Goldthwaite       Mills County

Milepost _________

Origin of Station Name


Galveston mercantile wholesaler Peter J. Willis Jr. operated the firm of Willis & Bro. in partnership with his brother William H. Willis and Joseph G. Goldthwaite.  Goldthwaite was married to one of the Willis sisters.  George Sealy Sr. was married to another of the sisters (Magnolia Willis).  The Willis family invested in the G.C.& S.F. from its inception.  The station was named for J. G. Goldthwaite, who attended the town lot auction sale when the company opened the town.  A Dec. 6, 1946 newspaper column in the Goldthwaite Eagle reported that he was a captain in the Confederate Army, a lawyer and judge, born August 21, 1836 and died Oct. 31, 1892.  The first child born in the new town was named Goldthwaite Dexter, and the Santa Fe gifted a town lot to the infant.


Agency Opened


September 1, 1885.

1886 Personnel


G. W. Gibbs                  Stationmaster          $90/month

H. B. Garrison               Cashier                   $65/month

N. R. Southard              Day Operator         $60/month

A. F. Wood                   Day Operator         $60/month

T. Cornelius                   Night Operator       $60/month

Louis Burton                  Porter                     $35/month


Wood and Southard split the month.


W. A. Dozier                 Car Inspector         $60/month

Jonathon Collier             Water Supply         $60/month


Collier, the only local representative of the company’s engineering department, also had responsibility for the nearby Blanket Creek water station.


P. W. Collerain              Section Foreman    $55/month


Supervising nine laborers at $1.25/day each, Mr. Collerain providing room and board for them, charging the company $109.05 for the month.


Peter Baer                     Section Foreman    $55/month


Supervising seven laborers @$1.25/day each.  This was the second section at Goldthwaite.


Mechanical Department


G. L. Bruce                   Foreman                 $100/mo.

R. C. Housh                  Machinist                $3.15/day

E. R. Curl                      Hostler                   $70/month

William Guynn               Hostler                   $70/month

M. Cassidy                    Boiler Washer        $2/day

B. Coldwell                   Wiper                     $1.75/day

H. Hill                            Wiper                     $1.75/day

Charles Litch                 Coal Heaver           $1.75/day

M. Guynn                      Coal Heaver           $1.75/day

A. Goodale                    Coal Heaver           $1.75/day

A. Carr                          Sand Dryer             $1.75/day


Making a total of 36 employees at this station in 1886.


1890 Insured Structures


Depot                            $1500

Roadmaster’s Office      $120

Section House               $655  (Section No. 35)

Section House               $655  (Section No. 36)

RoundHouse &

Machine Shop               $6250

Sand House                   $80  (Contents Only)

Water Tank & Frame    $525

High wtr tank/frame       $520 (also at Blanket Creek)

Water house, steam

Pump & boiler               $665  (also at Blanket Creek)


1921 Depot(s)


Passenger depot built 1916, 28’ by 96’

Concrete/stucco/tile roof with brick waiting platform.  The community tried to secure the structure for a museum when the Santa Fe ceased using it, but the company was averse to this proposal out of concern for liability exposure, and since the structure could not be economically moved it was demolished.  The author has about 3000 bricks from the waiting platform.  The Santa Fe could indulge itself in the luxury of free freight, and imported these heavy paver bricks from Coffeyville, Kansas in 1916.


Freight depot  built in 1898 as a passenger depot and converted for freight usage in 1916, identical in style to company passenger depots built around the same time at Jasper and San Augustine.  These three structures formed a trio of an identical type seen nowhere else on the Texas system.  The roof brackets were curved rather than straight; the only other place the company used curved roof brackets was on its interlocker towers built within the next few years, such as Tower 19 at Dallas.  This depot was a board and batten structure, 24’ by 124’ with a bay window that did not break the roof line.  The office/waiting room interior was beaded wood with bullseye molding at the corners of the cased openings.  This building survived in place for nearly 100 years.  It was moved to a point at the southern outskirts of Salado and converted for use as a private residence.  The conversion was accomplished respectfully of the structure.


1946 Traffic Report


This station generated 56 cars in 1944, and 95 cars in 1945.  Received traffic was 159 cars in 1944 and 147 cars in 1945.


“The Earth” Press Coverage



Employee Magazine Coverage



Junction Other Lines



Agency Closed


11/27/1972  Railroad Commission authorized discontinuance of agency (Docket 3067 RO)


Agency closed December 8, 1972.  The last agent was Hollis Wiggins.  He is shown in one of the photographs, wearing the white patent leather shoes he was known for. 


Photographic Images


 Passenger depot, immediately after completion. Santa Fe Railway, collection of Robert Pounds.

Freight depot, which was originally passenger depot, built 1898. ICC valuation image, c. 1930, Santa Fe Railway.

Operating Bulletins


Three bulletins, see index.

Railroad Commission Complaints


Two complaints, see index.

Legal Department Files


Two files, see index.



            This station and town was originally laid out as a division headquarters point for the company, with a roundhouse and machine shop.  Santa Fe Land Commissioner Thomas W. Jackson conducted an auction of the town lots on September 2, 1885, taking in about $30,000 in proceeds that day.  The first lot went for $250, and the buyer (Captain Walter Acker of Lampasas) was given the privilege of selecting as many lots as he wanted at that price.  He chose six prominent corner lots.  


            In the first few years after construction west from Lampasas, Goldthwaite was the most heavily staffed point west of Temple.  With 36 employees on the payroll, the company was by far the largest employer in the town.  The roundhouse and shops were located close to the current location of the community swimming pool, near some natural springs which flowed from a rock outcropping by the railroad tracks.  The railroad construction force built an earthen dam 25 feet high and 150 feet long to supply water by impoundment in a small reservoir below these springs, from there pumping it up to a wooden storage tank up by the tracks.   This reservoir was located approximately at the junction of state highways 16 and 183, and served the needs of the railroad until 1906, when company engineers decided to dig a well to supplement the spring flow.  Traffic levels along the line had increased, and a new larger and heavier class of locomotives required more water.  To meet this need an unusual well was dug by hand near the springs, having a diameter of 25 feet and a depth of 50 feet and being lined with timber, mortar and rocks.  It was more of a mine-like shaft rather than a conventional well, and a boat was lowered to the water level when the walls required maintenance.   This shaft provided an adequate water supply until 1916, when the company constructed a larger lake near the Bozar switch about five miles north of Goldthwaite. 


            The company had a water supply department devoted to procuring and maintaining adequate supplies of water for its steam locomotives.  This labor force included chemists who periodically checked water for scaling, mineral impurities and hardness, all factors which adversely affected locomotive performance.  Santa Fe stations in the drier parts of the state west of Temple suffered perennial water supply problems, and the company’s operating bulletins over the years comment on water issues at various stations, asking engineers to attempt “runthroughs” to the next water stop at times to avoid bad water or low water supplies at a certain station.  The company ultimately constructed small lakes at or near many of its stations in an effort to secure more dependable water supplies.  These lakes often became swimming and fishing holes for the local citizenry, and the company tolerated this usage.  The Santa Fe’s lake at Goldthwaite became known as Lake Merritt, and a license was obtained from the company to allow local residents to stock it with fish, and have formal fishing privileges.  Shares for this effort were originally sold at $15.00 each, and the funds were used to construct a bathhouse with diving board, and a club house.  In 1958, the price per share for access was $150.00, and the development was essentially a country club with a somewhat unusual history.  In the 1960s the company sold the lake to the city of Goldthwaite; this transaction is the subject of one of the legal department files referenced above. 


            As a part of this research project, a retired company water chemist was interviewed.  The railroad’s experience at Goldthwaite in efforts to obtain a reliable industrial water supply was typical of the struggle he related.  For more on this subject, the reader is referred to discussion of the Santa Fe’s water supply system at Buffalo Gap, Texas, found in T. Lindsay Baker’s excellent reference book “Building the Lone Star – Engineering Works” (get full citation, provide page number).  The extreme importance of good reliable water supplies to company operations ended by the middle of the 20th century, as the locomotive fleet was converted from steam to diesel power.


            Goldthwaite’s future as a modest industrial center might have been thought somewhat secure in the late 1880s, by virtue of its good water supply and the location of the railroad’s western shops there.  However, that vision of the future was undone somewhat unexpectedly.  For reasons now forgotten, until the middle of the 20th century there was an unusually strong animosity toward black people in this part of the state, and this prejudice would prove unfortunately costly to the community.  County historian Flora Gatlin Bowles comments “the company had built shops and a new engine roundhouse and employed a large working force in the shops.  A few of the employees were negroes; the whites drove the negroes out, and in the early nineties the Santa Fe Company moved its shops to Brownwood.  This was a great misfortune for Goldthwaite; the loss of the railroad payroll was keenly felt.” (A No Man’s Land Becomes A County, p. 95).    A more recent reminiscence described the general problem: “…it was a widely known and accepted fact that black people were not welcome in Mills County and they would not stop here unless it was absolutely necessary…” ( Donald Ray Seward entry, Mills County Memories, p. 412)


            After the shops were moved, Goldthwaite men wanting jobs with the Santa Fe would have to leave town, and they did.  Friendships established during the shop and roundhouse days opened doors to positions elsewhere on the system, but sometimes there were unexpected results.  The east side of the Goldthwaite city cemetery is its oldest part, and a visitor to the top of the rise there will find a prominent marble tombstone, clearly the most elaborately carved funeral monument in the entire cemetery at the time of its installation.  Marking the grave of Goldthwaite resident William Watson Whitaker (1867-1898), the tombstone bears the ornately serifed monogram of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, which paid for it.  Whitaker was firing the steam locomotive pulling Santa Fe’s southbound passenger train no. 7 as it approached Fort Worth just after 10:00 p.m. the night of Thursday, July 21, 1898.  A gang of train robbers climbed up over the coal tender from behind, and fatally shot him and the engineer.  The engineer survived just long enough to describe the killers. 


            The Santa Fe paid for a special funeral train to bring Watson Whitaker’s body home to Goldthwaite.  Trial evidence would later reveal that the robbery was a carefully (but badly) planned conspiracy.  The lead perpetrator, Jim Darlington, was hanged in Fort Worth a year later, after the first conviction in Texas where the death penalty was assessed in connection with a train robbery.  The company is only known to have suffered two other train robberies during this era; one at Coleman Junction and one near Blum.  In each case, the robbers were targeting the Wells Fargo express car which was then located at the front of every passenger train.  These express cars carried large amounts of currency and coinage in special safes, but the safes were not strong enough to withstand a dynamite charge.  For more detail about this particular robbery and the resulting trial and execution, see the author’s article.


There have been three comprehensive histories of Mills County, each of which comments on the significance of the railroad’s arrival.  These are:


1.         Flora Gatlin Bowles, “A No Man’s Land Becomes A County”,  Mills County Historical Society, Goldthwaite, 1958.


2.         Hartal Langford Blackwell, “Mills County, the Way it Was”, Mills County Historical Commission (Eagle Press), Goldthwaite, 1976.


3.         Mills County Historical Commission, “Mills County Memories”, Taylor Publishing Company, 1994.


There is a fourth history, in two volumes, by Lewis Porter.  “Early Civilization on the Washboard” was published in 1974, and Take a Journey With Me From the Washboard” was published in 1976.  Porter served Mills County as County Clerk, County Judge, and Acting Postmaster during a long career of public service.  These two books are quite scarce, and the extent to which they comment on the Santa Fe’s presence in Mills County is unknown.


            Mills County has an excellent historical museum located on Highway 183 a few blocks north of the square, with a display of artifacts documenting the earlier prominence of the railroad.  The museum displays are carefully arranged by subject, and in this respect the presentation is more thoughtful than in some county collections.  The museum holds a significant collection of archival photographs of the community, but has no close-up image of the Santa Fe shops and roundhouse.  No such photograph from any source has yet been located.  The artifacts in the railroad section of the museum include a laboriously preserved limestone lintel from the foundation of the roundhouse – a small remnant of the railroad boom days of Goldthwaite.