Ennis' roots began with the establishment of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad after it bought 647 acres of land in Ellis County (1871) for its northern terminus.
The town was named for an early railroad official, Cornelius Ennis. By the 1930's, Ennis had become known as the place "where railroads and cotton fields meet".
The Ennis Railroad and Cultural Heritage Museum honors this tradition. It's housed in the former Van Noy restaurant building, which was once the property of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Inside you'll find a model train display showing the original railyard (pic #3), tributes to the town's fallen heroes, a stationmaster's office (pic #2), a brief movie detailing Ennis' history and other tidbits from the town's past (pic#4).
A docent was on hand to dispense info on the museum's collections. In one glass case a former townperson's collection of exquisite cut glass glimmered; in another sat seven pieces of cream-colored dishware stamped with the railroad's name.
The National Polka Festival is well-established in Ennis. This Memorial Day weekend was its 42nd year and a gathering of all ages--especially families, to be sure!
Moms flitted about the floor with their children, husbands whirled around the floor with their wives and a hall full of spectators appreciated the lively music. A simple one...two,three was all it took.
Jim and I joined the crowd and spun around with the rest of them. It was exhilarating--it was fun!
Throughout the weekend, fifteen bands were presented in three different halls: Knights of Columbus, K.J.T. Auditorium and Sokol. Advance tickets were $18 per person, but could be purchased at the door for $25 each, giving entrance to all three locations. (We paid $11 each for Saturday only).
Ennis is a small town, so it was easy driving from one venue to the next since a map was provided along with the wrist band.
After parking the car near the visitor's center, we came to a small site marked 'Pierce Park'where a memorial stood for the Southern Pacific Railroad Employees.
Etched into the side of this gray stone was a tribute to all those who had perished in WW2. The park was named for the town's first casualty, Sargeant William T. "Dooney" Pierce (pic #2).
I wanted to know more about Sgt. Pierce, so I did a little research on the internet. Dooney was a railroad mechanic who worked on the small cars that hauled repair crews at the Texas and New Orleans Railroad in Sherman, Texas.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dooney joined the Marine Corps with two of his friends. He was killed by a sniper in the Battle of Iwo Jima on March 15, 1944. He was 20 years old. For more info. on his life, see the website below.
As we entered Ennis, we stopped by the town's visitor center situated along the railroad tracks next to the Railroad and Cultural Heritage Museum.
Not only were we welcomed by a very nice lady in traditional costume (see Customs tip) who was there to answer any questions, but a rack stuffed with helpful brochures and tidy restrooms were handily present for our use, too.
We were given a map detailing the location of the polka halls and activities, then directed to the craft booths, food stalls and children's amusement area, which was further down the street.
We loved watching the folk dances demonstrated by various groups in their national costumes. Our first stop was the Knights of Columbus where the West High Junior Dancers kicked up their heels.
Other groups performing throughout the weekend were: the Oklahoma Czech Dancers and Little Ennis Czechadees. Some of these participants were in their 'golden years' and must be in great condition from all the exercise the polka provides!
With cheery music filling the halls, colorful skirts swirling and couples perfectly in step, the demonstrations were a joy to watch. In truth, I couldn't wait to get on the dance floor!
In the center of town, craft booths, food stalls, amusement/game area and entertainment tent sprawled for a couple blocks. It was hot by this time, so most of us seemed to be moving at a sluggish pace.
I didn't see anything too unique here, but one particular booth offered interesting looking bird feeders in a multitude of colors.
The Pony Carousel certainly appealed to the children, who patiently waited in line for their turn, while a scarey slide called to the courageous (pic #2).
A shuttle could be taken from town to the various Polka halls; running every 30 minutes or so. However, we drove our car to each venue and had no problem finding parking.
As we wandered through the streets of Ennis, we heard the sound of music drifting from beneath a large white tent.
People were gathered within its welcoming shade to hear the Ennis Czech Boys, who were entertaining the crowd with rousing Polka music.
It was difficult to keep to one's seat as the music called one and all! A few brave couples leapt to their feet, navigating smoothly around the dance floor.
My husband and I joined with the majority of the crowd who were clapping and tapping their feet instead, but I promise you we did join in later!
The old 1915 Ennis City Hall is now the Police Department. Originally it housed the city offices as well as the Ennis Police and Fire Departments. At one time, the held a large auditorium and today it still has the original jail.
The old railroad depot now houses the Railroad and Cultural Heritage Museum which displays memorabilia from Ennis’ early days. Ennis was at one time the hub for the Houston and Texas Central Railroad and some items on display include a 1897 edition of the Book of Rules for train operators. There are also photos of trains that stopped in the town as well as a miniature replica of the train station in its early days.
Hours : 10:00 am - 4:00 pm (Mon - Sat), 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm (Sun)
This historical marker is dedicated to Katie Daffan – born 1874-1951. She was a well-known author, educator, journalist, and club woman. Originally a teacher, she became an officer of the Texas State Historical Association. She also wrote several books, which included a Texas history textbook. Katie worked with the United Daughters of the Confederacy as superintendent of the Confederate Woman’s Home in Austin from between 1911 to 1918. From 1921 to 1928 she was the Literary Editor of the Houston Chronicle. Miss Daffan taught school in Ennis and was the feature columnist for the Ennis Daily News 1936-1950. Her life’s work has been recorded as a Texas Historic Landmark Texas Sesquicentennial 1836-1986.
A memorial dedicated to the employees of the Dallas Division who gave their lives for their country in World War II. The park was named in honour of Sgt W. Pierce Jr who was the first to die in combat.
There is a fairly reasonable historic district in Ennis and they are improving all the time there. There are brick streets and turn of the century street lights and some of the old feel of its day is coming back.
Several of the stores sell Czech crystal, country crafts, and other products. There are some very different stores in Ennis where you just might pick up that something special.
This is the Interior Ideas & Wildflower Cafe on 211 W. Knox St (photo shows back entrance) which also has gifts, paintings and portraits.
The Moore house was built in 1905 in Neoclassical revival style. The Moores who built the house originally lived on a ranch east of Ennis before they moved into the township. Both husband and wife were independently wealthy from previous marriages of which they had been widowed. A lot of their wealth is shown in the size and craftsmanship of the house.
A unique feature of this 1905 building is the turret and twin bartizans. The builder was a prominent developer from Cornwall in England. Originally the building store dry goods. The upper floor was used as a meeting hall for Woodsmen of the World who were a forerunner for the boy scouts.
This building is quite a landmark of Ennis with its Italianate design. It was once the National Bank building, then a retail store than of late, restaurants. Built in 1883, it is quite unique amongst the other downtown buildings.