Other Views from 1890

Where is Childress?

Above: Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler (1842–1922). Childress, Texas, 1890, 1890. Toned lithograph, 9.6 x 16.2 in. Published by T. M. Fowler and James B. Moyer. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth.

Childress in 1890

Traveling along the Fort Worth and Denver City Railroad, Thaddeus Fowler reached Childress, in Childress County a few miles south of the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. Childress County had been organized during the 1880s as the railroad was built through the region. Childress City and Henry, two fledgling communities about four miles apart, competed for county seat, and Childress City won the election. This meant that the railroad would have been forced to resurvey its line and run it through Childress City to fulfill its legal obligation to run through each county seat. However, a representative of the railroad had the election declared illegal, promised everyone in Childress City a similar lot in Henry, and offered to change the town’s name to Childress. A second election held under these circumstances in 1887 resulted in the selection of Henry as the county seat, and the name was changed to Childress.[1]

Again, Fowler’s portrayal of the topography—an open expanse with subtle elevation changes near the town—and the street grid are accurate. Like many communities, the founding fathers and railroad officials named the streets after prominent citizens. Shown from the southeast, the roughly north and south streets on either side of the tracks almost seem to make up separate street grids, because they have a slight jag and do not continue directly across the tracks. They also change names as they cross the tracks, causing confusion. Like many other cities, the Childress city council soon voted to change the street names: streets that ran parallel to the railroad were designated by letters, such as Avenue A, and intersecting streets were called by numbers, such as First Street.[2]

Key buildings are easily located: the county courthouse is shown on Cole Street (Avenue E today) between Meyer (Main) and Swearingen (Commerce) streets. Unfortunately, the courthouse burned soon after Fowler depicted it. The school is located at the corner of Brown and Wilkinson streets, and the Fort Worth and Denver City Railroad depot sits on the block at the end of Lawson and Chipman streets. Hotel Good is the large, two-story structure located at the corner of Front and Swearingen streets.