Mapping Waco: A Brief History | 1845-1913


Welcome to the digital component of “Mapping Waco: A Brief History, 1845-1913,” presented by The Texas Collection and the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections.

The maps in this collection represent the changing landscape of Waco from its earliest days in the mid-1800s to the boom years of the late 1910s. Selections include bird’s-eye views of the city drawn in the late 19th century; illustrated maps of new additions and suburbs; and blue lines of individual plats on Waco city streets.



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 if you would like to share or donate this map or other maps of early Waco and Texas.


Early History

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.
Rights Notice
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Mapping Waco: A Brief History | 1845-1913

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.