Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 3, Number 2, May, 1993 Page: 105
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Presidents Visit Colorado County
by Bill Stein
At least five United States' presidents have visited Colorado County. The
last to do so was George Herbert Walker Bush. In early 1964, the future president, then
running for the Republican nomination for a U. S. Senate seat, came to the county to
film a television commercial. William N. Lehrer had made arrangements for him to shoot
the spot on his Garwood ranch.'
Only one sitting president, Benjamin Harrison, has ever been in Colorado
County. He passed through Eagle Lake, Columbus, and Weimar on a special train while
travelling from Houston to San Antonio on April 20, 1891. Unfortunately, he travelled
overnight and he apparently slept through his entire "visit" to the county. His train flitted
through Columbus just before 5:00 a. m. Still, a few eager citizens gathered at the depot
to see it. They got a brief glimpse of a heavily decorated private train with all its lights
Ulysses S. Grant is the only former president to visit the county. Grant had
been out of office for just over three years when, after a trip to Cuba and Mexico, he
landed in Galveston and decided to visit San Antonio. His train came through Colorado
County on March 26, 1880. He made brief stops in both Columbus and Weimar. There
does not seem to have been much excitement concerning his visit in Weimar, but in
Columbus, numerous people were at the depot to see him. He did not get off the train,
but did shake hands with several people. The so-called "Colored Brass Band" played,
and one lady passed him a bouquet. Grant passed through the county again on March
29, on his way to Houston, but apparently made no stops.3
On May 31, 1898, an accident caused future president Theodore Roosevelt
to spend some time in Colorado County. At three o'clock that morning, an east bound
freight train stopped just east of Borden to work on a hot box. The crew sent a flagman
out to stop another freight train that was following them, but, because of the darkness
and a heavy fog, the engineer of the second train did not see him. The second train
plowed into the first at full speed, wrecking or damaging the last four cars of the first
train and the engine of the second. No one was hurt, but the wreck caused most of the
traffic in the area to be delayed. As it happened, one of the delayed trains was carrying
Roosevelt and his Rough Riders from San Antonio to Florida. The men were forced to
spend about an hour in Glidden.
Word quickly reached Columbus that these heroes-to-be were stranded in
Glidden, and quite a crowd of young ladies ventured out to meet them. One lady in par-
ticular, Gladys Johnson, made quite an impression on Lieutenant John C. Greenway,
and, through Greenway, on Roosevelt himself. Later that day, Roosevelt offered to name
her "Daughter of the Regiment" and Greenway invited her to follow them to Florida. It
is doubtful that she did.4
Lyndon Baines Johnson, a native Texan, was certainly the most familiar of
all presidents with Colorado County. In the early stages of his political career, he was
1 See The Eagle Lake Headlight, March 19, 1964, and The Colorado County Citizen, March 26, 1964
2 See The Colorado Citizen, April 23, 1891
3 See The Colorado Citizen, April 1, 1880, and Nancy Hadley, "A Civic Occasion: The President
Visits Houston," The Houston Review, vol. XI, no. 3, 1989
4 See The Colorado Citizen, June 2, 1898. Gladys' father, Jesse H. Johnson, became a diplomat
in 1899. It is possible that this chance meeting of his daughter with a future president advanced his career.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 3, Number 2, May, 1993, periodical, May 1993; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151388/m1/53/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed October 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.