Waxahachie's Mule Cars


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Mule Car Ticket, front                        Mule Car Ticket, back

from This Was Ellis County

A publication of the Junior Historians,

Waxahachie High School, 1979

 

Waxahachie's Mule Cars

By Steve Wallace

As Waxahachie prospered in the last quarter of the 1800's it grew from a frontier town into a small city. By 1890 the city was spreading out to the West End and the East End. Large and beautiful homes were under construction in these sections of the city. With this growth, enterprising, energetic and civic-minded businessmen of the community saw a demand for some form of public transportation other than public hacks. Within a two-year period Waxahachie had gained the service of two mule-powered street railway companies which were capable of transporting passengers from the extreme east end to the extreme west end of town.

WAXAHACHIE STREET RAILWAY COMPANY

In September of 1887 O. E. Dunlap, representing a group of local citizens, appeared before the City Council of Waxahachie to request permission to build and operate a street railway on the streets of the city. The company, the Waxahachie Street Railway Company, had been granted a charter by the state on September 5. The directors of the company who appeared with Dunlap were E. A. Dubose, R. G. Phillips and T. A. Ferris. The application of the group was deferred by the council and it was August 9, 1889 before final approval of the company application was given. The council granted the company the right of way and use of the following streets upon which to lay the tracks: College, Rogers, Marvin, Main, Kaufman, McMillan, Water, Washington, Franklin, Elm and Jefferson. The company asked to be relieved from city tax payments for five years because its expenses would be about equal to its profits for a few years.

The capital stock for the company was $25,000 and the stockholders were Dunlap, W.F. Lewis, M. B. Templeton, R. M. White, W. G. Williams, Phillips, T. R. Anderson, J. F. Strickland and H. L. Manuel.

On September 9, 1889 the stockholders of the company held a business meeting and the following men were elected as officers: T. A. Ferris, president; W.F. Lewis, vice-president; Osce Goodwin, treasurer and general manager. Directors elected were Dunlap, Phillips, Williams and Manuel. Lewis and Goodwin were instructed to begin work immediately on laying down one mile and a half or two miles of track as soon as possible. For the next few months steady work was done on the preparation of the line. D. Mahoney contracted with the company to build the one and three-quarter miles of track to be completed by January 1.

After the purchase of Block 8, Lot 13, in the West End Addition, the company built a barn to keep and store the cars and mules in. This car barn area was located at the end of West Main Street near the West End Park. During the fall several homes were under construction in the West End and the West End tracks were being laid. In mid-December two streetcars arrived at the M. K. and T. depot. These cars had been purchased from the Laclede Car Company of St. Louis, Missouri. A reporter from the Waxahachie Enterprise stated that, "They are first class in every particular and add very much to the onward march of the city. They are not only an object of interest but a wonderful convenience to the city and an absolute necessity in the development of our beautiful city."

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On Saturday, December 21, the managers of the railway arranged for a trial trip over the line at about 11 a.m. that day. There was a large gathering of citizens and businessmen of the city. Aboard the streetcar were the stockholders and newspaper reporters. As the group reached the West End Addition (West Main beyond the MKT tracks) there was a notice of vast improvement and the reporter wrote that the area would soon be the most beautiful part of the city. Dunlap, Goodwin, Phillips, Lewis and others were preparing to build homes. When reaching the terminus of the line, the streetcar unloaded and the people toured the stables and grounds which were located on a hillside by a branch. On the lot was a living spring.

In the early part of January the company petitioned the city council for permission to construct a waiting room at the railway terminus on College and Marvin Streets. By the spring the waiting room was completed and proved a great convenience since it permitted passengers to stand inside when the weather was bad and to have a place to sit while waiting for the car. 

By February 28, 1890, rails were completed to the West End Park. Many people would ride to the park on the mule car in order to take a stroll through the park. After they finished, they would board the car and make the ride back into town. On the way back to town the passengers' attention was turned to the beautiful homes that were beginning to appear in the West End Addition. People were beginning to feel that the West End Addition was to our city what Oak Cliff was to Dallas at that time.

The Waxahachie Street Railway Company constructed their rail tracks from Park School (Marvin Elementary) south on College Street to McMillan, west to Rogers Street, and thence to the square where the tracks turned right on West Main and extended to the end of Main to the car barn. There were two miles of tracks. In the summer of 1895 the company extended the tracks from Main Street north on Grand Avenue to the "summit of Arlington Heights." This extension of 3,100 feet reached Sycamore Street and extended a block to the east on Sycamore.

During the first five years of operation the value of the company's property for tax purposes was about $5,400. The number of mules during this period ranged between eight and twelve. Starting with the two cars the company probably added two more in 1892. Correspondence from the Laclede Company to Osce Goodwin, the manager, indicated that purchase was imminent. A Waxahachie city directory showed in 1895 that E. H. Griffin was the manager and the offices were located at 215 Main.

Waxahachie Mule Car on courthouse square, Main Street, between Rogers & College Streets, circa 1903. A bustling day in downtown Waxahachie.

By 1902 the company owned 2.71 miles of track in operation. Five cars-three open passenger and two closed passenger and one work car operated along the line. These cars were pulled by seventeen mules. The company listed the one car barn as property of the line. During 1902 the company extended its line .11 mile eastward along Sycamore to the new building of Trinity University. For the year ending June 30, 1902 the line transported 70,244 passengers.

LAKE PARK STREET RAILWAY COMPANY

Waxahachie's second mule car line, the Lake Park Street Railway Company, was chartered by the state on May 18, 1891.

In the same month the city council of Waxahachie approved an application of this company to operate on the streets of Waxahachie. They requested fifty year permission and tax exemption for five years beginning January 1, 1892. Directors of this company were E. H. Griffin, R. Vickery, F. M. Dannelly, J.C. Smith, J. F. Dunlap, L. H. Peters, J. C. Fears, W. E. Coleman and W.F. Lewis. The company was authorized to operate over the following streets: Washington, College Street, College Avenue, Oldham, Kaufman, Marvin, Vickery, Rogers, McMillan, Water, Franklin, Elm, Main, Jefferson, Monroe, Williams, Farley and Jackson Streets. Through the remainder of the year the Lake Park Railway Company tracks were laid.

In December the city gave the company permission to erect a waiting room shelter at Oldham and College Streets where the two street railways ran side by side. A similar structure was built at the corner of Oldham and Kaufman Streets.

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The Lake Park Railway tracks extended from the car barn at the end of Vickery Street (East Marvin) down Marvin and Kaufman Streets to Oldham where the tracks turned right and extended to College Street where they turned south along College and Washington Streets (South College) to the MKT depot.

During the period 1892-95 the company's property was valued at about $5,000 for tax purposes. The number of mules and horses ranged from seven to twelve during this time. The track mileage was 2.03 miles and the company operated four cars along the line.

By 1894 the Lake Park line was heavily in debt. It had mortgaged the line to cover an indebtedness of $4,500 which it could not pay and thereby defaulted on the debt. As a result of the default, the company was sold at public auction on the courthouse steps on March 5,1895 to Fount Ray who represented R. Vickery who headed a group which was to reorganize the company. All property which included the road, franchise, the land in East End, twelve mules, four cars, house and barn and other miscellaneous items, was sold for $5,000 in cash. The new investors met a few days after the sale in the office of Langsford and Phillips to perfect the organization of the company. The new stockholders for the company were R. Vickery, J. F. Strickland, J. F. Phillips, N. M. Musgraves, W. J. Owens, J. N. Langsford, V. H. Shelton, W. A. Martin, B. F. Thornhill, H. N. Nycum, W.F. Lewis, A. J. Kibler, A. P. Kidd, John Ralston, M. B. Templeton, T. J. Davis, J. H. Crouch, Mrs. Mattie Smith, C. L. Kidd, E. B. Kemble, W. H. Getzendaner, E. H. Griffin, R. L. Goodloe, J. H. Miller, Robert Dowdy, R.J. Phillips, John Olsen, W. P. Davenport, F. L. Stevenson, C.C. Wilson and W. E. Coleman.

The new company operated its cars in a profitable manner. Special census report records showed that in 1902 the line owned a total of 2.03 miles of track of which.06 miles were in sidings. It owned three closed passenger cars and one open car, plus one combination open-closed car. It owned no work cars. The record showed for the year following July 1, 1901, that the line carried 63,523 passengers. The report showed the one car barn but also listed that the line owned or operated a park. Possibly this could have been what remained of the old Ellis County Fairgrounds since the Fair Association property bordered the line's property. Records show that a race track and zoo were located at "east end park."

In late 1903 the Waxahachie Enterprise reported that a track was built across the north side of the public square from College Street to connect with the East Main Street track at the corner of the Citizens National Bank (present intersection of Rogers and Main Streets). This new track, about a block, connected the Waxahachie and Lake Park tracks, thus as reports indicate, both lines used each others' tracks. The picture showing the car in front of the city hall in 1906 was a Lake Park car so it might be assumed that Lake Park cars went to Chautauqua Park and Waxahachie cars went to the East End.

When the 1907 Special Census Report was made, only one report was made and that was by the Waxahachie Street Railway Company. Statistics for the Lake Park Line were included. This combined report showed the total track mileage for Waxahachie was 4.74 miles with .12 of that in sidings. The report shows that there had been no addition of track since 1902. According to the Texas Almanac, this was the total amount of track ever built in Waxahachie for mule car operations. At this time the company reported nine cars for the two companies-five closed cars and four open ones. No work car was reported. During the calendar year of 1907 there were 131,734 passengers reported as transported by the lines. The park at east end continued to be reported and only one car house was shown. Probably this one was the east end barn.

Waxahachie mule car street railway system providing public transportation for the city. Photo was shot near the present day intersection of Main & Elm Streets. Mule car is heading east on Main St, circa 1906.

In October of 1892 after Waxahachie had two mule-drawn street railways, the city passed an ordinance regulating the companies.

Cars were to be drawn at no greater speed than seven miles per hour and when a car turned a corner from one street to another, the mules were to be driven no faster than a walk. Conductors of the cars were charged with not allowing ladies or children to enter or leave the cars while they were moving. They were also encouraged to announce to passengers the names of streets or places where the cars connect or intersect any railroad tracks. Cars were also required to be provided with signal lights after sunset. They had oil or gas lamps for this purpose. Cars were not allowed to stop on a crosswalk or in front of any intersecting street except to avoid a collision or prevent danger to pedestrians. Violators of the ordinance provisions were subject to a fine of not more than $100.

The ordinance made it unlawful to "encumber, obstruct, throw or place or leave any impediment upon any street railroad..." or to disturb in any manner the car, switch, turntable, track or other property of the railroad without the owners' consent.

It was also unlawful "for any person or passenger in or upon any car or coach of any street railway company to use profane, vulgar, or abusive language or to be guilty of any indecent, lascivious or disorderly conduct, to smoke any pipe, cigar, cigarette or to drink any intoxicating liquor after being notified to desist." Fine for conviction of this type of misdemeanor was no less than one and no more than $100.

The cars operated from about dawn until nine or ten at night. The fare for a ride was five cents. The cars ran off of the tracks frequently but the conductor used a special tool to place the car back again. Young boys would hitch rides on the back of the cars until they were discovered and forced to get off.

Reports differ as to when the mule car lines discontinued service here. Some indicate 1912 and others 1913 or 1914. Witnesses are sure that the tracks from the MKT depot to the intersection of College and Main Streets were removed before the lines ended their service. One witness related that the tracks from Marvin Avenue to Oldham were removed a number of years before the lines ended service.

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James P. Griffin, who was reared in Waxahachie and was president of the Texas Electric Railway Company, recalled that the mule cars "continued up until practically the beginning of the operations of the electric cars." Texas Electric records showed that electric streetcar operations began with one car in December 20, 1913, and a second one on December 26, 1913.

The Daily Light reported on January 5, 1914, that the electric car track to the Chautauqua was to be completed on that date and as soon as poles were set and trolley wire could be strung, service to West End would start. Cars were already running regularly to Trinity and East End.

Postcard showing mule car and interurban car meeting. Photo was shot on North College Street in Waxahachie, ca 1913. Building left foreground is back of Curlin's (Trinity) Pharmacy.

A photograph of a mule car and the interurban on College Street has been verified as having been made in April of 1913. Another photograph taken on the public square pictured a mule car, an interurban and the new Rogers Hotel. This hotel was completed and opened in early April of 1913.

It appears from the evidence available that the mule car lines discontinued in 1913 some time between April and the end of the year.

It was years after the line discontinued operations that their business was finally completed. In September of 1919, J. N. Langsford, president of the Lake Park Company who was empowered to "finally wind up" the affairs of the company, sold the land, a little over 17 acres, and the barn area at East End to G. W. Coleman. The sale should have completed the affairs of the company even though its charter was not forfeited until 1941.

Affairs of the Waxahachie Street Railway Company were completed in 1931 when the company's property in the West End was sold at public auction to R. W. Getzendaner after a court ruling on default of a note. The company's charter had been forfeited in 1920.

The mule cars of Waxahachie have interested many people who have heard of them. They were an important chapter in the story of Waxahachie.

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