The original inhabitants of Roanoke, if we’re being technical, are the mammoths and mastodons that trudged over this land, making their homes where we currently build restaurants, neighborhoods and schools. You can find the proof in the Historic Downtown Roanoke Visitors Center and Museum, where bones that have been studied by architects are encased in glass and put on display.
In terms of human inhabitants, however, the area has farmers, ranchers, and the railroad to thank for its eventual blossoming.
In 1847 a small group of twenty settlers came with their families on a wagon trail from Missouri with the intent to acquire large plots of land for ranching and farming. The colony set up a community in the form of a rural town near Denton Creek, originally named Elizabeth Creek. Among those settlers were the Medlin brothers, who have been accredited with a large portion of the prosperity of Roanoke.
Due to immense flooding that destroyed the settlers' homes and threatened the livestock, the community migrated to the area we know now as Roanoke in around 1879. While there were a select few businesses that thrived in Roanoke out of necessity, like the local blacksmith and the town convenience store, the economy truly began to boom with the arrival of the Texas and Pacific Railway. The railway brought business owners looking to settle where there was foot traffic.
“Wherever the train went, that’s where you’re going to get your economic stimulus.” said Kelli Thomerson, the curator at the Downtown Roanoke Visitors Center and Museum.
With the train, came the plotting of Oak Street and Downtown Roanoke. If you’ve visited the Historic Downtown Visitors Center and Museum, then you’ve walked across the same iron door panels that cowboys, ranchers, farmers, and brothel workers stepped on when the Silver Spur Saloon was operating in 1886. Eventually, Roanoke became so vast that the surrounding areas began to declare their own townships.
“Roanoke actually itself used to go all the way to Grapevine. So Southlake, Westlake, Trophy Club, Northlake, that all used to be part of Roanoke,”said Thomerson.
Roanoke now is a whole lot smaller than it used to be. In the late 1950’s, ranchers and homeowners declared the town of Westlake along Highway 114 after a Dallas lawyer named Glen Turner purchased the 2,000 acres that we now know as Circle T Ranch. In 1973, Westlake was once again divided. Developers created a community as a housing development meant to surround a country club whose golf course was designed by golf legend Ben Hogan. This area, dubbed Trophy Club, was named for its original purpose - to house Hogan’s trophies. Trophy Club officially incorporated in 1985, making it one of the youngest towns that surround Roanoke.
While the communities have since formed their own townships, the history between them is apparent. In Trophy Club, you can find the Medlin Cemetery, where Charles and Matilda Medlin buried their daughter. Years ago, you could have visited the 130 year old Medlin Family Barn. Today, you can find the Medlin name honored by a local middle school, various businesses and of course, in the museum.