Higginbothams: Where You Could Find Everything
By Joyce Whitis
One of the oldest families in this area, one which helped bring progress and prosperity to Erath County and surrounding counties as well, is the Higginbotham family. Theirs was a family of merchants and wherever they settled, the family started a successful business. Today there are Higginbotham stores in Dublin, De Leon, Gustine, Glen Rose, Granbury, Cleburne, Weatherford, Brownwood, Comanche, Gorman, Stephenville, and other locations in more distant towns. Today’s Higginbotham stores generally sell lumber and hardware but many local citizens remember well when the store could take care of a customer’s needs from the cradle to the grave. The Stephenville store was founded in 1891 and the Dublin and De Leon stores, opened in 1881, had funeral parlors which offered a complete service. Today the Higginbotham company has funeral parlors in Cross Plains, Gorman, Rising Star and Stephenville.
The Higginbotham store in Stephenville was on the square where the Courthouse Annex now stands. The funeral parlor entrance faced McNeill and was about where the present district courtroom is today. The name was changed to Stephenville Funeral Home in 1945 and was moved to the loop in 1968.
‘The Higginbothams owned that whole block downtown there,” said Harry Bradberry native Dublinite, motioning toward the heart of Dublin. “There was a general merchandise store and next door to it was a hardware store and next to that was a clothing store. Then upstairs was the undertaking parlor. There was a big walk-in steel vault in the back of that store and some of those records show that the Higginbothams were in the banking business as well.”
Higginbothams moved their business to the edge of Dublin a few years ago and built a new building. Their old location downtown is presently known as Bradbury’s Mini Mall since Harry Bradbury bought it.
John James Higginbotham, his wife and four of their twelve children, arrived in Dublin one bitter cold day in December of 1880. They had traveled by wagon from Water Valley, Mississippi. They, like thousands of other Southerners, came to Texas after the Civil War wanting to find better homes for themselves and their children. The Higginbothams opened a general merchandise store in Dublin in 1881. One of their children opened a store in De Leon and another son went to Dallas and started Higginbotham Pearl Stone located near the old Texas School Book Depository Building.
Francis Turley and Wilma Hall, both lifetime residents of Dublin remember the elegant homes that the Higginbothams built. “There were three houses on Clinton Street,” Francis said.
“The furtherest house was the Clay house,” Wilma continued. “One of the Higginbothams married a Clay. Then one of the Victorian houses was torn down and a modern home built. The old house over there, the ‘Harris House’ was built by the Higginbothams.”
There is some local argument about who built the house but there is no disagreement that the Higginbothams settled in Dublin and made it their lunch pad for expansion.
The Stephenville store was started as a partnership in 1891 by three brothers, Rufus, Joseph, and Benjamin Higginbotham. A building on the square was finished in 1892; it truly had everything the customer might be looking for.
Garland Loudermilk was manager of the Stephenville store for 30 years. “There was a hardware department up front with furniture and shoes further back,” he said. “There was also a ladies ready to wear and a section for men’s suits. There were all kinds of appliances, water coolers, electric skillets, wood-burning stoves, deep-freezers, electric cook stoves, pots and pans and dishes. Up front was the jewelry and then furniture for every room in the house and of course out back, the funeral parlor.”
Higginbothams moved out on the Lingleville Highway in 1986 and today their sales are lumber and hardware. Stephenville Funeral Home continues in business on the loop.
Most folks think that Wal-Mart has everything and it is true that they certainly carry a large number of items in many departments but back in the 1890s Higginbotham stores in Dublin, De Leon, Stephenville and other places could satisfy a lot of customers with their wide assortment of goods.