Texas Archival Resources Online

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Records Summary

Restrictions

Index Terms

Related Material

Administrative Information

Description of Series

Legal Documents 1886-1888

Financial Documents 1868-1889, undated

Literary Productions 1868-1991, undated

Baylor University, the Texas Collection

Waco Bridge Company records, Inclusive: 1868-1991, undated, Bulk: 1868-1889



Records Summary

Creator Conger, Roger N.
Title Waco Bridge Company records
Dates: Inclusive: 1868-1991, undated, Bulk: 1868-1889
Abstract The Waco Bridge Company records consists of financial ledgers and minutes books produced by the company in addition to legal documents and newspaper clippings pertaining to its construction and maintenance of the Waco Suspension Bridge.
Quantity: 2 oversized boxes
Language of the Material English
Repository Baylor University, The Texas Collection

Biography/Profile

Prior to 1870, there was not a single bridge that spanned the Brazos River for a nearly 800-mile stretch of Central Texas. Cattle drivers could use the Chisholm Trail to ford the river, but attempting to ford brought its own risks, particularly with the Brazos River’s tendency to flood. Thus it was, in 1866, when prominent Waco citizens led by Joseph Warren Speight approached the Texas State Legislature for assistance constructing a bridge in Waco.

The Texas State Legislature saw the need for such a structure and granted a charter for the Waco Bridge Company on November 1, 1866. The company, in effect, held a monopoly, for no competing bridge could be constructed within 5 miles of Waco for 25 years. A sum of $25,000 was set aside for the construction of a steel suspension bridge, but the estimated costs of the project rose to approximately $140,000.

Construction of the bridge commenced in 1868. John Roebling and Son, an eastern-U.S. company famous for its construction of New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge, provided some of the steel components for the 475-foot structure. John T. Flint was appointed the first president of the Waco Bridge Company; his local banking house partner David Towles Chamberlin was the first treasurer.

The Waco Suspension Bridge was officially opened on January 7, 1870. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge west of the Mississippi River. The bridge had an immediate impact on Waco’s cattle and cotton trade. However, citizens quickly became resentful of the tolls charged for passage of the bridge. Although the U.S. Fifth District Court sided with the Waco Bridge Company, upholding the terms of its charter, the company decided to sell the bridge to McLennan County for $75,000 in 1889. The county, in turn, sold the bridge to the city of Waco for $1 with the understanding that the city would cover maintenance costs and remove all tolls.

With many modifications and repairs through the years, the bridge still stands today as a landmark of Waco and Central Texas.

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Scope and Content

The Waco Bridge Company records range in chronology from 1868 to 1991. The bulk of the materials date from 1868, the start of construction on the Waco Suspension Bridge, to 1889, the year that the bridge was sold to McLennan County.

Series I. Legal Documents contains two documents, a trial transcript and a record of testimony, both stemming from the unpopularity of tolls that the Waco Bridge Company charged for individuals using the Suspension Bridge.

Series II. Financial Documents consists of a variety of materials including balance sheets, receipts, shareholders' correspondence, and blank envelopes. There is also an oversized financial ledger of the Waco Bridge Company's accounts from 1868 to 1885. During this time, D.T. Chamberlin and William L. Prather served as treasurers of the organization.

The largest series, Series III. Literary Productions, is comprised of minute books that span the length of the company's ownership of the bridge (1868-1889), local newspaper clippings concerning the Suspension Bridge, sample tickets purchased for passage on the bridge, and an article from 1991 about the construction company that supplied some of the steel components for the Waco Suspension Bridge.

The materials throughout the collection are in good condition. The newspaper clippings have been copied so that the originals do not have to be circulated. There are also pages in the minute books and ledgers that are loose; care must be taken when handling these materials.

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Arrangement

Prior to the latest round of processing, the Waco Bridge Company records were organized in folders with accurate descriptions but no date ranges. Materials were arranged according to material type. A past inventory was available to assist with creating this finding aid.
The collection is now organized into three series reflecting the original order: I. Legal Documents, II. Financial Documents, and III. Literary Productions.

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Restrictions

Access Restrictions

All requests for copying of materials must be submitted to The Texas Collection in writing. Please use the Request Form for Copying Materials sheet. Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator (s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

This collection is restricted. Please see an archivist for details.

Physical Description

General condition: Good.

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Index Terms

Brazos River (Tex.) -- History.
Waco (Tex.) -- History.
Waco Bridge Company.
Waco Suspension Bridge (Waco, Tex.)

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Related Resources

Related references

Kelley, Dayton, ed. The Handbook of Waco and McLennan County, Texas. Waco: Texian Press, 1972.
Smyrl, Vivian Elizabeth. “Waco Suspension Bridge.” In Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed April 5, 2017.
Vinson, Caleb, and Amanda Sawyer. “Waco Suspension Bridge.” In Waco History. Accessed April 5. 2017.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Waco Bridge Company records, Accession #2010, Box #, Folder #, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Acquisition Information

Accession No. 2010. Acquired 1979-09-00

Processing Information

Described by Thomas DeShong. Released on 2017-04-25.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

Legal Documents 1886-1888

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Average.
Biography/Profile
Series I. Legal Documents contains two booklets. The first is a record of testimony given in the case of the Waco Bridge Company v. City of Waco in 1886. The second booklet is a trial transcript in 1888 for the case of the Waco Bridge Company v. Lee Slaughter. The primary cause of tension between the Waco Bridge Company and the citizens of Waco was the tolls charged for passage of the Suspension Bridge. This was ultimately resolved in 1889 when the Waco Bridge Company sold the bridge to McLennan County.
box folder
1 OVZ 1 Stenographic Record of Testimony: Waco Bridge Company v. City of Waco 1886
2 Trial Transcript: Bill of Complaint: The Waco Bridge Company v. Lee Slaughter 1888

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Financial Documents 1868-1889, undated

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Good.
Biography/Profile
Series II. Financial Documents contains a wide variety of materials pertaining to the Waco Bridge Company. These include balance sheets, receipts for construction supplies, blank envelopes, bulk correspondence to be mailed to shareholders, and an oversized ledger kept by treasurers D.T. Chamberlin and William L. Prather from 1868 to 1885.
box folder
1 OVZ 3 Balance Sheets and Receipts 1870-1889
4 Blank Envelopes and Shareholders' Documents 1889, undated
box folder
2 OVZ 2 Ledger: Treasurers D.T. Chamberlin and William L. Prather 1868-1885

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Literary Productions 1868-1991, undated

Administrative Information
Physical Description
General condition: Good.
Biography/Profile
Series III. Literary Productions is the largest series in the collection. It contains local newspaper clippings about the Suspension Bridge, books of organizational minutes that span most of the Waco Bridge Company's existence, sample tickets from the 1880's, and an article about the construction company that supplied many of the steel components for the Waco Suspension Bridge.
box folder
1 OVZ 5 Article: American Heritage: "The Bridging of America: The Roebling Saga": Curt Wohleber 1991 April
6 Tickets: Waco Suspension Bridge undated
7 Clippings: Waco Bridge Company [Preservation Copies] circa 1886
8 Clippings: Waco Suspension Bridge [Preservation Copies] 1887-1888
9 Clippings: Waco Suspension Bridge [RESTRICTED] 1887-1888
10 Minute Book: Waco Bridge Company and Shareholders 1868 May-1886 June
11 Minute Book: Waco Bridge Company: President William L. Prather 1886 June-1889 September
box folder
2 OVZ 1 Clippings: Waco Bridge Company [RESTRICTED] circa 1886

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