Gallery | Facts
the mid-1800s, Texans began to focus their attention on a future
that had been dramatically altered by the devastation and economic
upheaval of the Civil War. Settlers were moving west, businesses
began to flourish and cattle drives
became a common sight.
For the progressive Waco leaders, this
dilemma was both a problem and an opportunity. The obstacles to building
a bridge spanning the Brazos were staggering. There were no local
engineers or even machine shops. The railroad was still 40 miles
away. Money was scarce. Consequently, a private company was formed
which secured a charter from the state on November 1, 1866. Real
progress began May 8, 1868, when officers of the company were elected.
Col. John T. Flint, an Austin lawyer and banker, who had moved to
Waco after the war and established a banking firm called Flint & Chamberlain,
was elected president. A subscription book was opened and by August,
$50,000 had been subscribed to finance the project.
company decided to retain the renowned New York firm of John A.
Roebling Co. That firm had originated the
suspension span bridge concept and later oversaw the building of
the Brooklyn Bridge. Col. Flint went personally to New York to handle
the deal. In October of 1868, Chief Engineer, Thomas M. Griffith
arrived in Waco to begin preliminary plans. The shifting sandy banks
made the setting of piers and anchor houses extremely difficult,
but by January of 1869, the actual construction was underway.
took 2,700,000 bricks from Wacoan J.W. Mann and $135,000 to build
the 475 foot span. It was the first pedestrian/wagon
bridge built across the Brazos River - at the time, it was the longest
single span suspension bridge west of the Mississippi.
completion in January of 1870, the Suspension Bridge brought the
Texas section of the Chisholm Trail
straight through Waco. A year later, the railroad was extended into
Waco, and the city became a flourishing trade center. For 20 years
after the bridge's completion, a toll was charged for each person
and each head of cattle that crossed on the span.
In 1889, McLennan County, by a bond issue of $80,000, bought the bridge from
the private company and transferred the deed to the City of Waco for one dollar,
with the condition that the bridge be maintained and operated as a free public
historic downtown Suspension Bridge is the centerpiece of present-day
Waco and is surrounded by lovely
city parks. Indian Spring Park is on the west bank and Martin Luther
King, Jr. Park is on the east bank. A beautifully landscaped river
walk connects the bridge to the Waco Tourist Information Center and
to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum at Fort Fisher. Just
past the bridge in the other direction from Fort Fisher is Cameron
Park which is a 416-acre park boasting picnic and playground areas,
trails open to mountain biking, horseback riding, and hiking, scenic
cliffs and Miss Nellie's Pretty Place, a beautiful wildflower preserve.