First Hallsville-Longview rail trip took two days

Editor’s note: Pioneer Longview businessman Oliver Pegues, then a Hallsville resident, was a passenger aboard the first train west from that city to Longview in 1871. The historic journey was recalled, along with other incidents, in 1931 for the News-Journal by Pegues, then 83.

The iron horse was just beginning to roll across East Texas when Oliver Pegues boarded the first train from Hallsville bound for Longview early in the morning of Feb. 21, 1871.

He had been living in Hallsville several months when Southern Pacific Railway announced completion of the new 10-mile track to Longview. The first train ran the day after the first rail was laid.

Pegues said that the two-day trip was interrupted several times by mechanical failures.

“Two or three miles out of Hallsville, the train jumped the track and seemed to break down,” he recalled. “Since I had no idea how long it would take to get things going again, I went over to old man Green’s to borrow a horse to get into Longview.

“It took that train over two days to come to Longview and return to Hallsville, a round trip of 20 miles. It jumped the track about five times.”

Pegues had been married only a short time, and the train journey was undertaken to engage housing before the couple’s planned move to Longview. He spoke of the change as “removing to th city.”

In those days the locomotives were wood-burners forced to make frequent stops along the track to take on new loads of pine knots and other wood fuel.

“Shortly after the Southern Pacific entered Longview,” Pegues noted, “enterprising residents opened 32 saloons and the town underwent its first ‘boom’ type of growth.”

Thie pioneering railroad, now the Texas & Pacific, was soon serving Longview with several regularly scheduled runs. Two additional competitors, the International & Great Northern and the Santa Fe, soon made the city a major railroad center.

The Pegues family started westward from Mississippi in 1849, the year of the famous California gold rush. They settled near Kilgore, near what was then Rusk County, when Pegues was a small boy.

The family remembers a humorous incident in connection with the days when the county seat for most of this area later carved from Upshur County was at Gilmer.

“A man had been killed,” Pegues recalled, “and the nearest law official was Just of the Peace ‘Squire’ Pain, a bailiff, living six miles north of Longview near Lake Devernia.

“When the squire was asked to come and hold an inquest he said he was planting corn and too busy to come. He did promise, however, to come in two or three days if it was convenient.”

Pegues, the first Longview postmaster, was also an active stockman and merchant before his death in 1937.