City of Ovilla
Ovilla, on upper Red Oak Creek in northern Ellis County, is the oldest town in the county. It began in 1844 as a fortified settlement and grew as settlers arrived in the area to attend brush arbor meetings of the Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which was started by Rev. Finis E. King in 1847.
First Public Buildings
The church met in a brush arbor until 1853, when a log cabin, which served as both church and schoolhouse, was built. A frame church building was finished in 1872; in 1984 about 190 members still met in the structure, which had been enlarged and remodeled. The church was instrumental in moving Trinity University to Waxahachie in 1902 and in establishing a girls’ school in the nearby town of Milford.
20th Century’s Breakthrough
Although Ovilla was a thriving farming community by the 1850s, it remained unnamed. Mrs. M. M. Molloy, wife of Rev. D. G. Molloy, formed the name from the Spanish word villa. Ovilla continued to grow and by the early 1900s had a post office, a bank, a cotton gin, a pharmacy, a blacksmith shop, and several dry-goods stores. Its post office closed in 1906. Fires in 1918 and 1926 destroyed most of the downtown buildings, and this destruction, together with the fact that Ovilla was bypassed by railroads and major highways, led to a decline in growth.
As Dallas grew, however, and people started moving from the city to the suburbs, Ovilla once again began to grow. To escape annexation by DeSoto or any other neighboring city, the town of Ovilla was incorporated in 1963. In the first census after incorporation its population was 339; by 1980 it had risen to 1,067. Its 1984 population was estimated to be nearly 1,300. In 1990 it was 2,027 and the community had extended into Dallas County. The 2000 Census showed a population of 3,405. Today’s population is estimated to be near 4,000.