Waco, Texas

Waco, Texas

Waco, Texas Photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash
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Promotion: Nearby Map of McClennan County

Waco is in central McLennan County about seventy miles south of Dallas near the confluence of the Brazos and Bosque rivers. The city's transportation links include Interstate Highway 35, U.S. highways 84 and 77, State Highway 6, the Missouri Pacific Railroad, and the St. Louis Southwestern Railway. The city is built on the site of an ancient agricultural village of Waco Indians. About 1830 a group of Cherokee Indians moved into the area and drove the Wacos from the village. Fort Fisher, a Texas Rangers outpost and the first White settlement in the area, was established in 1837, but was abandoned after only a few months. In 1844 George Barnard began operating Torrey's Trading Post No. 2 on a small tributary of Tehuacana Creek, eight miles south of the old Waco village (see TORREY TRADING HOUSES). A year later Neil McLennan moved onto land nearby on the South Bosque River. A log smithy was erected at the present site of East Waco in 1846 by Jesse Sutton, a blacksmith. In 1848 Gen. Thomas J. Chambers sold a two-league grant of land, including the old Waco village site, to John S. Sydnor of Galveston. Sydnor struck a deal with land agent Jacob De Cordova to divide the property and dispose of it at a dollar an acre. George B. Erath, who had first visited the area as one of the rangers stationed at the old 1837 outpost, was one of De Cordova's surveyors, and he urged that the new townsite be placed at the former Indian village. In 1848 the tract was sold to Nathaniel A. Ware and Jonas Butler of Galveston; they became De Cordova's partners in the venture.

On March 1, 1849, Erath laid out the first block of the new town and divided it into numbered lots that were sold for five dollars each, with "farming lots" selling for two to three dollars each. The property owners had earlier chosen Lamartine as the name of the new town, but Erath was successful in persuading them to call it Waco Village. When McLennan County was organized in 1850, Waco Village was selected as the county seat after De Cordova and his partners in the Waco townsite donated free lots in the town for public purposes. The first courthouse was built later that year. De Cordova induced a number of important citizens to move to the new townsite, including Capt. Shapley P. Ross, a ranger and Indian fighter, who established and operated a ferry across the Brazos. Ross also owned the town's first hotel and served as its first postmaster, frequently carrying the letters around inside his beaver hat. By 1852 the town had Methodist and Baptist churches, and established the First Street Cemetery. In 1854, when the town was growing rapidly, Robert Lambdin began publishing the Waco Era, the town's first newspaper. The First Presbyterian Church of McLennan County (later renamed First Presbyterian Church) was organized by Rev. Thomas Alexander, Rev. John M. McChord, and Rev. Samuel. C. Taylor in May 1855. The following year Waco Village was incorporated as the town of Waco, and a new county courthouse was built that year. The town continued to grow as cotton culture spread along the Brazos, and by 1859 there were 749 people living there.

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Roger N. Conger | © TSHA

Handbook of Texas Logo

Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

Belongs to

Waco is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists


Place type

Waco is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • [-Village]


Latitude: 31.56040750
Longitude: -97.18814200

Has Post Office


Is Incorporated


Population Count, 2021 View more »


Place Type Population (Year/Source) Currently Exists
College or University Yes
College or University Yes
College or University Yes

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