McKinney was founded in 1848, but it would be in 1872, with the arrival of the Houston & Texas Central (now Southern Pacific) Railroad, that the groundwork for industry and growth in Collin County could be laid. Farm equipment could then be more easily transported to McKinney and agricultural products could be shipped to markets. As a result there was a significant increase in the quantities of agricultural products produced. Over the next 50 years cotton would become a major source of revenue in Collin County. The cotton yield in 1860 was 16 bales, while in 1870 the census revealed there were 4,371 bales produced. By the 1900s Collin County would become one of the largest cotton producers in the country, producing more than 50,000 bales.
One of the earliest mills was the Collin County Mill and Elevator Company located just outside of McKinney. It was established in 1892 by W. C. Burrus and son, J. Perry Burrus. John Perry along with E.W. Kirkpatrick co-owned the Collin County Mill by the turn of the 20th century. The mill burned in 1899 and was rebuilt as the Burrus Mill & Elevator. The mill grew and moved to new facilities located at 407 E. Louisiana St. The mill remained in operation from 1914 until the 1970s, producing White Billows Flour.
J. Perry Burrus’ business continued to grow. He became involved in banking, railroading, insurance, cotton, and expanded his grain milling operations. He was president of the Tex-O-Kan Flour Mills, which had plants in McKinney, Sherman, Dallas, Fort Worth, Galveston, San Antonio and Kingfisher, Okla. Mr. Burrus died in 1933 and left the business to his son Jack P. Burrus.
The history of the Flour Mill is significant because of its association with the local cotton and grain industry, which was the basis for the town’s commercial development. The City of McKinney contributed significantly in making Texas one of the nation’s largest cotton and grain producing states in the nation. The Burrus Mills were the largest flour operation in the southwest.
Today the Flour Mill is being rehabilitated by Brad Kidwell. Just as the mill stood as the center for our agriculture industry it will remain standing as a beacon in the continued growth of the McKinney Town Center.
About the author: Guy Giersch is Historic Preservation Officer for the City of McKinney.
(This story is reprinted from the March 2011 issue of McKinney Magazine)