McKinney in 1876
As with many other city views, the new courthouse and the railroad are the dominant features of D. D. Morse’s view of McKinney. The Houston and Texas Central Railway had arrived in October 1872, transforming the Collin County economy, and the new courthouse opened with a grand ball on January 1, 1876.
Morse might have made as many as ten bird’s-eye views before he arrived in Texas in 1876, but his picture of McKinney, viewed from the east-southeast, does not exhibit much experience in the technique. He has correctly pictured the new courthouse and the row of buildings along the north side of Virginia Street, but they are disproportionately large when compared to the structures on the other sides of the square.
The Houston and Texas Central is correctly depicted on the east side of the city (the foreground), along with its depot, cotton platform, and Collin County Oil Works nearby with the well just to the north. J. P. Nenney’s Lumberyard is shown at the corner of Front and Louisiana, between the depot and the downtown. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church is shown on the block between Bridge and Anthony and McKinney and Church streets, and the McKinney Academy School is shown a block west of the church.
Morse correctly shows the rolling prairie on which the city is located, including the gulley south of Anthony Street (left-hand side of the lithograph). This area was at one time called Jernigan’s Swamp, and some sources indicate that “bushwhackers” hid out there during the Civil War. Perhaps Morse intended to suggest a swampy area by including what appear to be palm or palmetto trees in the area, but historical sources mention only oak, ash, hickory, gum, cottonwood, sycamore, elm, walnut, and bois d’arc. Today the area is Finch Park, one of the city’s oldest.
The biggest problem with Morse’s view is the hill in the left foreground that seems to provide the perspective from which he depicted the city. Such a height does not exist. Another problem with the view is the lack of vanishing points for the streets, which appear parallel in the lithograph, while the lines of the major buildings do seem to have vanishing points.