Monday, July 6, 2009

Suspension Bridge brings Progress to 1870s Waco

The Brazos River runs through Waco, Texas. During Waco's early history, crossing the river was dangerous to both men and animals. When Waco became a common stop on the Chisholm Trail, the need for a safer crossing became necessary.

Designed by the same architect who later built the Brooklyn Bridge, the Waco Suspension bridge, touted as the longest bridge in the world at the time though this claim has been questioned, opened in 1870. Supplies were hauled by wagon from Galveston and required nearly three million bricks made by a local brick maker.

At the time it opened, a toll house, complete with a yard and it's own windmill sat at the entrance. The fee for pedestrians and cattle was five cents each. By 1889, money collected had repaid the near $141,000 it cost to construct the bridge and tolls were suspended.

In the picture postcard above, courtesy of, you can see that the banks of the Brazos was a place for family and community to gather for social events. The same is true today.

My novel, My Heart Will Find Yours is set in 1880s Waco. Here is an excerpt that includes the supension bridge.

Royce studied the amber liquid in his glass. Pearl had been missing for four years today. Tonight, for the first time since she disappeared, he’d visit the Reservation, Waco’s red-light district, and pay for the company of a woman. Before today, touching another woman would have felt like cheating. His Ma and Pa, God rest their souls, raised him and his brothers to be honorable men, men who were faithful to their women. But his wife was dead, and his body screamed for release.

There were a number of women in town who’d expressed their sympathy when his wife went missing, and several made obvious their eagerness to give him comfort. He’d do his own picking and choosing when the time came. Until then, one of the girls for hire at Josephine’s would do.

Royce studied his face in the mirror, ran his hand over his jaw, feeling the scratch of whiskers. Shaving everyday was a pain, but he couldn’t stand the dandified mustaches and beards so many men favored these days. If he started courting, he’d have to shave twice a day. He glanced over in time to see Judge Stokes in the big double window as he passed by the saloon. The judge’s daughter, Danielle, was still single. At twenty-eight-years-old, she was well into spinsterhood.

Just last week she’d made a point to speak to him and Garrett after the monthly Saturday social. She’d blushed prettily when she invited them to dinner. Before Pearl, he’d escorted Danielle to a number of social functions and considered marrying her. But he’d made that trip to San Antonio, met Pearl, and then no other woman would do. Odd Danielle had never married. She was a beautiful woman and well thought of in the community. He might just invite her to the upcoming July Fourth dance.

Hell, he’d ask her as soon as possible. It couldn’t be tonight though as he’d never approach a woman with the smell of Josephine’s clinging to his clothes. He grinned at the thought and shook his head. Tomorrow night he’d go home, clean up, and he and Garrett would ride out to the judge’s place. Maybe take her a handful of those gardenias she liked.

He finished his drink and laid money on the bar. “Thanks, Hans.”

“Anytime, Marshal.”

The heat, fueled by the high humidity of summer, hit him as he stepped outside. He tilted his hat forward a notch to keep the sun out of his eyes, yet allow him to see clearly. A man couldn’t be too careful on the streets, especially a lawman in a town nicknamed Six-Shooter Junction. Trouble could come from any direction. His eyes studied a stranger in the alley leaning against the wall of the hardware store, and then flicked to the angry cowboy riding by, whom last week Hans had tossed from his saloon into the street. Probably most dangerous was the cocky kid, spoiling for a fight and out to make a name for himself, ambling toward him now. He stayed alert as he passed the boy and walked toward the banks of the river.

The suspension bridge looked odd stretched out across the Brazos. Though completed ten years ago, it looked foreign and disrupted the stark beauty of the river with its grass and tree-covered banks. But industry was changing towns, and folks had to accept modern inventions or be left behind in the rush for prosperity.

He found a big oak, sat down, and leaned against its large trunk—a barrier for bullets, stray or otherwise. Its rough bark was uncomfortable against his sweat-soaked back, but he didn’t care. It would be dark before too long, then he’d go to Josephine’s. Prostitution was legal, but it went against the grain to be seen going in a whorehouse in broad daylight. He removed his hat, let his head rest against the tree, and closed his eyes.

Goodbye Pearlina, my lovely Pearl. Rest in peace.

My Heart Will Find Yours is available now in both ebook and print formats at The Wild Rose Press and and Barnes and

Please check out the contests on my blog Linda's Musings and website.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Linda LaRoque ~Western Romance with a Twist in Time~ A Law of Her Own, Desires of the Heart, My Heart Will Find Yours, Flames on the Sky10-9, The Wild Rose Press; Forever Faithful, Investment of the Heart, When the Ocotillo Bloom 7-9, Champagne Books.


Celia Yeary said...

Linda--the Brazos runs west to east just south of Mineral Wells, where I was born. Our family and cousins spent summers down there on the banks--it had more water then--and we played in the shallow water. I wrote a historical titled Wish for the Moon--which fits nowhere, so it sits in my computer--and I use the ferry across the Brazos, so a young man can visit his girl. You did a good job on this. It brought back memories, and gave me an idea for my next Cactus Rose post. The excerpt was so touching--can't wait to read it (you won't believe how many books I have loaded--two of them are yours.) Celia

Linda LaRoque said...

Hi Celia,
Darn, I forgot to mention the ferrying across before the bridge. Oh well, I remembered last night at 10:00 that I needed to do this post. Have another one Thursday for the paranormal blog.

I'm glad my post prompted an idea for you. Thanks for stopping by.

Paty Jager said...

Fun information and great excerpt, Linda!

Tanya Hanson said...

Hi Linda, what a fascinating bit of history. I have never been to Texas but everything I read, I sure need to.

I'm having fun imagining cattle getting across a long bridge. Wow.

WOnderful excerpt, too.

Lauri said...

Oh...nice excerpt!

And another great post! Thanks for sharing so much history, I love reading this blog!


Linda LaRoque said...

Hi Paty, Tanya, and Lauri,
Thank you for stopping bye and leaving a comment. I love the history too. It would be so fun to travel back in time--as long as I could get back home if I want to.