The site where Bruceville, Texas, stands today was first a campground for the Indians. The Indians would stop and get water from the spring, which was located by the creek that runs east of and parallel to the railroad. There is an Indian graveyard in the woods, approximately a quarter mile due north of Bruceville. It is easy to locate, due to the holes left by people digging for money in the Indian graves. The Indians of those times buried the deceased with their valuables.
In the 1800’s, the town was known as Masterville, but then the M.K. & T Railroad was built through here. Dr. Bruce, a prominent citizen, owned the land around the town and agreed to build the railroad depot, provided that the town be named after him. On March 15, 1887, the town of Masterville became Bruceville, and businesses were booming. They say it was hard to find a place to tie your horse on Saturday.
At the time, Bruceville was an exciting town of about 500 people. The town was full of businesses, including: a large general mercantile store, a grocery and dry good store, a bank, another store which sold lumber, hardware, farming implements, buggies and harnesses, and a drug store with a soda fountain. There were two cotton gins, a gristmill, oil mill, a café or two, a wagon yard, and a horse stable. The was a livery stable, where a horse and buggy could be hired or rented, a blacksmith shop, telephone office and even a hotel.
Colonel Ross owned & operated a moving picture studio on his lot behind the hotel that was the site of many picnics and town celebrations, not to mention the revivals, carnivals and political candidate debates. Politics got very fiery and some would have fistfights. George Cox, a large landowner, would have a bit too much to drink, drive into town, and curse and preach politics on the main downtown street. He could be heard all over town.
There was once an attempted bank robbery at the Bruceville Bank. Nolan Taylor, who was cashier, overpowered the robber and with Clayton Clendennin’s help, held the robber for the sheriff. Nolan had the one fired bullet made into a watch charm and wore it till the day he died.
Bruceville always had a fine basketball team. They played in Tile Mayfield’s pasture, on the hill, east of town.
Until the Great Depression, Bruceville was a busy, progressive community. But then, even though farms were still producing good crops, there were no markets. Many farmers had to get government aid. Mr. Rucker, the barber at the time, also helped with the funeral business. He used to carve a notch on his razor handle for every corpse whose hair he cut.
In 1935, there was a terrible train accident. At a treacherous bend several hundred yards from where the post office still stands, the wreck occurred, and it is still the topic of conversation to this day. Since it was during the Depression, there were many hobos and “down-and-outers” on that train, along with numerous heads of cattle. The number of human lives lost could not be determined, but it was estimated to be a total fatality. According to the postmistress, “…for several weeks after the wreck, the stench along the tracks was unbearable, until the debris and corpses were finally cleared away.” Folks began to move away, and Bruceville’s future looked a bit bleak.
Then in the early 1940’s, fire broke out on Main Street and nearly all of the stores and business establishments burned. The only building left standing was the post office, the second oldest in McLennan County, and it is still there today. No businesses were replaced and Bruceville was destined to its current small, sleepy state.
In the early 1970’s the Texas-Oklahoma Camp Commission was searching for a site to build a new camp, and they pin-pointed the map in the absolute center of Texas and Oklahoma. The spot was Bruceville. Once the dump trucks started rolling in and buses of campers followed, the local folk woke up and took notice. The Camp has been a boost to the local economy by providing jobs and bringing in business. Greene Family Camp now occupies a proud place in the ever unfolding history of Bruceville, Texas.