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Sanderson - The Town Too Mean For Bean

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Located on a picturesque portion of the Pecos Trail and along Historic U.S. Highway 90 is Sanderson, Texas, the county seat of Terrell County. Known as the Cactus Capital of Texas and the Eastgate to the Big Bend Wilderness Area, Sanderson is home to most Terrell County residents. Situated on U.S. Highway 90 about midway between San Antonio and El Paso, it has a rich and colorful past that can be seen in many of its historic buildings.


Along with the many other railroad towns of the area, Sanderson began with the construction of the Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad. In 1881, railroad surveyors reached the site of present day Sanderson. At that time, the area had very few residents with the exception of a few early sheep ranchers.


Sanderson, Texas

Even though Sanderson remains the county seat of Terrell County, it  looks  a little bit ghost-towny. Kathy Weiser, February, 2011. 


The site was first called Strobridge after James H. Strobridge, president of the transcontinental railroad construction company. The site was originally planned to be the midway point where the rail building efforts from San Antonio and El Paso would join. However, work fell behind in the canyon country east of present-day Sanderson and the silver spike was driven far to the east near Shumla, Texas.


One of the first to settle in the area was a man named Charlie Wilson, who established a saloon near the site of the proposed railroad terminal. Calling it the Cottage Bar Saloon, Wilson also bought all of the land which would later become the Sanderson townsite. In these earliest days, he also had a competitor – none other than Roy Bean, who also hoped to capitalize on the incoming railroad crews. However, when Bean opened another saloon, Wilson spiked his whiskey with "coal oil" and Bean soon moved eastward to Vinegarroon and Langtry. Wilson's riddance of his competitor would later earn Sanderson the name, "Town Too Mean for Bean."


As the sole land owner, other than the railroad, Wilson, who was affectionately called “Uncle Charlie,” quickly made work in developing the town. Not only did he initially own the only saloon, but also became the first real estate developer, selling lots to prospective businesses and home owners. He would also become known as a community philanthropist, giving money and land to many good causes in the community.


The Sanderson, Texas Depot in about 1910In 1882, when a roundhouse was built, the site's name was changed to Sanderson, after Joseph P. Sanderson, the engineer in charge of construction. The depot of the Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad was one of the first buildings constructed in the fall of 1882. Built to the Southern Pacific Railroad standards, it was similar to other depots located in many of the western states. It was originally about 130 feet long with equal extensions on either side of the central 2-story depot master’s residence. The east end contained a lunch room, locally known as the “Beanery” and the west end contained a freight warehouse. The railroad would eventually employ hundreds of workers and include 13 tracks in Sanderson. Along with the railroad, the local cattle and sheep ranchers grew as Sanderson became a large shipping point. In 1883, the fledgling community gained a post office. In its earliest days, it was like many other frontier towns – unruly with its many railroad workers and cowboys.




Terrell County was created by the Texas Legislature by carving about 1,500,000 acres out of Pecos County in 1905. As a result of a county election, Sanderson became the County Seat and business began to grow. Before long, it boasted a number of hotels, a drug store, doctor, a vaudeville theater and the 3-story brick Kerr Mercantile building.


The Terrell County Courthouse was also constructed in 1905. It was later remodeled in a Spanish colonial style in 1930. Continuing to be used today, it is located between 2nd and 3rd Streets and Hackberry and Mansfield Streets.


In 1910 the railroad was thriving and a 50 foot extension was added to the west end creating a new passenger ticketing and waiting room area, a baggage handling facility, along with a Railway Express Agency office, a Western Union telegraph office and a bump-out bay window for the station operators to see oncoming trains.



Terrell County Courthouse, Sanderson, Texas

Sanderson became the Terrell County Seat in 1905, Kathy Weiser,

February, 2011.

This image available for photographic prints  and downloads HERE!


A much larger freight house was also constructed to the east of the depot to handle the massive shipments of wool and mohair which dominated the Sanderson economy for years. In later years, as locomotives grew more powerful, bigger and longer, the roundhouse was extended to the front to accommodate the larger engines. Most repairs could be done at this facility, except for major overhauls.



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