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Selections From The Splinters - Volume 7

The recurring appearance of yellow fever in Galveston resulted in many quarantine regulations placed by Houston and neighboring towns. These regulations greatly impeded the movement of passengers and freight to and from Galveston. For this reason the business men of the city began to devise ways and means to secure transportation via routes other than through Houston. The dream of the citizens was for a railway line, direct from Galveston to North Texas, passing through territory not at that time served by railroad. Through the efforts of local capitalists, the state legislature passed an act on May 28, 1873, under which the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railway Company was incorporated with the capital stock fixed at $7,000,000 as a maximum and $2,000,000 as a minimum. The newly organized company received generous land grants from the state, amounting to 10,240 acres of land. Some time previous to the incorporation of the Gulf Line, the legislature had passed an act to permit counties or cities to subscribe moneys for the purpose of aiding railroad construction, and under this authority the citizens of Galveston county voted to subscribe $500,000 in bonds to aid this project. The county was to receive therefor 5,000 shares of stock in the railroad, with a par value of $100. Under the original act of incorporation the line was to be constructed from Galveston to the Canadian River, in northwest Texas via Caldwell, Cameron, Belton and Eastland. The plan contemplated further extension to Santa Fe, New Mexico. A list of the early directors included M. Zopperl, James Sorley, C. R. Hughes, Henry Rosenberg, R. S. Willis, J. E. Wallis, C. B. Lee, Walter Gresham, W. L. Moody, Julius Runge, H. Kempner, C. H. Hurley, H. Marwitz and C. E. Richards.

General Braxton Bragg, an officer of high standing in the Confederate armies, was chosen as chief engineer, and under his direction grading began and a trestle across Galveston Bay was commenced in 1875. General Bragg's death in 1876 brought to an untimely end his connection with the road, and he was succeeded by Major S. M. Temple. The work progressed slowly and the Brazos river, about sixty miles away, was not bridged until 1878.

On the 19th of January, 1878, the officers reported that $776,100 had been subscribed to the common stock, and that $672,500 had actually been paid in. This amount included the one-half million subscribed by Galveston county. Fifty miles of grading had been finished and forty-five miles of 56-pound rail had been laid. The total expenditure to September 1, 1877, had been $690,000. The line finally reached Richmond on October 10, 1878, but by that time money was exhausted and construction work was halted until the financial affairs could be put in better shape. There was very little rolling stock, and operation was carried on with little or no regularity. The first freight hauled by the new company consisted of twelve bales of cotton from Arcola to Galveston, arriving here in September, 1878, but because of inefficient operating conditions, the volume was not heavy and the treasury was practically depleted.

The state legislature passed another act on March 8, 1879, amending the charter of the company, under which a new organization was to be affected within six months, and provided that 80 miles of road must be completed by March 1, 1880; and further, fifty miles must be constructed each year, or the charter would be forfeited as to the portion already built. The legislature also authorized the county to sell its stock, purchased with a bond issue, to private parties upon such terms as it might think best, with a proviso, however, that the purchasers would give a bond to the amount of $200,000, that they would construct and put in operation an extension to Belton, from the terminus, then at Richmond.

A sale was negotiated, under this authority, in which the county received $10,000 for its stock, and an agreement that the purchasers would complete an extension to Belton by December 12, 1882. The minutes of the County Commissioners' Court show the following entry, covering the transaction:

"Therefore in consideration of the payment of said sum of $10,000 to R. J. Hughes, treasurer of Galveston County, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, and the covenants undertaken to be performed by the parties who have made the proposition and the bond, it is considered by this court and so ordered, adjudged and decreed, that said proposition be and the same is hereby accepted, and all rights, title, interest and claim of every nature whatsoever, the county of Galveston has in and to the 5,000 shares, representing $500,000 of the capital stock of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway Company, now owned by the said county of Galveston, be and the same is hereby bargained, sold, alienated, transferred, conveyed and delivered to George Sealy, Esq., as trustee. And W. H. Williams as county judge of Galveston county and presiding officer of the Commissioners' Court, be and is hereby empowered and directed and instructed to sign all transfers, proper, to place said 5,000 shares in the possession of George Sealy, trustee."

The purchasers of the county stock reorganized the company, and elected George Sealy president. Through his efforts and the assistance of the directors of the new company, the finances were rehabilitated and construction commenced once more. Brenham was reached in 1880 and Belton in February, 1881. Two hundred and twenty-six miles had now been built, and before the end of that year, the line was in Fort Worth. The original intention was to construct the main line westward from Temple, and that portion of the system was completed to San Angelo later, although the section to Lampassas was opened in 1882. The traffic to and from Houston was too important not to be sought after, so a branch from Alvin to Houston was built in the early 80's. After connections had been made with the Frisco railroad at Paris, Texas, and with the Atchison system at Purcell, negotiations with the Atchison were concluded under which the Gulf line passed under the control of that company in 1886.

Associated with Mr. Sealy in the reorganization and the work of successfully completing this tremendous undertaking were Geo. Ball, J. H. Hutchings, John Sealy, W. L. Moody, E. S. Jemison, Moritz Kopperl, Julius Runge, R. S. Willis, J. E. Wallis, J. D. Rodgers, J. A. Robertson, J. J. Hendley, Albert Somerville, Walters S. Davis, Sr., Leon, Hyman and Sylvain Blum.

The Gulf Lines enjoy an unique distinction among railroads of the southwest in that it was never in the hands of a receiver. Most of the railways in this part of the country were in bankruptcy at one time or another and some of them experienced recurring attacks, but through the efforts of these citizens the Galveston road was always under the management of its officers and directors.

The completion of this road was of incalculable value to the city. New territory had been opened up and a short line was offered from many towns to Galveston, which attracted cotton and other farm products to this market. In addition to this, the International & Great Northern secured traffic rights over the Galveston, Houston & Henderson, and entered Galveston some time in 1883. Rail traffic increased and freight was piling up in Galveston warehouses and wharves. Increased frequency in sailing were demanded and ocean freighters were clamoring for dock space. Increased depth in the channel and over the bar were a necessity, and the history of the city shows that when a necessity presented itself, the citizens found the solution.

From History of Galveston, Texas, 1931

By S. C. Griffin

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