Other Views from 1891

Where is Whitewright?

Above: Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler (1842–1922). Whitewright, Texas 1891, 1891. Toned lithograph, 10.7 x 22 in. Published by T. M. Fowler & James B. Moyer. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth.

Whitewright in 1891

Like many other Texas cities, Whitewright owes its founding to the arrival of the railroad and the westward movement of cotton production out of deep East Texas. In 1878, as the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad was making its way into the state, New York investor William Whitewright purchased a tract of land in the railroad’s right-of-way. He surveyed a town site and then brought in agents to conduct the land sale. In the midst of rich farmland, Whitewright soon drew settlers from the small, nearby communities that the railroad had bypassed. Within ten years Whitewright had incorporated and established a public school, several businesses, and Grayson College. The Cotton Belt Railroad extended its tracks through the area, intersecting the MK&T at Whitewright in 1886. A post office began operation there three years before Fowler’s 1891 arrival, and there might have been as many as 1,500 persons living in Whitewright by 1890.[1]

Fowler pictured the city from the southeast just as the growth spurt brought on by the arrival of the Cotton Belt had begun. Within a few years, the city was the largest cotton market in Texas that shipped to St. Louis and had more than seventy businesses. Fowler made a couple of errors in the street grid, labeling Locust Street as “Lock Street” and Grand Avenue as “Main Street.”[2] Nor does he depict the sixteen-foot-wide alleys that are clearly platted on the Sanborn maps, although in several cases there appear to be spaces for the undesignated alleys. But, on the whole, he produced a crisp and positive view of this rural Texas marketplace.