Saturday, January 24, 2009

This Week in Texas Methodist History January 25

Fort Worth and Denver Railroad Reaches Texline January 26, 1888

One of the main political disputes of the first decade of the 21st century has been the proposed Trans Texas Corridor. The modern proposal naturally brings to mind the three trans-Texas rail lines that were completed in the 1880s. Two of those rail corridors provided the pathway for the spread of Methodism in western Texas.

The first of the rail lines was the Southern Pacific which linked New Orleans with southern California. That route followed an older trail west from San Antonio to El Paso. Much of the territory through which it passed was inhospitable and not conducive to settlement. (Readers can use Highway 90 as a reference.) The second was the Texas and Pacific which roughly followed the old Butterfield Stage line. (Use Interstate 20 as a reference.) Unlike the Southern Pacific, the Texas and Pacific went through productive agricultural land. The result was an explosion of urban development. Cities were founded at regular intervals and a few older settlements moved to the rail lines to survive. The Methodist itinerant system of appointing circuit riders in advance of settlement worked well under such a settlement regime. Town site development companies were amenable to making lots available to the denominations, and Methodists took advantage of the opportunity.

The last of the three rail lines to traverse Texas in the 1880s was the Fort Worth and Denver which reached the New Mexico state line on January 26, 1888. That same year Bishop Hendrix held the Northwest Texas Conference at Weatherford. One of the actions of that conference was the creation of the Vernon District which embraced the Panhandle territory now served by the Fort Worth and Denver. There were twelve charges in that district, Vernon Station, Vernon Circuit, Childress, Throckmorton, Benjamin, Mangum (Greer County, OK), Clarendon, Farmer Circuit, Margaret, Estacado, Canadian City, and Seymour. The Vernon District embraced 54 counties! After one quadrennium settlement had increased so that the district seat for the Panhandle was shifted northwest to Clarendon, one of the few Panhandle towns founded before the coming of the railroad. (see post for April 6, 2008)


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