When the circus came to town...it WAS the town!
The Gainesville Community Circus operated for over thirty years, from 1930-1964. What made it unique is that residents performed in it. Everyday people flung caution to the wind to participate in this event.
While visiting the Santa Fe Depot, we viewed a two-minute film on the Community Circus, produced by Paramount Pictures in 1937. The film was a behind-the-scenes view of what it took to present the circus to the surrounding community each year.
Townspeople performed on the trapeze, high wire, did gymnastic stunts or were costumed as clowns. The youngest members often demonstrated their skills by balancing atop a large ball. People from all over the county came to view the entertainment, which was a popular tradition for many years!
Gainesville was not only the hub for railroads at one time, but it was also located between two major cattle drives and on the route for John Butterfield's Overland Mail Company stagecoach service.
I found the information concerning this stagecoach company interesting. The coach service traveled with usually 9 passengers and a conductor and driver. It connected St. Louis, Missouri to Memphis, Tennessee to San Francisco, California. Two pairs of mules drew the stagecoach through the Chicuahuan Desert of western Texas and southern New Mexico, the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona and the Colorado Desert of southern California. The cost:$200 per person or the equivalent of $3000 in today's currency.
The route comprised some 2,800 miles and was the longest stage line in the world. It took 25 days to arrive at one's destination after traveling all day under grueling circumstances. There was a disclaimer given that warned of Indian attack and possible death.
For more information about this interesting transportation wonder, see www.desertusa.com then search:BUTTERFIELD.
We were poking around the depot grounds when this train came by. It lent a nice touch to our visit to the depot museum!
The railroad arrived to the area on June 22, 1878 when the workers of the Denison & Pacific Railway laid the first rails and crossties of a new extension meant to extend from Denison to Gainesville. The town of Woodbine in Cooke County was the first to be reached.
It's said that on November 7, 1879 people came from all over to witness the arrival of the first locomotive in Gainesville. Then the following January, the Denison & Pacific became part of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas system, better know as the Katy. In 1886 the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe extended its North Texas line from Ft. Worth to Gainesvillle, linking Cooke County with on the the largest railway systems in the nation.
In 1979 the depot was discontinued and eventually deeded to the town of Gainesville in 1981. The building was restored after several years of restoration work and Amtrak returned in June of 1999.
Favorite thing: Incorporated before the Civil War but part of a state that seceded at the outbreak of hostilities, little reminders in Gainesville show its military past. Though born after Texas lost its status as a republic, the county courthouse hosts one symbol of Gainesville's military history. Take it for a dogface or Johnny Reb, the sculptors perhaps intended for you to take it for both. Those from Cooke County who gave their lives in past combat are honored on the courthouse lawn.
Favorite thing: Like many old towns Gainesville still has relics of the turn of the century (1900). Many old streetfronts have been preserved and their interior spaces renovated to make room for dentists, lawyers and merchants. A walk down California street will not especially make one feel he is walking in the 1890s, but several of the buildings surrounding the courthouse give one a taste of the past.
during our short visit this was one of the things we took a picture of. It's the St. Paul 's Episcopal Church and it's located at 415 East California St., Gainesville, TX 76240.
The church was founded by Bishop Garret and took about one year, building price was $ 5,000.
The first service in this new church on was on August 6 , 1885. 15 years later on May 6, 1900, the building costs where paid and it was consecrated by Bishop Garrett twenty-five years after his first visit to Gainesville.
Picture taken June 6, 2003 at 10:14