Bullard Texas History
Historic image of an East Texas Farm Home at Bullard, Texas on the Cotton Belt Route
The William Pitt Loftin family settled in the area around 1850, and the Etna post office, located to the west of the current town, opened in 1867.
In 1870 John and Emma Eugenia Erwin Bullard settled in the area and in 1881 opened the Hewsville post office in his general store.
In 1883 the Etna post office closed and the Hewsville office was renamed Bullard.
The Bullard railroad station was completed in August 1884 by the Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad.
The community became a shipping point for cotton, vegetables, and fruits. By 1890 the town had a sawmill, two general stores, a physician, a smithy and wagon shop, a telegraph office, cotton gin and gristmill.
By 1892 Bullard had added a grocer, a constable, a justice of the peace, a druggist, a physician, a feed store, schools, and a new general store.
Historic Bullard, Texas Depot of the St. Louis and Southwestern Railroad
In the 1920s additional business opened including several packing sheds, restaurants, a movie theater, and boarding houses. A portable jail, seven feet in diameter and made of a barred round tank on wheels, held prisoners until the county sheriff could escort them to Tyler.
In the post-World War II years Bullard again became a shipping point for fruit and vegetables.
We encourage those with an interest in the history of Bullard to visit the Bullard History Museum located downtown at 105 N. Phillips Street, and to view the website of the Bullard History Museum.
The Bullard History Museum (staff photo)
Bullard Cemetery, circa 1855 (staff photo)
Abandoned Railroad from Tyler, through Gresham and Flint, to Bullard and Rusk
Those of us that have made the trip down Old Jacksonville Highway, heading south from Tyler to Bullard, have noticed the abandoned railroad right-of-way on the west side of the road. The rail bed is still visible in 2015 in Gresham, Flint, and in downtown Bullard.
The Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad Company
The Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad Company was chartered in 1880, to connect Tyler with Sabine Pass in Jefferson County. In 1881, the company acquired the property and franchises of the Rusk Transportation Company and its 17 mile line between Rusk and Jacksonville. Part of the roadbed of this company was utilized by the Kansas and Gulf Short Line during the construction of its line between Tyler and Rusk, which was completed on December 12, 1882. The remainder of the line, about 44 miles between Rusk and Lufkin, was completed about July 1, 1885, giving the company ninety miles of mainline, narrow gauge tracks between Tyler and Lufkin.
On April 29, 1887, the company was sold to the St. Louis, Arkansas and Texas Railway Company. Both companies entered receivership on May 13, 1889 and were subsequently sold at foreclosure to Louis Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald conveyed the former Kansas and Gulf Short Line to the Tyler Southeastern Railway Company on January 13, 1891.
Tyler Southeastern Railway
The Tyler Southeastern Railway Company was chartered on January 12, 1891, to acquire and operate the Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad Company, which it converted to standard gauge track by September, 1895. In that year the company owned eight locomotives and 198 cars and reported passenger earnings of $38,000 and freight earnings of $86,000.
Abandoned railroad route through downtown Bullard is still visible today (staff photo)
Cotton Belt and Southern Pacific
On July 1, 1899, operations of the Tyler Southeastern were assumed by the St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company of Texas, which merged the company on October 6, 1899.
This line, commonly known as the "Cotton Belt", continued to encourage and support the growth of East Texas, including helping farmers convert to a tomato crop after a blight destroyed the peach industry.
Harold J. McKenzie, the president of the Cotton Belt, moved the general offices of the railway to Tyler. A building to house the railway general offices was dedicated on March 22, 1955. Smith County purchased the Cotton Belt building in 1985, and continues to use the building today.
In 1926, tomatoes become the area's cash crop with over 8,000 acres being grown. Jacksonville is still known as the Tomato Capital of the World. In 1932 the Southern Pacific purchased controlling interest in the Cotton Belt.