Old Southern Pacific
by Wyvonne Putman
Originally published in "The
Navarro County Scroll", Vol. XXI 1979
Reprinted with permission of the Navarro
County Historical Society
Created through struggles
of influence and power, the railroad tied together isolated
villages, opening the way for commerce. The history of the
Southern Pacific Railroad is a paradigm of the history of Texas.
The railroad depot is
perhaps the most eminently recognizable of all American buildings.
Sometimes the depot builder constructed a shrine to reflect
grandeur such as the Vanderbilt statue found at Grand Central
Station. A source of pride, the stations many times
were edifices of massive confections of brick and stone. In
the Eastern states, some of the greatest architects of the day
build the depots.
The Southern Pacific depot
in Corsicana was built in 1895. Each brick is stamped
"Corsicana" and was made by the Whiteselle Brick and
J. E. Whiteselle was born
in Obion County, Tennessee, December 31, 1851. He moved to
Neches, Texas at the age of 18 and made his home with his aunt,
Mrs. P. W. Ezell, whose husband was a lumberman and
merchant. Whiteselle excelled in penmanship and he
filled all the lumber shipments. One order went to F. W.
Carruthers of Corsicana. Mr. Carruthers inquired about the
shipping clerk which ultimately brought J. E. Whiteselle to
Corsicana in 1875. He was young, energetic and had a good
business ability. It was not long until J. E. Whiteselle was
the owner of the company. Mr. Whiteselle was devoted to
helping people. His interests were varied. He was
owner of Whiteselle Brick and Lumber Company, which manufactured
and sold brick and lumber on a large scale. He was a large
stock holder in the following: Central Texas Grocery Company,
Royall Coffee Company, Fortson-Polk Grocery Company, Corsicana
Cotton Mills, various banks including the First National Bank of
Corsicana. He also helped in developing oil in Corsicana and
was one of the organizers of the Texas Lumberman Association,
serving as president in 1911 to 1912. He died December 31,
1915. Whiteselle Brick and Lumber Company is owned by
On December 16, 1836, the
Texas Railroad Navigation and Banking Company obtained the first
charter in Texas, issued by the Republic of Texas. It was
never constructed. This was followed, in 1838, by the
Houston, Brazos and Galveston, who contracted 3,000 cedar or oak
ties in 1840. This charter was secured from the Republic of
Texas as Harrisburg Railroad and Trading Company, January 9, 1841.
While never built, the railroad made a preliminary survey to the
Pacific Ocean by way of El Paso and San Diego over the route later
surveyed by the Army engineers and ultimately used by the Southern
During the ten years Texas
was a republic, 1836 - 1846, three railroad charters were issued
but the whistle of a locomotive was not heard until 1851.
The Buffalo, Bayou Brazos
and Colorado, BBB&C, was the first railroad in Texas and
ultimately a link in the southern Pacific Sunset Route.
In May of 1851 the
BBB&C was first in Texas and second west of the Mississippi
river. That same year a surveyor, John H. Williams, arrived
from Boston to lay out the route. He chose Harrisburg (now a
part of Houston but then a bitter rival) for the starting point
and set the gauge of tracks at 8 feet 8 1/2 inches. The
gauge of track set in 1851 became the standard gauge and used by
By 1855 the BBB&C had
reached the Brazos, 30 miles away.
Another Texas line deeply
embedded in the Southern Pacific was the Houston and Texas
Central, which started life as the Galveston and Red River
Railway. It was chartered in 1848, however the rails were
not built until much later. Therefore, the BBB&C won the
right of blowing the first locomotive whistle in Texas.
The Houston and Texas
Central Railroad, H&TCRR was the first railroad to merge from
the financial demoralization of the Civil War. In 1868
construction was resumed.
In 1871 the H&TCCR
reached Corsicana. A committee led by Alexander Beaton,
worked diligently securing the right of way and contributions.
A spirit of progress was awakened within a short time. The
railroad officers were welcomed by Col. C. M.
Alexander Beaton was born
in Inverness, Scotland in 1820. He moved to America in 1843
and settled in Navarro County on March 16, 1850. Corsicana
had a population of some 100 in 1850. Major Beaton worked in
the county clerk's office under R. N. White studying law at night.
After receiving his law degree he and R. Q. Mills became law
partners. In 1852 Major Beaton married Miss Elizabeth J.
McKinney. His home was located in south Corsicana on a hill
which became known as Gem Hill. Major Beaton discovered many
beautiful gems which became a part of the famous Gem Hill
Efforts to locate this
collection have been fruitless. Historical records indicate
the collection was donated to a state museum in Austin many years
Beaton Street was named
for Alexander Beaton because of his work in securing the railroad
for the citizens of Corsicana. He died in 1899.
Two passengers on the
historic train in 1871 were destined to become giants in the
mercantile business. Alex and Phillip Sanger built the first
Sanger Brothers store in Corsicana. The store was located at
101 North Beaton. According to the late Carl Mirus,
historian, the Sanger Brothers safe was found when the store was
tore down. Also, Mr. Mirus said on one anniversary, the
Dallas Sanger store ran an ad in the Corsicana Daily Sun
requesting anything from the first store. The Dallas store
displayed the exhibit during the celebration.
State National Bank is located on the site of Sanger Brothers
store in Corsicana.
One of the early towns of
Navarro County was named for C. M.
Winkler. Winkler is
situated in the southeastern part of the county near the Trinity
River. Capt. Winkler was born in North Carolina in 1820.
He moved to the McKinney Inn in Corsicana in 1847. He
married the widow of Thomas L. Smith, Mary Louisa Smith, in 1848.
He was elected a member of the Second Legislature of Texas and
assisted in the organization of Navarro County. Capt.
Winkler recruited the Navarro Rifles in the spring of 1861.
They trained at a camp near Spring Hill, Navarro County. His
company was the first to be formed in the county in response to
President Davis' call for three regiments of volunteer infantry
from Texas and was the first to leave the country for active
service. Capt. Winkler was promoted to Lt. Col. April 29,
1864. The Navarro Rifles consisted of 127 officers and
Returning to Navarro
County, Col. Winkler was appointed Judge of the 13th District in
1866. In 1876 he became a judge in the Court of Appeals.
He was a Mason and a member of the Methodist Episcopal church.
He died in 1882 and is buried in Oakwood
Cemetery, a part of the
original 100 acres deeded to Corsicana in 1848.
On June 9, 1894, Corsicana
signed a contract with Johnson, Aiken and Rittersbaker to drill a
water well. This well was drilled on South 12th Street.
Oil was struck at 1,035 feet, producing 2 1/2 barrels a day.
The city fathers were very disgusted; they wanted water, not oil.
Two months after mayor Jim Evans' term had expired, his contract
was to change history. Mayor Evans was mayor from April 1892 to
1894. He procured the 1600 pound fire bell which was big
enough and loud enough to summon all fire fighters in Corsicana.
This beautiful old fire bell stands proudly in front of the
Corsicana Fire Department today. It was preserved through
the efforts of Fire Chief Duane Womack and the Navarro County
Historical Society in 1975.
February 1899 Standard Oil
Southwest Marketing handled products from the Corsicana
A local office was opened with Aaron P. Robinson as general
The first shipment of oil
created visions never to be forgotten for that special group of
citizens who had shared the responsibility that was to designate
Corsicana home of the first commercial oil field west of the
Mississippi. The Southern Pacific railroad played a vital role in
the oil story of Corsicana.
The predominance of the
depot in the community is gone forever. Once the hub and
heart, these transient buildings are revered in memory.
Virtually everyone over forty, born in a small town, has fond
memories of the depot.
W. H. Ford said the
Southern Pacific railroad was more than a railroad. He
called it "the most diversified transportation system in the
United States." The Southern Pacific depot agent ruled
and he was a formidable figure. He brought the news first,
sold tickets, manhandled freight on and off cars, mastered the
intricacies of baggage checks and waybills. The drummers
(salesmen) passed their stories and complaints to the agent.
The Malloy Hotel in
Corsicana was located on Commerce Street and was a favorite place
for the drummers. News, mail, Sears Roebuck catalogues,
strangers, relatives, new school teachers, scandalls, the
all were a part of the story of the railroad. The financiers
who played a large role in filling the West with railroads range
from honest supersalesmen like Jay Cooke to unscrupulous
manipulators like Jay Gould, whose policy was "I don't build
railroads, I buy them", to America's most powerful banker, J.
The Historical Society
wishes to preserve this heritage for future generations.