So, who was the man we call the “Father of Longview”?
In Rosa Richkie Lamb’s 1928 “History of Gregg County and Longview,” the 1870 naming of the new village is related thusly: “The name ‘Longview’ was given the town at the time the town site was laid off, by the engineers who were surveying the route for the extension of the Southern Pacific Railroad. There were two engineers, and while they were resting on Methvin Hill they looked through the large open forest on the south in the direction of Sabine River and saw objects a long distance away.
“The land on which they were standing was owned by O.H. Methvin Sr., and they remarked to him, ‘You certainly have a long view from here, and we believe that the town should be called Longview.’”
Methvin strongly agreed with the surveyors’ suggestion and “Longview” was born.
Ossamus Hitch Methvin Sr., a Georgia native, came to East Texas about 1848 and bought 1,200 acres. He was a farmer and a wagonmaker. He built a three-story home on Rock Hill (also known as Methvin Hill). The Gregg County Courthouse stands today in what was once Methvin’s cornfield.
In April 1870, Methvin deeded to the Southern Pacific Railroad 100 acres of land for one dollar. In October 1870 he sold an additional 50 acres to the railroad for $500 in gold.
Methvin’s monetary gift ensured that Longview would become an East Texas railroad center. The first railroad train rolled into Longview in February 1871. With the 1873 formation of Gregg County, Longview became the county seat.
O.H. Methvin Sr., the “Father of Longview,” died in February 1882. He lies buried in Longview’s historic downtown Greenwood Cemetery.
What If...Now, 150 years later, like the movie title says, “It’s a Wonderful Life” in Longview. In that movie, the main character, George Bailey, got to see what the world would have been like if he had never been born. View magazine asked a similar question: What would Longview have been like if O.H. Methvin had never gifted land to the railroad? Here is some food for thought:
Griff Hubbard, the last of the employees of the old Texas and Pacific Railway in Longview and product line agent for Amtrak’s Texas Eagle:
“The only reason that the railroad main line today runs from Texarkana to Marshall to Mineola to Grand Saline to Wills Point and to Fort Worth, the only reason it goes that route is because our forefathers duked it out and shot it out and fought it out and prayed it out in the saloons and the churches and the brothels and the campgrounds,” Hubbard said. “If O.H. Methvin had not stepped up and deeded those first 100 acres, let me give you an example, what if Diana or Ore City or Lakeport or Carthage, what if one of those communities had stepped up and deeded 500 acres? Guess what would have happened? Diana would be Longview and Longview would be Diana. ... What if Interstate 20 did not exist between the Eastman Road and the Estes Parkway exit? What if I-20 had never been built on that line? I can already tell you. (It would be) woods. A Forest. If you’re using the “It’s a Wonderful Life” analogy, Longview would be a tiny dot on the map.”
Without Methvin, Longview might never have been. The city might still be Earpville, since no railroad surveyor would have stood on Methvin’s hill and remarked on the “long view.”
Businesses such as Kelly Plow — one of Longview’s first industries, Eastman Chemical Co., and others wouldn’t have located here if there hadn’t been rail access. They wouldn’t have had a way to get goods out of Longview, Hubbard said.
The railroad’s route through Longview affected the city’s development in other ways, too.
“Passenger rail assets will be something that Longview will forever have over Tyler, Texas, because our forefathers built into Longview and then built out of Longview to the west,” Hubbard said. “These same forefathers built into Tyler, but they didn’t build out. We will always have something in mobility ingress and egress that Tyler will never have and it’s all because O.H. Methvin stepped up to the plate and gave those first 100 acres.”
Laura Hill, the city of Longview’s community services director who is heading up the Longview 150 Planning Committee:
“I am reviewing an article from the Longview Morning Journal dated May 3, 1970, about O.H. Methvin Sr. being regarded as the Founder of Longview. ...
The article quotes: ‘believing that said road (railroad) will enhance the value of lands along the line and near the same, and for the purpose of aiding therein and opening up and developing the resources of the country.’
So ... if Mr. and Mrs. Methvin had not believed, had not been the visionaries they have been proven to have been, had not been willing to sell 100 acres of land for $1 then it is quite possible that:
Longview would not have been created ... we would still be Earpville (if the community had continued growing to the west).
Gregg County would not have been created as Upshur County would have continued to prosper and would have administered the area. (Gregg County wasn’t formed until 1873.)
Mr. Methvin might have retained the land that now is home to the Gregg County Courthouse, First Presbyterian Church, First Methodist Church, and First Baptist Church.
It is well documented that if the railroad bypassed communities, they typically failed to thrive ... would that have been the case for ‘Earpville’? Probably yes.
With no railroad, it is doubtful that Texas Eastman would have located to this area.
Oil would still have been discovered, and the area would still have been transformed economically ... but would we still be Earpville? Or possibly if the area was unincorporated at the time of discovery, would a new community have been created?
Our Community owes so much to the Methvins! Without their vision and their altruism, we more than likely would not be here. They set the example for our citizens about what giving can truly mean in creating and shaping a Community. They gave land and continued to be an integral part of the small yet growing community for decades. Some of their descendants are still here ... and that’s continuity.”
Local author Kimberly Fish took a creative approach to the question, “What if O.H. Methvin had never given land to the railroad?” Here’s her alternative version of history:
An Alternative Version of Longview’s Beginnings
The Mexican flag snapped in the cold breeze, and Ossamus Hitch Methvin drove his mule-drawn carriage through the town of Camden; his breathing shallow, his eyes cast low. His wife, Margaret, huddled under a blanket, trying not to attract attention with her golden hair. As an immigrant from Georgia, he knew he’d have a tough time explaining his intentions to the mix of people who populated this northern corner of Mexico. It rubbed him raw that Indians, Blacks, and Mexicans were owning the shops along the Trammel Trace and cavorting like no one knew that winds of war were blowing on the other side of the Red River.
But that’s the way it was in Mexico these days — after the battle losses at San Jacinto and the Alamo, Santa Anna had marched his troops north and annihilated any hopes of revolution by the pioneers who’d staked a corner of land in the wild country called, Texas. The Mexicans would surely side with Lincoln and feed the government every supply they’d need to crush the Southerners, if the conflicts came to a head.
If he could just get through Camden undetected, he’d join his friends, the Earps and the Castleberrys, who’d staked out a tall hill north of here — a place they said was full of timber, good soil, and fresh water. And, best of all, it offered a long view of the territory where they hoped to grow the seeds of sedition for yet another run on revolution. O.H. wasn’t hellbent on fighting, but he was looking for a place to let his ideas fly and build a new life for his wife and children. A place with a long view, sounded perfect to him.