This article is included here as background information to describe train travel conditions about the time that Ft. Worth got its first rail service in 1876. The intent is to provide a glimpse of what our Cattle Barons and other assorted early Fort Worthians likely experienced as they ventured out from their prairie homes to see the larger world beyond.
New York publisher, Frank Leslie himself, wrote of his 1878 journey from New York to San Francisco taken just a few years after the Golden Spike was set at Promontory Point joining the East and West coasts together for the first time. Although his descriptions tell of his numerous tribulations, railroad travel was revolutionary in its day. Journeys that formerly took weeks to complete, suddenly could be done in 4-5 days, coast to coast with the engines chugging along 24/7 making about 35 mph on average.
Credit for the following goes to:
FROM our Pullman hotel-car, the last in the long train, to
the way-car which follows closely on the engine, there is a vast discount in
the scale of comfort, embracing as many steps as there are conveyances. It is worth one's while to make a tour of the
train for the sake of observing these differences and noting the manners and
customs of traveling humanity, when tired bodies and annoyed brains (there are
plenty such even on the overland trip) have agreed to cast aside ceremony and
the social amenities and appear in easy undress. The old assertion that man is at bottom a
savage animal finds confirmation strong in a sleeping-car; and as for the women — even wider dear little
five-and-three-quarter kids, the claws will out upon these occasions. For here,
at 9 P.M., in the drawing-room steeper, we find a cheerful musical party
bowling, "Hold the Fort!" around the parlor organ, which forms its
central decoration; three strong, healthy children running races up and down
the aisle, and scourging each other with their parents' shawl-straps ; a
consumptive invalid, bent double in a paroxysm of coughing ; four parties,
invisible, but palpable to the touch, wrestling in the agonies of the toilet
behind the closely buttoned curtains of their sections, and trampling on the
toes of passers-by as they struggle with opposing draperies; a mother engaged
in personal combat (also behind the curtains) with her child in the upper
berth, and two young lovers, dead to all the world exchanging public
endearments in a remote corner. Who could bear these things with perfect
equanimity? Who could accept with smiles
the company of six adults at the combing and washing stages of one's
toilet? Who could rise in the society,
and under the close personal scrutiny of twenty-nine fellow-beings, jostle them
in their seats all day, eat in their presence, take naps under their very eyes,
lie down among them, and sleep — or try to sleep — within acute and agonized
hearing of their faintest snores, without being ready to charge one's soul with
twenty-nine distinct homicides?
But if the "drawing-room sleeper" be a place of
trial to fastidious nerves, what is left to say of the ordinary passenger-car,
wherein the working-men and working-women — the miners, the gold-seekers, the
trappers and hunters traveling from one station to another, and the queer
backwoods folk who have left their log homesteads in Wisconsin and Michigan and
Illinois to cross the trail of the sunset —— do congregate, and are all packed
like sardines in a box? It is a pathetic
thing to see their nightly contrivances and poor shifts at comfort ; the vain
attempts to improvise out of their two or three feet of space a comfortable
sleeping. Place for some sick girl or
feeble old person, and the weary, endless labor of the mothers to pacify or
amuse their fretted children. Here and
there some fortunate party of two or three will have full sway over a whole
section — two seats, that is to say — and there will be space for one of them
to stretch his or her limbs in the horizontal posture and rest luxuriously ;
but, for the most part, every seat has its occupant, by night as well as day, a
congregation of aching spines and cramped limbs. The overland journey is no fairy tale to
those who read it from a way car !
We climb into the baggage-car sometimes to admire the
orderly-piles of trunks and valises andboxes, to peep at the queer little
corner fitted up as an armory, with its gritted door and assemblage of deadly
weapons held always in readiness for a possible attack upon that store-house of
many treasures ; or we take a furtive glance at some pretty girl who has been
seized with an unconquerable desire to explore her trunk, and who — under close
surveillance of the baggage-master, who is no respecter of persons — is turning
over the trays to rummage out a handkerchief or a clean collar, or perhaps a
hat in place of the one which a gust of wind just now sent whirling over the
Plains into some Pinto lodge.
Among the "side-scene"sketches which our artists
scratch down by the way, the Chinese roadmenders come in; we find a constant
amusement in watching them along the route from Echo Cañon to Reno, where whole
groups of them dot the roadside, bare-legged, ragged, dressed in a sort of
hybrid mixture of Chinese and Caucasian styles, with their pig-tails twisted up
out of the way, and their great straw platter hats tied under their chins. They are by no means the smooth, immaculate
wellshaven pictures of neatness which greet our eyes in the dining-saloons — on
the contrary, they are evidently of the lowest caste of Chinamen, with stupid,
half-brutal faces, and dirty and unkempt though still, in these respects,
falling far enough short of the Irish or German laborer. They work diligently as beavers along the
route, traveling from point to point with their tools on a little hand-car,
which they sometimes hitch fast to our train, and then we, on the rear
platform, find an ever-fresh delight in looking down upon them, laughing, and
pelting them with "pigeon English," to which they scorn a response,
but sit cackling among themselves in their own queer chopped-up language,
replete, probably, with opprobrious epithets for the "white devils."
Note: The above is
one complete article published February
9, 1878, in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, from the July, 1877 - late 1878 multi-part
series on "The Frank Leslie Excursion to the PacificCoast." The vivid description of this
transcontinental excursion on the Pacific Railroad by Frank Leslie and his
wife, Miriam, captures the experience of travel on the CPRR as well as the
regrettably commonplace prejudices of the 19th century. Frank Leslie's technological innovation, a
dramatic speed-up in wood block engraving, made possible the illustrated
newspaper, of which Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and Harper's Weekly
were preeminent. Leslie realized that
large wood block engravings could be prepared fast enough to appear in a weekly
newspaper by drawing the entire image onto a single wood block, then cutting it
into rows and columns of smaller blocks each of which could be simultaneously
hand engraved by a separate engraver.
Frank Leslie’s cross-country trip report broaches the topic
of various classes of travel on the same train and illustrates the “coach”
class most likely taken by many of our early FortWorthians when they decided to go
somewhere. We packed our trunk, put on
some comfortable, yet proper traveling clothes, gave the conductor our ticket
and climbed aboard to chug off over the northern horizon at 35 mph for hours and hours
During those early Ft.Worth days of the 1880s and 1890s, our
most likely destinations were St. Louis (a 19-hour trip);
Chicago (a 28-hour trip); and New York
(a 45-hour trip). St.
Louis and Chicago
had the big meat packing plants and New York
had the money and plenty of restaurants where our beef was consumed (more about
them just ahead).
George Pullman, a self-taught western New York Engineer, who
had lived and worked on the Erie Canal in his early
life, had moved on to Chicago
shortly before the Civil War. He was in
the perfect location to observe the rise of railroad travel to far-away places
and make note of how long those journeys were.
He brilliantly combined his canal boat experience with the rising need
for comfortable rail passenger accommodation and invented his “Pullman” sleeper cars.
They were finished in various degrees of comfort, then
leased to the railroads, complete with a Negro staff. Pullman
correctly reasoned that the recently freed slaves of the post- Civil War South would make
excellent service staff for his cars and time proved him right. He rapidly became the largest employer of
freed slaves in the country. And what’s
more the Pullman porters treasured their positions and
became highly respected pillars of their own communities throughout the nation.
ran the rails until the 1960s when rail passengers moved away to jet airline
and personal automobile travel. So, we
just missed the opportunity to experience the highly refined rail travel as it
had developed over the company’s 102-year history. However, there are a few travel clubs and
restored Pullman cars still in existence where a
dedicated rail fan might find a current version of the experience. The pictures that follow show a few fully
restored cars that well illustrate the travel experience our Cattle Barons
might have had when they ventured “back East” to catch steam packets for “the
Continent” or just see the big city for a visit.
....hang on Gotham...we're on our way....
...Next, Gotham, THE Mrs. Astor, and some Vanderbilts....
If the upshot of the railroad
coming to town was the ready availability of outbound transportation for Fort
Worthians—all 500 of them at the time—it was also the gateway for thousands of
people living north and east of us who had been reading of the “Wild West” in
their local newspapers and dime-novels of the day.
Within 10-years, our population jumped to 6600 and after 20-years, in
1890, it was 23.000. Our little town was
booming and the railroad made it possible.
As the sequential maps above reflect, our entire country had been largely “wired-up”
Essentially none of Fort Worth’s Cattle Barons were born to wealth and when they started
moving to town after working their ranches for about 25-years, they had the
task of having to learn how to live to their levels of accomplishment. And what better way to start effectively living
up to their stations than to build a grand house in Fort Worth's very first "upscale" neighborhood, Quality Hill?" A section of land located just southwest of downtown and today, other than for a couple of surviving relics such as Waggoner's Thistle Hill, covered by Ft. Worth's "hospital district" the area is difficult to find on casual inspection. The 1891 "birds-eye" drawing below pretty well illustrates the area (outlined in red) at the time.
The very first cattleman to build a home on Quality
Hill was R.D. Hunter, a Scotsman via Missouri who had come to America in 1843. After
having been a gold miner during the California gold rush period, Hunter saw promise in the post-Civil War
free-range cattle business and stopped off at Texas to give the business a try.
Success and fortune followed and Hunter, like many others of his day
decided to make the newly developing Fort Worth his later-life home. Ultimately Hunter, with the aid of the
T&P railroad, founded a coal mine about 60-miles west of Fort Worth at Thurber and a side business of making brick with the
residue coal not taken by the railroad.
His Thurber bricks were the ones we recall driving on as they covered our downtown streets and on
some of the early brick highways that were still paved with their original brick
surfaces…Highway 80 to Weatherford, for example. His grand home was built in 1897 at the corner
of Summit and El
For the most part, the mansions of Quality Hill were built
by men who had not been born with silver spoons in their mouths (although
one—George Reynolds—long carried an iron arrowhead in his back). Two of the
most successful began their careers as cattle trail cowboys (Samuel Burk
Burnett, William Thomas Waggoner); another began as a Pony Express rider
(George Reynolds), and still another began as an illiterate woodchopper
just as easily could have been called “Cattleman
Avenue.” Among the cattlemen with fine homes along
Summit Avenue were John
Bunyan Slaughter, William Thomas Waggoner, Cass Edwards, Colonel C. A. O’Keefe, brothers William and George Reynolds, Samuel Burk Burnett, and James H. Nail.
Likewise, Penn Street could
just as well have been called “Bankers Boulevard.”
Bankers on that four-block street included W. H. Eddleman, Otho S. Houston,
Major Khleber Miller Van Zandt (also a lawyer), and C. H. Silliman.
Pennsylvania Avenue had
a bit more variety. Winfield Scott who listed his occupation
in the city directory as simply “capitalist” (in boldface), was Fort
Worth’s biggest taxpayer. Also on Pennsylvania
Avenue were three cotton brokers (Neil P. Anderson, Hermann Frerichs, and T. B. Owens) and four bankers (H.
C. and W. R. Edrington, H. B. Herd, and G. E. Cowden).
As the Cattle Barons built
and moved into their Quality Hill mansions during the late 1890s, Fort Worth finally had some venues large and fine enough to host
some fancy soirees that might have become the genesis of our 1950s Meadowbrook Minuet but,
I don’t think so…not yet. A couple of WinfieldScott hotels, the Metropolitan and the Worth, were built
near the end of the decade that would have had large enough public spaces to
hold a large party but, I'm not sure that many of us knew how to do it yet. Still, there were no
paved streets yet, nor any automobiles, although a streetcar system was pretty
well developed by now and we had some electricity. Fort Worth was developing into a working man's society with a few manager-types moving in to help keep the books straight.
After the large growth seen
the decade before, Fort
population growth slowed considerably during the 1890s. It appears to have been a time of
organization and consolidation of the City infrastructure itself, as well as a
time of changing of the guard as the older Cattle Barons were mostly in or
approaching their retirement years when they built their mansions.
As younger leaders emerged,
it became clear that although some of Fort Worth’s leading citizens had earned substantial wealth, none of them were “to the manor born” in an
East Coast sense. However, since the
arrival of the T&P Railroad about 20-years earlier, an inflow of people, news, and
new ideas had been contributing to the maturation of our Chisolm Trail campsite. And some of our leading
citizens had taken the opportunity to travel “back East” to see for themselves, the big cities they had been hearing about. But, we had a long way
to go to catch up with magical places like Chicago, where much of our cattle herds headed for processing and New York, where a lot of our beef was consumed and where Jay Gould and the T&P Railroad money originated…..
Chicago 1870--before the great 1871 fire destroyed much of this...
Fort Worth 1890--a rare shot of the Texas Spring Palace..up 2-years, then burned down.
Fort Worth 1899 - 10th Street viewing east..Houston shown above, is 2-blocks ahead and Hell's Half Acre starts on the right side of 10th St.
Plainly, although some of us had some money, we weren't quite ready to work on getting our own Cowtown Society up and running just yet...and forget about minuets out on the lawn...for now, anyway. It would take a few more years of Summers and 35 mph train rides "back East" for some of us to start developing our own notions of how Cowtown Society ought to work. And in 1900, what better place to start learning than in New York City? After all, weren't the Astors and Vanderbilts going at one another for the top spot in NYC society about then? Why, yes they were....and that story is next.... Circa 1900: Fort Worth population.............26,700 New York City population...3,400,000
Next, The NYC
Connection and "The" Mrs. Astor's famous 400