Dallas & Wichita
BY W. S. ADAIR
Dallas special appeared in the Galveston News of Nov. 13[?] 1872:
"A full corps of engineers are now in the field actively
engaged in surveying the route of the Dallas & Wichita Railroad.
The road has been permanently located to a point five miles
northwest and will be surveyed to Decatur, in Wise County."
When the Houston & Texas Central
and the Texas & Pacific Railroads reached Dallas, giving
connection south and east, and promising connection north and
west, the business men of the rising town began to see that if
the place was to grow commercially, it must have more than those
cardinal lines, and they, accordingly, fell to dreaming of lines,
radiating like the spokes in a wheel in all directions between
these lines. The first of these visions to take shape was
a road to the northwest, later known as the Dallas & Wichita.
A local organization was effected, and some progress was
made in securing right of way and in grading, when the enterprise
came to a standstill, on account of the financial panic of 1873.
It seems that there is no record of the
operations of the first organization for the construction of
this road and the details have escaped the memory of those who
were here at the time. However, the project was never for
a moment abandoned, and when times improved, it was again taken
up, in 1877, under more favorable auspices and brighter promise.
Dallas voted bonds to the amount of $100,000, to be paid
when the road was completed to the county line. The bonds
were dated Feb. 24, 1877. In addition, the State granted
twelve sections of land to the mile for the first 100 miles of
the road, due 12 sections upon the completion of each mile. Capt.
W. H. Gaston was made president of the new organization and appointed
custodian of the funds. M. Pointer, Alexander Calder and
Col. A. T. Obenchain were directors. Malcolm Henderson
was contractor and general manager, and Hugh B. Rains was chief
Early Dallas Spirit.
"We were hampered in every way in
the construction," said Captain Gaston. "While
we had ample capital for the project as a whole, the conditions
were such as to make it unavailable from time to time as we needed
it. The result was that we had to use raw labor and to
proceed in all departments in the most inefficient way.
In fact, we got along as poor folks always have to do, the best
we could. We could not use the city bonds until we had
demonstrated that we could get along without them, that is, had
completed the road, and the land certificates were doled out
to us only upon delivery of the goods, mile by mile.
"But, in spite of all the drawbacks,
we managed, by hook or crook, to complete the road to the county
line the following year, 1878. The county line was marked
by a big stump, which would come right between the tracks of
the road, on Elm Fork of the Trintiy, four or five miles this
side of Lewisville. The event was made the occasion of
an excursion to the end of the road, and as great a demonstration
as Dallas could contrive at the time. Gen. W. L. Cabell
and Major John Henry Brown were among the orators of the day.
The excursionists had to ride flat cars, for we had no
coaches, then nor afterward. The locomotive was a small
primitive affair, which went by jerky fits and starts. But,
the enthusiasm of the people was at such a high pitch, that they
did not appear to notice the roughness of the ride. It
sometimes seems to me that the people of those rainbow days got
as much satisfaction out of mere hope and enthusiasm, as the
people of today get out of the concrete realization.
Strike a Stump.
"The distance from Dallas to the
Stump was eighteen miles. By the time this much of the
road was completed, the company owed the full amount of the city
bonds and had drawn to the limit on the land certificates. It,
therefore, became necessary to call a halt until additional capital
could be enlisted. In an unguarded moment, we had made
a contract to carry the mails between Dallas and Denton, and,
in order to fulfill the contract, we had to arrange for star
route service between the Stump and Denton. J. A. Work,
who had livery stables at Dallas and Denton, became the carrier
of the mails. We had literally struck a stump. We
were unable to build farther, or even to purchase sufficient
equipment to derive any revenue from what we had already built.
We had out, in all directions, frantic feelers for more
capital. One day, encouraging news would come, and the
next, depressing. On the strength of a bogus telegram,
to the effect that ample money had been raised in New York to
complete the road, several Dallas capitalists invested in stock
and lost their money."
Such is the history of the Dallas &
Wichita Railroad as a Dallas enterprise. It hung up at
the "stump" until Jay Gould leased the Katy lines in
Texas in 1881. Mr. Gould took over the Dallas & Wichita
Railroad, and immediately extended it to Denton. At the
same time, he built the Gainesville, Henrietta & Western
from Whitesboro to Henrietta, and made arrangements with the
Texas & Pacific to use the track of the latter road between
Whitesboro and Fort Worth. By this construction and arrangement,
the Dallas & Wichita was, in effect, completed as a continuous
line from Dallas to Henrietta, thus, in part, realizing the original
dream of the Dallas enthusiasts. Major B. S. Wathen was
the chief engineer in charge of the construction of the Gainesville,
Henrietta & Western, as he also was of all the construction
made by Mr. Gould, while the Katy lines of Texas were in the
hands of the latter from 1881 to 188.
Live Business Firm.
- November 19, 1922,
The Dallas Morning News,
The Fort Worth & Denver City Railroad,
projected by the enterprising business men of Fort Worth, headed
by Peter Smith, was completed to Wichita Falls in 1882. General
G. M. Dodge was chief engineer and Morgan Jones, contractor.
This road was made part of the through line to Denver in
1884. Some years prior to the coming of the railroads,
J. A. Kemp and Frank Kell, under the firm name of Kemp &
Kell, had established themselves as wholesale grocers at Henrietta.
They had an extensive trade to the northwest of them, which
was seriously impaired by the great change brought about in transportation
by the invasion of that territory by the Fort Worth & Denver
Railroad. But, being the same stripe as the men who had
projected the Fort Worth & Denver road out of Fort Worth
and the Dallas & Wichita out of Dallas, they proceeded to
build a railroad of their own, from Henrietta to Wichita Falls,
a distance of sixteen to eighteen miles. They completed
this road toward the end of 1889, or in the early part of 1890,
and leased it to the Katy. By this means, they not only
held, but greatly extended their trade, and at the same time,
enabled the Katy to piece through [the] line between Dallas and
Wichita Falls, and gave Dallas another important spoke in her
wheel. Mr. Kemp and Mr. Kell are now residents of Wichita
Falls. At the time, they projected the railroad referred
to, it was, by no means, apparent that Dallas and Fort Worth
were the coming towns. First place seemed to belong to
the town that could win it.
Mr. Gould made several important extensions
of the Katy system in Texas, while he controlled that property
from 1881 to 1888. He completed the line from Fort Worth
to Taylor in 1882, the line from Dallas to Greenville in 1886,
and the line from San Marcos to Smithville, and the Taylor, Bastrop
& Houston road from Taylor to LaGrange. Work on the
last named road was suspended when the Katy went into the hands
of a receiver in 1888, as was also, work on the line south out
of Dallas. But, in order to hold the charter for the line
south from Dallas, it was necessary to build ten miles within
a year. The receiver ordered this construction, and the
line was, at once, built as far as Lancaster, a distance of twelve
miles. Three years later, the Lancaster line was extended
to a connection with the Fort Worth line at Hillsboro, where
the train from Dallas and the train from Fort Worth were combined,
and run as a single train south of there.
Mr. Gould greatly admired the pluck of
the business men of Texas towns. He is quoted as having
said that people who are adventurous enough to undertake to build
their own railroads, would certainly back railroads built by
others. He planned many extensions and new lines of the
Katy system and, while his control of the road was for so short
a time, he could not execute all his plans. Still, he accomplished
much, and pointed the way for his successors.
Magazine Section, p. 6, col. 5.
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