TABLE OF CONTENTS
Waco Bridge Company records, Inclusive: 1868-1991, undated, Bulk: 1868-1889
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.
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.
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.
This collection is restricted. Please see an archivist for details.
General condition: Good.
Waco Bridge Company records, Accession #2010, Box #, Folder #, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.
Accession No. 2010. Acquired 1979-09-00
Described by Thomas DeShong. Released on 2017-04-25.