The Founding of Van Alstyne: 1873 Timeline | VAHC Exclusive

1873 was a big, booming year where the forces and factors of Manifest Destiny, fueled by a post-war industry, gave birth to Van Alstyne. Thankfully, it occurred just months before the bottom fell out of the railroad industry and the economy in general. Citizens of Mantua continued to physically move their homes and businesses to Van Alstyne to be nearer to the railroad as The West expanded immediately in the turbulent wake of the Civil War.


Feb 12 – President Grant signs The Coinage Act into law, demonetizing silver.

Feb 21 – For the price of $20 coin per acre, the Houston and Texas Central Railway purchases 35.25 acres for a depot and other purposes out of the James McKinney Headright from W.L. McKinney, a minor orphaned by the Civil War. This would quickly become the site of Van Alstyne, Texas.

March 1 – E. Remington and Sons of Ilion, New York, start production of the first commercial typewriter. This device is the first to use the QWERTY layout. Meanwhile in Texas, Dr. James Lafayette Leslie moves his medical practice and drug store from Mantua to the future site of Van Alstyne.

March 3 – On the last day of the 42nd Congress they hike their own salary by 50%. This salary grab is retroactive nearly two years into the past, to the first day of the 42nd Congress. On the same day, Congress enacts the Comstock Law for the purpose of the “Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use”. The law makes a broad list of “obscene materials” illegal to send through the mail.

March 4 – President Ulysses S. Grant begins his second term. With temperatures barely reaching above zero, many of the inaugural events are cancelled and many fail to turnout for the ceremony on the East Portico of the Capitol.

March (undated) – Oscar Riddle moves his saloon from Mantua’s outskirts to Van Alstyne. His saloon, in a tent beside the creek that runs just south of where N. Main crosses the tracks, sells candy for $1 per stick with a “free” quart of whiskey as he cannot yet legally sell alcohol.

April 16 – Dr. Leslie’s deed is dated today, which he buys for $250, for property on the northwest corner of Main and Marshall, Lot 1, Block 5. This transaction is the earliest recorded deed between an individual and the Houston and Texas Central Railway.

April 17 – The first post office is established with Charles P. Pattie as its first postmaster.

April 29 – Lots 17 and 18, Block 4, on the north side of Jefferson, between Preston and Main, are bought by Mr. Creager for the sum of $320.

May (undated) – Leon Czolgosz is born. He is the future assassin of U.S. President William McKinnley.

May 3 – Named in honor of the widow of William Van Alstyne of Houston, treasurer and major stockholder of the Houston and Texas Railway, Maria Van Alstyne is the only female after whom a town in Grayson County has been named. The deed of dedication by the Houston and Texas Railroad is filed on this date.

May 9 – Dr. Leslie purchases Lots 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in Block 27 on the north side of Fulton between Waco (aka Highway 5) and Preston.

May 15 – The first town plat for Van Alstyne is filed.

May 20 – Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis are granted US Patent # 139121 for blue jeans reinforced with rivets at stress points to help the jeans last longer.

Jun 18 – Susan B. Anthony is fined $100 for voting in the 1872 presidential election. After she is handed her guilty verdict by Circuit Justice Ward Hunt he asks her if she has anything to say. Ms. Anthony replies, “My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored. Robbed of the fundamental privilege of citizenship, I am degraded from the status of a citizen to that of a subject; and not only myself individually, but all of my sex, are, by your honor’s verdict, doomed to political subjection under this, so-called, form of government.”

Jun 20 – C.C. McCorkle buys the home of Polly McKinney on the corner of Austin, facing the new railroad tracks. This home has been on the site for decade as Polly McKinney’s husband James, a veteran of the Texas Revolution, died in 1836 before arriving in the area.

July (undated) – The first wagonyard in Van Alstyne is opened by Bob Moore.

July 10 – In Paris, French poet Paul Verlaine wounds Arthur Rimbaud in the left wrist with a pistol.

July 21 – The James-Younger Gang perform their first train robbery, on the Rock Island Lines in Adair, Iowa. They derail the train and rob it and its passengers. Jesse and Frank James are no strangers to the Van Alstyne area, with ties to both Grayson and Collin Counties.

Aug 2 – San Francisco’s first cable car system is tested by Andrew Hallidie, who had the idea after having witnessed a horse-car accident.

Aug 4 – While protecting surveyors laying the route for the Northern Pacific, Lt. Col. Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry is attacked near the Tongue River in Montana. Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull lead the skirmish which ends after one US soldier and one brave are killed. This seemingly minor incident, which is Custer’s first experience with the Plains Warriors, gives Custer a false sense of what to expect from them during battle. This assumption will prove fatal in three years.

Sept 18 – Due to a series of factors both foreign and domestic, the banking firm of Jay Cooke and Company closes and, as a heavy investor in the railroads, causes a wave of railroad company failures and a rush on the banks. As the railroad industry is the nation’s second largest employer, the “Panic of 1873” begins and will set-off what will be called “The Great Depression”. Only after 1929’s depression will it be renamed “The Long Depression”. This effectively ends focus on post-Civil War Reconstruction.

Nov 14 – Adolf Coors and Joseph Schueler establish their brewery in Golden, Colorado, for a combined investment of $20,000 by converting the Golden City Tannery into the Golden Brewery. Their product will not be available for sale until February of next year.

Nov 19 – William Marcy “Boss” Tweed, head of the corrupt Tammany Hall, is convicted on 204 of 250 counts of defrauding New York City of $6,000,000. He is sentenced to twelve years in prison.

Dec 16 – Gerard Adriaan Heineken first brews his Heineken Lager Beer in the Netherlands.

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