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Footnotes in Texas History

A Town Called Toadsuck

Long removed from maps, it was home for a governor as colorful as its name

Illustration by Traci Daberko

Texas has perhaps more than its share of cities and towns with unusual names.

There’s Cut and Shoot, Dime Box, Bug Tussle.

But perhaps the strangest was Toadsuck. You won’t find it on a map today because it eventually became Collinsville, near the Oklahoma border in western Grayson County. For a relatively brief and shining period, though, Toadsuck was a real Texas town.

How did it get that strange name? I learned the story mostly from the Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Texas, which is a priceless resource.

Toadsuck got its start as the name of a saloon near the eventual eponymous town. Settlers arrived in the area in the late 1850s, and in 1869, a townsite was surveyed near the saloon, about a half-mile southeast of Collinsville today.

“The town of Toadsuck took the name of the saloon,” the handbook says. “It may have been named by John Jones, an early settler and mill owner, after the city of Toad Suck, Arkansas” (which, by the way, does still exist).

“According to legend, the name was originally a reference to men consuming liquor until they swelled up like toads. However, the word ‘suck’ was also commonly used in the region as a term for a whirlpool in a river. Hence, the town name may have simply meant ‘toad whirlpool.’ ”

Listen as W.F. Strong Narrates This Story

Visit Texas Standard for more W.F. Strong stories (most of which are true).

Texas Co-op Power · A Town Called Toadsuck


Bill Cannon, who wrote Tales from Toadsuck Texas, tells the story of William “Alfalfa Bill” Henry Davis Murray, who was born in Toadsuck in 1869. Murray would go on to become a colorful governor of Oklahoma in 1930. When he was running for president two years later, he returned to the place of his birth for William Murray Day.

The town of Toadsuck had a statue of Murray ready for dedication, but Alfalfa Bill was so drunk he could barely speak, Cannon wrote. You might say he was “swole up like a toad.” The townsfolk were so exasperated and embarrassed that they had a team of horses pull the statue down and break it into pieces. Then they buried it.

Toadsuck faded into history when the Texas and Pacific Railway built its line west of the town in 1880, according to the TSHA. By 1887, most of its businesses and residents had moved to the tracks. The new town was named Collinsville when it was incorporated in the 1890s.

Thus, sadly, Toadsuck was no more. But the beautiful memory of that august name remains.