More than 150 years ago, Union Pacific Railroad began building west from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean, opening a grand frontier to immigrants who settled in existing communities or started new ones along the rail lines.
That bond between our railroad and early settlements has strengthened and grown. Today, Union Pacific serves nearly 7,300 communities where we live, our children grow up, and in which we recruit employees. From rural town to metropolis, we’re honored to have unique, long-standing community relationships.
To date, Union Pacific has recognized 131 communities as “Train Town USA.”
(The above text if from “UP: Train Town USA)
Of the 131 communities, Kennedale is one with the distinction of being recognized as “Train Town USA.” You may ask, “Why is that such a big deal.” In todays world little attention is paid to the many trains that go though our town, unless you get stopped by one? But stop for a minute, let your mind travel back to the early settler days in Kennedale. The 1800’s!
In early years, Native Americans hunted and fished along Village Creek near the present site of Kennedale. The Village Creek tribes and the Republic of Texas signed a treaty in 1843, and settlers began moving into the area. In 1882, John Hudson, C.B. Teague, and Oliver Kennedy bought land at the site of a mineral well and two years later, a local post office opened. In 1885, to attract a rail line to the community, Hudson, Teague, and Kennedy donated land and right of way to the recently chartered Fort Worth & New Orleans Railway, and Kennedale was platted the next year.
Shortly after its receipt of land and right of way, the FW&NO Railway began construction of a line through Kennedale, connecting Fort Worth to a junction with the Houston & Texas Central Railroad in Waxahachie, and the line was operational by May 1886. Together, the two lines were advertised as the “Central Route,” the only all-steel rail line in the state, providing a shorter route from Fort Worth to Galveston than any other in the state, and the quickest route to New Orleans. The FW&NO Railroad also built a depot and three section houses. Kennedale’s section houses were home to railroad employees responsible for the track running between the nearby towns of Brambleton to the northwest and Bisbee to the southeast.
Thanks to the depot and railroad access, Kennedale became a thriving small town with a central business district, a hotel, general merchandise store, drug store, bank, post office, lumber company, brick yard and blacksmith. Kennedale had a public school by 1890 and formed a school district in 1909. As was common in railroad towns, the old main commercial street, Broadway, runs almost perpendicular to the railroad line as the line runs through town from Fort Worth (the line then curves to run parallel to Broadway briefly).
By the end of 1901, FW&NO had become part of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad, which became part of the Southern Pacific, then Union Pacific. In 1903, the old depot was destroyed by fire, and a new depot was constructed. But by 1941, the railroad no longer needed its Kennedale facilities, and it sold one of the section houses, which after that was used as a private residence. The original section house was about 1,000 square feet and was clad with wood clapboard siding. It featured design details typical of homes of this period but had a unique style. The home had three gables, each with a sunburst ornamentation. The depot and other section houses were gone by the 1950s.
In 2008, the remaining section house was severely damaged by fire, but the city salvaged materials from the original structure and used them to build a replica. The building is now the home of the Kennedale Chamber of Commerce, and is also the meeting location for the Kennedale Historical Society Board of Directors.
Watch for Part Two of this story tomorrow!