Known as "The Crossroads Of Texas," Hearne is nestled at the crossroads of three major highways (TX6, US79, and US190) as well as two major Union Pacific Railroad lines. The Missouri Pacific's former east-west line crosses Southern Pacific's former north-south line in Hearne. Downtown Hearne is one of the first Preserve America communities in Texas, its nostalgic embellishments are historically accurate renditions of Hearne’s street lights, street signs, and trash cans of yesteryear and the custom-made people's park benches closely resemble the old park benches that enriched the Robertson County Courthouse grounds in Franklin.
According to TSHA, Hearne is on land originally granted to José Francisco Ruiz, Mexican commander of Fort Tenoxtitlán in 1830. In the 1840s Code Brown operated a tavern and stage stop in the area. Passengers traveling between Houston and Port Sullivan stopped there for refreshments, and the tavern functioned as the local post office and general store. During the 1850s Robertson County grew rapidly. The Hearnes, gentlemen planters of the Old South, moved in 1852 to the region, where they acquired 10,000 acres. There they operated large cotton plantations. In 1858 Christopher C. Hearne, determined to construct a railroad through the county, offered railroad promoters right-of-way and townsite land. However, the civil war erupted before the railroad reached Hearne's plantation, and work halted. Eventually, Hearne's widow deeded 700 acres to the Houston and Texas Central Railway. Railroad construction resumed in 1867 and finally arrived at the new Hearne depot in April 1868.
The Hearne Depot can be visited today, Hearne's beautifully restored turn-of-the-century arrow-shaped depot features antique furnishings and exhibits containing many local history items (including 200+ historic Hearne photos) as well as railroad memorabilia. Several wax figurines commemorate local railroad employees from days gone by. The visitor information center is attracting a wide variety of history buffs and curiosity seekers who wish to see how this venerable old building looks inside.
Soon after the Hearne depot was operating, large homes, a hotel, general stores, several saloons (initially housed in tents), and a drugstore lined the streets of Hearne. Then churches were organized, a Masonic hall was built, and Daniel Brady established a cotton gin and a post office opened in 1869. In 1870 the International-Great Northern negotiated a right-of-way across Robertson County on an east-west axis. The two lines intersected at Hearne. The cotton gins and two railroads established Hearne as the regional center for cotton marketing. The town was incorporated in 1871 and by 1885 Hearne had four churches, schools, two gristmill-cotton gins, two hotels, and a newspaper, the Hearne Enterprise. The Hearne Democrat was published by J. Felton Lane in 1911.
The population grew from 1,300 in 1885 to 2,129 by 1900 and 3,511 in 1940. And when the United States went to war in 1941, considerations for what to do with enemy prisoners of war were among the last priorities of a country reeling from a Japanese attack and preparing for war in Europe. The nation had never held large numbers of foreign prisoners and was unprepared for the many tasks involved, which included registration, food, clothing, housing, entertainment, and even reeducation. But prepared or not, the country suddenly found itself on the receiving end of massive waves of German and Italian prisoners of war.
So how does Hearne, Texas come into play during this time? Mostly German prisoners of war were housed at a camp built just west of the Hearne city limits in 1942. The World War II POWs were taken to what is called Camp Hearne, located north of Hearne, Texas on Highway 485 West. Hearne was chosen due to its flat terrain, distance from the coastline, railroad access, sparse population, and local need for farm laborers, Camp Hearne housed 4800+ of these prisoners.
Today, the historic campsite has many building foundations that outline the camp’s original “footprint” as well as remnants of various prisoner-built amenities. An exhibit depicting the daily life of the Camp’s mostly German prisoners may be viewed in a reconstructed US Army barrack at the site – Fairground Road & FM 485. Camp Hearne is a truly unique window into our more recent past.
Visit www.camphearne.com for more information.
Fast forwarding from the '40s to the 1980s,
Mark McMillan, the soon-to-be founder of Genemco, was running a small successful dairy business in south Texas. While running this business he picked up a few tools along the way. To save money, he invested in using pre-owned equipment and became an expert at auctions. When it came time to sell his business to the largest dairy company in the region, the equipment he acquired over the years was still in his possession because it was not part of the deal. And with that, the entrepreneur in Mark harnessed his know-how, his auction expertise, and the relationships he created along the way and channeled all of it into a new company. A pre-owned equipment company not just for dairy but for all industrial food processing and refrigeration equipment that would help others have access to the equipment they at any budget and with zero lead times. Thus, Genemco was born. In 2011, Genemco upgraded to a huge 700,000 sq. ft. warehouse that is a quarter of a mile long and a 30-acre equipment yard in Hearne, TX. As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas! Today, Genemco is run by Mark's nephew, Eric McMillan and his wife, Michelle. Together with the rest of the Genemco team they are carrying on the torch, and are accomplishing significant goals. For more information about Genemco or to shop our large in-stock inventory, visit genemco.com