The Bridgeport Historical Society applied for and was granted Five State Historical Markers. "Toll Bridge & Old Bridgeport" "Bridgeport Coal Mines" "Bridgeport Lodge No. 587" "Col. William H. Hunt" and "Republic of Texas' Santa Fe Expedition in Wise County". The "First United Methodist Church" "First Presbyterian Church" and the "First Baptist Church" were granted State Historical Markers.
Toll Bridge & Old Bridgeport
When Butterfield Overland Mail traversed this area (1858-61) on St. Louis to San Francisco Route, a crossing over the West Fork of the Trinity was a necessity. Col.W.H. Hunt on Feb 11, 1860, obtained a charter and built a Toll Bridge here (50 yds. W). The Overland Mail ceased operation as Civil War began. The bridge soon collapsed. However, a settlement had begun here, and in 1873 Charles Cates, a Decatur merchant, spanned the river with an iron bridge.
When the Rock Island Railroad built to this point in 1893, the town moved but retained its historic name.
Bridgeport Coal Mines
Once a staple of Bridgeport's economy, coal was discovered here in later part of the 19th century. Diggers hit a vein 60 feet deep while seeking water. Mine No. 1 lies under Northeast Bridgeport, and entire area is honeycombed with tunnels and shafts.
Wise County Coal company was chartered Aug.23, 1882, by C.D. Cates, J.C. Carpenter, J.G. Halsell, J.J. Lang, H. Greathouse, and D. Waggoner. The firm was bought in 1900 by Col. W. H. Aston of Virginia. Renamed Bridgeport Coal Company, it had 500 employees at zenth. Most of the mines closed in 1929 due to increased use of oil and gas. The last mine closed in the early 1940's
Bridgeport Masonic Lodge No. 587
On December 12, 1884, The bridgeport Masonic Lodge was granted a charter by the Grand Lodge of Texas. The twenty-seven charter members consisted primarily of local miners, ranchers, and business men. The group met in a tin building on the old town square until about 1900, when a second building was completed. A two-story brick building was purchased from Dr. K.L. Buckner in 1925. From its beginning the Lodge has been active in community affairs, with its membership providing civic leadership and local public support.
First United Methodist Church
Organized in 1893, the same year the Rock Island Rail Line reached the Bridgeport area, this congregationfirst held its worship services under brush arbors and in the masonic lodge building.methodist circuit rider Ben W. Bounds preached the first sermon on June 23 of that year. Within the first year of the church's founding, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Johns donated land for a church building on what became known as "Methodist Hill".
The Methodists in Bridgeport worshiped in their new space until it burned and was rebuilt during the pastorate of the Rev. Jack Lowery at the end of the 19th century. Growth and development throughout the 20th century resulted in the First Methodist Church moving to a new site with expanded facilities in the 1960's.
As Bridgeport grew from a coal mining town to a commerical center for area ranches and dairy farmers to a popular tourist destination for vistors to Lake Bridgeport, the Methodist Church has maintained its active commitment to the community. Outreach and education programs play a strong role in the congregation's mission and ministry. For more than 100 years, The First Methodist Church of Bridgeport has been a significant part of the town's heritage.
Col. William Hudson Hunt
Born in Ithaca, New York, William Hudson Hunt became a principal figure in the development of Wise County. He came to Texas in 1836, joining the War For Independence. He then served in the Army of the Texas Republic, participating in the Santa Fe Expedition. His engineering and surveying skill led to an appointment to the council which located the site of the Texas Capitol. He also surveyed public and school lands and proposed roadways.
In 1855, Col. Hunt became an early Wise county pioneer, settling along the Trinity River's West Fork. He built his residence and ranch headquarters on a hill (later Cactus Hill) at the confluence of a creek (later Hunt's Creek) with the West Fork. He and his wife, Catherine (Cordell), raised five children on the land. Hunt built livestock and grazing operations, and together with neighbors, including noted rancher Daniel Waggoner, he began a cattle business that later thrived. Hunt also specialized in raising sheep.
Col. Hunt was also a community leader. He laid out the County Seat of Taylorsville (later Decatur) and became postmaster at Cactus Hill. He was also active in church and Masonic activities. Additionally, he led residents in a successful effort to encourage routing of the Butterfield Overland Mail Route through Wise County.
In 1861, after the death of his wife, Col. Hunt moved his family to Decatur. His death in 1864 was the result of a wreck caused by a runaway team of horses leading his vehicle. Col. Hunt and other family were originally buried in their family cemetery in Cactus Hill. But the construction of a dam and creation of Lake Bridgeport led to their reinterment here. Today, Col. Hunt is remembered as a pioneer, rancher and noted leader in the early days of Wise County.
A more detail account of the life of Col Hunt prepared by W.D Woodruff can be read by clicking on COL. HUNT
First Presbyterian Church
In 1883, the Rock Island Railroad established a line close to Bridgeport on the banks of the west fork of the Trinity River, and soon the town began to grow. In 1895, the family of J.A. Weakley moved from Decatur to Bridgeport, and as charter members of other Presbyterian churches in the area decided to start a Presbyterian church in Bridgeport. After meeting in a school for several years the 12 charter members officially organized on April 1, 1898. In September of 1898, the Bridgeport town company sold two lots to the church for $1. The first church building, a dignified carpenter gothic structure, was completed at the conclusion of 1898. The church would reside in several buildings over the years, the original 1898 structure, a second structure built in 1960, and a rebuild of the second structure after a fire in 1974.
Opportunities for women began almost immediately and included the Women's Auxiliary in 1899, and the Women's Missionary Union in 1901 (later called the presbyteries Auxiliary of Fort Worth Presybtery). Martha Green Weakley, one of the first leaders of both organizations and a charter member of the church, traveled the area delivering speeches on Christian education and methods of organization. Descendants of the charter members, William Montford and Jane Holden Montford of Ireland, continue to hold membership in this church today. In the 1960s the church began to share services and programs with other denominations in Bridgeport, such as youth, community and educational activities. For more than a century, the church has been a beacon of light in the community.
The First Baptist Church
In 1882, rev. Alphus Hawkins, W. W. Cannon and 23 charter members started this church in old town Bridgeport. After meeting in the schoolhouse and two other sites, the church moved to their own one-room building here in 1895. Coal mining, cattle ranching and the railroad brought growth. By 1920 the church had 300 members and the Women's Missionary Union sponsored Blanche Groves as the church's first Missionary to China. Campus additions included a new sanctuary (1925), education building (1947), worship center (1959), family life center (1980) and new education building (2000). First Baptist has sponsored three missions (Cates St. Baptist Church, El Calvario Bautusta and First Baptist of Runaway Bay) and has supported many other area endeavors.
Santa Fe Expedition
In June 1841, Republic of Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar commissioned an effort to increase Texas’ political, military and commercial influence in Santa Fe, then a part of Mexico claimed by the Republic of Texas. A party of 321 men set out from north of Austin on Brushy Creek (present-day Round Rock) on June 19. This group included merchants, engineers, infantrymen and a newsman. They took with them a large quantity of trade goods and one cannon.
The expedition had great difficulty penetrating the dense undergrowth of the western cross timbers of north central Texas. Three miles southwest of here, the men burned most of their tents, poles and other gear in order to move faster. They then forded the west fork of the Trinity River and crossed near this site mid-day on July 26, 1841. The men endured hardships and delays before reaching Santa Fe, they were captured in the fall before reaching Santa Fe. They were marched to Mexico City and imprisoned. Most were finally released in April 1842.
One of the guides who survived this expedition was colonel William Hudson Hunt. On returning to Texas, he took up his surveying profession. He settled in Wise County, where on the Santa Fe expedition he had observed the region’s ranching potential. His ranch, called Cactus Hill, now lies under the waters of lake Bridgeport. Col. Hunt became a respected community leader and in 1859, he and others requested a rerouting of the Butterfield Overland Mail stages to the south from Cooke County to Decatur and then west to Jacksboro and on to San Francisco. The rerouting led to bridging and ferrying activities for stagecoaches and freight wagons at this Trinity River crossing, resulting in the creation of the town of Bridgeport in 1860.
To view a short slideshow of the dedication click on the link below