CATTLE AND MUSHROOMS TO BOOT
Watch out if you wear cowboy boots in Madisonville but don’t own at least two head of cattle. You might get dunked in a horse trough on the courthouse lawn. That’s the rule, according to the Madisonville Sidewalk Cattlemen’s Association. The group formed in 1941 after newspaper editor Henry Fox coined the tongue-in-cheek expression “sidewalk cattlemen” to describe boot-clad folks who “talked cattle” but owned none. Each spring the association hosts a rodeo, dances, a parade and a steak dinner. Local dinners now include more than a steak, as Madisonville is known as the “Mushroom Capital of Texas,” and home to the largest mushroom-processing facility in the Southwest. The October Texas Mushroom Festival features art, music, and inventive dishes—think “shitake gratin” — created by area chefs.
Founded in 1853, Madisonville is the Madison County seat. Four earlier courthouses burned and the 1970s modern courthouse is constructed of concrete and brick. All the local history is revealed through story and artifact at the Madison County Museum, housed in a refurbished, historic bank building. Local cuisine and lore can be followed by a respite in Queen Anne-style at the restored Woodbine Inn. Russian Jewish immigrants Jake and Sarah Shapira built the hotel in 1904 using two “kit houses,” and yellow longleaf pine from East Texas. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.