The Heard Legacy

The Heard-Craig House is a beautifully restored historic home located in McKinney’s historic district. The home was built by Stephen D. Heard and his wife, Lillie, in 1900. The couple moved into the home with their 18-year-old son, Fred, and 16-year-old daughter, Katie. The gracious hospitality of the Heard family soon made this residence a center of social, business, art and literary activities.  The Heard-Craig House is on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.

Stephen Heard and his brother, John, were owners of the J. S. & S. D. Heard Mercantile on the downtown square in McKinney. The store provided the growing community of McKinney with groceries, farm implements, saddles and other necessities for more than 30 years. The Heard brothers were life-long business partners who invested wisely in numerous enterprises, including cotton and flour mills, real estate, insurance and their community.

A bequest from the estate of Kathryn (Katie) Heard Craig in 1970 made it possible to preserve the Heard family home so that future generations could “learn somewhat of the past.” It was also Mrs. Craig’s wish that women’s clubs in McKinney with a cultural or educational focus be allowed to meet in the home at no charge. She believed that the clubs made a tremendous contribution to the well-being of the community through their civic projects. The clubs also provided an educational resource for women of her generation, many of whom did not have the opportunity to attend college. The Heard-Craig House still offers its hospitality to the men and women who now comprise the membership of these clubs.

Stephen & Lillie Heard

Stephen & Lillie Heard were described best by their daughter, Katie, in the following letter:

“My parents were devoted to each other through a wedded life of 47 years. Thinking and planning for the good and happiness of their children, they thought of others too and my mother kept the little poem, ‘Others’ pinned in her Bible. Long before the days of Rotary International, they lived by the motto ‘Service before Self,’ often extending helping hands, encouragement or counsel as the need and opportunity arose. My father often asked for mother’s advice about business matters and gave her much credit for whatever success he may have had.”

Thomas Edgar Craig

(1875-1957) was born March 3, 1875 in Sulphur Springs, Texas. He received engineering degrees from Austin College in Sherman, Texas and the University of Tennessee. An electrical engineer by profession, he arrived in McKinney in 1907 to update the local power plant.

Mr. Craig was on the engineering staff of the Texas Electric Railway and manager of the McKinney Compress. He served his community through Rotary International, as a Boy Scout master, and as a director of the McKinney Ice and Coal Co., the Collin County National Bank, Gulf and Atlantic Insurance Co., Burrus Mills, Texas Textile Mill and Fidelity Union Life Insurance Co. Mr. Craig served as a Trustee of Austin College for 20 years.

Kathryn Heard Craig

(1884-1970) was born on May 23, 1884 in McKinney. She was an author, artist, and philanthropist who left behind a legacy that few ever achieve. Katie, as she preferred to be called, lived her life by the words “to those whom much is given, much is required.” She was described by a friend as a “sweet-spoken, genteel loving person, always a lady.” She could always be counted on to volunteer at her church (First Presbyterian), provide food for the sick, and to offer comfort to friends and strangers alike. She gave of her time, talent and pocketbook without any need for recognition or adulation.

Kathryn Heard Craig was a visionary and she was so convinced of the power of women’s clubs for women individually and for the community that she conceived of the idea of the Heard-Craig Woman’s Club Trust in 1955. It was her wish that upon her death, her family home would become a “club house” for use by the women’s clubs of McKinney. She felt that if she could provide a permanent meeting place for the women’s clubs that they would continue to flourish and provide immeasurable opportunities for their members.

The women of Katie’s generation, growing up in the late 1800’s, had limited educational opportunities. It was unusual for most of these women to have the opportunity to attend college. Katie was fortunate to have parents who believed that women should be educated. She and her cousins, Bessie and Nina, attended Mary Baldwin Seminary (College) in Staunton, Virginia in 1903.

Most women of the Heard girl’s generation joined the women’s clubs of the time in order to further their education. The clubs were based on the study programs of the Chautauqua Institute in Chautauqua, New York. Their purpose was primarily educational or literary in nature. Many of the clubs soon became involved in programs for community improvement. The women raised money to build libraries, provided schools with books and completed civic beautification projects. By 1915, more than 3,000,000 women in the United States were club members. The clubs have not only enhanced their communities through service projects, but they have enhanced the lives of American women by providing educational enlightenment, social camaraderie, a greater sense of self worth and achievement.

Kathryn Heard Craig’s dream was to provide an environment that would encourage the “education and enlightenment” of women and an appreciation of the arts. She carefully planned for the establishment of the Heard-Craig Woman’s Club Trust, the organization that would go into effect upon her death. The Heard-Craig Woman’s Club Trust received non-profit status on August 24, 1971. Since that time thousands of women have utilized the Heard-Craig facilities for education, fellowship, and civic benevolence. There are 24 clubs and groups currently meeting in the facilities and during the past year more than 32,000 guests attended events at the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts.

The Heard Legacy

by Cathy Sagnibene Apple

“By 1900, two Heard brothers, John Spencer and Stephen Dudley, had influenced nearly every aspect of business and industry in McKinney, Texas – in a very real sense, the city flourished with and because of the Heards. Their touch extended beyond business expertise: again and again, acquaintances and associates talk about the Heard generosity and their support of education and other endeavors, much of which is still visible today.” — The Heard Legacy

In celebration of the Heard-Craig’s 40th year as a non-profit organization, the long-awaited book on McKinney’s Heard family is now available. The books are $15 and may be purchased at the Heard-Craig office at 205 West Hunt Street. Ms. Apple will personalize books when requested.