Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Generosity of the John G. Hardin Family

The life of John G. Hardin was typical of many Texans who came to the state with little or nothing and remained for the rest of their lives. John G. Hardin was born in the Mississippi in 1854. His family relocated to Tennessee shortly thereafter. When he reached the age of 21, he came to Texas on a visit with his father. His father returned to Tennessee while John remained.

Educated in Tennessee as a schoolteacher, he soon found employment on a farm in Johnson County and also taught school. His first wife was the former Susan Cordelia Adams who had been a student of his in one of his early classes. For a few years, they lived near Cleburne before relocating to what is now Wichita County. In addition to farming their small 127 acre site, they operated a general store not far from the Red River. Their first home was a dugout occupied by the couple, Susan’s mother and their young daughter Dovie Eugene. It was not an easy life. Dovie would die in 1881 before she reached age three. Two years later, John and Cordelia’s unnamed infant son died, and was followed by Cordelia who died a week later. All three are buried in Burkburnett Memorial Cemetery in Wichita County.

In 1888, Hardin would go on to marry the former Mary Catherine Funk. The couple continued to live and prosper, accumulating land holdings of some 6,000 acres. Around 1918, the oil boom reached the Burkburnett area. Noted for their generosity, the couple reportedly forgave numerous mortgages that they held securing farms and ranches in the Burkburnett area so that the borrowers also could benefit from their own oil income. The Hardins also funded local area parks, churches and schools also benefiting Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Mary-Hardin Baylor in Belton, Abilene Christian College, McMurray and Howard Payne College. They also donated funds to Buckner Baptist Children’s Home in Dallas and were instrumental in the establishment of Hardin College, a four year school now known as Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls.

The story of the Hardin-Simmons contribution is told by former university president Jefferson Davis Sandefer. He had become acquainted with the Hardins as early as 1923 and approached them about supporting the university, then known as Simmons University. The couple had previously made Buckner Baptist Children’s Home and Baylor contributions and Sandefer felt it was appropriate to contact them on behalf of Simmons, presenting to them the accomplishments and religious orientation of the school. The Hardins were impressed and eventually donated almost one million dollars to the school at a time when the funds were sorely needed. In recognition of the gifts, “on its own initiative and with out the knowledge of Mr. and Mrs. Hardin” the school’s board of directors voted to change the name of the university to Hardin Simmons University.

Mary Hardin died in 1936 at the age 76. John Hardin followed her in death in 1937 and is buried with the rest of the family in Burkburnett Memorial Cemetery. The Hardin’s philanthropy continues to provide benefits to others.

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Posted by on January 28, 2015 in biography, history, texas


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How the Interurban worked

With apologies in advance to electrical engineers who may read this, the Interurban ran on electricity.  More specifically, it ran on direct current.

The power to weight ratio measures the power output generated by a system as it relates to the weight of the vehicle.  The power to weight ratio is greater for electric trains is greater than that of steam or diesel trains, primarily because electric trains are not required to carry fuel as the other trains must do. Because its weight is less as it relates to the power of the motor, the acceleration of an electric train is better. Typically, streetcars in the US run on 600 to 750 volts of power.  In the early to mid 1900s the industry standard was 600 volts. The Texas Electric Railway trains ran on 1200 volts on their longer runs, such as Dallas to Waco and 600 volts in the urban areas.

Electricity was supplied to the Interurban cars via overhead trolley wires that the cars touched by means of a trolley pole or pantograph. There was a trolley pole at each end of each car.  Contemporary systems instead use an electrified third rail rather than the pantograph.

Current was supplied by converter stations placed 8 to 10 miles apart for a 600 volt line.  Twice that distance could be used for a 1200 volt line.  The overhead copper cables were thick in order to reduce the resistance as the current traveled through the line.  The trolley wire made contact with the cable by touching it and was kept in contact by being spring loaded.  There was a pantograph at each end of each car.  The current was delivered to the wheel assembly containing the electric motors which propelled the cars.  The circuit was completed as the current traveled from the cable, through the cars and finally to the rails.  It would be considered an environmentally friendly system today, although the rotary converters in the converter stations gave off a considerable amount of heat.  Though the cars themselves had no air conditioning system during the hot Texas summers, they were fitted with electric heaters in the winter.

Though the system has been updated, contemporary electric rail systems daily use all over the world still function according the same basic technological principles, though considerably refined.

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Posted by on January 22, 2015 in history, interurban, texas


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Burkburnett, Texas

Legend has it that the town of Burkburnett in Wichita County was named by President Teddy Roosevelt upon visiting the area for a wolf hunt at the invitation of rancher Samuel Burk Burnett. Roosevelt reportedly named the post office for Burnett, the founder of the 6666 Ranch.

The area was settled by ranchers before the Civil War and was also historically inhabited by Native American Caddoan Indians, namely the Wichitas and Taovoyas, along with the Apaches and Commanches. At various times, settlements went by the names of Nesterville and Gilbert until the 1900s when Burnett sold some of his acreage to developers including Frank Kell and Joseph Kemp. The community took a firm foothold and the surnames Kell, Kemp and Burnett are familiar to Wichita County residents today.

With the economic benefit provided by the Wichita Falls and Northwestern Railway, development took hold. It was further encouraged by the discovery of oil west of town in 1912. The 1940 MGM adventure film Boom Town is based on the James Edward Grant fictional story “A Lady Comes to Burkburnett” and starred Clark Game, Spencer Tracy, Claudette Colbert, Hedy Lamarr and Chill Wills. It was nominated for two Academy Awards and was reportedly the highest grossing Clark Gable film exceeded only by Gone with the Wind.

Wichita County was established by an act of the Texas Legislature in 1858. The current City of Burkburnett was incorporated in 1923 and is located at coordinates 34°4′58″N 98°34′6″W.

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Posted by on January 18, 2015 in history, texas, town names


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January 26, 2015 Ceremony Honoring Mirabeau B. Lamar

Please see the above link regarding a ceremony honoring Pres. Mirabeau B. Lamar (August 16, 1798 – December 19, 1859), the third President of the Republic of Texas.

The ceremony will be at the grave of President Mirabeau B. Lamar in the Morton Cemetery, located just north of downtown Richmond, Texas.

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Posted by on January 17, 2015 in history, texas


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Col. John F. Strickland, 1860-1921

From The Courier-Gazette, McKinney, TX 21 May 1921:

J. F. Strickland Drops Dead in Dallas Home:

J. F. Strickland, long prominent in business circles in this city and State, dropped dead at his home, 3705 Rawlins street, Oak Lawn, this morning shortly before 10 o’clock.

Mr. Strickland was a native of Alabama. He came to Texas in 1879 and his boyhood days were spent in Ellis county. He came to Dallas in 1904 and attracted Nation-wide attention by his success in financing and building the Dallas-Sherman-Denison interurban Line. After that he built the line to Waco, and also the one from Dallas to Corsicana. He once said it was his ambition to build electric lines which would connect every large city. Had his ambition been realized, he would have had a transportation system equalling that of any steam railroad in the Southwest.

Strickland was a member of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers’ Association, City Club, President of the Texas Electric Company, president of Dallas Power and light Company and president of the Dallas Railway Company, president of Texas Electric Railway, president of Securities Company, president of Dallas Union Trust Company and active vice chairman the Texas Land Syndicate.”

After he arrived in Texas, he began working on the farm of O. B. Sims in Waxahachie. With his savings, he purchased a team of oxen which he used to earn money from plowing for farmers in the vicinity of Milford. With these earnings, he purchased a cotton gin in Avalon. The cotton gin burned to the ground at some point and Strickland took the insurance proceeds and returned to Waxahachie. After that, he worked in the grocery business and eventually became owner of the store, eventually transitioning from retail to wholesale grocery sales. He expanded his business interests, owning ice houses and real estate.

His interest in electrical development led him to start the Waxahachie Light, Power and Water Company that did not take hold, but led to a successor company, Waxahachie Electric Light Company. where he served as manager. He expanded his business interests and moved to Dallas in 1904. In Dallas, he invested in companies related to electrical service including a venture with Osce Goodwin and Judge M. B. Templeton which became Texas Power and Light Company. He and other associates formed the Texas Traction Company and between 1906 and 1908 they had created the Interurban rail car system that operated between Denison, Sherman and McKinney.

At the time of his death in 1921, he was serving as president of Texas Power and Light Company (the entity which eventually became Oncore Electric Delivery), Dallas Power and Light Company, Texas Electric Railway, the Dallas Street Railway Company and Dallas Securities Company. Strickland was a long time member of First Baptist Church of Dallas and the memorial service was performed by Dr. George W. Truett.

Robert L. Johnson, in T.P. & L., First Sixty Years has written this concerning Strickland “…as a business associate he was a genius, combining many elements rarely found in number and degree in a single individual. He possessed sagacity, wisdom and vision, which were exemplified by the great works he has wrought and executed. Not less conspicuously he was endowed with honesty, integrity and fidelity. Untiring industry and unceasing perseverance were among his many marked characteristics. He commanded the respect and confidence of those with whom he was associated and impressed them that he could consummate any undertaking within his contemplation. He believed in honesty as a principle, in fair dealing as an obligation, in the welfare of others as a duty. He had faith in his fellow man, sought always to find the good in others; and other men had faith in him because they found him worthy of their faith, and they believed in him and trusted him.”

To learn more about Col. Strickland and the Interurban, please see:
Blog for Ellis County History
Plano Interurban Museum

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Posted by on January 16, 2015 in biography, history, interurban, texas


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The Interurban

If you were living in Waco in 1913, you could have read an article in the Waco Morning News on October 29, 1913 announcing a new rail line, the Interurban. It was the final extension in one large system, part of the Texas Electric Railway.

In its heyday, it operated from Dallas to Denison, Corsicana, and Waco. Through the merger of several companies, it became the largest interurban railway operator in the South before its demise in 1948. In full flower, it was 250 miles in length, making it as large and important as almost any line in the United States.

The concept originated out of the need for transportation, mail and freight service between smaller towns typically not served by the larger steam engine railway systems in a niche not served by the larger systems. Passengers were able to use reliable, frequent service between towns and villages on the route, much in the same way they accepted and used intercity streetcar systems in the more developed urban areas. Service was fast and reliable, had regular and frequent stops and was affordable to almost all users.

The first service in north and central Texas began in 1901 with the opening of the Denison and Sherman Railway. It connected the two towns over ten miles of track and was incorporated as the Denison & Sherman Railway Company. Col. J. F. Strickland had purchased much of the stock of this company as he was simultaneously developing a 67 mile link between Sherman and Dallas under the Texas Traction Company which began operation in 1908. Stickland and his investors purchased the northern line in 1911 with the Texas Traction Company and combined the two lines. This gave it 77 miles of continuous track linked with the local streetcar companies in Dennison, Sherman and McKinney. Repair shops were in Denison. The first runs between Denison and Dallas on this line occurred in 1911.

With the success of the earlier northern route, in 1912 the owners of the Texas Traction Company acquired a 28 mile line that extended from Dallas to Waxahachie. Built by the Dallas Southern Traction Company, the company became known as the Southern Traction Company and the rail line extended to Waco with the completion of a 97 mile line which opened October 12, 1913. The 56 mile line from Dallas to Corsicana was completed about the same time. In 1917 the Texas Traction Company and the Southern Traction Company merged to form the Texas Electric Railway Company and became the largest interurban railway in the South with more than 200 miles of track. The main repair facility was built in 1914 four miles south of downtown Dallas (the Monroe Shops) where the lines to Waco and Corsicana split. The Monroe Shops also housed the administrative offices of the Company until the $1,500,000 Dallas Interurban Building was completed two years later,

Service was vigorous and successful for several decades until the automobile became more affordable and accepted as a primary mode of transportation. The Company’s revenue gradually declined and the last car ran on December 31, 1948.

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Posted by on January 14, 2015 in history, interurban, texas


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Sam Houston Tribute, by Rufus Columbus Burleson 3/2/1893

Sam Houston was the 7th Governor of Texas, serving from December 21, 1859 to March 18, 1861.

Rufus Burleson personally knew General Sam Houston and was asked to address the Texas Legislature on March 2, 1893 at the memorial service commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gen. Houston, the same date memorializing the 57th year of Texas Independence. Burleson’s entire address amounts to some 40 pages of his memoirs, “The Life and Writings of Rufus Columbus Burleson.” Presented below is the conclusion of his address. His admiration for Gen. Houston is clearly evident. At this point in Burleson’s account, Houston had failed in his effort to prevent the succession of Texas from the Union, been ousted as Governor of the state that he so loved and the Civil War had begun.


The last address [Houston] ever made was to a vast audience who had gathered in front of the hotel in Houston to pay their respects to a hero who had done so much for Texas. He said: “I have been buffeted by the waves; I have been borne along Time’s ocean until shattered and worn I approach the narrow isthmus which divides me from the sea of eternity. Ere I step forward to journey through the pilgrimage of death, I would say that all my thoughts and hopes are with my country. If one impulse rises above another it is for the happiness of these people. The welfare and glory of Texas will be the uppermost thought while a spark of life lingers in this breast.”

Under these terrible accumulations of sorrow his health speedily declined, and he died July 26, 1863, aged seventy years.

The Houston Telegraph announced his death, and said: “Let us shed tears to his memory, due one who has filled so much of our affection. Let the whole people bury with him what unkindness they may have. Let his monument be in the hearts of all Texans.”

Thus lived “and thus, died General Sam Houston, one of the few immortal names that were not born to die.” Though thirty years have passed, every year demonstrates more his profound wisdom and patriotism and causes every true Texan to say: “Oh! that America had only had a hundred Houstons, Clays and Jacksons.” It would have saved her two million lives, and, including pensions, two hundred billion dollars.

In conclusion I wish to state clearly and emphasize earnestly the seven great characteristics that made Sam Houston the hero of San Jacinto and the father of Texas:

1. Love of Mother—His love of mother filled his whole soul and permeated his whole being. Her prayers, her faith, her counsels and her examples followed him from the cradle to the grave; followed him in city and in wilderness, in prosperity and adversity. Her influence, in connection with his angel wife, Maggie Lee, brought him back from his wanderings to duty, glory, and to God.

2. Reverence for God and Religion—General Houston is a striking illustration of the declaration of the great Thomas Carlyle: “A strong religious sentiment is a characteristic of all great minds.” He said to me : “In all my dark trials and struggles, I have always gone alone, at night, for special secret prayer. My retreat from Gonzales to San Jacinto was the most remarkable ever known in history. Every day I dreaded my own men more than Santa Anna. The great majority of the men were eager for the battle at once, and hotheaded men, not knowing the great plan of my campaign, were ready to excite mutiny, depose me, rush headlong to battle, and, perchance, make another Alamo or Goliad. Goaded to madness by these men, I sometimes raved and cursed like a madman, yet every night, when all was quiet, I went alone and spent a half an hour on my knees in prayer, though so unworthy.” I never shall forget that half hour spent with him in prayer, just before he was deposed from the governorship, in 1861. It was midnight; we were all alone, and kneeling by a rock under a live oak tree, in Independence, we poured out our tears and prayers before the God of Washington and liberty, to save our country from the bloody vortex of civil war. It was this profound religious feeling, misguided, that caused him to place such confidence in the flight of eagles that were so abundant fifty years ago, in the Southwest.

3. Unfaltering Courage, Moral and Physical—As a boy he charged amid showers of arrows and bullets the strong fortifications of the Indians, at Tohopeka or Horseshoe. There was never a moment that he would not have charged into a cannon’s mouth at the call of duty. He was the peer of Alexander, of Caesar, of Washington. In the path of duty he could smile at the frowns and curses of the whole world.

4. Profound Penetration—He read at a glance the secret motives of men. He penetrated the depths and heights and breadths of every question. He could banish all personal, all local feeling, and look at the facts just as they were, stripped of all colorings and all disguises, I have known men and grappled with them on the great questions of education and religion, from San Antonio, Texas, to Bangor, Maine, but have never known Houston’s equal in profound, far-seeing penetration. Hence, while so many great men blundered, he foresaw and foretold the results.

5. Love of Country—His love of country, like his love of mother, intensified his whole being. He could ever say, as King David: “If I forget thee, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I prefer not thee to my chief joy, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.” His great soul (while an intense Southerner) embraced our whole country, from ocean to ocean and from gulf to lakes.

6. Republican Simplicity—He had a supreme contempt for all display and extravagance in dress, equipage and buildings. He regarded all such extravagance as criminal, not only because it wasted money, that should be used for higher and nobler purposes, but tended to bribery, corruption and bankruptcy.

7. Political Honesty—He would sooner have put his arm in the fire than take one cent by fraud from the public treasury. He would as soon have defrauded his widowed mother as his mother country. He gave his blood, his toil, his prayers and his whole life to his mother country, and died poor, as Thomas Benton says, all honest public men should die. But, alas! how fearfully we have apostatized! Oh! whither are our millionaire congressmen driving out nation?

But finally, let us examine still more intently what were the causes that molded and erected those seven grand, golden pillars, on which rests the fame of Houston, and from which it will grow brighter and brighter till the stars grow dim. But I entreat you to beware of that fearful delusion, that all great men like Houston, Napoleon, Newton and Columbus, were born great; that greatness was “thrust upon them,” and that, “if we fail and are underlings, our stars and not ourselves are to be blamed.” The true history is, all great men reach to the Alpine heights of fame and greatness by intense toil. It is a fiat of fate, “there is no excellency without great labor.” I would be glad if some great painter would paint Napoleon when a boy at Brienne, lying down on the ground and drawing a map of Europe on the sand, while other boys were playing marbles or ball. These same maps on the sand guided him in his invasion of Russia. I would be glad, also, to see a painting of Sam Houston lying down by that pine-knot fire in that rude country store, committing to memory Pope’s Iliad of Homer, or poring over Plutarch’s Lives, while other boys were chasing foxes over the mountains. No man has a profounder sense of reliance on Providence than I have; yet Providence only helps those who help themselves. Profoundly penetrated with this great truth, let us trace the four great causes that made our Houston illustrious and will make every boy in Texas great and illustrious, who follows those same rules.

1. First of all his mother, whom he worshiped and obeyed. Poets have asked: “What is home without a mother?” The patriot and philosopher may ask with deeper anxiety: “What is a nation without mothers?” Houston, Washington, Marion and all great men owe their greatness to mother. “A dewdrop on the baby plant may warp the giant oak forever, or nourish that baby plant into the giant oak of the forest.” Oh! that the Lord would send us a Luther, a Calvin, a Wesley and a Spurgeon to arouse the world to the importance of real mothers. One such mother as Mary Washington or Mrs. Houston is worth a whole brigade of preaching or political “female brethren.”

2. The second great formative power that erected these pillars of Houston’s greatness, was his dear old teacher. Dr. Anderson. This grand old man quickened into intense activity and molded all the powers of his soul. He taught him how to think, how to commune with his own soul, with books, and above all, with God, the father of light. And, next to pious mothers, our country needs great teachers, but I do not mean ”lesson hearers, time killers and salary grabbers.” These are already about as numerous and about as profitable as the locusts of Egypt.

At the great National Educational Association at St. Paul I met an army of about ten thousand teachers representatives of every State in the Union; yet I fear if Socrates, Anderson, Wayland, or our own Texas Mclvenzie had been there they would have been compelled to borrow the lamp of Diogones and walk through that mighty army crying: “I seek a teacher; who can show me a teacher; a real God sent teacher?” Elijah, a teacher sent from God, is a grand model. When he would restore the son of the Shunamite mother to life he lovingly put his hands in the child’s hands, his feet on the child’s feet, his mouth on the child’s mouth, his heart on the child’s heart and prayed, “Oh, God, let this child live again.” The boy was quickened into vigorous life and flew into the loving embrace of mother. So the real teacher never stands upon the stilts of normal or abnormal methods, nor clothes himself with the mantle of professional dignity, but with the tender love of a father he takes the student by the hand, places his mind, his heart and his whole being in loving sympathy with the student and thus quickens his whole being into activity. A great teacher not only seeks to make his students scholars, but true citizens and patriots and a blessing to their fellow-men, and to elevate them to usefulness on earth and glory in heaven.

General Houston, in the last trying hours of his life, quoted the sayings of mother and Dr. Anderson more than all others, and he longed to meet that angel mother and his noble teacher in that “land that is fairer than day.”

3. The third cause forming his great character was his devotion to reading good books and the “God of Books” selected by his wise teacher. He had a profound disgust for novels and sensational reading in every form, whether in poetry or prose; books or newspapers. We all know how important to health and strength of the body is nutritious food, but, alas, how few know the importance of healthy and abundant food for the mind and soul.

4. But the crowning glory and power of the formative influences was his firm and ever abiding faith in God as an all-wise and ever present Heavenly Father. This was his anchor of hope on the dark and stormy ocean. This was his Gibraltar when assailed by a thousand adversities. Like Luther before the Diet of Worms, he said: “On this firm rock I stand, and living or dying all will be well.” Oh, that these powerful formative influences might erect seven golden pillars of character on which every young man and young woman in Texas may become a moral temple of beauty and glory.

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Posted by on January 2, 2015 in biography, governor, history, sam houston, texas


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