The origins of the City of Bridgeport can be traced back to a stagecoach route that passed through the city. In the late 1850’s, John Butterfield was awarded a contract by the government to provide mail services between St. Louis, Missouri and San Francisco, California. Mr. Butterfield’s service, which was known as Butterfield Overland Mail, passed through North Texas as it made its way west to California .
In order to successfully make this journey, Butterfield Overland had to cross over the West Fork of the Trinity River . This necessitated the building of a bridge. In 1860, William Hudson Hunt, a land surveyor, obtained rights from the government and built a toll bridge that traversed the Trinity River where FM 920 currently intersects the river. At the time, there was a one-dollar toll to cross the bridge. Though the toll bridge provided the necessary access for Butterfield Overland Mail to conduct business, its use was short-lived. Due to the traffic on the bridge and the poor material with which it was built, the bridge collapsed. The impending Civil War also caused Butterfield mail to cease its operations.
In 1873 Charles Cates, a Decatur merchant rebuilt the bridge in order to transport supplies from Decatur to Fort Richardson . This time, the bridge was built out of iron. Not only did the bridge provide access for suppliers to transport their goods, it was also a landmark from which a small community, Bridgeport , developed. Fertile soil, trees, waterways, and wildlife also surrounded the location of the bridge. These features made this a prime location for settlement and many people converged on this new community. Since the town of Bridgeport developed around a bridge, it is assumed that its name was derived from this fact. Others have suggested that Nance Burris, an employee of the Overland Stagecoach Company whose job was to name towns along his route, named Bridgeport. A more detailed description of the founding of Bridgeport can be read by clicking on Old Bridgeport.
Another unique part of Bridgeport ’s history is the discovery of coal. In 1860 Charles D. Cates, discovered coal while digging a well. Twelve years later, Mr. Cates, J.H. Halsell, J.G Carpenter, Sam Levy, J.J. Long, Henry Greathouse, J.W. Hale, J.M. Holmes and Dan Waggoner came together to form the Wise County Coal Company. For almost half a century, the coalmines provided many economic resources for the city. Unfortunately, as oil and natural gas became more readily available, coal’s viability as a major economic engine diminished as many railroads and other industries shifted to these new sources of fuel. This shift in fuel source and a strike by coalminers led to most of the mines shutting down in 1929. A few of the mines continued limited production until the early 1940's.
Bridgeport , however, adapted to the changing times and when the Rock Island Railway laid tracks two miles east of the original town center, the city opted to move closer to the railroad in order to have better access to the rail line. In 1893 the town center was relocated east of the train tracks. Having a railroad in the city enabled Bridgeport to establish itself as a retail center for many farmers. The city was later incorporated in 1913.
Since Bridgeport was incorporated, it has experienced many changes including increased infrastructure. Over the years, the city has added more schools, parks, an airport, and has seen a steady influx of businesses moving into the city. In its early history, Bridgeport ’s population was 1,872. Today, the city is home to over 5,300 citizens.
It is plain to see that big things lie ahead for this city. Bridgeport , once a transit point for an overland mail service, is now a growing city with endless potential.
When you read the history of a city you always wonder what the city looked like during its past days. A collection of historical photos of Bridgeport dating from the late 1800's to the 1950's can be viewed by clicking on "Memories from the Past". Additional historical photos appear throughout this web site.
When the page opens you will see a page of Thumbnail Images. To enlarge an image click on the thumbnail. When finished viewing the image click on the "Back Button" in the upper left corner of your monitor. This returns you to the page of Thumbnails. You can now look at another Image. It is recommended that you view the images from your left to right.
If your photo collection contains old Bridgeport photos not contained in this collection the Bridgeport Historical Society would like to hear from you. Contact the Society at the following e-mail address: [email protected]
Note; This collection is the property of the Bridgepot Historical Society. Photos have been contributed to the Historical Society by the following: Tommy & Linda Saylor, Carl Ray & Nevesta Jones, Frank Bordner, Lorraine Larking Berg, Norris Cheves, Royce Raven, Virginia Sensibaugh Fincher, Betty Leverett Kingsley, Shirley Bird Mercer, Ione Counts Smith and the Bridgeport Index.