This small urban park is named in honor of the first telegraph office in Texas, which opened here in Marshall in 1854 and was operated by the Red River Telegraph Company. This telegraph office connected the city of Marshall to other telegraph offices in New Orleans and Alexandria, Louisiana, and Natchez, Mississippi. At the time, Marshall was the fourth largest town in the state due to its location on the new railroad through East Texas and the stagecoach service to Louisiana. The telegraph predated the telephone as a means of long-distance communication in the United States, and the growth of the new state of Texas was bolstered by this new invention. The park contains several historical markers that share the story of the Red River Telegraph company, which operated for nearly a century-and-a-half.
Telegraph communication began in Texas in 1854,
following the chartering of the Texas and Red River Telegraph Company. The
first office for this new company was opened a few weeks later in Marshall. The
newly established communication line offered connections to New Orleans and
Alexandria, Louisiana, and Natchez, Mississippi. In the next year, Houston
and Galveston also became connected to the telegraph network.
used treetops to hold their wires along the routes, but often offices had to
close down so workers could trace the route to repair wires that had broken due
to the wind. The next company to operate in the region, Texas and New Orleans Telegraph Company,
was chartered in 1856 and began construction to connect Galveston to San
Antonio and Austin. Soon after, these first two telegraph companies consolidated.
The first permanent telegraph line and first railway telegraph line in Texas
was completed along the Galveston, Harrisburg, and Houston Railway between
Galveston and Houston in 1860. After this milestone, the South-Western Telegraph
Company consolidated and joined the American Telegraph Company and purchased
the new line and extended it to New Orleans from Galveston.
In 1866 the Western Union Telegraph Company absorbed
the American Telegraph Company. This company came to dominate the field with an
estimated 1,500 miles of telegraph wire throughout the state by 1870 and owning
89 of the 105 telegraph offices in Texas by 1874. This expansion continued with
the transcontinental railroad as more lines were completed along its route. A
military telegraph line was completed in 1876, connecting San Antonio with
other Army reservations. In 1885, the Galveston
News became the first Texas newspaper to use the telegraph with a special
leased wire between Dallas and Galveston. After merging with the Postal Telegraph
and Cable Company in 1943, Western Union became the only company operating in
Texas, employing over 2,800 people across 1,828 offices by 1949.
The Western Union merger made it one of the most
modern telecommunications companies in the world, as well as the only telegraph
company to operate in Texas after 1943. As communication technology rapidly
advanced through the 1960s, Western Union quickly expanded across 10 Texas
cities, eventually establishing a National Processing Center in Dallas that
received and processed payroll and accounting data from offices around the
nation. With this new center, the need for smaller offices diminished, and on February
9, 1972 the decision was made to close down the first telegraph office in Texas