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Electricity Comes to Ellis County

By Robert Johnson

Contributed by Jean Caddel

 

The first recorded effort to bring electricity to the town of Waxahachie was on December 9, 1887 when a group of local citizens met in the offices of Messers Groce and Templeton to consider a proposition from a Mr. Clower of Dallas and others to establish a light plant in the city. Mr. Clower estimated the cost of the plant at $10,000, and the cost of a singe light for offices, residences, etc, from $1.00 to $2,00 per month, depending upon the time the light was kept burning.

At this meeting, Messrs, J. C. Gibson, O. E. Dunlap, M. B. Templeton, T, R. Anderson, R. G. Phillips, W. F. Lewis and Walter Kemble were named as a committee to canvas the matter and solicit subscriptions of stock and lamps. The survey indicated the venture would be a success, and the proposed name of the company was to be The Waxahachie Light, Power and Water Company.

No further action was taken until later that month when Clower visited Waxahachie again to meet with Judge Templeton and W. F. Lewis. At that meeting it was decided to solicit subscriptions for stock totalling $50,000 in shares of $50 each. The committee appointed to solicit subscriptions was made up of J. F. Strictland, T, R. Anderson, J. E. Lancaster and O. E. Dunlap.

Electricity Blamed for Weather

Electricity, being a mysterious new force not understood by the average person, naturally aroused considerable suspicion and anxiety, and not infrequently it, along with other new developmens, received some or all of the credit for local or national catastrophies. In the fall of 1889, after a seige of heavy rain storms through the nation, many persons attributed the meteorogical storms in part to the large amount of electricity generated by the numerous dynamos in operation, and to the new locomotives then crossing the country.

Manager C. T. Nail of the Texas Power and Light Company, supervises a 1914 Model "T" Roadster hauling a telephone pole through Waxahachie.

In this connection the Waxahachie Enterprise, September 6, 1889, carried the following story relating to an article which had appeared in New York.

A Star reporter interviewed Mr. West of New American Electrical and Light Company, relative to the cause of the heavy rains and in response to questions about the dynamo electric effects upon the elements said "I cannot see how the electricity generated by the dynamos could affect the elements sufficiently to induce the falling of such heavy rains as we have had in late. People of Nebraska and other Western states argue that such an enormous quantity of steel rails laid over thousands of miles of surface in the United States have, in great measure exercised an influence in the elements through their power of extracting heat and conveying the same over a great expanse of territory, the rails also acting as a perfect chain of lightning rods. It is also claimed by many agriculturalists that steam generated locomotives and the great velocity of railroad trains in traversing the country have much to do with changing the electric current. Of course I cannot from a scientific standpoint, authoritatively speak as to absolute truthfulness of such statements."

At first there was considerable skepticism in Waxahachie regarding the practicality of an electric plant. While many citizens expressed interest in such a venture, money was hard to get and very little progress was evident for several years. Mr. Clower and his associates temporarily withdrew their proposition to the dismay of many local citizens.

In the spring of 1890, Messrs, Clowder, Harris and Moffit, of Dallas, renewed their negotiations, and on May 16, of that year, the City granted a franchise for five years to the Waxahachie Electric Light Company, a move which the Waxahachie Enterprise referred to as "a step which should be hailed by our people with enthusiasm as it is one more step in the upward progress of the City."

Three months later the dream of a light plant became a reality, and the newspaper commented as follows,

"The people were tired of groping through darkness splashing through holes, colliding with men, horses and vehicles and at last some of our enterprising citizens got together and said:

"Let there be light." As a consequence, last Saturday night ushered in a new era in the city’s history. "And there was light." As the shades of evening began to hover over the city the electrical current was sent out and incandescent lights grew brighter, and the people thronged the streets to witness the inauguration of the light system.

The young company, however, found the going difficult Investors shied away from the new fad.: and so did the J. F. Strickland customers, especially when all 50 of them wanted to turn on their lights at the same time and found they would not burn.

After two years of these conditions, a group of friends with money invested in Waxahachie Electric Company, persuaded J. F. Strickland to take over its management. Mr. Strickland who had come to Waxahachie in 1884, and, after an unsuccessful venture in the grocery business, had developed a profitable business operating ice plants in Waxahachie and several other Central Texas towns.

Strickland moved his family to Dallas in 1904, where he and his associates organized the Dallas Securities Company, with capital stock of $1,000,000, its purpose being to handle securities and advance funds for the promotion of industrial enterprises in Texas.

In 1908, the Dallas Securities Company bought the electric plant at Cleburne, and later on the plant at Temple. (They then owned separate electrical companies and power plants) across Texas in Bonham, Cleburne, Hillsboro, Sherman, Temple, Waco and Waxahachie.

Soon Strickland was considering connecting the systems together to save money. After consulting with General Electric, a survey was done to build a long distance electrical transmission line from Waco into the Dallas Area. Unfortunately at that time there was no law in Texas under which the right of eminent domain could be granted to a utility company desiring to build an electric transmission line. Mr. Strickland took up the matter with state authorities. In 1911, the Texas legislature passed an act liberalizing corporate laws to permit the creation of a corporation to provide both gas and electrical service.

On 25 May 1912, the separate electrical companies controlled by Strickland and his friends were combined into the Texas Power and light Company, now T.U. Electric. T.U. Electric is the main provider of electricity to most of North Central Texas.

In 1913. Texas Power and Light began constructing transmission lines to connect the towns it served. The initial construction program included a 60,000 volt line from Waco through Hillsboro to Fort Worth and from Hillsboro through Waxahachie to Ferris and from Ferris north to Trinity Heights and from Ferris to Corsicanna. These lines connected Alvarado, Ennis, Ferris, Grandview, Italy, Itasca. Trinity Heights and West which had some previous electrical service and brought electricity to Alma, Joshua and Milford.

In 1914 T. P. & L. Built the state’s first rural line from Waxahachie to Lancaster which also served Red Oak and Sterrett. The next year lines were built out of Ennis, Ferris, Italy and Temple.


 

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