Hico, Texas:

The Business Emporium

A Chronological History

by Michael Leamons
(Page 5, 1890-1899)

New Opera House

On March 25, 1890, Joel Fisher was reported to be building a new stone opera house. The first floor was to be used for storage and the second floor for the opera. This would be the building now standing at the northwest corner of First and Elm Streets.[226]

Fisher's Opera House (date on building should be 1890)
Hico Opera House

Opera Program
Hico Opera Program

A Fiery Transformation

On February 2nd and 14th[FN1] and March 24th[FN2] of 1891, disastrous fires swept through Hico with each one destroying a whole block of buildings. Following is a report on the second fire: "Last Sunday morning at about 1:30 o'clock the alarm of fire was given by the firing of pistols and ringing of bells. The fire was seen bursting through the roof of D. J. Brown's wood and carriage shop on the corner of Second and Pecan Streets. In less than one hour one-half block of business houses lay in ashes. By heroic efforts the fire was checked at First street. At one time smoke was seen rising from all the business houses on North First street and for a moment all seemed lost. The vigorous use of wet blankets did the work and saved the town from total destruction. The buildings on this side present a somber appearance, all smoked and charred by the heat. All the buildings opposite the fire were more or less damaged. The lights in the rock buildings owned by Morrison Bros. and Sellers & Connelly, were broken out by the heat. There is strong suspicion that the origin of the fire was the work of an incendiary."[227] A second report indicated: "The fire commenced in the northern part of the block when there was a north wind blowing. The fire of Feb. 2nd was a similar occurrence. About $39,000 [about $1 million AFI] worth of property was destroyed."[228]

Then came the finale: "Great indignation is expressed and felt by all good citizens of Hico at the occurrence of another fire last Tuesday night so similar to the one of February 14th. The fire on both occasions commenced in the north of the block when there was a north wind blowing, and in buildings where there was no chance of fire by accident. Evidently the fire fiend has been at work. Morrison Bros. stone building was all that saved the business portion of the town from total destruction. The town today presented a melancholy appearance, out of some thirty business houses over twenty are laid in ashes in a little over a month."[229] A second report noted, "This makes the third fire here in the past month..."[230] Per this April 10th article, the town made a rapid rebound: "Since the recent burn merchants of Hico are making rapid progress in rebuilding in a more substantial way. At present writing nine large stone and one brick buildings are under construction. Seven of these are two stories. Three iron business houses are completed... The great number of laborers employed in carrying on the work gives the town a business-like appearance. Most of the merchants who were burned out have resumed business, hence trade has not suffered materially. The election Tuesday resulted in a get-up-and-go-ahead board of officers."[231] During this period, Hico assumed much of its present form.

Cattle Milling Amidst Debris from the First Fire
Hico After First Fire of 1891

Midland Hotel
Above Debris-filled Lot Home to the Midland Hotel Since 1891

Midland Hotel Nearing Completion

On June 14, 1891, it was reported that Joel Fisher's Hotel was nearing completion. The brick work was almost done, and the project was about to be turned over to the carpenters. Although it wasn't referred to as such, the structure must have been the Midland Hotel, as there weren't any other brick hotels in Hico.[232]


On June 18, 1891: Mrs. J. M. [James Monroe, or Kate,] Warren of Hico, Texas...gave birth to triplets; all girls, one weighing six and the other two 5 pounds each.[233] Ora died at age 11; Cora and Nora made it to adulthood.

More Talk of a New County

An 1891 Fort Worth Gazette letter-to-the-editor discussed the Duffau community's sentiments about a debate over whether or not to make Dublin the Erath County seat. The author contended the people of Duffau didn't support the proposed change, but had supported a plan to carve another county out of the surpluses of Bosque, Erath and Hamilton counties and make Hico the county seat. Unfortunately, it was discovered there wasn't enough surplus acreage to satisfy the constitutional criteria for forming a new county.[234]

Hico vs Carlton on the Diamond

On July 4, 1891, it was Hico vs. Carlton: "The Hico base ball boys came up Saturday to play Carlton and they did play too, they commenced after dinner. Hico second nine and Carltons second. The game turned out 22 for Hico and 7 for Carlton. The first nines then came in for their play. Hico 6, Carlton 13. They made arrangements to play at Hico at the barbecue."[235]

A Texas-sized Barbecue

Hico, Hamilton County, Tex., July 30 [1891] ---The preparations for the barbecue here to-day were on the grandest scale, and was the most successful of the kind that has ever occurred in this portion of the country. Thirty-five beeves, besides a large number of hogs and muttons were barbecued yesterday, and last night. Three hours heavy rain this morning interfered greatly with the arrangement. Business houses were all closed. [U. S.] Senator Horace Chilton spoke about one hour and forty minutes to a large and attentive audience..."[236]

Mrs. Stovall Buys the Midland Hotel

News from the October 25, 1891 Fort Worth Gazette: "The travelling men who go to Hico will be glad to learn that Mrs. Stovall, late proprietress of the Hotel Stovall, and the most popular hotel woman in West Texas, has purchased and moved into the 'Midland' and desires to meet all her old patrons in her elegant new quarters.""[237] A few years later after visiting the Midland, the editor of the Abilene Reporter offered unstinting praise: "Mrs. Stovall who conducts the Midland hotel placed us under obligations that we shall not soon forget by attentions to our little sister...We doubt whether a more homelike and attractive hotel can be found than the Midland at Hico. Beautifully furnished, spotlessly clean, the table bountifully supplied, large and airy rooms, this house, presided over by a most pleasant and hospitable lady must be a haven to the traveler."[238][FN3]

Another Fire at 2nd & Pecan

Though it doesn't say so, it would appear this fire was on the north side of 2nd Street:

Hico, Tex., Jan. 21 [1892] ---Last night about 12 o'clock fire was discovered on the corner of Second and Pecan streets, which soon destroyed three frame buildings owned by F. H. Snyder...Miss Mattie Williams occupied one building as a music school and lost two pianos...Mesdames Holman and Frazier, notions, millinery and household goods...The residence of C. I. Boynton was damaged."[239]

From Town to City

If Hico couldn't become a county seat, at least it could become a city. Claiming a population of 1,045, on May 3, 1892, the Hico Town Council revised the articles of incorporation, transforming Hico from a town to a city.[240] The terms of elected officials went from 1 to 2 years, and Hico now had the authority to operate a tax supported, independent school district.

Officer Down!

On June 28, 1892, while working a foot beat in Fort Worth called "Hell's Half Acre," Officers Henry Townes and Lee Waller, a well-liked, single, 24-year-old from Hico[FN4] and two year veteran of the force, encountered well-known prostitute, Lou Davis. Not long before, she had ended a secret, intimate relationship with Waller. Davis was being "nuzzled" by gambler Jim "Toots" Burris; both Davis and Burris had unfavorable reputations with the police, and both were black. Waller and Davis began arguing. After being cursed by Burris, Waller pulled-out his billy stick and gave Toots "a hard lick" across the skull. A bleeding Burris continued to curse Waller and threatened to get even. When Waller pulled his gun, his partner intervened; Burris ran down the street. Both officers fired at the fleeing man, to no effect. Plotting revenge, Burris secured a pistol and found two armed companions. When they came upon Waller, Townes and a third officer, Toots began firing. Waller took 3 hits. Soon, all six men were firing. One witness likened the scene to the shoot-out at the OK Corral. Amazingly, only Waller was injured. He died from his wounds 2 days later.[241]

Officer Waller
Officer Lee Waller

After a brief funeral ceremony, "The casket was placed on the patrol wagon, which was appropriately draped in mourning. Following the wagon as it wound its way to the union depot were all the members of the police force, the entire fire apparatus of the city with emblems of mourning displayed upon the engines and hose carts, members of the city council, many city and county officials and a large number of the friends of the dead officer...At the depot the procession was met by a large crowd of citizens and the casket cover was lifted for the purpose of allowing his parents and other relatives an opportunity to look upon the face of the dead. The gray-haired father and mother and his beloved sister wept bitter tears of sorrow...the coffin was reverently placed on board the Fort Worth and Rio Grande train to be taken to Hico, Tex., the home of his boyhood, for final interment."[242]

Burris was captured, convicted of murder and sentenced to death.[241] In 1895, Attorney James Swayne pleaded before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that, "Justice should be done an unfortunate Negro who, if he had been a white man, would never have been indicted in the first place." Unsuccessful before the Court, Swayne did convince the Governor to commute the sentence to life in prison. Seven years later, another Governor granted a full pardon.[243]

Methodist Camp Meeting

Rev. J. H. Collard, a noted Methodist evangelist who conducted evangelistic services throughout the Southern and Midwestern states,[244] began a 10 day camp meeting in Hico, on August 5, 1892. Attendees were invited to set up tents in the "consecrated grove."[245] The City hadn't yet purchased City Park, so it is unclear where this transpired.

Three Day People's Party Encampment

In 1892, the People's Party, also known as the Populists, an agrarian reform movement with origins in the Farmers' Alliance, held a three day encampment at Hico from August 28th through the 30th. The first speaker was Evan Jones, a People's Party candidate for Congress who had been president of the Texas Farmers' Alliance. Previously, he had been president of the Erath County Farmers' Alliance and had led an independent ticket to victory in the 1886 Erath County election.[246] "He seemed to be at his best and, dealt the demo-republico-mono political party some hard licks...showing...how the government had been wrenched from the hands of the people and administered by those to whose interests it was to oppress the laboring class." Dr. Perry of Hamilton, O. R. Morrison of Hico, candidate for state representative, and Capt. Battle Fort of Fairy debated some of the Populists who had come to the encampment. Of Capt. Fort it was said, "[He] didn't seem to exactly know where he stood on politics. He made a good People's Party speech and several were inclined to believe he was 'one of us'..."[247] The southern Farmers' Alliance originated on February 22, 1878, in Lampasas County 15 miles north of the City of Lampasas. During the next two months chapters were opened in Hamilton and Coryell counties.[248] Hamilton County Populists carried local elections in 1894.[249] Area-wide, populists did well during the mid to late 1890's.[250] Hamilton, Erath and Comanche counties voted for the Populist gubernatorial candidates in 1892, 1894 and 1896.[251] "Buck" Barry, the frontiersman with Hico associations, was a regular contributor to the Southern Mercury, the official journal of the Farmers' Alliance. In 1898, unsuccessfully, he made a bid for the office of State Treasurer on the People's Party ticket.[28] Attorney J. Van Steenwyck went as a delegate from Hico to the People's Party Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1900.[252]

Ordination of Mary Billings

The Universalist's first official State Convention in Texas was conducted in Hico at All Soul's Church. During the convention, on October 3,1892, Mary Billings was ordained to the ministry. She may have been the first woman of any denomination to be ordained in Texas.[183,184]

Progress with the School System

In October, 1892, William and Abbie Marsh (Shubal's daughter) Grubb sold several acres along Kirk Street to Mayor Pingree and his successors for $1.00 for the "sole use of the public free schools of the City of Hico".[10] The Grubbs came to Hico to settle upon Abbie's estate in October of 1890.[16] The names, Grubbs Street, Grubbs Branch and Grubbs Addition, all serve as reminders of the family's presence in and contributions to the community. Shortly after the property had been acquired, construction was begun on a new two-story, brick school building. A. J. "Jack" Woods, who previously had impersonated his brother, constructed the building and operated the associated brick yard. The bricks, gray in color, were made in Hico from "...soil of a four acre block on the last street on the west side of town"[59] (at the southwest corner of Hemphill and Railroad Streets).[253]

W. M. Grubbs
William M. Grubb

Hico Citizen Elected State Representative

In November, 1892, O. R. Morrison, a Hico merchant, bank director and prohibitionist, was elected State Representative for the 76th District, which encompassed Hamilton and Bosque counties.[254] He was re-elected in 1894, but resigned after the end of the 1895 legislative session to accept an appointment by Governor Culberson to the post of State Revenue Agent, serving in that capacity until 1898.[255]

The Runaway

For a while the Hico brick yard employed Hayes Perkins, a 14-year-old at odds with his strict Methodist father over religion, paying him $1 for a ten hour day. Hayes' father tried to collect his son's wages, but Jack Woods sent him packing. In 1890, the Perkins family had come to Hico from Oregon. A commentary on Hayes' autobiographical diary tells how " ...deep resentments remained from the Civil War. As a boy newly arrived from a 'Northern state', Hayes fought frequent scraps." Due to conflicts with his father, about a year before going to work at the brick yard, Hayes had taken "...to living on the streets, sleeping in boxcars and barns in the warm months. In the winter, as temperatures dip to zero, he buries himself in a neighbor's slightly fermenting cotton seed bin to catch a little warmth."[249] On New Year's Eve of 1892, Hayes went home to his mother and sisters to find relief from the wind and freezing rain and to enjoy some sandwiches. When discovered by his father, he was beaten with a loaded whip, one with lead imbedded in the tips. Retreating into the cold night, Hayes listened to the town's bells ringing in the New Year. (A sound he loathed the rest of his life.) Early the next morning, he was rescued by a "' ...bright, well dressed mulatto woman looking for a boy to clean up after the New Year's dance at the town's leading hotel. His diligent work cleaning up led to a job [that] paid $8 a month for twelve to fifteen hours a day working all sorts of jobs around the hotel." After 10 months, he took a job with another hotel keeper who decided to hand him over to his father. When threatened with another beating, at the age of 15, a tearful Hayes bid farewell to his mother and sisters and caught a train to California. Not wanting a child blaming him (Hayes) for bringing him into the world, Hayes never married. He spent much of his life traveling around the U. S. and the world and produced a 5 volume set of diaries recording those travels.[256] In the 1930's, Hayes retired in Pacific Grove, California, where he created a beautiful landscape along the Pacific shoreline of trees, flowers and groundcover he had become familiar with during his travels. In the spring and summer, the "magic carpet" ice plants he set out create an awesome blanket of pink flowers. The area was set aside as a park and named "Perkins Park" in honor of its founder.

Perkins Park
Photo of Perkins Park, courtesy of Brooks Leffler at www.flickr.com.

Hico in 1893

In March of 1893, the Fort Worth Gazette gave a fairly thorough description of Hico, including its transportation services, " ...two trains each way daily, a regular stage line [the Hale and Hackett] from Hico to Hamilton, and good livery stable conveyances to all inland towns. Regular stage leaves Hico for Hamilton at 1 p.m. And returns at 11:30 a.m. daily...", and its hotel accomodations, "Hico is also known to the traveling man as having the best hotel accommodations in the southwest. The Fuller hotel, W. H. Fuller [the Deputy Sheriff of Old Hico], proprietor, is a hotel with first class accommodations in every respect and the place where the ever wary drummer [traveling salesman] can have the best attention, good meals and a downy pillow upon which to rest his weary head when the busy day is ended. Other hotels offer good accommodations and rates to suit all..."[257]

Passenger Train Service in Hico
Passenger Service in Hico

Houston & Texas Central Railroad Schedule
1890 Houston & Texas Central Railroad Schedule

Fuller Hotel
Fuller Hotel When Located at the N.E. Corner of 1st & Mesquite.

In its description of Hico, the Gazette noted how walnut timber was being shipped to east coast markets.[257] Although it probably dates from two to three decades later, below is an area photo showing logs being hauled away, probably to market.

Load of timber

Hico Normal College Founded

The Gazette also mentioned the two-story, brick college building begun in 1892.[250] According to a school catalog published for the 1893-94 academic year, the building was home to "The Hico Normal College and Graded School".[258] Apparently, it was the first year for the normal college. College president, C. L. Adair[FN5], at one point reported, "The enrollment is 369 and 'still they come.'"[259] Normal colleges usually focused on a two-year, teacher training curriculum. The one in Hico offered a Business Course with a broad curriculum, while also offering Teaching, Scientific, Surveyor's and Classical Courses .[258]

Hico Graduating Class of 1899
Graduating Class of 1899

Hico High School and Normal College ^Hico Normal College Class
Hico Normal College, Year Unknown

Hico Helps a Sister City

On April 28, 1893, sister railroad city Cisco was battered by what at the time was described as the "...most destructive cyclone [tornado] that has ever visited Texas." Twenty-five were killed. With only twenty-five to thirty houses left standing, more than 80% of the survivors were left homeless.[260] As reported on the front page of the Fort Worth Gazette, along with several other cities, Hico responded to pleas for assistance:

HICO HELPS Hico, Tex., April 30. - (Special.) - Train No. 1 this morning carried four box cars for transportation of supplies for relief of the cyclone sufferers at Cisco. Mayor Pingree started a subscription and $500 [$12,500 AFI] worth of food, clothing, etc., and over $200 [$5,000 AFI] in money was raised. The physicians and carpenters went en masse and will remain as long as their services are required.[260]

Improvements at the Depot

Hico, Hamilton Co., Tex., May 8 [1893] ---The engineering corps of the Texas Central railway have been at work here for the past week, surveying new sidetracks and depot grounds. They have lengthened and added two more sidetracks, making five in all, and will commence soon the erection of a new passenger and freight depot, which will be built separately. This will greatly facilitate the handling of freight and passenger traffic at this point.[261]

1893 Code of Ordinances

In August 1893, a Code of Ordinances was published for the city by the Hico Democrat Press[262] with the assistance of J. Van Steenwyk , an attorney and native of Iowa who had come to Hico that spring. He had decided a move was necessary to advance his career and chose Hico because "...it had then the only Universalist church in the state." Van Steenwyk served as a deacon and youth leader at All Souls Church.[263]

Team of Oxen on Main Street
Wagons Ho! Wiseman Parlor sign on the right edge of photo.

The Frank Wiseman Legacy

In 1893, Frank Wiseman took over operations of Wiseman Studio in Hico. The family had begun the business in 1886, the year Frank and his parents moved to Hico from South Carolina.[264] This account presents just a few of Wiseman's many historic photos of the community and its inhabitants; more are on display in a special collection at Blue Star Trading in downtown Hico. A narrative on their website notes: "It is largely because of Mr. Wiseman that Hico has such a remarkable and unique photographic legacy from its earliest days...It is important to recognize R. F. Wiseman as a true pioneer, both as it relates to early Hico and to the art of photography. Frank Wiseman was born in Newberry, SC in 1874. He moved to Hico as a young man and immersed himself in photography. As his reputation grew, he was soon selling his images far and wide."[265] Frank Wiseman's lovely Victorian home, built in 1903, has been restored and is now home to Wiseman House Chocolates.

The Frank Wiseman Home
Wiseman House

Hico Roller Mills interior
Mr. Wieser on the right with some mill hands.

Those Enterprising Wiesers

The economic activity produced by the railroad brought yet more economic activity. Opportunities abounded for entrepreneurs like the Vincent and Mary Wieser Family . Vincent and his parents had emigrated from Germany to the U.S. in 1857 and ended up settling in Iowa.[266] Vincent, quite the businessman, was operating a mill in Iowa, but was looking for opportunities to expand. He and his wife Mary were unexpectedly summoned to Hico to attend to their oldest son, who had become desparately ill. While in Hico, "Vincent noted there was a mill, not prospering and with his experience, knew it was his golden opportunity. Made all arrangements, came back to Iowa, gathered his family together and came back to Hico..."[267] On January 11, 1894, the Wiesers first invested in Hico, using an inheritance Mary had received to purchase Joel Fisher's cotton gin and flour mill.[12] For the next 30+ years, the family played a vital role in the local economy. Vincent modernized the mill and renamed it, "Hico Roller Mills".[268] These ventures proved a success, so the family expanded into several other endeavors, sometimes by way of partnerships, including the Hico Telephone Company (1899),[269] a small electric generating system at their mill, Hico National Bank, Hico Ice & Cold Storage Co. (1907)[270], and a Cotton Compress (circa 1907). In 1914, the electric system was moved out of the mill into a building at the southwest corner of First and Cedar, expanded and named the Central Texas Power and Transmission Company.[271] The family also established "Mill and Elevator" operations in Dublin, Stamford and Munday[265] and, in Hico in 1917, built the previously mentioned concrete grain elevators[272], those last reminders of the old flour mill. The Wieser's son-in-law, Harry Gleason, managed the Hico Ice & Cold Storage and the electric company, while Wieser's sons managed his scattered milling operations. For many years, Vincent served as president of the Hico Commercial Club, chartered in 1907.

Vincent and Mary Wieser
Vincent and Mary Wieser

Wieser Home
The Wieser House Which Yet Stands on Mesquite Street

Hico Water Works Established

On March 27, 1894, R. Y. Cox, V. F. Wieser, T. J. Woods, Wm Connally and C. M. Pattillo, Directors of the Hico Water Works Company, purchased an acre of land from W. M. and Abigail Grubb at the northwest corner of Pecan and College as a home for their new enterprise.[273] The town was growing. In July, the Cox-Weaver Addition was annexed.[30]

Prohibition Prevails, Again

In June,1894, once again, prohibition forces wrested control of the alcohol question, by a majority of 44 votes. But, although the exact year isn't known, sometime prior to an election in 1898, a round in the constant tug-of-war had gone to the "antis".[274]

City Park Purchased

On March 16, 1895, at a cost of $340, the City purchased 13 6/10 acres on the south side of the Bosque River for a public park. Forty dollars was paid up-front; the balance plus 10% interest, was paid-out over the next two years. The deed stipulated an 80' wide street was to be extended along the property's west boundary as a continuation of Elm Street.[275] (Previously the road had travelled along the property's east boundary. An elevated road bed and the embankments for a couple of bridges can still be seen along the east fence line of the park and the adjoining property.)

The Hico Review Makes Its Debut

The Hico Review, the community's oldest continuously operated commercial business was established on September 10, 1895.[276] Several newspapers were published in Hico during its first quarter century, the: Hico Times, Hico Vindicator, Hico Reporter, Hico Democrat, Hico Commercial, Hico Courier, Bosque Valley Democrat, Hico Vedette, Hico Review and Hico News.[FN6] The only two to survive were the Review and the News, which united in 1907 to form the Hico News Review.[276]

Hico Democrat, July 18, 1893 Issue
Hico Democrat July 18, 1893

Hico Courier August 1, 1896
Front Page of the August 1,1896 Hico Courier
Democrat Presidential Candidate William Jennings Bryan (center)

Sparks Fly in 1896

The first sparks, reported by the Fort Worth Gazette, were of the figurative kind:

RELIGIOUS DISCUSSION AT HICO Hico, Tex., March 4. -(Special)- The religious discussion between Dupont, Baptist and Rogers, Universalist, opened last night at the Baptist Church at 8 o'clock and will continue during this week of nights. A great many visitors are present from the country and adjacent towns.[277]

Frank L. DuPont, at about the time of this debate was pastor of Hico First Baptist Church, and was an outspoken "Landmark" Baptist, who the year of the above debate wrote, The Origin and Perpetuity of the Church, spelling-out "Landmark" beliefs. C. H. Rogers of Bowie, Texas was described as a "talented Universalist minister." The debate was to continue for 8 days concerning the propositions: "Resolved, That the scriptures of the old and new testaments teach the doctrine that all of the human family will be finally saved; Rogers affirming, Dupont denying. Resolved, That the scriptures of the old and new testaments teach the doctrine, that a portion of the human family will be endlessly punished; Dupont affirming, and Rogers denying."[278]

The second set of sparks, of the literal variety, explain why the Midland Hotel bears the date "1896":

"One of the most disastrous fires Hico has ever known occurred at that place last Tuesday night [June 16, 1896]. The fire was first discovered about 12 o'clock issuing from the livery stable occupied by Sam McDermott. This, being a frame building filled with hay and other inflammable feed stuffs, was quickly consumed and the flames communicated to the Midland hotel, only a narrow alley intervening, and in less than three hours nearly all the fine brick and stone business houses east of Pecan and between First and Second streets were a total ruin."[279] [FN7]

Gubernatorial Candidate in Hico

People's Party candidate for governor, Jerome Kearby, made a campaign stop in Hico on June 29, 1896. Giving Democratic candidate C. A. Culberson a run for his money, Kearby ended-up garnering 44% of the vote, losing by only 60,000 votes.[280]

Christian Camp Meeting

On August 14, 1896, Elder Lawson of the Christian Church began conducting what was anticipated as a 15 to 20 day camp meeting under the pavilion in City Park, where there was "plenty of shade, good camping grounds and water." [281]

Arson at the New Depot

"Last Monday morning [August 17, 1896] about 3 o'clock both the freight and passenger depots of the Texas Central railroad at Hico were destroyed by fire. The loss is estimated at several thousand dollars, everything in the depots having burned including freight, express, etc. The fire is supposed to have been incendiary."[282]

T. C. Depot
New Depot---Either the one that burned or its replacement.

Bid to Overturn Prohibition Unsuccessful

Hico, Tex., Sept. 13 [1896] ---This magistrate's precinct has had local option in force for two years. Yesterday an election was held and a strong effort made to do away with prohibition, which resulted in a majority for prohibition. Hico is a local option town where the local option law is pretty rigidly enforced.[283]

Patents Pending

The filing of ten patents (most of them related to the cultivation of cotton) by local residents between 1882 and 1896 testifies to the intellectual and economic foment taking place.

City Purchases the Hico Water Works Co.

On March 22, 1897[284] , for the princely sum of $1.00 each, the many owners[FN7] of the Hico Water Works Company sold their real estate holdings to the City.[285] A well had been drilled and was operational, but it's unclear if any other improvements had been made. The City solicited bids for the installation of a water works plant and distribution system and awarded a $5,264 contract on the project to O. J. Gorman of Dallas. Evidently, bonds were sold to finance the project.[286]

Hico Fire Company Organized

Hico VFD

In 1897, the Hico Fire Company was organized. It had two hose and one ladder company. Its members were fond of foot races, so the Fire Company united with Fire Departments in Comanche, Cisco, Dublin, Granbury and Stephenville to form the Central West Texas Racing Association.[287]

The Business Emporium Comes of Age

Having the only depot in the vicinity, for several years Hico served as a regional hub for commerce. Improved access to and from markets had a profound effect on the local economy. And, according to a 1938 Pioneer Edition of the Hamilton County News, "In 1897 R. Y. Cox, a lumber dealer [and first president of First National Bank] in Hico received 100 train cars of lumber and shingles in a single shipment...His trade extended into Erath, Bosque, Comanche, and Coryell Counties. He had on hand at one time a million feet of lumber." The account identified Hico as 'the business emporium' of this section."[10] There was so much action, during the mid 1890's the general and school populations of Hico overtook those of Hamilton, the county seat. By the turn of the century, Hico's population had grown to 1,480. [29]

When passing through the area in September of 1897, the editor of the Abilene Reporter gushed with praise of Hico: "We were most pleasantly surprised in the town of Hico, which has not only grown in size, but is one of the most beautiful and well built towns we ever saw. Large brick edifices border the streets, while beautiful and tasty homes are spread out on all sides. Waco itself can not be compared to Hico, so far as the relative number of lovely homes and substantial business are concerned..."[238]

Violation of the Local Option Law

Charles Malone was charged and convicted for violating the Local Option Law when, on December 9, 1897, he sold Dr. Young's Extract of Lemon and Ginger to Brown Overton. The conviction was appealed to the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals in 1899, where it was overturned. The Court ruled that the prosecution had failed to properly establish that the drink was "intoxicating" and had not provided sufficient evidence that the required notice of the implementation of Local Option had been published.[288]

Jubilation in 1898

In 1898, Dr. Daniel Pingree was re-elected mayor. According to a report in the Waco Times-Herald, he was quite popular: "He had no potato patch farm, but the people of Hico say with pride that he is as good a mayor as his near relative, who has such fame [beginning in 1893, Detroit Mayor Hazen Pingree implemented a very successful work relief program, copied by many cities, which involved having the unemployed raise potatoes and other vegetables on vacant lots.] ...After the result of the election was announced a large procession of men and boys appeared on the streets leading a jack [a male donkey]. They placed each of the newly elected officials by turns on the jack and marched through the principal streets beating drums and tin pans, rattling bells and playing on various kinds of musical instruments while the boys all yelled and threw up their hats."[289] The prohibitionists also won in 1898 and were able to keep Hico dry for the next 6 years.[290]

Hico 1898

Murdered Over 10 Cents

The, heretofore, positive tone of the year of 1898 was marred at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 29th by the killing of the Texas Central station agent, Colonel Robert Bell, a Scotsman who had been in Hico for a year, and James Davis, a sixteen-year-old innocent bystander. Mr. Bell and Fred Hancock were having a disagreement over 10 cents on a laundry bill. To begin with, Bell paid Hancock what he thought was due, but Hancock refused to accept the payment. "After the lapse of twenty or thirty minutes Mr. Bell came along with a garden implement in one hand and a shrub in the other. He immediately spoke to Mr. H. and another altercation arose, which eventuated in Mr. Hancock drawing a pistol and firing four times at Mr. Bell, three of the shots hitting him, and another going wild. Mr. Bell sank to the floor and expired in ten or fifteen minutes. One of the bullets hit James Davis, a young man from Stephenville, who had arrived in Hico about thirty minutes before the shooting began to visit his brother, and he also fell within ten or fifteen feet of Mr. Bell, on the depot platform. He was carried to his brother's house and all that medical aid could do was done, but the bullet had penetrated the brain, inflicting a mortal wound, and he expired about 1 o'clock Sunday morning."[291]

Immediately after the shooting at about half past four, at the behest of Willie Davis, J. P. Rodgers sent the following telegram to Davis' mother in Stephenville, "Jimmie mortally wounded accidentally. Come quick." It was getting late, and though he should have delivered it; unfortunately, the messenger boy didn't. By the time word reached Mrs. Davis by other means, and she made the trip to Hico, it was too late. Her son was dead. She sued Western Union Telegraph Company, and the court awarded her $500 in damages.[292] Hancock was tried and sentenced to 10 years in the State Penitentiary, but was pardoned on February 6. 1904, by Governor S. W. T. Lanham.[135]

The Hico Oil Mill Company

On December 12, 1898, the City of Hico entered into what may have been its first tax abatement contract with a Mr. Winfield Scott. The City agreed not to collect taxes for a period of 10 years, provided the "...first class new cotton oil mill" and "...sixty ton plant with all modern improvements and appliances" being proposed by Scott be completed within a year.[293] Shortly thereafter, a group of investors incorporated and put up $50,000 to construct the agreed upon facilities and begin operations at the Hico Oil Mill Company.[294] The plant produced cotton seed oil and a type of cattle feed known as "cotton seed cake". The main, two-story, stone structure, which yet stands, was located on the southeast side of the railroad spur which ended at the flour mill. During this period, Scott also operated oil mills in Stephenville, Dublin, Brownwood and Coleman. In 1907, C. H. Bencini bought all the above mills as well as the one in Hico which, later, were conveyed to Swift and Company.[295] Jerry S. Dorsey, grandson of the Dorsey who had invested in First National Bank, managed the operation for Swift and Company. Black workers, living in cabins on the grounds, provided labor for the operation. In later years, Dorsey's sister, Mae, recalled hearing the day shift serenading the night shift.[296]

Oil Mill Crew
Oil Mill crew with their really fresh Christmas turkeys.

Tragedy Strikes the Waller Family, Again

On May 11, 1899, another grievous blow struck the Waller family: "Brakeman Crushed to Death. J. [John C.] Waller, a brakeman on the Texas Central, was killed in the Cisco yards last Wednesday morning while endeavoring to make a coupling. As the cars came together he missed his footing and fell upon the track, the wheels of one car passing over him, badly crushing his right arm and injuring him internally which resulted in his death ten minutes afterwards. Young Waller had been on the Central for two years or more. His father and mother live at Hico, to which place the remains were taken for interment."[297] His tombstone bears the forlorn inscription: "He was all the world to us. 24 yrs, 1 month, 8 days."[298]

T. J. Wood in the News, Again

From the May 12, 1899, Dublin Progress: "Tom J. Woods and a man by the name of Cook became engaged in a quarrel at Hico, recently, which resulted in Woods and Woods' boy badly cutting his antagonist. At first the report came that the wounded man was dead, but since it is reported he will recover."[299] About a year and a half later, Woods was the subject of another altercation in Hico, having struck Frank Hendrix "across the face with a Winchester, doing him considerable damage."[300]

Family Quarrel Turns Deadly

Per the following newspaper report, on June 15, 1899, a simmering family quarrel turned deadly[302]. This incident is just one of many in a "truth-is-stranger-than-fiction" web of murder and violence surrounding a couple of Hico area families discussed briefly in footnote 8 below and at length in James Pylant's Blood Tragedy: The Snow Axe Murders.

Reports come from Hico of a terrible shooting affair which occurred near Hico in the afternoon of Thursday of last week at the home of Ike Jennings, six miles from Hico on the Iredell road. It appears that Ike Jennings owed a small debt to his son-in-law, John Olds, who resided in Hico, and that the latter had borrowed a wash kettle and a table from the former. Mrs. Olds went out to her father's Wednesday with a note from her husband to the effect that he wanted the money, but returned with an order for goods at a Hico store and word that he had not the money. This appears to have enraged Olds, who loaded the kettle and table in his wagon the following day and went out to Jenkins home with them, carrying with him a 45 calibre pistol and another smaller one. When he arrived there Mrs. Jenkins came out accompanied by her son, who assisted Olds to take the kettle and table out of the wagon. At this juncture Olds picked up one of the pistols from his wagon seat and fired twice at Mrs. Jenkins, one shot taking effect in the hand and one in the foot. Dave Jenkins stooped to pick up a rock, but just as he raised with it Olds fired at him, the bullet passing through his lungs. Pearl Jenkins, another man of the family, ran out of the house at this juncture with a pistol and Olds fired at him, inflicting a slight wound in the head. Pearl Jenkins returned the fire, one shot from his pistol striking Olds in the breast just above the heart and he fell dead in his wagon. The team ran away and stopped at a farm house near by, where they were caught and retained until Esquire Burson was sent for. He held an inquest over the body. It is stated that Dave Jenkins, who was the most seriously injured, will recover.[FN9]

Build a Cotton Mill!

Perhaps his was a lone voice in the wilderness, but in December, 1899, Rev. DuPont, editor of the Hico Vedette was calling for the construction of a cotton mill: [265]

How about that cotton mill, good people? We've got the men, we've got the dough and we've got the necessity; who has got the nerve? Don't sit still and say "Oh, we can't get a cotton mill." You said that about the oil mill, but we got it just the same. We need the mill and must have it.

[FN1]Losses from the fire of February 14, 1891: D. J. Brown, wood and carriage shop; A. M. Wilson, blacksmith shop; C. S. Kilpatrick, boot and shoe shop; Morrison Bros., implements; F. H. Wiseman, photographer; Mrs. M. A. Holmes, notions; R. Alverson, restaurant; W. H. Hooker, saddlery and harness; Cage & Gillen, general merchants; L. O. Maxwell & Co. groceries; J. B. Hillyer, building; Geo. Autrey barber shop; Autrey & Herring, music store; Key & Howard, general merchandise; W. J. Borden, building; and, O. W. Hughart, drugs and groceries. [227]

[FN2]Losses from the fire of March 24, 1891: Sellers & Connelly, dry goods; Morrison Bros., dry goods; Cochran Bros., general merchandise; B. Simon, groceries; J. P. Rogers; T. J. Hubbert; T. J. Woods; G. W. Tabor, drugs; Mrs. L. F. Perkins, millinery; J. R. Alford, drugs; J. Blackburn; J. W. Tabor, market; Eakin & Snelling; J. W. Fuel; Key & Howard, general merchandise; Autrey & Green, barbers; and, Autrey & Herring, music.[230] Apparently, some of those burned-out by the second fire had relocated to the area of the third fire.

[FN3]The proprietress of the Midland Hotel was Lula (Tolula) Stovall, widow of James Nelson Stovall, who passed away in 1887. According to U. S. census records, Mrs. Stovall was still running the hotel as late as 1910. In the 1900 census, Mrs. Stovall, her two daughters, a porter, a cook, 2 waitresses and 7 boarders were listed as residents of the Hotel. One of those boarders, Bank President Robert Dorsey, was also listed as such in the 1910 census. Stovall and Dorsey later married.[303]

[FN4]His father, John M. Waller, on the back row to the right of the flag in the Hico Confederate Veteran's group photo, had come to Hico in 1882.[16]

[FN5]C. L. Adair left Hico to open Adair Normal College in Whitesboro, Texas in 1894. That undertaking proved unsuccessful. Adair then helped found Tyler Commercial College, which grew to become the largest commercial college in the nation. [304]

[FN6]Many were the newspapers, editors and publishers in "New" Hico during its first quarter century. The first paper, the Hico Times, was being published by George P. Holcombe as early as May, 1881.[305] In February, 1882, it was announced that Holcombe had sold 2/3rds of his interest in the paper to local merchants, but that he was continuing as editor.[306] In March, it was reported that the Times had 5 editors.[307] The arrangement must not have suited Holcombe, who went to Comanche where, briefly, he held a stake in the Comanche Chief. In the interim, the Times folded. Discovering Hico was without a paper, and the town was growing, in April, 1883, Holcombe launched a new paper, the Hico Vindicator.[308] Then, on May 22, 1884, the Hico Reporter was started by Kirby and Neel, with A. A. Kirby as editor.[309] Sometime prior to 1885, B. M. Davis and W. A. Henderson (possibly the William Henderson who was elected Hico's first mayor in 1883) had become the Reporter's publishers and editors.[310] A July 31, 1885 letter-to-the-editor in the Galveston Daily News indicated that "the Reporter has changed hands, and is going to move to Kosse, leaving our town without a local paper."[311] Indeed, Davis had sold the paper to J. O. Jones. [312] Elsewhere, it was noted that in August, 1885, James O. Jones, formerly of the Hico Reporter, had launched the Kosse Cyclone.[313] The Vindicator, which it would seem from the aforementioned letter-to-the-editor had not have been an active concern, was purchased in September, 1885 by John W. Boynton of Hamilton and renamed the Hico Commercial.[314] Publication of the Commercial was suspended that December, and the plant was sold in January, 1886 at a Sheriff's sale to J. R. Keaton of Hico (school principal from 1884-1887) and C. C. Crews of Hamilton. The first issue of the Courier was published on February 6, 1886. When Keaton left town, Crews bought out his interest. Boynton returned to the Hico market in 1891 with the Hico Democrat[315] and was still in business in 1893, but the Democrat later vanished without a trace. Another local paper mentioned in an 1893 article about Hico, in addition to the Democrat, was the Chronicle.[257] Since no other reference to the Chronicle has been found, and it is known the Courier was being published in 1893, someone probably got the name wrong. On September 10, 1895, H. H. Morgan began publishing the Review. [276] That paper's facilities and equipment were lost to the fire of June 16, 1896, but publication had resumed by 1897, if not before.[317] Crews continued to publish the Courier until 1897, when he sold it to F. L. DuPont, a local Baptist minister. DuPont's son-in-law, G. W. (George Walter) Power, purchased the paper in 1899,[316] which had been renamed the Hico Vedette. By 1899, H. H. Morgan of the Review had begun publishing a paper in Longview. It appears publication of the Review had been suspended, and sometime prior to July, 1903, the business had been sold to J. Van Steenwyk. In 1899 another paper, the Bosque Valley Democrat (BVD), emerged to compete with the Vedette.[276] Edward M. Rutledge was the original publisher and editor,[318] but by 1900, R. J. Herd had replaced him as editor, and Herd and W. E. Fletcher as publishers. [239] By 1902, H. B. McDaniel had become both the editor and publisher of the BVD. In 1902, B. L. Hooker was listed as the editor and Hooker Bros. as the publishers of the Vedette. [319] The Vedette and the BVD merged in June, 1902 to form the Hico News, with J. N. Davis (School Superintendent for a number of years) and Henry B. McDaniel as editors and proprietors.[320] Publication of the Review resumed in July, 1903, when it was announced that G. W. Power had purchased it from attorney J. Van Steenwyk.[321] In January, 1905, McDaniel, sold the Hico News to R. K. Jacks who managed it until its consolidation with the Review in 1907. E. (Edgar) A. Heath purchased Power's interests in the Review during 1906 or early 1907. On May 4, 1907, the News and Review were consolidated into the Hico News-Review, with E. A. Heath serving as editor and R. K. Jacks managing the business. [239] The News-Review was published by the Hico Printing Company, which had been incorporated by E. A. Heath, R. K. Jacks, A. C. Petty, P. L. Maxwell and G. M. Carlton.[322]

[FN7]Losses from the fire of June 16, 1896: Wm. Stephens, livery stable building; Sam McDermott, livery; Mrs. L. A. Stovall, hotel building and store building; First National bank building; T. J. Wood, building; T. J. Wood, drug store; H. H. Morgan, editor, Review; Sanger Bros., building; Aiken & Galloway; Cole & Altman, building and stock groceries; T. Lesker, building; Masonic hall; Greenhill & Co. barber fixtures; C. C. Crews, building; G. W. Tabor, furniture; Martin Bros. & Co., goods; and, Herman Morrison, groceries.[279]

[FN8]The list of owners of the Hico Water Works Company reads like a veritable "Who's Who" of Hico: J. R. Alford, Daniel Pingree, J. P. Rodgers, J. C. Rodgers, W. H. Wiseman, V. F. Weiser, E. A. Barbee, W. M. Grubb, R. A. Dorsey, R. Y. Cox, Wm Connally, A. J. Woods, T. J. Woods, E. F. Weaver, A. C. Petty, J. E. Petty, J. W. Stovall, C. L. Lynch, J. S. Moss, L. E. Hickman, A. L. Maxwell, J. E. Corrigan, W. H. Keffer, C. M. Pattillo, Geo. Hail, J. A. Eakins, E. V. Hawes, S. F. Carson, Jr., C. D. Martin, M. L. Hensley, A. K. Dunagan, A. L. Phillips, John Dyer (administrator of the estate of G. W. Dyer), A. P. Gallaway and J. Boyd.[285]

[FN9]John Olds' mother was Samantha Jones Olds. Her first husband Amos Smith, brother-in-law of the Alston Ferguson, believed to have been a cousin to the Hamilton County "Bad Man" by that name, was murdered on July 26, 1875 in Bosque County. A newspaper account said that one of the three men accused of murdering Smith, "...was exceedingly intimate with Smith's wife." The three men men were tried by vigilantes and sentenced to hang. Just prior to the hanging, one of the three is reported to have said, "This will make seven men who have been killed in quarrels over Mrs. Smith." Samantha's sister, Izella, was married, first, to Zach Medford's son Hill, who is said to have been murdered by highwaymen in 1863, somewhere in the Hico vicinity. Both the Medford and Ferguson connections draw Bunton Medford into this web of murder and violence. Izella then married John McCarty, whose brother James exhibited signs of mental illness. On September 1, 1869, Izella's father-in-law, Elder James McCarty, filed a complaint of "assault with intent to murder" against Nick Ferguson (Alston's son) and Amos Armstrong (Nick's cousin). Less than two weeks later, Elder McCarty, Reverend Henry Hurley and John McCarty's young son were all murdered near Duffau, not by Nick and Amos, but by James McCarty, who claimed to have been "commanded by the spirits." While in an insane assylum, McCarty committed suicide. Samantha Olds ended up living with her daughter, Maggie. Maggie Olds, who worked for the Wiesers for a while, married four times. In separate incidents, two of her husbands were murdered in Waco. One divorced her. Her last husband, F. M. Snow, murdered Maggie, her mother Samantha and her son Bernie, on November 27, 1925, while the family was living at Selden.[323]

Continued on Page 6

Page 1, Intro........
Page 2, 1854-1869
Page 3, 1870-1882
Page 4, 1882-1889
Page 5, 1890-1899
Page 6, 1900-1908
Page 7, 1908-1932
Page 8, 1933-2011



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