1944, as Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower wrestled with the myriad details connected
to the planned Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France, on the other side of the
Atlantic the people of Lake Jackson, Texas pondered their own logistical problem.|
What with gas rationing and other shortages due to the war effort, coming up with
reliable public transportation presented a considerable challenge. People who
lived in Lake Jackson, almost all of them connected to the newly opened Dow Chemical
plant at nearby Freeport, needed a convenient way to get from their homes to downtown
businesses and to get their children to the day school operating in the Community
Named for a nearby oxbow-shaped lake in Brazoria County, Lake
Jackson sprouted as a company town built by the Dow Chemical Co. in the early
1940s. It incorporated as a city on March 14, 1944.
"We were building
a new town and needed to interest people to live in Lake Jackson," A.C. Ray later
told longtime Dow employee Bill Colegrove, author of "Episodes: Texas Dow 1940-76."
(Published in 1983, the now out-of-print book is a compendium of 48 feature stories
about Dow and Lake Jackson originally published in the Brazosport Facts.)
that "it took just about every gas stamp to drive back and forth to work at the
Dow Plant," Ray continued, the business community "needed a new idea to sell Lake
Jackson, and also to be useful to the residents there."
Noting that Dow
still used horses and mules to pull graders, someone among the business leaders
suggested that the nascent town should provide its residents transportation with
a modern day stagecoach.
Committee members secured a used lumber dolly
and added two automobile axles with balloon tires. To accommodate a team of horses,
a wooden wagon tongue went on the front of the vehicle. A row of wooden seats
anchored each side of the coach, with an aisle down the middle. Passengers boarded
by walking up a two-step platform on the rear of the coach. Finally, a rounded
canvas top provided protection from the blistering coastal sun. The conveyance,
which could carry a couple of dozen people, looked more like a long covered wagon
than an Old West stagecoach, but they called it their stagecoach.
the acquisition of two black draft horses, the Lake Jackson stagecoach began serving
the community. "Pop" Crumrine, a farmer who knew how to handle a horse-drawn wagon,
operated the one-vehicle, and privately funded "transit system." Starting at 8:30
a.m. and continuing every 45 minutes until 4:15 p.m., the coach left downtown
for the residential area and then returned to the local drug store.
took particular delight in riding the stagecoach, though they preferred to hop
on it from a running start rather than step up on it like the adults did.
popular with all concerned, the stagecoach saved passengers precious motor fuel
and reduced mileage on already well-worn tires with free trips from their houses
to the businesses downtown. In turn, the merchants and service providers saw a
much-appreciated upswing in their receipts.
But eventually a problem developed.
Traditional iron horseshoes did not last long on concrete pavement. And soft horseshoes
could not be had because of war-time demands for rubber. Also, with Lake Jackson
having no blacksmith, Ray and fellow businessman J.T. Dunbar shoed the stagecoach
horses every Sunday whether they wanted to or not.
Finally, the two men
had enough of their extracurricular civic duty and the Lake Jackson stagecoach
rolled into history.
All but forgotten today, the horse drawn vehicle
has the distinction of having been the last regularly scheduled stagecoach in
Texas history even if it didn't much look like one.
Tales" > February
21, 2007 column
Published April 3, 2007
by Mike Cox|