Malakoff In Earlier Days; Its Mode of Illumination and How It Got Its Name
The overland mail, the famed pony express of the early days of Texas, used to serve Malakoff. This was in the days before Malakoff got its official post office title and before the town began to enjoy the benefits of automobiles, radio, and the modern service of electrical energy.
Those were the “good old days,” according to some of the early pioneers who had to store their drinking water in unsanitary cisterns and do their hauling with slothful ox teams, but none of them would even think of wanting to go back to hardships of that period ofTexas’ progress.
One of the best known of the pioneer citizens who helped to build Malakoff is George Thompson who was born near here in 1860. At this time, he is recognized as the oldest merchant in Henderson County and is mental historian of no mean ability. Recently, he recalled some of the history of Malakoff and the early days of illumination here.
“I remember well in my boyhood days of the old tallow candles that were made in the homes and burned just for a short while in the evenings,” he said. “This was in the early days of oil lamps and not everyone was bold enough to trust their homes and lives to the vagaries of these flaming contraptions that had a habit of exploding every once in a while. Of course, at that time, not everyone knew that the chances of oil lamps exploding were remote if they were kept filled and clean.”
“Now, fortunately, we are over those days, for we get our illumination and our electric power from a state-wide organization that has made it possible for us to get the same character of service that great cities enjoy.”
Mr. Thompson recalled that about 20 years ago, Sam Hall established an electric light plant here. He had about 20 customers and operated his service for about one year. This plant went out of business, unfortunately, and the town had to go back to oil lamps for its illumination.
The town was without electric service until the Texas Power and Light Company came here in 1925 with its powerful high line service, giving Malakoff unlimited electric power for lighting, cooking, refrigeration and industry.
Mr. Thompson recalled also the manner in which Malakoff received its name, which long has remained a mystery to many townsfolk.
“It seems,” he said, “that after the pony express was serving the community here for some time, the citizens who resided nearby petitioned the government for use of the name of Mitcham, in honor of one of the old pioneers here. This was refused because of the similarity of the name with another post office address. The post office department suggested the name of Malakoff. This was a Russian name and marked an important town in the famous Crimean War. This was adopted and was used until 1881 when the Texas & St. Louis railway, a narrow-gauged road, was run into Malakoff. The railroad people wanted to do honor to some one of the big officials of the company and endeavored to change the name of Malakoff to Purdon.”
“This idea didn’t set so well with the citizens here because they had already become well-known through the name of Malakoff, so the post office authorities were again petitioned and permission to retain the old name was granted.”
Malakoff recently gained nationwide recognition when it was announced that the now famous Malakoff lignite mine was employed to furnish its entire output of a trainload of lignite a day to the Trinidad generating station of the Texas Power and Light company. This mine, experts declare, is capable of giving lignite for generations to come.