Texarkana in 1888
Texarkana is located in a densely wooded area on a plateau between the Red and Sulphur rivers at the site of an old Indian trail that was for hundreds of years the main route between the Indian villages of the Mississippi River area and those to the west. The city was founded in December 1873 on the site where, hardly a month later, the Cairo and Fulton Railroad (from Arkansas) joined the Texas and Pacific Railway (from Texas) at the Texas-Arkansas state line. Texarkana has billed itself ever since as the “Gateway to the Southwest.” Henry Wellge seems to document this claim by including at least fifteen trains steaming in and out of the city. By 1890 eight different railroads served the city.
The town’s name is a combination of the names of Texas, Arkansas, and nearby Louisiana, though no one is quite sure who coined the term. The most prominent aspect of the view, other than the large railroad yards in the foreground, is State Line Avenue, which was laid out precisely along the north-south line dividing Texas to the west and Arkansas to the east. Texarkana, Texas, is not the county seat of Bowie County today, but it was for a few years in the 1880s, and Wellge correctly identified Ghio’s Building (29 on map) at the corner of Maple and Broad streets as the temporary courthouse. Texarkana, Arkansas, is the county seat of Miller County, and Wellge depicted that courthouse (1) at the corner of Laurel and Fifth streets. The city also had two post offices from 1886 to 1892, and Wellge showed them as well (the Arkansas post office is 2, and the Texas office is 3). After the post offices were combined into one, the postmark read “Texarkana, Arkansas” until Congressman John Morris Sheppard obtained a postal order officially changing the name to Texarkana, Arkansas-Texas.
Texarkana’s largest industry at the time of Wellge’s visit was timber, which is reflected in the inclusion of Kizer Lumber Company (21) and Gate City Lumber Company (49) as well as at least one unnamed lumberyard. But agriculture had long dominated the livelihoods of the region’s settlers, and slavery had been a significant factor in the area before the Civil War. The agricultural economy increased with Texarkana’s founding, because it brought national and international markets within reach of the local farmers.
Wellge’s view fairly depicts the landscape and the placement of the streets, with some minor omissions. He did not show the drainage ditch that flowed under the Forest Street Bridge at Cedar Street, although it is represented on contemporary maps. The Sanborn map for February 1888, for example, indicates that Cedar Street was not developed, so the street itself probably served as the drainage ditch. As usual, Wellge exaggerated some features (church spires), while leaving others out (out buildings, fences, etc.). This view is unusual in that he includes no people, horses, carriages, or even the mule-drawn trolleys, although he showed the trolley tracks that begin in the upper right-hand corner of the print and travel south and east through town to Maple and finally north all the way to Wooten Spring Park, pictured on the horizon.