Waco, Texas, (population 119,641) is located in central Texas near the confluence of the Brazos and Bosque rivers. The city is built on the site of an ancient agricultural Huaco Indian village.
In 1856, the settlement was incorporated as the town of Waco, and a new county courthouse was built. Waco thrived as “cotton culture” spread along the Brazos but the Civil War was devastating to the community’s economy. The city began to boom again after 1870, when the Waco Bridge Company opened the first bridge spanning the Brazos River. This historic bridge, which is still a city landmark, served as the main river crossing for the famed Chisholm Trail.
By 1885, Waco was known as the “Cotton Capital of the South.” The city also served as the state’s central hub for distributing and warehousing many other products. Because of its central location, access to water, and transportation systems, Waco continues to be a center of industry, agriculture, and educational and religious institutions.
Waco attained Certified Local Government status with the Texas Historical Commission in 2005. The Historic Waco Foundation supports four community-supported house museums. Living history tours of Waco take visitors on themed tours that cover the past 170 years and feature costumed actors portraying characters from the city’s colorful past. Three self-guided tour brochures are available on the convention and visitors bureau Web site.
Baylor University, the oldest continually operated university in Texas, was founded in 1845 under the Republic of Texas. In 1886 it relocated from Independence to Waco and merged with Waco University. The Governor Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village at Baylor University’s Mayborn Museum Complex features wood-framed buildings which give visitors a view of life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Other attractions include a museum located in the original manufacturing facility of the soft drink Dr Pepper, which was developed in 1885. The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum is on the banks of the Brazos River, next to First Street Cemetery, one of many historic cemeteries in the city.
The skeletal remains of 28,000-year-old mammoths have been excavated off the banks of the Brazos River, one of the largest discoveries of its kind. An exhibit of the dig is on display at the Mayborn Museum Complex.
Designated a Preserve America Community in October 2007.