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Waco ( ) is a city in and the county seat of McLennan County, Texasmarker. The city has a 2009 estimated total population of 121,496. It is the 194th largest city by population in the US. The Waco Metropolitan Statistical Area consists of McLennan County and as of 2008, has an estimated population of 230,213.



Prior to the founding of the town, a Wichita Native American group known as the "Waco" or "Hueco" lived on the land of present-day downtown Waco. In 1824 Thomas M. Duke explored the area and reported to Stephen F. Austin describing the village: "This town is situated on the West Bank of the River. They have a spring almost as cold as ice itself. All we want is some Brandy and Sugar to have Ice Toddy. They have about planted in corn, beans, pumpkins, and melons and that tended in good order. I think they cannot raise more than One Hundred Warriors." After Austin aborted the first attempt to destroy their village in 1825, he made a treaty with them. The Waco eventually moved out of the region, settling north near present-day Fort Worth. In 1872 they joined other Wichita tribes on a reservation in Oklahoma. In 1902 the Waco received allotments of land and became official US citizens.

Neil McLennan settled in an area near the South Bosque River in 1838. Jacob De Cordova bought McLennan's property and hired a former Texas Ranger and surveyor named George B. Erath to inspect the area. In 1849, Erath designed the first block of the city. Property owners wanted to name the city Lamartine, but Erath convinced them to name the area Waco Village, in honor of the Native Americans who had lived there. In March 1849, Shapley Ross built the first house in Waco, a double-log cabin, on a bluff overlooking the springs. His daughter Kate soon became the first white child to be born in Waco.


Waco in 1886
In 1866, Waco's leading citizens embarked on an ambitious project to build the first bridge to span the wide Brazos River. They formed the Waco Bridge Company to build the brick Waco Suspension Bridgemarker, which was called the longest span of any bridge west of the Mississippi River when completed in 1870. The company commissioned a firm owned by John Augustus Roebling in Trenton, New Jerseymarker to supply the cables and steelwork for the bridge, which was a pioneering engineering feat of the era. Roebling's firm began work on the Brooklyn Bridgemarker in 1870.The economic effects of the Waco bridge were immediate and large, attracting cattle runs from the nearby Chisholm Trail and increasing the population of the city, as immigrants now had a safe passage for their horse drawn carriages to cross the river. Since 1971, the bridge has been open only to pedestrian traffic and is in the National Register of Historic Places.

A Waco Statue paying tribute to the Chisholm Trail.
In the late 1800s a red light district called the "Reservation" grew up in Waco and prostitution was regulated by the city. The Reservation was suppressed in the early 1900s. In 1885, the soft drink Dr Pepper was invented in Waco at Morrison's Old Corner Drug Store.

In 1873, AddRan College was founded by brothers Addison and Randolph Clark in Fort Worthmarker. The school moved to Waco in 1895, changing its name to Add-Ran Christian University and taking up residence in the empty buildings of Waco Female College. Add-Ran changed its name to Texas Christian Universitymarker in 1902 and left Waco after the school's main building burned down in 1910. TCU was offered a campus and $200,000 by the city of Fort Worthmarker to relocate there. In 1845, Baylor Universitymarker was founded in Independence, Texasmarker, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of Texasmarker. It moved to Waco in 1886 and merged with Waco University, becoming an integral part of the city. The university's Strecker Museum was also the oldest continuously operating museum in the state until it closed in 2003, and the collections were moved to the new Mayborn Museum Complex.

The Dr Pepper Museum is one of Waco's tourist attractions.
In the 1890s, William Cowper Brann published the highly successful Iconoclast newspaper in Waco. One of his targets was Baylor Universitymarker. Brann revealed that Baylor officials had been importing South American children recruited by missionaries and making house-servants out of them. Brann was shot in the back by Tom Davis, a Baylor supporter. Brann then wheeled, drew his pistol, and killed Davis. Brann was helped home by his friends, and died there of his wounds.

In 1894, the first Cotton Palace fair and exhibition center was built to reflect the dominant contribution of the agricultural cotton industry in the region. Since the end of the Civil War, cotton had been cultivated in the Brazos and Bosque valleys, and Waco had become known nationwide as a top producer. Over the next 23 years, the annual exposition would welcome over eight million attendees. The opulent building which housed the month-long exhibition was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1910. In 1931, the exposition fell prey to the Great Depression, and the building was torn down. However, the annual Cotton Palace Pageant continues, hosted in late April in conjunction with the Brazos River Festival.

On September 15, 1896 "The Crash" took place about north of Waco. "The Crash at Crush" was a publicity stunt done by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad company (known as M-K-T or "Katy"), featuring two locomotives intentionally set to a head-on collision. Meant to be a family fun event with food, games and entertainment, the Crash turned deadly when both boilers exploded simultaneously, sending metal flying in the air. Two people died and six were seriously injured.


McLennan County Courthouse
In 1916, a mentally challenged African American teenager named Jesse Washington was tortured, mutilated and burned to death in the town square by a mob that seized him from the courthouse, where he had been convicted of murdering a white woman. 15,000 spectators, mostly citizens of Waco, were present. The commonly-named Waco Horror drew international condemnation and became the cause célèbre of the nascent NAACP's anti-lynching campaign. In 2006, the Waco City Council officially condemned the lynching, which took place without opposition from local political or judicial leaders.

In 1923, the Texas Legislature created the Tenth Civil Court of Appeals and placed it in Waco; it is now known as the 10th Court of Appeals.

In 1937, Grover C. Thomsen and R.H. Roark created a soft-drink called "Sun Tang Red Cream Soda". This would later become known as the soft drink Big Red.

On May 5, 1942, Waco Army Air Field opened as a basic pilot training school and on June 10, 1949, the name was changed to Connally Air Force Basemarker in memory of Col. James T. Connally, a local pilot killed in Japan in 1945. The name changed again in 1951 to the James Connally Air Force Base. The base closed in May of 1966 and is now the location of Texas State Technical College, formerly Texas State Technical Institute, since 1965. The airfield is still in operation and was used by Air Force One when former US President George W. Bush visited his Prairie Chapel Ranchmarker, also known as the Western White House, in Crawford, Texasmarker.

On May 11, 1953, a tornado hit downtown Waco, killing 114. As of 2007, it remains the tenth deadliest tornado in U.S. history and tied for the deadliest in Texas state history. It was the first tornado tracked by radar and helped spur the creation of a nationwide storm surveillance system.

In 1964 the Texas Department of Public Safety designated Waco as the site for the state-designated official museum of the legendary Texas Rangers law enforcement agency founded in 1823. In 1976 it was further designated the official Hall of Fame for the Rangers and renamed the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museummarker. Renovations by the Waco government earned this building green status, the first Waco government-led project of its nature. The construction project has also fallen under scrutiny for expanding the building over unmarked human graves.

In 1978, bones were discovered emerging from the mud at the confluence of the Brazos River and the Bosque River. Subsequent excavations revealed that the bones were 68,000 years old and belonged to a species of mammoth. Eventually, the remains of at least 24 mammoths, one camel, and one large cat were found at the site, making it one of the largest findings of its kind. Scholars have puzzled over why such a large herd had been killed all at once. The site is currently being looked at by the National Park Service for possible inclusion into the National Park system. They are conducting a special resource study to be presented to Congress.

On February 28, 1993, there was a shoot out in which six Davidians and four agents of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) died. After 51 days on April 19, 1993 a standoffmarker between FBImarker agents and Branch Davidians ended in a fire that destroyed their compound located in Mt.marker Carmelmarker, near Waco. Seventy-four people, including leader David Koresh, died in the blaze.

In 1999, a charter school called the Emma L. Harrison Charter School was closed by the Texas Education Agency; the school was the first school of its kind to have its charter revoked in Texas.

Rock guitarist and outdoorsman Ted Nugent, who is an enthusiastic bowhunter, resides in Waco and writes a weekly column for the Waco Tribune-Herald. He filmed his MTV show "Surviving Nugent" on his ranch in nearby China Spring, Texas.

During the Presidency of US President George W. Bush, Waco was the home to the White House Press Center. The press center provided briefing and office facilities for the press corps whenever Bush visited his "Western White House" in Crawfordmarker. The former president's home is an outlying McLennan County community about west of Waco.

Geography and climate

Waco is located at 31°33'5" North, 97°9'21" West (31.551516, -97.155930).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 95.5 square miles (247.4 km2). 84.2 square miles (218.1 km2) of it is land and 11.3 square miles (29.3 km2) of it is water. The total area is 11.85% water.

Monthly Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Rec High °F 88 96 100 101 102 109 109 112 111 101 92 91
Norm High °F 57 62.3 70.2 77.6 84.8 92 96.7 96.9 90.1 80.4 67.8 59.1
Norm Low °F 35.1 39.3 46.8 54.2 63.3 70.6 74.1 73.5 67 56.7 45.8 37.5
Rec Low °F −5 4 15 27 37 52 60 53 40 25 17 −4
Precip (in) 1.9 2.4 2.5 3.0 4.5 3.1 2.2 1.8 2.9 3.7 2.6 2.8
Source: Weather By Day


As of the census of 2000, there were 113,726 people in the city, organized into 42,279 households and 24,775 families. The population density was recorded as 1,350.6 people per square mile (521.5/km2), with 45,819 housing units at an average density of 544.2/sq mi (210.1/km2). The 2000 racial makeup of the city was 60.78% White, 22.65% African American, 1.38% Asian, 0.51% Native American, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 12.38% from other races, and 2.26% from two or more races. 23.64% of the population being Hispanic or Latino of any race.

The census recorded 42,279 households out of which 29.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.4% having married couples living together, 16.2% having a female householder with no husband present, and 41.4% as non-families. 31.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.9% had someone living alone at 65 years of age or older. The average household size was calcultaed as 2.49 and the average family size 3.19.

In the city the population is spread out with 25.4% under the age of 18, 20.3% from 18 to 24, 25.0% from 25 to 44, 16.0% from 45 to 64, and 13.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 28 years. For every 100 females there are 91.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 87.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $26,264, and the median income for a family is $33,919. Males have a median income of $26,902 versus $21,159 for females. The per capita income for the city is $14,584. 26.3% of the population and 19.3% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 30.9% of those under the age of 18 and 13.0% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


According to the Waco Chamber of Commerce, the top employers in the city are:
# Employer Employees
1 Providence Health Center
2 Baylor Universitymarker 2,360
3 Waco Independent School District 2,350
4 City of Waco 1,729
5 Hillcrest Health System 1,350
6 L-3 Communications 1,619
7 H-E-B 1,350
8 Wal-Martmarker 1,290
9 Sanderson Farms, Inc. 1,170
10 Midway Independent School District 955


See also List of Waco's Neighborhoods

Downtown Waco

Downtown Waco is small compared to many other Texas cities, such as Houstonmarker or Dallasmarker, or even San Antoniomarker, Fort Worthmarker, El Pasomarker or Austinmarker. However, each day roughly 17,000 people commute to and from work in downtown. Downtown Waco was built around the Waco Suspension Bridgemarker, which was a crucial crossing of the Brazos River. In May 1953, the worst tornado in Texasmarker history struck downtown Waco killing 114, and injuring hundreds. It caused millions of dollars in damage, and dented Waco's economy for years after. Downtown Waco is home to the ALICO tower, which was completed in 1910, and was once the tallest structure in the Southwest. Downtown Waco is now the location of the famous Dr Pepper Museum, where Dr Pepper was invented; it is also the location of the McLennan County Courthouse.

In the past few decades, Downtown Waco slowly decayed as Waco grew to the West away from Downtown. In the new millennium Waco's city leaders took strides to making Downtown Waco the city center again. There are two projects currently being worked on in Heritage Square, which takes up two blocks in downtown, between 3rd and 4th streets and Washington Avenue and Franklin Avenue. The first project is the new Chamber of Commerce of Waco, which will be an environment-friendly building. The second project, which broke ground in the spring of 2008, is a mixed-use development with commercial and residential buildings. The two-story, Greater Waco Chamber Headquarters is under construction adjacent to Heritage Square and will be the marketing center for Greater Waco and the cornerstone of Waco Town Square. The building has been designed to accommodate the organization's committees and staff who are advancing an expanded economic and community development agenda. The Third Street facade will have large, retail-style windows, contributing to an interesting urban feel of the development and is Waco's first LEED (Leadership in Engineering and Environment Design)-certified building. There are also other projects being talked about by the public. In fact, over $80 million in construction is underway or planned for the city of Waco.


Waco Independent School District serves most of the city of Waco. However, Midway ISD, Connally ISD, China Spring ISD, and La Vega ISD also serve parts of Waco. There are four main high schools in Waco city limits: Waco High Schoolmarker (Waco ISD), A.J. Moore Academy (Waco ISD), University High School (Waco ISD), and Midway High School (Midway ISD). The schools are all major rivals in sports, academics and pride; with the exception of A.J. Moore which does not offer sports besides swimming. Public charter high schools including Rapoport Academy, EOAC Charter School and Premier High School of Waco serve the McLennan County area. Local private and parochial schools include Vanguard College Preparatory School, Live Oak Classical School, Texas Christian Academy and Reicher Catholic High Schoolmarker.

There are three institutions of higher learning in Waco:

In the past, several other higher education institutions were located in Waco:
  • AddRan Male & Female College (now Texas Christian Universitymarker)
  • The Catholic College
  • The Independent Biblical and Industrial School
  • Central Texas College (unrelated to the current school)
  • Paul Quinn College
  • A&M College
  • The Gurley School
  • Waco Business College
  • Toby's Practical Business College
  • Provident Sanatarium
  • The Training School


Interstate 35 is the major north-south highway for Waco. It directly connects the city with Dallasmarker(I-35E), Fort Worthmarker (I-35W), Austinmarker and San Antoniomarker.State Highway 6 runs northwest-southeast and connects Waco to Bryan/College Station and Houston.US Highway 84 is the major east-west thoroughfare in the area. It is also known as Waco Drive, Bellmead Drive, Woodway Drive or the George W Bush parkway (Depending on what part of town you're in).Loop 340 bypasses the city to the east and south.State Highway 31 splits off of US-84 just east of Waco and connects the city to Tyler, Longview and Shreveport, LA.

The Waco area is home to three airports. Waco Regional Airport (ACT) serves the city with daily flights to D/FW International via American Eagle and to Houston's Bush Intercontinental via Continental Connection. TSTC Airport (CNW) is the former site of James Connally AFB and was the primary fly-in point for former President George W. Bush when he was visiting his ranch in Crawford, TX. It is also a hub airport for L3 and several other aviation companies. McGregor Executive Airport (PWG) is a general aviation facility located west of Waco.

Local transportation is provided by the Waco Transit System, which offers bus service Monday-Saturday to most of the city. Taxi service is provided by Yellow Cab.

Train service is offered through Amtrak. The Texas Eagle route includes daily stops in McGregormarker, just west of the city.


The Waco Suspension Bridge
Major Waco attractions include:

Professional sports

The American Basketball Association had a franchise for part of the 2006 season, the Waco Wranglers. The team played at Reicher Catholic High Schoolmarker and practiced at Texas State Technical College.

Previous professional sports franchises in Waco have proven unsuccessful. The Waco Marshals of the National Indoor Football League lasted less than two months amidst a midseason ownership change in 2004. (The team became the beleaguered Cincinnati Marshals the following year.) The Waco Wizards of the now-defunct Western Professional Hockey League fared better, lasting into a fourth season before folding in 2000. Both teams played at the Heart O' Texas Coliseummarker, one of Waco's largest entertainment and sports venues.

The SIFL (Southern Indoor Football League) announced that Waco is an expansion market for the 2010 season. It is rumored that they will play in the Heart O' Texas Coliseum.

Professional baseball first came to Waco in 1889 with the formation of the Waco Tigers, a member of the Texas League. The Tigers were renamed the Navigators in 1905, and later to the Steers. In 1920, the team was sold to Wichita Fallsmarker. In 1923, a new franchise called the Indians was formed and became a member of the Class D Texas Association. In 1925, Waco rejoined the Texas League with the formation of the Waco Cubs.

On June 20, 1930, the first night game in Texas League history was played at Katy Park in Waco. The lights were generously donated by Waco resident, Charles Redding Turner, who owned a local farm team for recruits to the Chicago Cubs.

On the night of August 6, 1930, baseball history was made at Katy Park: in the eighth inning of a night game against Beaumont, Waco left fielder Gene Rye became the only player in the history of professional baseball to hit three home runs in one inning.

1930 was the last year that Waco had a team in the Texas League, but Waco fielded some strong semi-pro teams in the 1930s and early 1940s. During the World War II years of 1943-45, the powerful Waco Army Air Field team was probably the best in the state; many major leaguers played for the team, and it was managed by big league catcher Birdie Tebbetts.

In 1947, the Class B Big State League was organized with Waco as a member called The Waco Dons.

In 1948, A.H. Kirksey, owner of Katy Park, persuaded the Pittsburgh Pirates Professional club to take over the Waco operation and the nickname was changed to Pirates. The Pirates vaulted into third place in 1948. They dropped a notch to fourth in 1949, but prevailed in the playoffs to win the league championship. The Pirates then tumbled into the second division, bottoming out with a dreadful 29-118, 0.197 club in 1952. This mark ranks as one of the 10 worst marks of any 20th century full-season team. When the tornado struck in 1953, it destroyed the park. The team relocated to Longview, Texasmarker to finish the season and finished a respectable third with a 77-68 record.

People with Waco ties






See also


  1. TSHA Online - About Us - Error - Please update your link to TSHA
  2. TSHA Online - About Us - Error - Please update your link to TSHA
  3. TSHA Online - About Us - Error - Please update your link to TSHA
  4. Top Ten US Killer Tornadoes
  5. An F for Effort: Texas Monthly December 1999

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