Greenville in 1886
Wellge continued his tour of the North Texas cotton-farming country with a visit to Greenville late in 1885. Prior to the arrival of the railroads, Greenville had been what one historian called an “inland island,” thirty miles from a railroad in any direction and a modest producer of traditional agricultural crops. But an increase in the number of slaves before the Civil War and the arrival of the railroads, beginning with the Missouri, Kansas and Texas in the fall of 1880, turned Greenville into a railroad town and a regional farming and commercial center with a population of about 3,000. Wellge pictured the growing community from the east (his compass points are illustrated in the lower right-hand corner of the print). The East Line and Red River Railway (later acquired by the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, or “Katy”) enters the picture in the lower left-hand corner.
As with several other cities, Greenville had suffered a disastrous fire the year before Wellge arrived. The blaze began in the elegant, two-story courthouse, the first brick building in town, and spread westward. The volunteer fire department barely managed to contain it, losing all the buildings on the west side of the square and several on the south side. Citizens immediately rebuilt the courthouse on the same foundation, completing it in time for Wellge to picture it and the surrounding buildings in the left center of the print.
Anomalies in Wellge’s view—which appear to be a lapse either in Wellge’s or the lithographer’s draughtsmanship—are the unnamed gullies in the lower right-hand corner. The larger ditch seems to begin at the corner of Stonewall and Church streets and proceed northeastward toward the lower edge of the image. Johnson Street appears to cross it, yet is dissected by it. Another apparent gulley parallels Clay Street for a block, then crosses Stonewall, apparently dissecting it as well. Available U.S. Geological Survey topographical maps indicate a decline in the terrain in this area, but do not conform to the irregular figures on Wellge’s map.