Western Trips

Western Trips

Monday, July 30, 2012

Electra Texas / Electra Waggoner

The founding of what today is the town of Electra Texas was all about the Waggoner Ranch. Electra Texas was named for the daughter of W.T. Waggoner, son of the founder of the massive and very successful Waggoner Ranch. The ranch was originally begun by Daniel Waggoner in the 1850's , W.T.'s father. Daniel was born in Tennessee in 1828.

electra texas theater
Grand Theater, Electra Texas
By the 1880's the Waggoner Ranch comprised about a half million acres. As we described in our previous story of the Waggoner Ranch, the Waggoners were the beneficiary of large oil deposits found on their ranch land in 1911 . As a result, the ranch grew tremendously as did the family's wealth. Eventually, the ranch was placed in the W.T Waggoner Estate as a type of holding company for the family's many subsidiaries such as the Arlington Downs racetrack near Fort Worth Texas, horse breeding and the oil drilling operations.  

Electra Texas was also the beneficiary of this fortune. The Grand Theater shown at left was built in 1921 originally as an opera house.

Population there swelled after the oil was discovered. To put the population in perspective...in 1906 the town had a population of about 750 people. In 1936 there were more than 6,000 residents. Today, Electra has a bit over 3,000 residents. What was once the settlement of "Waggoner", and then "Beaver Switch", was eventually named "Electra" in 1907 in honor of W.T. Waggoner's daughter.

There's quite an interesting story about Electra Texas and about W.T. Waggoner's granddaughter, also named Electra. The grandaughter was the daughter of  E. Paul Waggoner and would later be known as Electra Waggoner Biggs. The first Electra was the namesake of the Wichita County Texas town, the granddaughter of W.T Waggoner ,Electra, actually had an automobile named after her and she achieved a good deal of fame in her own right. General Motors used the brand name "Electra" on their high end full sized Buick models produced from 1959 to 1990. The popular story was that John Biggs, Electra's husband, was the brother in law of Buick Motors president Harlow Curtice. The reported reason for his decision to name a car model after Electra was simply her beauty.

city hall electra texas
Today's, Electra City Hall
Electra Waggoner Biggs, who said she had wanted to be a sculptor ever since she was a kid, was an internationally known sculptor of great ability. Some of her art training was carried on in New York and France. During her lifetime she was commissioned to create busts of Harry Truman, Bob Hope, Dwight D. Eisenhower and several others. The most popular work created by Electra Waggoner Biggs could be the statue of Will Rogers on his horse "Soapsuds". The original statue was donated to the City of Fort Worth Texas and is on display at the city's Will Rogers Colliseum.  There have been three replicas of this statue recast. A replica is at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, in front of the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore Oklahoma and at the Anatole Hotel near downtown Dallas Texas. Some of her early creations were displayed at Los Angeles, Paris and the World's Fair in New York.


electra texas
Today's downtown Electra Texas
For those traveling through north Texas west of Wichita Falls, the Red River Valley Museum in Vernon Texas has the largest display of her work in their Waggoner Room. The museum also has on display a replica of Electra Waggoner Biggs former art studio. Electra Waggoner Biggs passed away in 2001 in a Vernon Texas hospital.

Three additional articles you'll find very interesting are The Waggoner Ranch .... Red River Valley Museum in Vernon Texas and Wild Horses and Cowboys.

Electra Texas is located about 27 miles west of Wichita Falls on US Hwy 287. 

(Photos from author's private collection)

3 comments:

  1. Electra, TX is my favorite Texas town!! Thanks for the history. I see the Will rogers sculpture in Fort Worth frequently and am glad to know she made it.

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  2. Electra, TX is my MOST favorite town, I love going through there!!!!!!!!!! I have lots of photos from there. I live near Fort Worth so see the Will Rogers sculpture often. Thank you for the history, I will see with different eyes now.

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  3. Can you please list what these people did for the towns they were named after? It doesn't look like they cared very much for the people. At least the Walmart heiress built a museum for her town. What did the Electra lady do besides beacon everyone to admire her sculptures and be born lucky while having the audacity to say the poor should not receive help. I'd like to see what life she would have lived without her dad's help. Or her slave owning grandfather's.

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