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            Incorporated in May, 1968, Riverside, Texas, is located twelve miles North of Huntsville on State Highway 19.  The city of Riverside, Texas, was founded in 1872 when the economy was run by cotton gins and the railway, and the Houston & Great Northern Railroad (later International & Great Northern) was being built in the area.  The reason the railroad was built was that the river dried up in late summer and the steamboats could no longer navigate all the way to Riverside. Walker County landowners give earth, timber and rock to the railroad in order to gain shipping facilities.  We began as a railroad town and grew alongside the tracks on the South side of the Trinity River, thus the name “Riverside

            The first map of Riverside was made in December, 1873, by G. A. Grow and Ira H. Evans, president and secretary of the railroad.  It was filed in Huntsville on March 18, 1874, and shows eight blocks South of the Trinity River.  The eight blocks run East and West with Front Street alongside the tracks.  Another map filed in 1881 shows Front Street And twenty-five small lots.  Riverside developed churches, a four-teacher school and two blocks of businesses. 

Before the building of the railroad, passengers bound for Trinity and points North had to disembark at Riverside (the train backed up to Dodge and took another route) and continue by taking a ferry across the Trinity River.  In 1914-15 the Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Company erected the Riverside Swinging Bridge, perhaps the last surviving railway structure of its type in Texas.  The bridge was designed to turn a complete ninety degrees to permit the passage of steamboats and barges on the Trinity River.  At 294 feet long and 15 feet wide, the Riverside Swinging Bridge is located on the main-line track of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, across the Trinity River.  It may be approached on foot along the railway right-of-way from town, but it should be noted that the bridge and its approaches are private railroad company property.  The bridge itself is dangerous and visitors are warned not to trespass on the structure.  Perhaps the best view of the bridge is from the State Highway 19 bridge over the Trinity River.

Riverside was first known for its cattle, cotton gin and cottonseed oil mill.  As the river and the railroad were close at hand, this was a means for shipping these products North. 

At one time, Riverside boasted cotton gins, steamboat docks, a blacksmith, livery stable, barber shop, saloon, hotel, and a general mercantile, which housed a make-shift bank.  Eventually that bank merged with the Huntsville Bank and over time became Huntsville National Bank.  In 1921 Conoco and Texaco both built refineries for Fuller’s Earth, a natural purifying agent. The last pit closed around 1980.  A fire in 1925 consumed two city blocks, including the hotel, which was never rebuilt. 

 

 

     

            During World War II, a prisoner of war camp was located three miles West of Riverside.  Prisoners  were brought to Riverside by train, and marched to the camp.  After the war , Sam Houston State Teachers College (Now Sam Houston State University) purchased the facility for $1.00 to use as a Country Campus.  The site still bears the name.

            The old Trinity River Bridge was designed by the Texas Highway department and completed by P & B Construction Company in 1941.  A new bridge was built to expand the highway to four lanes and was dedicated on September 29, 2003.  The old bridge has been refurbished, is now an historical site, and is accessible from the Trinity County side of the river. 

            Since its incorporation in 1968, many changes have taken place in Riverside, including a new City Hall, Volunteer Fire Department, Post Office and paved streets.  There are five churches within the city limits, and more in the surrounding area.  The Riverside United Methodist Church was built in 1903, and still holds services every Sunday.

            Businesses and employment in Riverside include real estate offices, beauty shops, convenience stores, gas stations, restaurants, churches, marinas, gift shops, boat dealers, RV campgrounds, a grocery store, several water-supply corporations, and part of Sam Houston State University. 

            While the population within Riverside’s city limits is only around 450, the area affected by its industry, services, businesses, and facilities reach a much larger part of Walker County.  For good reason, Riverside is known as the “Small Town With a Big Heart”.

Compiled by Christine Hennerich

 
 
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