La Feria News

Who Stole the Bixby Station?

CentennialSeal

The city of La Feria will be celebrating its 100th anniversary and to commemorate the occasion we will be digging deep into our archives each week to bring you images and stories from La Feria’s colorful past. 

Do YOU have any photos, books, or stories that might help us piece together La Feria’s storied history? If so please email us at news@laferianews.net or call our office at 956-797-9920 and let us know!

CENTENNIAL EXCLUSIVE

The following story is a chapter from a manuscript entitled The Bicentennial History of La Feria, Texas written by Eddie Gathings McNail in 1975. Throughout the coming year we’ll be reprinting sections of her research into the history of La Feria as the city celebrates its 100 year anniversary.

We ran this photo of the 1912 view of the La Feria Hotel from the train depot, which stood somewhere in the vicinity of the present location of the post office. Was this the Bixby depot that La Feria founding fathers purportedly “stole” from Bixby? Photo: LFN Archives

We ran this photo of the 1920’s view of the La Feria Hotel from the train depot, which stood somewhere in the vicinity of the present location of the post office. Was this the Bixby depot that La Feria founding fathers purportedly “stole” from Bixby? Photo: LFN Archives. Click to see larger.

Way back in July, 1912 on a hot, sultry night, a group of prominent men took the Bixby Station while all the good town folk of La Feria and of Bixby were fast asleep in their beds. Men operated heavy jacks raising Bixby’s new depot off the foundation, letting the building down on rollers on a makeshift platform and rolling it to a flat car on the tracks of the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexican Railroad.

The men talked in whispers as they worked on this moonless might, and other men stood on the dusty road which is now the five-lane, old U.S. Highway 83 to keep a watch for moving travelers who night interrupt the business at hand.

After loading the new depot, two teams of horses were hitched to the flat car and pulled it east two miles to La Feria, where the depot was unloaded. Only the Bixby had to be changed to La Feria, and our town had a permanent stop for all trains, passenger and freight. Before that time, a mail bag was hung out on a high post and removed by a member of the train’s crew. But no stop was made for passengers or freight.

train-tracks-near-la-feria

Train tracks near La Feria, Texas. Photograph’s date unknown, presumably sometime between 1912 and 1929. Photo: LFN Archives. Click for larger view.

The theft of the station came after all legal means had failed. Since Bixby was named for W.H. Bixby, a St. Louis, Missouri multi-millionaire who owned thousands of dollars of railroad stock in the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railroad, and who was a man of power and importance, nothing was accomplished.

Imagine the amazement of the Bixby residents who awakened to find their depot gone, and the equal, great amazement of the La Feria residents who awakened to find they had a brand new depot.

Thus, La Feria was back in the running as a city because town lots and farm land sold rapidly. The story is told that prospective buyers, being brought in by various land companies, reached New Orleans, Louisiana, became alarmed about the land situation and wired ahead about specific property, fearing it might all be sold before they arrived. One of these buyers was Clay Hall who later was a funeral director in San Benito.

The picture of the men who stole the station is dim and cloudy, but some of them look very much like S.J. Schnorenberg, Bailey H. Dunlap, Ben Noblett and P.B Branch.

If the depot had not been kidnapped, La Feria, the fair, might not be on the map today.

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One Comment

  1. Del

    January 14, 2015 at 4:13 am

    We had a teacher, obviously not a terribly fluent Spanish speaker who opined that “lA Feria” which means change as in coins was named so because the location of the depot was clandestinely “changed” from Bixby to where the La Feria town site exists.

    La Feria means change alright, just not the kind of change he was claiming. La Feria also means The Fair and the itinerant carnivals often wintered there, I guess because it was centrally located geographically in the Rio Grande Vally.

    Some people claim that was why La Feria was named what it was.

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