Trails, the Forerunners of Rails

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Trails, the Forerunners of Rails

Katy's Entry, 60 Years Ago, Is Celebrated

December 25, 1932

Contributed by Jean Caddel

DENISON, Texas, Dec. 24 - "Christmas, 1872, was a red letter day for Denison, for it was then that the first railroad train ever to enter the State from the North came to a noisy stop here after having crossed the newly completed bridge over the Red River, the northern boundary of this State and what was then Indian Territory.

"At the throttle of the panting and puffing wood-burning locomotive was P. H. (Pat) Tobin, whose energetic work in helping to construct the M-K-T Railroad into Texas had won for him the distinction of being engineer of the train that inaugurated regular service between Texas and points north. Sunday morning, when the Texas Special steams into Denison, the same Pat Tobin will be in the locomotive cab, serving as ‘guest engineer' as result of his desire recently expressed to President M. H. Cahill of the Katy lines to thus observe the sixtieth anniversary of an event which, he points out, marked the beginning of the real growth and development of Texas."

Two others who were present sixty years ago were DR. A. W. Acheson, a young physician and still practicing his profession at 91, and A. H. Coffin, 82, a young surveyor who helped to plot the Denison town site.

Indian Trails and Cattle Trails

Reading a little Indian History gave me a little more understanding of how these trails developed. The Osage Tribe of Kansas and Oklahoma Territory ceded the eastern part of their territory to the United States and some to the Cherokee tribe and also the Lovely Purchase on the Arkansas-Oklahoma line by 1818. However, they still claimed what is now Oklahoma and southern Kansas as their hunting grounds. All other tribes who invaded these hunting grounds were considered meddlers and an open warfare developed between the tribes, especially the Osage and Cherokees.

The Cherokees were greatly outnumbered and invited several eastern tribes to join them in suppressing the Osage, one of which was the Shawnees, who were nomads by nature, and were scattered over several states, including north central Texas. They had a great deal of land in Southern Kansas and also at one time had a reservation along with several other tribes on the Brazos River in Texas. These tribes were gradually pushed into various parts of the Indian Territory, now Oklahoma.

In the northern part of the territory, a large acreage was set aside for the Senecas-Shawnees. By 1967, the Shawnees had sold their southern Kansas land and transferred their annuities and money from this to the Cherokees - thus they became full Cherokee citizens.

Included in the treaties of 1866, was an agreement that the Indian tribes consent to the grant of right of way for two railroads, one to cross the Territory from north to south, one from east to west. Only one week later, July 26, 1866, was an agreement that the Indian tribes consent to the grant of right of way for two railroads, one to cross the Territory from north to south, one from east to west. Only one week later, July 26, 1866, Congress passed an act authorizing the Union Pacific Railway Company, Southern Branch, to extend its road from the Kansas line south through Indian Territory to Ft. Smith.

July 27, 1866, Atlantic Pacific Railroad Company was incorporated by Act of Congress to build a road from St. Louis to San Francisco.

In June of 1870, after competing with a rival road, the Union Pacific Southern Branch (the name now changed to Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company) began construction of the first railroad in Indian Territory.

By February, 1871, they ran into Muskogee, and by December of the same year, it was completed across the Red River to Denison.

Excerpts from:


Friday, June 5, 1981

"Although the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway (MKT or "Katy", as it is familiarly known) was the first railroad to enter Texas from the north, it was the fifth into Ellis County, coming in under the name of the Dallas and Waco Railway Co. Built by the Missouri-Pacific Co., and receivers of MKT in 1888-1890, it is today a part of the Dallas-Hillsboro line of MKT.

"Though it was only the third railroad to enter Waxahachie, Katy has remained more than 80 years to serve the city.

"Katy formed in 1870, a true pioneer which formed "two streaks of rust" across the prairies through Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and spans the Texas plains to reach the Gulf of Mexico.

"Along its way, the Katy absorbed five other smaller companies as it incorporated in Texas in 1891. The MKT had won a government-sponsored race to be the first railway across the Kansas border and this became the first leg of its road to the Gulf of Mexico and becoming the ‘New Route to the South'.

"Much of the Katy line followed the Texas Trail, an early cattle driving route, to Fort Gibson, then struck out to reach the Arkansas River by July 4, 1871. Through the summer of ‘72, it followed the Gibson Trail,, heading for a shallow crossing on the Red River, where Denison stands today. (The city is named for George Denison, vice president of Katy). The railway is laid along cattle trails for hundreds of miles, those being the sole highways of the frontier west.

"On Dec. 24, 1872, a Katy wood-burner engine crossed the MKT Red River Bridge to a clutter of tents that was to be the start of Denison, thus becoming the first railroad into the Lone Star State. Ad poster for the train were then seen with a cowboy depicted astride a longhorn in front of an engine on the bridge proclaiming it the ‘Gateway to Texas'/ By the turn of the century, it was "Katy all the Way' to the Gulf.

"A 100-mile stretch of Katy line from Dallas to Waco was begun in 1888 and included Waxahachie as one of the stops when completed. This later became one of two main lines between Denison and Waco, one veering through Fort Worth and the other through Dallas."

Many obstacles confronted the construction. A flash flood on Waxahachie Creek in August of 1887 washed away most of the newly graded roadbed through the creek lowlands. The Katy line was finally finished through Waxahachie in 1891.

Katy Lake was built to provide water for tank at the Katy Depot, a mile away in 1908.

Two serious floods occurred within ten days of each other in March of 1922. The Katy Passenger depot had water three feet deep. During the highest flood stage a train arrive and stalled with water four feet above the rails. Passengers were rescued by lowering a ladder to the train ste ps from the overhead interurban viaduct.

Passenger service was not discontinued in Waxahachie by the Katy line until 1954.

The Shawnees and other tribes first blazed the trail. Many of the Indian Trails were later used for Military Roads and the Shawnee became the Sedalia Cattle Trail. Finally we find the MKT Railroad used these same trails for its first railroad through Oklahoma connecting Texas to the northern cattle markets.


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