Gatesville in 1884
As with many cities in the late 1800s, Gatesville was recovering from a fire. The rebuilding had already begun when Koch made this view, and the Texas and St. Louis Railroad, which initiated service from Waco in October 1882, had accelerated growth in this small Central Texas community. Gatesville was primarily a regional agricultural center, with Benjamin Worley’s Flour and Planing Mill and Cotton Gin operating on Still House Branch about a half mile northwest of the courthouse. From Koch’s view, looking toward the northeast, it almost seems that lumberyards were the city’s principal businesses. I. A. Chandler’s yard is shown at Ninth Street between Main and Leon streets, and William Cameron’s large yard is shown on Bridge Street between Fifth and Sixth streets. Cameron, a Scottish immigrant, had located in Waco in 1878 after receiving a contract to supply railroad ties and construction timber for the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad. He expanded his businesses in Texas, ultimately operating more than sixty retail lumberyards along with other businesses.
Koch depicted J. R. Saunders’ Opera House on the east side of the courthouse, at the corner of Main and Seventh. The Gatesville Hotel occupied the same relative position in the next block south, and the Atkinson Hotel was across the street to the west, at the corner of Leon and Seventh. The small Gatesville public school (2 on map), on Lutterloh between Main and Saunders, had been established as the Oak Grove Academy. When the academy failed, the community purchased the two-room building for its school, which was so small that graduation ceremonies had to be held in the courthouse.