A History of Hemphill County and the City of Canadian is the story of the railroad in the Texas Panhandle. H.Y. Wilson engineered the first train, engine 299, into Canadian, thus beginning a way of life which would effect the city of Canadian for more than 50 years. With the railroad came the Depot, Harvey House, Roundhouse, Santa Fe Reading Room, and a population of citizens.
Railroad in the Texas Panhandle
Railroad HistoryA History of Hemphill County and the City of Canadian is the story of the railroad in the Texas Panhandle. H.Y. Wilson engineered the first train, engine 299, into Canadian, thus beginning a way of life which would effect the city of Canadian for more than 50 years. With the railroad came the Depot, Harvey House, Roundhouse, Santa Fe Reading Room, and a population of citizens. The historic Wagon Bridge (now the scenic walking bridge) was the largest steel construction west of the Mississippi after its construction in 1916.
Santa Fe RailroadCanadian was initially a stop on the first stage lines because there was a shallow crossing spot in the Canadian River nearby. The area surrounding Canadian is reminiscent of the terrain found to the west in New Mexico- large cottonwood trees and dry, angular mesas. After the railroad arrived and built a bridge across the same spot, the town grew quickly, with wooden buildings, town lots, and streets replacing the dugouts and tents.
Santa Fe DepotThe brick Fe Depot was completed in 1907. It was situated at the foot of main street. It stood eighty feet long by twenty-four feet wide. The platforms extended three hundred feet from Main street to Purcell Avenue. Men working on passenger trains and traffic signals reported here.
Santa Fe Reading RoomLocated on the south end of town, the Santa Fe Reading Room served as a boarding house for men working on the trains. The two story building was marked by a large veranda and a beautiful lawn. One end of the main floor housed a manager and his family while the opposite end served as a yard office for freight trains.
Canadian RoundhouseAfter the brick Depot and Harvey House were completed, work began on the Roundhouse in 1907. The Santa Fe roundhouse suffered tremendous loss in Hemphill County. In 1908 the newly built roundhouse was destroyed by fire. Eleven locomotives and an oil tanker were lost at an estimated cost of $125,000.00.
The Harvey HouseThe Santa Fe Railroad announced its intention to construct a Harvey House next to the Santa Fe Depot in 1909: “Great is the Santa Fe,” the Canadian Record of October 7, 1909, stated, “and we are proud to be on its line.” The new Santa Fe buildings by the tracks were completely destroyed by fire in 1910, but the Santa Fe was undaunted by this setback, and after replacing them, continued construction of the Harvey House.
"Harvey Girls"Elizabeth Hazelwood was a first generation American when she was brought by her parents to Oklahoma in a covered wagon in 1899. She was two years old and her father, a Russian immigrant, had come with his family from South Dakota to try farming farther south. He moved the family on to Texas from Oklahoma, hearing “it was rich down there”, but found, like thousands of others, that this was mostly false advertising.
"Harvey Girls"Elizabeth Alice Garnas was born in Austria in 1909. Her father was a coal miner working for a German company that sent him to work in the Gibson, New Mexico mines. In 1911, Alice’s family joined him in New Mexico, but soon after were forced to leave Gibson when her father lost his arm in a mining accident. Alice attended a few years of high school in Albuquerque before being told it was time to leave school and find work to help support the family.
Harvey Diningroom In the 1920’s, the depot at Canadian was bustling with two to four meal trains stopping each day. Before the roads were paved, all of the county’s wheat and livestock were shipped out from the depot. Warren Harrington worked summers as a busboy at the Canadian Harvey House. “I was responsible for spotting the trains and alerting the chef and the girls. I’d stand out on the platform where I could see up the tracks about four miles.