Until late 1869, crossing the Brazos River at Waco could be a risky undertaking. Until then, the only way to cross was by ferry or by fording the river when the water was low. Capt. Shapley Ross had operated a primitive ferry across the river at Waco since 1849. But the Brazos could be treacherous after a rain and sometimes was impassable for days at a time. Commerce, especially the cattle drives coming through the growing town on the Chisholm Trail, needed a more secure crossing.
Construction began with the excavation for the footings of the twin double towers that would anchor the span. The towers, which required 2.7 million locally produced bricks to construct, were topped with crenelated ornamentation resembling a medieval castle. Workmen carried wires across the river to form the massive cables that would support the wooden roadway.
The span was completed in late December 1869, and the first tolls were collected on Jan. 1, 1870. The $141,000 structure -- the first bridge across the Brazos -- was dedicated five days later. The main span was so wide that two stagecoaches could pass each other, and it was 475 feet long.
Not only did the bridge company charge people to cross, but it also collected five cents per head from cattle drovers "for each loose animal of the cattle kind" that used the span. Since the Chisholm Trail went through Waco, a large number of cattle lumbered across, which helped the bridge company to retire its debt. Most drovers, however, still chose the cheaper alternative of swimming their herds across the Brazos.
(History courtesy of Texas almanac).
1910, Waco Texas
Although Skyscrapers were old news in New York and Chicago, visionaries of Texas were looking to grow into the heart of an economical revolution. Artemas Roberts of Waco was determined to make that heart grow in Waco. Artemas founded the Amicable Life Insurance Company in a 22 story tall building on 5th and Austin in Waco, and had the foresight to build this skyscraper with hurricane grade materials.
This proved to be wonderful insight, as the building suffered through the Waco Tornado of 1953, which destroyed all of downtown.
For many years, the ALICO tower stood as Texas' tallest building.
Still to this day, people use this building as its structure truly has stood the test of time.
On the ground that used to be called Fort Fisher, the City of Waco has designated the area a city park now. It is also the area that contains the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum as well as the Waco Vistors Center and the First St. Cemetery.
This is a nice area to park your car, and take a stroll around the complex. You can also walk to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame from the other end of the park.
Picnic Facilities are also available. Established in 1970 as a city park.
Most colleges and universities have mascots, and quite a few of the more pleasant mascots actually have the live animal associated with that mascot. Not many however, have to get a official zookeeper's license to keep their animal! That is the case at the Bear Plaza on Baylor University's campus:
The bears may be seen at the Steve Hudson Memorial Bear Plaza located in the center of the Baylor campus. "The Pit" as it is known on campus was built in 1976 and is classified as a Class 'C' Exhibitor Zoo. It is licensed to hold up to three North American Black Bears and is regulated and licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Texas Parks and Wildlife.
One of the most exciting new buildings on the Baylor Campus is the new Jeanes Discovery Center. For many years, including the time I was in school here, there were tons of material on Central Texas' Pre-Historic times, as well as other natural history stored in the basement of one of our science buildings. With the donation of the Jeanes' Baylor has been able to add a premier location for children to visit and learn more about history. In addition, Baylor has added several scientific "exploration" stations where children can learn about physical science.
Babe Zaharias, Mary Lou Retton, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Mike Singletary, Payne Stewart, David Robinson...
What do all of these athletes have in common? They are all inductees into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
Any athlete, coach or administrator, male or female, living or deceased, is eligible for induction into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. Nominees will be selected who have brought lasting fame and honor to Texas sports. The committee has decided that sportswriters will not be eligible for induction.
This is definitely an interesting look into Texas fame... definitely worth a trip!
Baylor University has done alot of the past few years to build up its campus centers. One of the nicest facilities on campus is the sports arena and special events center. The Ferrell Center has been home to concerts by Tim McGraw, Comedians like Bill Cosby, Monster Truck Shows, and of course Mens and Womens Basketball games.
Inspired by St. Peter's Cathedral, Waco's McLennan County Courthouse really is a must see on a trip through town.
This facility was built in 1901, which throughout all my travels sure was a popular decade to be a courthouse builder!
This actually was the third courthouse built in the span of 50 years in McLennan County as the town expanded.
You might drop by Fort Fisher Park to tour the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, or to obtain information from the Travel Information Center, but I encourage you to take a leisurely walk through The First Street Cemetery while you're there, as well.
My husband and I find cemeteries to be like little time capsules. Not only are they peaceful places for contemplation (pic #2), but reading some of the tombstones can be a brief history lesson.
First Street Cemetery is the oldest public cemetery in Waco. The oldest grave is marked 1852. Here is just one tidbit of information gathered from our visit:
(pic #3) Thomas Barron--Texas Ranger Captain in charge of establishing Fort Fisher; Clerk of the First McClennan County Court and eventually the County Tax Assessor. Mr. Barron also built Waco's first Steam Mill. (b1796; d1874)
Next to this cemetery is an 'inactive cemetery' known as Hebrew Rest, which was established in 1869.
View a country church and old time hotel or take a stroll along the nearby Brazos River, but the Governor Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village gives you an opportunity to experience life as it was in simpler times.
It was the usual hot afternoon in Texas, but there was a bit of shade the trees provided. Walking up the dusty path dappled by sunlight, we were serenaded by birdsong. It truly did feel like we were eavesdropping on an earlier age. I couldn't imagine a more peaceful spot!
Here are some of the other buildings we saw:
The Blacksmith Shop
Schoolhouse (pic #2)
The Saloon (pic #3)
The Planter's House (pic #4)
Tenant's House (pic #5)
Hours Mon.-Sat. 10am-4pm.. Closed on Sundays. Can be entered through the Mayborn Museum. If separately, admission for Adults is $3; Seniors $2; kids 6-15 $1 and under 5 is free.
"Twenty Years Young"
The Waco Performing Arts Company is celebrating its Twentieth Anniversary this season, and we they are doing in style. Some of the best-loved shows in Broadway history will be coming to Waco this year. boasting a combined 40 Tony Awards as they have delighted audiences all over the workd. Come see some fabulous musicals, a few hilarious comedies, and all the theatrical offerings this year.
You cna check out Family Series in which they will be featuring shows to bring the kids to on a few select weekends.
Seeing a cast of the Texas Mammoth Site was my real reason for wanting to explore Mayborn Museum. The actual site is not open to the public yet, but plans are to establish a park around it.
A brief film explaining how a small herd of mammoths all met their end at the same time definitely added to our experience. Thick glass shields the display, but you can walk on top of it for further examination.
The scenario: As the herd was on the move, they crossed a creek which was swelling with water. Apparently the younger calves got stuck in the swirling mud and the matriarch and patriarch of the group attempted to save them--none escaped their doom and thousands of years later, the youngsters were found still cradled in their tusks.
An immense mammoth skull welcomes visitors to the museum (pic #2); other archaeological efforts in the state of Texas were shown, as well (pic #3).
Texas Rangers, the oldest state law enforcement agency in North America, was started asa civilian militia in the 1820's, to combat raids by the Comanche, Tonkawa and Karankawa Indians and increasing military attacks from Mexico and General Santa Anna. These companies founded by Stephen F. Austin are regarded as the first ancestors of the modern Texas Rangers, though the term "Texas Ranger" did not appear officially in a piece of legislation until 1874.
This museum, right off of I-35 offers an in depth history of the units and displays arms and equipment through its history. What did I find fascinating? They have Bonnie and Clydes guns! Yeehaa!
Also, we saw some of the earliest examples of Colt revolvers, which were popular among the early Rangers. In fact, it was use of this weapon by the Rangers that ultimately built the success of the Colt revolvers. This .36 caliber was used widely in defense of the frontier, and one Ranger, Samuel Walker, helped develop the famed "Walker Colt" revolver. The museum displays numerous pistols, showing the progression of the piece through time.
The museum doesn't just focus on the history of the Rangers, but also the current practices and future plans. It is a patriotic, informative stop for all ages.
Monday thru Sunday 9 am - 5 pm (Last Guest Admitted at 4:30 pm)
Children (6-12): $2.50
Children under 6 free
The Mayborn Museum is a fascinating place! It's 143,000 square feet was packed with Texas history.
Interesting displays on the prehistoric era, caves and forests, geological facts, the Longhorn Steer, the American Bison or Buffalo and native American people captured our interest (pic #5).
We learned that a geological creation known as the Balcones Fault runs near the Brazos River and we viewed the fossilized remains of the largest turtle ever found--Prostega Gigas (pic #3). Diagrams of previous excavations and the resulting finds caused me to linger a while in this section--I find paleontology thoroughly engrossing!
A replica of a Comanche tipi (pic #2) and pioneer log house surely thrilled the younger crowd. As well as, a model train display (pic #4) which mesmerized one little boy we saw there.
The upper level contained a discovery center just brimming with hands-on fun for children. A theatre on the lower level presented the highlights of the Mayborn Museum. A gift shop had many items for purchase related to science and history, small toys plus post cards.
Hours are Mon.-Sat. 10am-5pm; Thurs. 10am-8pm and Sun. 1pm-5pm. Closed on New Year's Day, Easter weekend, Thaksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas.
Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for seniors; $4 for kids 18 mths. to 12 yrs.; Baylor students and members free.
The historic village's landing represents the manner produce was shipped to and from the area. Cotton could be easily loaded onto boats here, then transported to far away ports, such as, Liverpool, England.
FYI: Many planters owned cotton gins and processed the cotton themselves. After the Civil War when the plantations were broken up into smaller parcels, towns reverted to community cotton gins. Most towns had at least one gin, while some had as many as a half dozen.
The Cotton Gin provided an important service to a town (pic #2). At one time the 'gin' referred to the machine, but later designated the building. This industry was vital to the Texas economy, with the busiest time of year being August-September.
An early tractor (pic #3) sits rusting outside the Cotton Gin.
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