. The local cotton industry became a national entity with four cotton gins and all the trappings.
Hico thrived for 40 years, with the population rising to 1,480 in 1890. But in the years that followed, several disasters once more called on the residents’ hardy pioneer spirit. In 1890, two fires burned down most of the wood-frame buildings in the center of town. The first fire leveled the east side of town. A few weeks later, a second fire ravaged the west side. Everything was painstakingly rebuilt with stone and brick masonry.
Then, in 1908, a devastating flood washed away the railroad tracks and bridges along the Bosque River as well as a number of homes and buildings. But the town persevered and prospered, again for about another 40 years.
This time, during the 1950s, freight traffic on the railroad began drying up. Within 10 years, the railroad shut down and the tracks were taken up. By 1970, the population declined to just 925 people.
Once more, Hico’s resolve never faltered. They reinvented the town yet again. Since the town sits at the conjunction of Highways 281, 6 and 220, they essentially took advantage of tourism opportunities. The regional development of natural gas helped a bit, too, but it was largely the drive of the people of the town, channeled through their hard-working economic development organization, that turned things around and made Hico the quaint and charming place it is today.
If you plan to visit Hico this holiday season, check out their excellent website at hico-tx.com before you go. And remember, in Hico “everybody is somebody.”