Other Views from 1890

Where is Wichita Falls?

Above: Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler (1842–1922). Wichita Falls, Texas. 1890, 1890. Toned lithograph, 19 x 28.7 in. Lithographer unknown. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth.

Wichita Falls in 1890

The initial destination goal of the Fort Worth and Denver City Railroad as it built northwestward from Fort Worth toward the Texas Panhandle was Wichita Falls. The small community, which had attracted a scattering of settlers throughout the 1870s and established a post office in 1879, encouraged the railroad to build through the developing business district by donating land. The first construction train, with a single passenger car attached, pulled into Wichita Falls on September 24, 1882. Two days later, a large crowd, attracted by reduced fares on the railroad as well as the chance to get in on the founding of a city, assembled to participate in a public auction of town lots.[1]

The city remained the westernmost railhead in that portion of the state for more than two and one-half years because General Grenville M. Dodge, in charge of the construction of the railroad, did not want to over expand. The FW&DC quickly got involved in the shipment of cattle and even of buffalo bones and hides coming from the buffalo hunters who were now covering the plains. Meanwhile, the city attracted trade and commerce from communities and ranches in both Texas and Oklahoma, and the following year all the cities along the new line reported that they had more than doubled in population.[2]

The city, which Thaddeus Fowler documented probably in the fall of 1890, showed considerable growth and reported a population of 1,978. Viewed from the north looking south, Fowler depicted a busy city crowned by the five-story Windsor Hotel (15 on map) located on Seventh Street near the railroad tracks and the Wichita River, a tributary of the Red River. Seventh Street, particularly at the intersections with Ohio and Indiana avenues, was the commercial center of the town. The courthouse, shown on the block between Travis and Lamar avenues and Sixth and Seventh streets, was the second courthouse that had been built since the city had become the county seat in 1883. Crescent Lake, on the east side of the courthouse, has long since been filled in. The Wichita Valley Railway, which was completed in August 1890, is shown in the left-center of the print as it makes its way to Seymour about fifty miles to the southwest. The presence of mills and gins (11 and 12) also indicates that the economic base of the area was changing from cattle ranching and buffalo hunting to farming. Access to the railroad meant that farmers could raise cash crops, such as cotton, and get them to market via the railroad.