General & Geography
Waco, TX is a city of 113,726 (2000 Census) people located in Central Texas, the Waco/Temple/Killeen area. It is the central city and county seat of McLennan County (population: 213,517). Waco is located approximately 70 miles south of Dallas, and about 100 miles north of Austin. The city is located on the Balcones Fault, which separates the Grand Prairie on the west and the Black Prairie on the east. The city is located on the Brazos River near where it converges with the Bosque River. Waco Lake, an Army Corps of Engineers lake, was constructed for flood control purposes on Bosque River on the west side of the city. This lake was constructed at the location of an old city lake. Waco Lake had a pool elevation of 455 ft, covered 19,440 acres and had 152,500 acre-feet of storage space, although this increased with the scheduled seven foot raising that occured in 2003. The new pool elevation is 462 ft, and has 210,000 acre-feet of storage space. Construction began in 1958 and filling began in 1965. Suburbs include Woodway, Hewitt, Robinson, Lorena, Bellmead, Lacy Lakeview and Northcrest. The town of Beverly Hills is located entirely within Waco's boundaries. Other surrounding towns include McGregor, Crawford, West and Riesel

Waco is located on the former site of the village of the Waco Indians, a branch of the Wichitas. In 1837 a short-lived Texas Ranger outpost was established. Then in 1844 George Barnard began operating Torrey's Trading Post No. 2 nearby. Neil McLennan settled nearby in 1845. John S. Sydnor bought land that included the old Waco Village site & made a deal with Jacob De Cordova to sell the land. George B. Erath, formerly stationed at the 1837 outpost, acted as a surveyor and pushed to locate the townsite at the former Indian village.

In 1849 Erath laid out the first lots for the town. He also convinced the property owners to name the town Waco Village, rather than Lamartine. When McLennan County was organized in 1850 Waco Village was selected as the county seat. Capt. Shapley P. Ross was an early important citizen of Waco. He operated a ferry on the Brazos, owned Waco's first hotel and was the first postmaster.

The area heavily depended on the plantation economy needed for cotton production, thus it is no surprisre that the area supported the secessionist cause during the Civil War. In fact six Confederate generals came from the area. During the war Barron's Mill produced cotton for the Confederacy. During Reconstruction racial tensions were high in the area, and in the 1860s a race riot errupted.

Due to it's location on a spur of the Chisolm Trail the area's economy recovered quickly after the Civil War. In 1870 the Waco Suspension Bridge, the first across the Brazos was opened. The economy was further boosted when the Waco and Northwestern Railroad was built into the city. The rough 1870s earned Waco the nickname of Six Shooter Junction. During this time the city had legalized prostitution.

In the early 1880s the St. Louis and Southwestern and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroads were built into Waco, turning the area into an important transportation hub. Waco soon became one of the largest cotton centers in the south.

In 1911 The Amicable Insurance Building was completed. It was designed to be the tallest building in Texas at 22 storeys. Today it is known as the ALICO (Amicable Life Insurance Company) building and remains the tallest structure in McLennan County.

During World War I a training base called Camp MacArthur was opened. As a result prostitution was made illegal.

By the 1920s a black middle class had developed in Waco, and as a result the town became a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity. The Klan was said to have "controlled every office in the city of Waco" during the 1920s.

During the Great Depression the area's prosperity due to cotton vanished. Employment and money came into the city via FDRs New Deal programs. Baylor became the home of a National Youth Administration training camp. The WPA constructed University High School.

World War II saw an increase in demand for cotton products, and the opening of several military bases and war plants in the area. These included the Waco Army Flying School, the Blackland Army Air Field in China Spring and the Bluebonnet Ordnance Plant in McGregor. After the war the area military installations were closed, but Waco Army Air Field was reopened as Connally Air Force Base in 1948. Connally later closed in 1966.

On May 11, 1953 a tornado ripped through downtown Waco killing 114 and destroying many bussinesses. This combined with white flight led to urban decay. In order to combat this the Waco Urban Renewal Project began in 1958, and in 1967 Waco was chosen for the federal government's "Model Cities Program."

In 1993 the city was thrust into the international spotlight as a result of the Branch-Davidian standoff, despite the fact that the standoff actually occured outside Waco in the community of Elk.

Waco became known as the "Athens of Texas" due to the educational institutions that it attracted. In 1860 Waco Classical School was founded, which became Waco University in 1861 and later merged with Baylor University in 1887. Paul Quinn College was opened in 1872 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1856 Waco Female College was established. In 1893 WFC closed, but in 1895 Add-Ran College occupied the buildings. In 1902 Add-Ran became Texas Christian University. Paul Quinn College moved to downtown Dallas in 1990. Current educational institutions in Waco include Baylor University, McLennan Community College and Texas State Technical College.

Waco is the headquarters of district 9 of The Texas Department of Trasportation. Major roads in Waco include Interstate 35, US 84, US 77 and State Highway 6. Major railroads include the Missouri Pacific Railroad and the St. Louis Southwestern Railway. The Waco Regional Airport provides air transport to nearby airports such as the DFW Airport. The Waco Traffic Circle, a confluence of five formerly major highways, is considered a local historic landmark, and is the source of the local saying "I survived 'The Circle'."

Other Facts

  • Dr Pepper was invented in Waco at Morrison's Old Corner Drug Store in 1885 by Charles Alderton.
  • The Waco Tribune-Herald is Waco's major newspaper.
  • The M&M/Mars plant in Waco makes 75 percent of the world's Snickers bars.
  • WACO, a country music radio station, in Waco is one of two in the US whose call letters spell out the town name.

Parks & Tourism

Arts & Culture

If you're in Waco I recommend checking out some of the following restauraunts.

Famous Wacoans

Sources for this node include:
The Handbook of Texas Online:
The Roads of Texas

Thanks to Woodshed for giving me the idea for this node, and helping me with content and research.

I'll probably be periodically adding stuff to this node.

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