In the years between the close of the Civil War and the end in the century, America experienced a period of rapid expansion and growth. Numerous new companies were organized and flourished, with railroads being among the safest and most prosperous. Many individuals invested in these transportation enterprises, with certificates of stock being issued to record these investments. These railroad certificates are among the most interesting and attractive pieces issued, and are arguably the most highly collected today. The presently offered piece is one such example. The central vignette features a period locomotive and tender with a line of rolling stock behind. Smoke billows from the large stack at the front, possibly indicating that the train is either arriving or preparing to leave the depot. Numerous individuals can be seen working on the platform beside the train, while two men appear to be shouting between the cab and the first car. Four workmen can be seen on a rock outcrop in the foreground, while a steamship and town appear in the background. The name – “EAST LINE AND RED RIVER RAILROAD COMPANY” – appears in an arc above the vignette, as does the city of issue – “JEFFERSON, TEXAS” – and the “STATE OF TEXAS”. Beneath the vignette is a lengthy financial obligation which states that “This is to Certify that W. M. Harrison entitled to Two Hundred Shares in the Capital Stock of the East Line and Red River Railroad Company, transferable only on the Books of the Company in accordance with the By Laws of said Company.” The obligation is guaranteed by the statement that “In Witness Whereof, the Seal of the Corporation and the Signatures of the President and Secretary are hereunto affixed.”, with the transaction recorded at “Jefferson, Texas, this 17th day of Oct. 1879.” The signatures of “W. H. Cook” and “W M Harrison”, in their capacities as “Secy” and “Prest” respectively, appear at the conclusion, neatly separated by a small vignette depicting a train. Close examination reveals the imprint of “T. Fitzwilliam & Co. Stationers & Lithographers, 76 Camp St. N.O.” (the printer of this document) below the line reserved for the secretary’s signature. A vignette depicting several assorted tree branches, bundled together with a ribbon upon which is printed “SHARES $100 EACH”, can be seen to the right of the financial obligation. Reddish-pink medallions appear in the upper corners (one for the serial number and the other for the number of shares), while a similarly colored design with “ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS” at its center can be found amid the financial statements. The lower left corner features an embossed seal depicting a period locomotive surrounded by the company’s name. A decorative black border encloses the entire design. Six purple “CANCELLED” stamps are present, scattered across the number of shares, the recipient, and the signatures of the company officers. The back is blank except for a large signature of “W M Harrison” measuring almost 5 inches in length. The document measures approximately 7.05 x 11.10 inches and would look great framed with a period photograph of a train or the depot in Jefferson, Texas. Since this railroad was relatively small and it only operated for a short period, documents of this type are quite scarce and almost never offered to collectors. This is a great opportunity to add one of these attractive and historic pieces to your collection.
Cursory research indicates that the East Line and Red River Railroad was chartered on March 22, 1871 to run from Jefferson, Texas to the western boundary of the state. Construction began in 1876, with the first twenty miles to Hickory Hill being opened by the close of that year. The line reached Daingerfield in mid 1877, Leesburg in 1878, Sulphur Springs in 1879, and arrived at Greenville in late 1880. The railroad was acquired in June, 1881 by railroad baron Jay Gould, though he subsequently sold it later that year to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company (Katy). The railroad reached McKinney in May, 1882, but soon, the Katy’s right to own property in Texas was challenged by Texas Attorney General James S. Hogg. Hogg was successful in the lower courts and a decree declaring the charter of the East Line and Red River forfeited was upheld by the Texas Supreme Court in 1890. A receiver was appointed in April, 1891 and the company was sold in January of the following year, though the court at Austin refused to confirm the sale. The railroad was again sold in January, 1893, and was deeded in March of that year to the Sherman, Shreveport and Southern Railway Company.
William M. Harrison was born in Christian, Kentucky on April 26, 1819 and emigrated with his family to Missouri later that same year. He received a common school education until he left home at 16 to work in his brother’s store in Henpstead County, Arkansas. He established a small mercantile in what would become Red River County, Texas in 1836, and purchased a plantation in Clarksville in 1849. By the outbreak of the Civil War, Harrison was rumored to have a personal wealth of approximately $150,000, much of it in slaves and debts owed to his mercantile. Though opposed to secession, Harrison enlisted in the Confederate Army on October 9, 1861, and was appointed captain and Quartermaster of the 9th Texas Infantry. He served with his unit at the battle of Shiloh, but resigned his commission after the army’s retreat to Corinth, Mississippi in late April, 1862. He spent the remainder of the war on his plantation, though he did serve as a representative of Red River County in the state legislature. At the close of the war, Harrison sold his plantation and opened a wholesale grocery and commission business with J. W. Russell. He was elected the first president of the National Bank of Jefferson in March, 1871 and president of the East Line and Red River Railroad soon after. William M. Harrison died on September 16, 1894 at Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
The presently offered document exhibits signs of extended storage, but very little actual abuse. Two harsh vertical folds are present, slightly over 3.50 inches from each end. The signatures at the bottom are each affected by the folds, as are the ends of the central vignette and the printing of the financial obligation (each end of the reddish-pink security printing is also affected). Minor wrinkling is noted along the right margin, possibly from the pages being turned before this certificate was removed from its ledger. Two small corner folds, one at the upper right and the other at the lower left, are mentioned for accuracy. Light toning is present across the entire surface, though the contrast is still sharp and bold. Several dark spots are scattered throughout the design, though these are not obtrusive or overly detrimental to the eye appeal of the piece. The design is slightly off-center, a situation caused when the piece was removed from the ledger in which it was stored. Overall, a very attractive and rarely encountered document issued to and signed by a Texas Civil War officer.