The Much-Storied History of Mantua, Texas

October 13th, 2021
what does mantua mean

It isn’t every day that you hear the words “Texas” and “Shakespeare” mentioned together when discussing history, but then Mantua isn’t an everyday kind of place, and the history of Mantua, Texas isn’t an everyday kind of story. It starts long, long ago, and it goes something like this:

History of Mantua Texas

There is a famous city in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. Its name is Mantua, and it was probably founded sometime around the year 2000 BC. Rich in history, it has the distinction of being mentioned in William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet as the place to which Romeo was banished. This is not their story, though. They’ve had enough publicity.

Our story begins in north central Collin County, Texas. The year is 1854, and at this time Mantua, Texas is little more than a dream. It’s a spot of land upon which a new seminary will be built. The town’s founders purchased 200 acres from a man by the name of Scott McKinney, setting aside 25 acres for what would become the town of Mantua. Those first landowners were William C. McKinney, James W. Throckmorton, and Joseph Wilcox, and you can still see their names in many places around the area.

The founders divided those 25 acres into 48 city blocks around a town square, the land was sold off to finance the building of the seminary. In those early days, the town prohibited vices like gambling, horse racing, and even the selling of liquor to create a more appropriate environment for the planned seminary.

Early on, the town of Mantua was home to a variety of businesses, industries, and, of course, residents. The town’s first house of worship was built between 1855 and 1857, and it stood until 1871 when a larger church was needed. There was a tanning mill, a grist mill, a post office, and numerous retail businesses, but never any saloons. By October of 1858, construction had begun on the seminary, and the first classes were held in 1860. Offering a variety of courses, the seminary had 80 students by 1868. By 1870 the town had grown from around 50 residents to 300.

Mantua persisted until the Houston and Texas Central Railway laid tracks some two miles to the east. In 1872, when the tracks were complete, many of the former residents of Mantua formed the new town of Van Alstyne along the newly laid tracks. By 1873, Mantua was practically a ghost town, and by the early 1880s, the seminary held its final classes.

Today, Mantua looks a little different than it did all those years ago. As a 2,900-acre master-planned community, we’ve achieved things that the original founders probably never even dreamed of. And yet, some things haven’t changed. The old Mantua Cemetery and Mantua Road still remain as symbols of the original vanished community, and the old town has an official Texas Historical Marker. What’s more, the Mantua of today is still a small, tight-knit community built on strong values and the promise of a bright future. 

What Does Mantua Mean?

So what does Mantua mean? Going back to that city in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, the name may have been derived from the Etruscan god Mantus. Here in Texas, however, our Mantua probably got its name from an 18th-century French word for a mantle or cloak, especially one worn by women. Ask the local folks who were born and raised in the area, and they’ll tell you that it’s pronounced as “man-chew-way” or “man-chew-uh.”

What does it mean to us? We kept the name of the original settlement on this land as a way to pay homage to the history of Mantua, Texas and to remind ourselves and our residents of our roots and our shared values. That’s why our motto is “Where Then Meets Now.”

At the modern Mantua, we believe in combining the best of our history with the enriched lifestyle and modern amenities that you expect from a master-planned community, all surrounded by the natural beauty of our Texas home.