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TIMELINE 1880 - 1890


The Houston Post is established with J. L. Watson as Publisher

William R. Baker took office as mayor accompanied by a hand-picked slate of alderman chosen from amongst the city's foremost bankers and merchants. However, his six year administration was unable to solve the city's financial woes, and Baker left office with Houston $200,000 deeper in debt

Houston's population was 16,513 and 27,985 for Harris County

The first telephone exchange was installed in Houston. There were 50 telephones in the city

Congress appropriated $50,000 for ship channel improvements

Converging upon Houston were nine railroads with a total of 2,200 miles of track in operation and 1,800 under construction

The first electric arc street light is installed on Main Street at Preston Avenue

Texas' sheep population reaches six million

The Houston Chronicle is established with Marcellus E. Foster as Publisher

March 29

Former President U. S. Grant was a passenger on the first train to arrive at the new Union Station

August 30

The rail link between Houston and New Orleans was completed and the first scheduled passenger train between the two cities made its run


Last battle with the Apache in Texas

Congress appropriated $50,000 for channel improvements

Due to regular widespread outbreaks in coastal areas of yellow fever, Dr. Carlos Finlay of Cuba first suggested that the fever was spread by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. But residents of the Gulf Coast consumed tons more quinine before a U.S. Army Commission headed by Dr. Walter Reed finally proved the mosquito theory in 1900 and started to develop control measures

The School Board increased the upper age for free education from fourteen to eighteen years of age, making high school courses free

January 22

An agreement was drawn between the U. S. Government and the Morgan interests, whereby the government would be permitted to purchase the Morgan-financed channel improvements when the government completed its channel work to the cut in Morgan's Point. Difficulties would delay the takeover until 1892

December 31

The new five-story, brick, eighty-room Capitol Hotel opened. Built where the old capitol building had stood. This brick building at Texas and Main was being called the Capitol Hotel when William Marsh Rice bought it, and he kept that name. The trusties of his estate changed the name to Rice Hotel after Rice was murdered


Railroad land grants end after give-away of more than thirty-two million acres

Congress set aside $94,500 for ship channel improvements

Five large cotton compresses were operating around the Houston docks


Adjoining property holders on two blocks of Main Street paid $10,000 a piece to pave the stretch with limestone squares over a gravel base. The city's first paving experiment was not a success


The Houston Electric Light and Power Company was granted a franchise


Houston has 10 railroads, electric lights, and telephones


State constitution amended to provide firm educational funding by taxation

Congress received a report by Maj. S. M. Mansfield, which recommended improvements on Galveston Harbor rather than on Houston's ship channel. The report produced a suspension in federal spending on the channel until 1888

Houston and Galveston were connected via telephone.


The Morgan steamers discontinued regular service between Louisiana and Houston, preferring to use the rail service now available. The decision seriously reduced channel traffic

Houston has six policemen, four on the night shift

University of Texas at Austin opens its doors.


Fence cutting made a felony crime by the Texas state legislature

W. H. Bailey started the Houston Herald

April 8

John L. Sullivan gives a sparring exhibition at Pilot's Opera House

The Houston Electric Light and Power Company inaugurated service with five 2,00-candlepower arc lights over Main Street


XIT Ranch established on 3,050,000 acres in the Panhandle

A local unit of the Knights of Labor was formed


William Cowper Brann is on the editorial staff of the new "Houston Herald"

April 5

Houston Post begins publication

Prairie View State Normal School, first black land grant college, holds first classes


Knights of Labor strike against the railroads is broken by the Texas Rangers

Daniel C. Smith and a new slate of aldermen were elected on the "short hair" or labor ticket. With New York bondholders fearing debt repudiation, a compromise was quickly arranged to solve the city's debt problems

HAYMARKET riot erupts in Chicago and journalist Albert R. Parsons of Galveston is hanged for his participation


Dr. Ashbel Smith dies at his home "Evergreen" on Buffalo Bayou


First American anti-trust law passed by the Texas legislature

The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word established the first general hospital in Houston at Franklin and Caroline. St. Joseph's Infirmary had 40 beds. It was the forerunner of the present St. Joseph's Hospital complex

The Houston Gas Light Company took over Houston Electric Light and Power


Edwin Booth plays "Hamlet" to a packed crowd at Pillot's Opera House


Henry Thompson, a Second Ward resident, drilled an artesian well which yielded almost pure water. He had tapped the third largest artesian reservoir in the United States

Interstate Commerce Act (co-sponsored by Rep. John H. Regan of Texas) enacted by the U.S. Congress


State capitol building, still the largest in the nation, built in Austin

The telephone company served 265 subscribers. The gas company had 20 miles of mains, and 6 streetcar lines operated on 14 miles of track

Houston fielded a professional baseball team in the Texas League


Houstonians spend $1,000,000 for buildings during the year


Further Texas anti-trust legislation enacted

The Sweeny-Coombs Building at Main and Congress was built. It housed various businesses until Harris County bought this entire block in the 1970s as the site for the Harris County Administration Building. All the buildings were demolished except this one at the corner of Congress and Main and the one at the corner of Congress and Fannin. The Sweeney-Coombs Building was restored to house some of the county offices

December 11

Business was suspended, and flags flew at half-mast while memorial services for Jefferson Davis were held in the Market House


James Stephen Hogg elected governor of Texas

Henry Scherffius became mayor

Lawyer John Henry Kirby moved to Houston from Tyler County and bought a big Victorian frame house at Smith and Gray. Kirby remodeled the house and turned it into the brick and stone mansion that still stands on the site. Kirby was a Democrat and some of the strategy for the 1928 Democratic National Convention was worked out in meetings in this house. He won some cases for forest owners and then went into the timber business himself, on a big scale

The Census gave Texas a population of more than two million. Seven counties had more people than Harris County. Houston's population was 27,557, three times that of 1870. Galveston had 29,084

Nebraska banker O. M. Carter came to Houston and bought up the two trolley systems then operating in the city. The cars were still being drawn by mules but Carter changed that. He consolidated the lines, formed the Houston City Street Railway Company, and put electric trolley in service in 1891. This made it possible for Carter to promise and deliver trolley service to Houston Heights, started the same year by Carter and the Omaha and South Texas Land Company. Twelve rail lines were operating in and out of the city by this time and Houston was the most important rail center in the state

After Charles Morgan died, the federal government bought the Morgan channel across Morgan's Point and eliminated the tolls. It was a plus for Houston but the bigger ships still had to stop at Galveston. The Southern Pacific acquired Morgan's rail line and the docks at Clinton

Houston's industry included 160 plants employing 5,000 workers on a payroll of over $2,000,000

The Sweeney and Coombs Opera House (Prince Theater) was opened. Actually a theater, it housed performances by Sarah Bernhardt, Maude Adams, and James Hackett among others

South Houston was annexed to the city

January 6

Prominent Houston and Galveston businessmen met at the Tremont Hotel in Galveston for the Deep Water Meeting where strategy was outlined for gaining channel improvements


The Houston Clearing House was established by five national banks in the city

September 19

The National Rivers and Harbors Act called for a pre-purchase evaluation of Morgan's improvement on the ship channel



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