President Teddy Roosevelt Visits Hillsboro
In Hillsboro’s history there is documented evidence of high anticipation and excitement when influential people stopped by to visit. Residents recall the visits of Willie Nelson in concerts for fund-raising for Hill County Courthouse restoration and the presence of President-elect George W. Bush at the courthouse re-dedication. Others recall the time that Elvis Presley and his unit from Ft. Hood stopped to eat at Andrews Café. Still others remember when President Harry Truman’s 1948 Whistle-Stop Campaign stopped in Hillsboro.
But the dust-bin of history has long erased memories of the stop made in Hillsboro by President Theodore Roosevelt on Thursday, April 6, 1905. A history refresher reminds us that Vice President Roosevelt succeeded to the Presidency on September 14, 1901 following the assassination of President William McKinley. TR won a second term in the 1904 election and earned a reputation as a Progressive and “trust buster.” Texans in 1904 voted 71% for the Democratic candidate Alton B. Parker, but Roosevelt still had a wide following of respect and support for his fairness, integrity, and support for the common man.
Roosevelt’s reputation was boosted by his service in the Spanish-American War in 1898. TR came to Texas and in the bar of the Menger Hotel in San Antonio helped recruit and organize the famed unit known as the Rough Riders. It was his attendance at the reunion of the Rough Riders Association in April, 1905, that brought the President to Texas. While in San Antonio Roosevelt reviewed troops at Fort Sam Houston and gave a speech in Alamo Plaza. He also visited Riverside Park which had served as training grounds for the Rough Riders in 1898.
On this trip to Texas, TR greeted 30,000 in Dallas for a speech in which he shared his vision for a “Square Deal” for all Americans. “The welfare of each of us is dependent upon the welfare of all of us….You must treat each man on his worth and merit…we must see that each is given a Square Deal.”
At his arrival at the 1892 MK&T Depot (currently Chamber of Commerce once at 115 North Covington) on April 6, 1905, President Roosevelt was greeted by 200 citizens, including many students from Hillsboro schools. The Woodman Lodge Band played, and Roosevelt received a hearty ovation. TR made his remarks from the platform and stressed his appreciation for the honor and respect shown on his Texas tour. He said that it was his earnest hope that his visit had afforded the people of the State one-half as much enjoyment as he had derived from it.
Roosevelt’s train also stopped at the MK&T South Yards and he took note of the railroad shops and roundhouse, currently site of Nutrien Ag Solutions. President Roosevelt would have seen the YMCA Restaurant and E M. Scott’s Rooming House at South Yards (1101 South Waco Street) as his train approached downtown Hillsboro. The Katy shops were moved to Bellmead in 1923 and those establishments closed.