Fortified Village to Growing Suburb
Ovilla is a small town that is a far southern suburb of Dallas, Texas and is located in Dallas and Ellis counties. Ovilla is one of the oldest settlements on upper Red Oak Creek and is around 15 miles north of Waxahachie, the county seat, 9 miles northeast of Midlothian, and 23 miles south of Downtown Dallas.
The town began in 1844 as a fortified village built to fight Indian raids and was originally named McNamara. The settlement was named after James McNamara along with his wife Joanna who were the first Peters Colony settlers to arrive in the area. The fortifications allowed the community to flourish and many settlers moved to the area to attend brush arbor meetings of Rev. Finis E. King’s Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church which was founded in 1847. For the first few years the congregation held service in a brush arbor but in 1853 a log structure was built that served both as a church and schoolhouse. The area and congregation continued to grow and by 1872 a new timber-framed church was completed.
The small community continued to grow and prosper but for many years remained unnamed until Mrs. M. M. Molloy, wife of Rev. D. G. Molloy, decided to name the community Ovilla, which was derived from the Spanish term villa. By the 1900s, Ovilla had grown to include a post office, a bank, a cotton gin, a pharmacy, a blacksmith shop, and several stores. In 1902, the Presbyterian Church was crucial in bringing Trinity University to Waxahachie and founding a girls’ school in Milford.
Like many small Texas rural towns, the railroads bypassed the community of Ovilla which caused many of the residents to relocate to neighboring towns that were more prosperous, and in 1906 the Ovilla post office officially closed. This was followed by a devastating fire in 1918 that destroyed much of the downtown area and another fire in 1926 that destroyed most of what remained. These events caused the small community to stagnate and it remained a sparsely populated farming community through the mid-1900s.
Things began to change in the 1960s and in 1963 the town of Ovilla was officially incorporated which was primarily done to prevent annexation by the City of DeSoto or any other nearby community. At the time of incorporation, Ovilla had a population of approximately 330 people. Between 1960 and 1980 Ovilla entered a period of accelerated growth and by 1980 the city was home to over 1,000 people.
Over the next 20 years, the population and economic growth continued with the population surpassing 2,000 people by the year 1990 and increasing to over 3,400 residents by 2000. The community then entered a period of slow but steady growth and by the year 2010, the population of Ovilla had risen to almost 3,500 people.
Today, Ovilla is a mature and steadily growing city that covers 5.79 square miles and is ran by a mayor and five council members. The city has a Fire Department, Economic Development Corporation, Municipal Development District, Planning and Zoning Commission, Police Department, a municipal court, a Parks and Recreation Board, water and waste management departments that provide service to the approximately 4,200 people who call Ovilla home.
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