Franklin, the county seat of Robertson County since 1879, a town of kind and friendly people, lies near the geographic center of the county, on an upland prairie that is drained by the branches of three creeks. Touchstone Branch, to the north, runs westward into Mud Creek; South Mineral Creek drains waters eastward to the Navasota River; and the forks of Cedar Creek run to the south, passing Mount Pleasant, Henry Prairie and Wheelock.
Franklin came into existence in 1880; however, there was a small town, Morgan, at its present location a decade before, and the vicinity was considered a part of "Old Franklin" as early as 1838, when the wilderness village was the seat of a vast county under the Republic of Texas. The history of the community is interwoven in the story of early settlement in the Robertson Colony and there are residents of the town who trace their ancestry to families that came to the area before the Texas Revolution.
Like the accounts of other places, the history of Franklin starts with the first ownership of land in the area of its general location. Hugh Henry received a league grant south of the present town in December, 1834; Skeaugh Walker settled westward in July, 1835; Stephen H. Eaton lived to the south in December, 1835; and there is evidence Britton Dawson lived near the present townsite as early as 1833.
Huge sections of the land southeast of Franklin were originally granted to Jose Maria Viesca, a former Governor of the State of Coahuila and Texas, and to Pedro Pereira Jose de Jesus who possessed great sections in joint-ownership with Mariano Grande. After 1836, Edward McMillan moved to a section west of present Franklin and Francis Slauter, the first to own the land on which Franklin is built, was the leading citizen of the area after the Revolution.
In 1872, the International Railway Company completed a segment of its lines between Hearne and the Navasota River and a number of villages developed along its right-of-way. One such village was Morgan, named for a railway official, and another was Englewood; Morgan lay on the present site of Franklin and Englewood was two miles to the east.
The railroad changed rural living in many ways. In a short time there were sixty families living at Morgan and an equal number at Englewood. Morgan was a railroad town and its residents were railroad workers and farmers. There was a depot, water station, a platform for split and cut logs that supplied fuel for the train, and there were three small stores.
Through the years of World Wars I and II, Franklin sent many of its young men to foreign fields, but most returned to the town. The postwar years made little difference to the people for their county was a farm and ranch community and there were fields to work, cattle to tend and families to care for.
At the present, Franklin is still the county seat. Its square and remodeled courthouse are reminders of a past generation and some of the first homes in the town are as stately as they were eighty years ago. The churches are attractive and the school is a modern institution with its records in sports and educational achievement. Fast trains pass through the area, rushing between large cities. The offices of ASC, Soil Conservation, and Rural Electrification are new.
The automobile and pickup truck, with gunracks and all, have replaced the mule-drawn wagons and carts of the past, and homes have television and all the comforts of modern life.. The people still have diversion; their Sundays are "church days" and their Friday evenings, in the fall, are for "football at the high school."
The people of Franklin have refused to think of becoming a large city, preferring a relaxed environment of good homes, churches, schools, and friendly neighbors. James Knight, Central Texas editor of the Waco News-Tribune, remarked as follows about the town in 1955:
Franklin is the friendliest town I have ever known. It is the only place in Texas where a man can have car trouble on the road and a passer-by will not only stop to help him ... he will stay with him until repairs are made, or if it takes too long to fix his car, the Franklin man will take him home with him and feed him and, if necessary, invite him to remain through the night as his guest.
At one time the population of the town reached 1600 in habitants, but during the past ninety years it has averaged one thousand. The community is peopled by law-abiding, and for the most part energetic citizens. Stock raising and truck farming have remained its leading economic activities. There are registered cattle and fine quarter horses in the fields; however, moneymaking stock has always been the common breed. Truck farming is principally in watermelons, tomatoes, and plums. Chickens and turkeys are raised by the hundreds of thousands, and egg production is a profitable enterprise.
The territory to the south and east of Franklin is a hunter's paradise. The people take great pride in deer, fish and wild game available to sportsmen who lease land. Two thousand and seven hundred deer were killed in 1968.
Indeed, to a stranger, Franklin may seem "a sleepy little town," but it is not sleepy. "It is a wide awake town, a courthouse in the center and all." In the beginning it was a colorful town and the color is still there. The saloons are gone and the stills in the woodlands are forgotten . . .but as the Chamber of Commerce declares, "Franklin is a friendly town with good churches and schools, water, natural gas and lights ... it is a good place to live."