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A Magical History Tour

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I often ponder if one day in the future someone with an inquisitive mind and a heart for our city will discover archived issues of Richardson Living magazine and dive into the stories that unfold on our pages.

Some of the people, businesses and organizations featured throughout the past 13 years may still be recognizable. Others, sadly, may be distant memories. However, every word, on every page, plays its part in defining Richardson at that moment in time. Perhaps one of the stories will inspire involvement from this future reader — just as we hope the magazine does today. Perhaps he or she will be curious enough to say, “I wonder whatever happened to … ”

Last month, I was that reader when we uncovered a box of archived Richardson News articles from the past three decades. Each page yielded a new discovery about this city that I thought I already knew so well.

Among the yellowed newsprint was an article in the Jan. 6, 1994, issue about Elizabeth Mayoff, a young woman who created a self-guided tour of Richardson. According to the Richardson News, Elizabeth created the “From Breckenridge to the Telecom Corridor” guide for a scholarship project when she was a senior at J.J. Pearce High School, and ultimately donated copies to the Richardson Public Library.

“The tour is intended for residents of Richardson who would like to learn more about their community, or for visitors who are interested in moving their family or business to the city,” Elizabeth said in that original article.

The storyteller in me wanted to know more. Is the guide, published in 1993, still in circulation? Is the content still relevant? Where is Elizabeth Mayoff now?

Some Google sleuthing, a few emails, a phone call and a trip to the library led to the answers and some new knowledge.

The tour guide

Elizabeth Mayoff, now Elizabeth Shepherd, didn’t really think her high school project would still be used as reference material.

“Everything has changed so much since we now have computers, mobile phones and other tools at our disposal,” she said when I connected with her via phone.

The guide, complete with a foldout map, includes history and 17 points of interest throughout Richardson’s borders. It was the result of more than two months of research and interviews with Richardson icon Billye Meyer, among others.

Today, Elizabeth lives in Durham, North Carolina, (ironically, my hometown) with her husband and two young daughters. In addition to a degree in English and business from the University of Texas, she also earned a master’s degree in workforce development and training from North Carolina State University, where she works as a program manager for the online MBA program. Elizabeth and her husband also founded Smart Moves, a chess program for preschoolers designed to encourage both mental and physical exercise.

Though she is halfway across the country, Elizabeth’s memories of Richardson are near and dear. The fondest involve her friends and days spent in the marching band. She also recognizes the similarities between Richardson and her new hometown, including the focus on technology and innovation.

The discoveries

Stacey Davis, reference librarian at the Richardson Public Library, immediately knew where to find Elizabeth’s project and assured me that 15 years later, it is still available at the reference desk and a valuable source for understanding Richardson’s roots.

“We keep good care of it because it is one of a kind,” Davis said.

Flipping through the pages yielded some fascinating finds for sure. I had no idea that the first two-story house in Richardson was the Floyd Inn, located on the stagecoach line we know today as Abrams Road. At the time, Richardson was considered the “Wild West,” and according to legend, the Floyd Inn hosted some infamous criminals such as Sam Bass, the Younger brothers and Belle Starr. A cedar tree planted by one of the Floyd sons near the inn still stands in Richardson today.

Nor did I realize the historical significance of the wishing well located near the intersection of Fall Creek and E. Prairie Creek Drive. One of Richardson’s historical markers, the well marks where Mont Vale Academy once stood. Robert Campbell donated this land in 1858, and volunteers constructed the school for the children of the settlers. According to the book A History of Richardson, the school had a double front door and four small windows on each side with a blackboard painted across the back wall. A teacherage was located at the top of the hill.

Also a surprise, many of the original names of Richardson — Wheeler, Floyd and Huffhines — can be found on the gravestones adjacent to Big Springs Baptist Church, the city’s first church built in 1872. Located at Jupiter and  Campbell Roads, the church is yet another historical marker and a stop on the original self-guided tour.

Your turn

“Richardson’s story lies not with those who passed through, but with those who chose to stay to settle and to build,” said Dr. Janet Harris, former director of continuing education at UT Dallas, in Elizabeth’s self-guided tour.

Each of us, in our own way, is a part of that story, and those of us at Richardson Living hope that we are preserving some of these chapters. So, take a spin around Richardson to see what history you may be able to unearth.

And one day, decades from now, someone may pick up a copy of this magazine and decide to tell the rest of the story.

About the author

Erica Yaeger Mom of two, multi-tasker and idea generator. By day I am assistant dean of development and alumni relations at the Jindal School of Management at UT Dallas. By night I am an avid reader, writer and champion of all things Richardson related.