Mapping Waco: A Brief History | 1845-1913
The maps in this exhibit span nearly 70 years of significant growth and development in the City of Waco. The earliest map of Waco (1869) owned by The Texas Collection is likely the second map of the city. If anyone has the original 1850 map of Waco Village, please contact The Texas Collection. The bottom of the map reads, “Waco Village County Seat of McLennan County.” We would like to borrow and digitize the map, so it can be shared with the Waco Community. Call The Texas Collection at 254.710.1268 or email email@example.com if you would like to share or donate this map or other maps of early Waco and Texas.
Waco, a city of approximately 125,000 people, is set in the heart of Central Texas, along the Brazos River. This juncture of abundant water and a natural north-south trail along the Balcones Fault (right about the I35 corridor) was the home of the Waco Indians.
What is now the City of Waco was used by the Waco Indians until 1839, when George B. Erath and former Texas Ranger Neil McLennan came to the area and began surveying for a town. Their survey work continued through 1841. By 1844, the Torrey & Brothers Trading Post on nearby Tehuacana Creek was in operation and managed by co-owner George B. Barnard. In 1845, Neil McLennan decided to join Barnard nearby on a piece of land near the Bosque River. Other homesteaders soon followed Barnard and McLennan such as Sarah Ann Walker, widow of Jacob Walker who died at the Alamo. Blacksmith Jesse Sutton arrived in 1846 on the east bank of the Brazos River and bought land near a group of Cherokee Indians.
As the area seemed peaceful, other settlers soon joined the fledgling river community. Thomas Hudson Barron purchased 320 acres on the east side of the Brazos in 1847. Former Texas Ranger Shapley Prince Ross established a home near Sutton’s blacksmith shop. The community truly began to take shape when land dealer Jacob De Cordova began selling plots of land for one dollar per acre.
Surveying the Town
De Cordova provided the initial plans and proposed the name of “Lamartine” for the village. Erath was opposed to the name and thought it should be something based on its historic roots, such as “Waco.” The village was formed March 1, 1849 and the name was finally agreed upon as Waco on May 5. From this time on, Waco was on the map. The lots quickly sold for an average price of ten dollars per lot and two to three dollars per acre for farm lots.
Sources Consulted for This Exhibit:
Kelley, Dayton, ed. The Handbook of Waco and McLennan County. Waco, Texas: Texian Press, 1972.
Texas State Historical Association. The New Handbook of Texas, Volumes 1-6. Austin, Texas: State Historical Association, 1996.
Texas State Historical Association. Texas Almanac 2012-2013. Denton, Texas: Texas State Historical Association, 2012.
Wallace, Patricia Ward. Waco: Texas Crossroads. Woodland Hills, Ca.: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1983.
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Exhibit 01: Map of Texas from the most recent authorities
This hand-colored early map of Texas pinpoints the location of “Waco Village” on the Brazos River in 1845, right about the time Neil McLennan and his family settled on the nearby Bosque River. McLennan is considered the first Western European settler of Waco. Note that Waco Village is still locatedin Milam County and that the county stretches several hundred miles north and beyond the Red River.
Exhibit 02: Waco Village County Seat of McLennan County
This inset of an 1869 Waco City map depicts the first streets, blocks, and lots of Waco Village as surveyed by Erath and De Cordova 1849-1850. West is the direction at the top of the map and north is on the right, with the Brazos River as the boundary. Main Street (later renamed Austin Avenue) runs into the Public Square and is situated north to south. The streets are laid out running east to west as River Avenue (later renamed River Street), First, Second, Third, Fourth Streets and Prince Street (later renamed Fifth). The Streets running north to south are Columbus, Washington, Main, Franklin, and Mary. The population of the village was approximately 72 people.
Exhibit 03: J. De Cordova's Map of the State of Texas
De Cordova’s map of Texas illustrates expansion and change in the area from the earlier 1845 map. McLennan County has been carved out of Milam County and named for Neil McLennan. “Waco Village” is listed on the map as the county seat and Torrey’s Trading Post is located on Tehuacana Creek. Several new counties were established since the earlier map, including Bell and Falls to the south, Hill to the north, and Limestone County to the east. Look carefully at McLennan’s northwestern boundar ;, it is not defined and pushes far north into what would later become Bosque County. By the endof the 1850s the population of Waco was estimated at 749.
Exhibit 04: Map of Waco City and Vicinity by W.A. Taylor & D. Beall | 1869
Waco continued to develop after the Civil War. The population grew at a steady rate to 3,008, nearly three times its size from a decade earlier. Construction began on the Waco Suspension Bridge in 1868 and is depicted on this map. The bridge spans the Brazos at 475 feet and opens January 7, 1870. Look at the legend on the right-hand side of the map, and note EC-Episcopal Church located on block 26 and FM-Flour Mill located on the River Block next to the Brazos River. At the south end of First Street, outside of the downtown area are three cemeteries, the Odd Fellows, the Masonic, and the City Cemetery.
Exhibit 05: Bird's Eye View of the City of Waco
This black and white detailed map of the City of Waco provides a fascinating two-dimensional perspective compared to the flat map of four years earlier. The city is beautifully represented and landmarks such as the courthouse, churches, Waco Suspension Bridge, and Waco University are visible. There is a list of 15 references at the bottom of the map. The map’s view is from the north looking across the Brazos River to the south. You can see people, animals, wagons, gardens, and trees, as well as streams and bridges. At the printing of this map, cattle would have been herded north on the Chisholm Trail across the Waco Suspension Bridge and on to Fort Worth. In 1871, 600,000-700,000 head of cattle used the Chisholm Trail.
Exhibit 06: Map of East Waco
C.H. Leland’s hand-drawn map is oriented with the top of the map facing north. The streets are clearly listed with names of trees such as Myrtle, Locust, Peach, and Plum. When surveyed, the streets should have been 75 feet wide and the alleys 20 feet wide. This is the first map of East Waco that isknown to exist. The depot for Northwestern Railroad was located at the bottom of the map right off Bridge Street. East Waco officially becomes part of Waco in 1871. By 1880, the population of the city had nearly doubled to 7,295.
Exhibit 07: Waco, Texas. County Seat of McLennan Co. map
Compare this bird's eye map with the earlier 1873 map. The growth of the city was remarkable. The population was listed as 16,000. In 1870, just 13 years earlier it was listed at 3,008. The core of the city - Washington, Austin, Franklin, Mary, and Jackson Streets and First through Sixth Streets -depicts a bustling urban center with schools, churches, retail, and manufacturing businesses. At the corner of Fifth and Webster is Waco University. There are even 18 private residences listed in the legend at the bottom right of the map. Over the Brazos River there were three bridges, two railroadbridges and the Waco Suspension Bridge for pedestrian and commercial traffic. The perspective is from the north looking to the south.
Exhibit 08: Official Map of the City of Waco and Suburbs. Compiled from Official Records and Surveys by Stephen Turner, C.E.
This is a detailed map of a growing, vibrant city. The perspective is from the east looking west, with north on your right. The direction is not true west but on an angle of south west, with the Brazos River on the right. This map has exceptional detail with 1 inch equal to 600 feet. Existing namedneighborhoods and newly established neighborhoods are both listed, with the new neighborhoods shaded in green. Railroads, major businesses, government buildings, and educational institutions are provided. On the corner of Fifth and Speight Streets is newly relocated Baylor University. This was also the first map to list the Artesian wells in the city. The map identifies farmland in the areas surrounding the city. It is worth noting that the 1886 Bird’s Eye map lists the population of Waco at 16,000 and the 1890 U.S. Population Census lists the population at just 14,445
Exhibit 09: Farwell Heights Addition to Waco on College Heights
This is an example of a detailed map of a new neighborhood in west Waco. The date is likely 1889-1890. The lots are colored in green and the Waco Female College is located in the center square. A larger picture of the college is provided in the lower left-hand corner. This is a working map used in the field as evidenced by the hand-written notes. In the lower right-hand corner is the phrase “proposed electric streetcar line up Herring Ave.” Look for the Farwell Addition on the 1891 Map of Waco. See exhibit #8.
Exhibit 10: A Map of Baylor Addition to Waco
Located on the east side of Waco was this compact neighborhood of a few blocks. It can be found on the 1891 Map of Waco, number 66. The map is in poor condition from heavy use. Compare this map and the Farwell Heights Map from a marketing perspective. The Farwell Heights map was clearly used to sell blocks of land.
Exhibit 11: Map of Waco, Texas and suburbs
This fold-out, pocket-style map of Waco was printed twenty-two years after the last major map of Waco in 1891. The city changed dramatically during those two decades. Cameron Park was deeded to the City of Waco in 1910 by the Cameron Family. It appears on the map near the Brazos River. PaulQuinn College is shown directly on Elm Street in East Waco. The Cotton Palace is located between Clay and Dutton Streets and 13th and 15th Streets. Transportation within the city was convenient using the local streetcar. There was also an interurban connection with Dallas that is shown headingnorth out of the city. The Huaco Club and Golf Links were at the edge of the Arlington neighborhood on the left-hand side of the map. Note the expansion of neighborhoods along both sides of the Brazos River. By 1910, Waco’s population had grown to 26,425. This is the last map in the exhibit. The other Waco maps owned by The Texas Collection begin after 1923.