Baylor University Poage Library

McLennan County - Before 1980

McLennan County - Before 1980 CoverAbout the Book: McLennan County - Before 1980

McLennan County, in East Central Texas, was organized in August of 1850, with Waco as the county seat. Formed from portions of the earlier and larger Robertson and Milam Counties, it is bisected by the Brazos River, and the three forks of the Bosque converge to form Lake Waco. One reason why our Texas counties were not made larger, back in those early days (there are 254 counties), was to enable any resident to travel to the county seat and return home, if necessary, in a single day.
Named for the sturdy Scot pioneer Neil McLennan, this county's history has been remarkable for its cavalcade of uncommon people and events. Its fertile river valleys assured an abundant agriculture, shared in economic importance with livestock and ranching. And since about 1940 it has experienced substantial development in industry as well.
William Robert "Bob" Poage has roots deep in McLennan County soil. For more than forty years he represented the citizens of this District and County, in the halls and committee rooms of the U.S. Congress at Washington, with a never-flagging dedication to agriculture. His father and grandfathers before him were cattlemen. It is easy to conjecture that Bob Poage just might have been a cattleman himself -and an enthusiastic and successful one -had he not listened quite so attentively to his early call to public office. To this volume of Central Texas history he brings the accumulation of a lifetime of the keenest interest and observation.

About the Author

William Robert (Bob) Poage, of Waco, McLennan County, Texas, was born in that city on December 28,1899, son of William A. and Helen Conger Poage; spent his childhood and received his first education in Throckmorton County, Texas; attended Baylor University, the University of Colorado, and the University of Texas, receiving his A.B. and LL.B. degrees from Baylor (LL.D. from Baylor in 1967); received L.H.D. from Mary Hardin-Baylor College in 1973; was admitted to the bar in 1924, and practiced in Waco until elected to Congress; member of the Texas House of Representatives 1925-29 and of the Texas State Senate 1931-37; member of the American Legion; married Frances L. Cotton on February 14, 1938; was elected to the 75th Congress in 1936 and re-elected to each succeeding Congress; has served as a member of the American Delegation to the Interparliamentary Union since 1947; Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, 90th-93rd Congresses; Vice Chairman, 82nd-89th Congresses, 94th Congress.

The Author's Service in Congress

When Mr. Poage came to Congress in the 75th Congress, he was assigned to four committees: (1) Census (2) Immigration and Naturalization (3) War Claims and (4) Claims. In the 76th Congress he served on these four committees and in addition, was appointed to two additional committees: Flood Control and the District Committee.
On being appointed to the House Committee on Agriculture at the beginning of the 77th Congress, he left all these committees, and has served on the House Committee on Agriculture solely.
In 1953 Mr. Poage became Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture in which capacity he served for 14 years. He was Chairman of three subcommittees (Conservation and Credit, Livestock and Feed Grains and Foreign Agricultural Operations) from their creation in 1955 until the end of 1966.
Mr. Poage served as Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture from 1967-74, and in 1975 was elected Vice Chairman of the Agriculture Committee (he had previously been Vice Chairman from 1953-66). In January 1979 he retired from Congress after 42 years of service to the llth Congressional District. At present he is associated with the W. R. Poage Legislative Library Center at Baylor University.

McLennan Area 200 years ago

The River (los Brazos de Dios), was there. The prairies and the wild game was there. A few redmen roamed the trackless valleys. There were no roads, no lakes, no cities or towns, but the springs bubbled and the streams ran clear. There were no farms, but the prairie grass grew stirrup high.

McLennan County in 1980

The Brazos is dammed but the "Arms of God" still flow and bring lifegiving water to man and beast. Most of the springs are dry and the creeks flow only after rain. The wild game and the redmen are gone. There are rails and roads with bridges across the streams. The prairies are here but they grow more wheat, oats, cotton and maize than Bluestem grass. Most of the people live in cities and towns and do not know their next door neighbors.


George Poage and his wife, Julia Simms Poage, came to McLennan County in 1865. They had lived in the Shenandoah Valley of Augusta County, Virginia before the war. They were well-to-do land owners. He was a captain in Stewart's Confederate Cavalry. After the Civil War they were penniless. They came to Texas in a wagon and farmed some of the very poor, rocky land near the present cement plant. They never acquired much property in Texas.
Harvey E. Conger and his wife, La Vantia Wheeler Conger, were younger children of farm families of Knox County, Illinois. He was a private in the Federal Army. He marched with Grant into Vicksburg and then with Sherman from Atlanta to the Sea. In 1871 he followed his older brothers to Texas. When they felt that the land was not worth the cost of prolonged litigation, he moved on to the eleven league Rabijo grant in the northwest part of the county. After twenty years he cleared the title, but like so many early settlers, did not live to see it become valuable.
These four people were my grandparents. They represented vastly different backgrounds, but they were all pioneers in a new land and contributed to making it a great land.
I dedicate this work to their memory.


No one individual alone can ever hope to write the entire history of a great group of people. While this book is not a complete history of McLennan County it more nearly approaches that goal by reason of the assistance extended the author by many different individuals. It will be impossible to name each one but I feel I must recognize a few who helped.
Roger Conger knows more local history than any other person. In addition, he has a fine collection of historical items and pictures. He has been most generous and helpful. He furnished many of the pictures contained herein, and he arranged much help needed to publish the book. Katherine Holstead contributed her skill to the typing of the early chapters.
John Dudley has given freely of his time to draft and redraft many of the maps used in the book.
Many newspaper publishers over the county have supplied helpful articles of local history. Special thanks go to John Selman of Mart; to Thomas Mooney of McGregor, and to Bob Lott of the daily papers of Waco.
The personnel of the "Texas Collection" of Baylor University have given assistance over a long period. I am especially indebted to Kent Keeth, the director, and to his assistants, Mrs. Ellen Kuniyuki Brown and to Mrs. Virginia Ming.
Senator John Tower, and Miss Mattie McKee of his office, and Congressman Marvin Leath, and Mrs. Chloe Johnson of his office, have helped secure date from the Federal government.
District Judge Bill Logue and County Judge Bob Thomas have extended helpful cooperation along with former Commissioner Karl May.
City Manager David Smith, Chamber of Commerce Manager Wade Terrell, and Highway Engineer Brooks Eavens have all been helpful.
Gardiner Lennard of Home Abstract Company has furnished assistance which was invaluable in regard to early land titles.
Dr. Hudson Long, Dr. Bruce Thompson, Dr. Robert Miller and his wife, Professor Ann Miller, Dr. Oliver T. Hayward, Mr. James Rogers, and others of the Baylor faculty have assisted in reading and correcting parts of the book. No one of these individuals has reviewed the book in its entirety, so no one of them can be held responsible for any of the errors the reader may find. The author must accept that responsibility.
Bob Davis of Davis Brothers Publishing Company has given help and advice entirely apart from his position as publisher.
Many other individuals have supplied specific information and certain pictures. Steve Gibson, and my brother, Scott A. Poage, have each taken photos for use in the history. My thanks go to all of them. Without their help there would have been no book.
Finally, books of this character rarely pay the cost of production. The Cooper Foundation has generously assumed a substantial part of the cost of publishing in the hope that it would make the book available at a somewhat lower price and hence to a larger part of our people.
To each and all of the above and to the dozens who typed, corrected, and assisted, I extend my sincere thanks.
W. R. Poage


The current history of McLennan County is being enacted every day and is being written and portrayed every morning by the press, radio and T.V. Hopefully, the events of tomorrow will be better recorded than those of yesterday. Much of the history of the past has already been lost. Fortunately, Roger Conger has preserved a magnificent collection of pictures of Waco in his A Pictorial History of Waco. There have been others-William H. Curry in A History of Early Waco, Allan D. Sanford and William Sleeper in The Bench and the Bar of McLennan County, Mrs. Maurice Barnes in Early Homes of Waco, and Dayton Kelley in his Handbook of Waco and McLennan County, Texas. All of these have been helpful, but there are still great blanks in how our people lived and what motivated them prior to 1980. This volume leaves many of these pages blank, but it does make some effort to help the citizen of today to understand the origins of the problems with which they must deal.
This book is definitely not a genealogical index, nor does it undertake to name all the heroes of the frontier. There were far too many for a volume of this size. It does give a short sketch of some of those who helped make county history. But, no one paid to have his name included. Many deserving of mention are not included. These sketches are intended only to give a better understanding of the type of people who developed the county.
This is not a complete history of our county. It contains errors. It omits important items. It is hoped that future writers will correct some of the errors and add to the facts assembled. In an effort to help future historians, you are invited to write corrections, additions and comments to "County History, W. R. Poage Legislative Library, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, 76798" where they will be made available to interested parties. Discussions of community development will be especially helpful, as will the location of early post offices.
This book is copyrighted for the protection of the publisher, but should any future historian care to quote from it, this is written permission to do so. If this book inspires a serious public interest in local history, it will have served a needed and intended purpose.
W. R. Poage


  2. vTHANKS
  3. viiFOREWORD
  5. 1CHAPTER ONE:Geology
  6. 11CHAPTER TWO: Pre-History Inhabitants
  7. 20CHAPTER THREE: Overseas Decisions
  8. 32CHAPTER FOUR: Pioneers And Revolution
  9. 39CHAPTER FIVE: Settlement And Progress
  10. 53CHAPTER SIX: War And Reconstruction
  11. 64CHAPTER SEVEN: Cattle
  12. 80CHAPTER EIGHT: Land Titles
  13. 87CHAPTER NINE: Railroads
  14. 101CHAPTER TEN: Other Transportation
  15. 113CHAPTER ELEVEN: King Cotton
  16. 128CHAPTER TWELVE: Churches
  17. 141CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Schools
  18. 158CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Politics And Politicians (At the State Level)
  19. 179CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Politics And Politicians (At the Local Level)
  20. 189CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Violence
  21. 197CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Urban Development (In Waco)
  22. 234CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Community Development (Over the County)
  23. 272CHAPTER NINETEEN: Post Offices
  24. 279INDEX

List of Illustrations

  1. 3Dip of Rocks and Dip of Surface
  2. 5Generalized Geological Cross Section of McLennan County
  3. 7Geological Outcroping in McLennan County
  4. 10Second Courthouse
  5. 12A Bend in the Brazos
  6. 12Location of Indian Tribes in McLennan County about 1830
  7. 19Model of House of Waco Indians
  8. 21Colonial Empires
  9. 21State of Coahuila and Texas
  10. 33The Republic of Texas
  11. 38Early Leaders
  12. 42Settlers
  13. 52Earliest Developments in McLennan County
  14. 54Three Harrison Brothers
  15. 58Civil War Leaders
  16. 63Cattle-a trail herd
  17. 68Cattle Trails
  18. 74H J Caufield
  19. 74W A Poage
  20. 78Long Horn
  21. 79Land Grants Along Brazos River
  22. 85Land Titles
  23. 88Railroads
  24. 91Early Freight Train
  25. 91Vintage Train
  26. 93Texas Special
  27. 93Santa Fe Passenger Train
  28. 100Interurban
  29. 103McLennan County Highways
  30. 106Other Transportation
  31. 112W W Callan
  32. 112Jack Kultgen
  33. 121Cotton
  34. 125Houses of the Cotton Era
  35. 126,12719th Century Homes
  36. 132, 133Churches
  37. 140Baylor University
  38. 147Schools
  39. 161Politics (State)
  40. 188Politics (Local)
  41. 196Major Waco Thoroughfares
  42. 199Seat of Government
  43. 226, 227Unforseen Disasters
  44. 232, 233Entertainment
  45. 271Post Offices