In 1921, a devastating flood washed the Hoxie Bridge near Taylor into the San Gabriel River and downstream. Soon after, prisoners from Huntsville were brought in to return the bridge to its original location 3.5 miles east of Circleville.
Legend has it that a troublemaking prisoner was shot in the head by a guard, his killing a grisly warning to the other men.
Tales of lovers and travelers frightened by the apparition of a headless ghost haunting the river bottom at the Hoxie Bridge have been reported for decades. Some say the rides stopped after a priest prayed for the soul of the dead man. Some disagree.
The Hoxie Bridge, where the legend began, is named after John Randolph Hoxie (1831-1896) of Chicago, railroad magnate and president of I. & G. N. Railroad.
Hoxie was responsible for bringing the railroad, or “iron horse” as it was known, to Williamson County in 1876. The station stop was first named Taylorsville, which was shortened to Taylor in 1892.
Hoxie grew up a Quaker in upstate New York. At age 13, he began driving cattle from Rochester to Albany. By 18 he obtained a sub-contract to help build the Niagara Railroad. Hoxie recognized the value of cattle and railroads and the opportunities they would eventually provide in developing eastern Williamson County.
Once in Chicago, Hoxie ran the Michigan Southern Railroad and built the Southern Stock Yards, which later became the Union Stock Yards. He founded Stock Yards Bank and served as president for many years. In his lifetime Hoxie organized and served as president of 22 banks in Texas, including the First National Banks of Taylor and Fort Worth.
By 1874, Hoxie had married Mary Hamilton, also from a prominent Chicago family. They had two sons, John R. Jr. and Gilbert H., and a daughter, Anna. Their mansion at the corner of 45th and Michigan streets in Chicago still stands.
Hoxie’s vast fortune grew, and between 1878 and 1884, he privately purchased more than 10,000 acres of land north of Taylor and 52,000 acres in Andrews and Martin counties. He was said to be the largest taxpayer in Texas at that time.
Although the Hoxie family continued to reside in Chicago, they named their property on the San Gabriel River “Sunnyside.” The Hoxie House, completed in 1882, dominated the land. The Hoxies spent vacations at the ranch and threw lavish parties. Hoxie had horses and new breeds of cattle imported there. He was also a proponent of experimenting with irrigation techniques.
The community of Hoxie had a school, gin, general store, blacksmith shop and saddlery. Hoxie’s nephew Mortimer R. Hoxie lived in Taylor and managed the ranch and banking operations. The Hoxie Post Office opened in 1900 amid a population of 322, but officially closed in 1905.
When John Hoxie died of diabetes in 1896, he left his wife $56 million. The family sold Sunnyside eventually, and the Hoxie House burned down in 1934. The only remaining remnant of the Hoxie family’s glory days is the old iron Hoxie Bridge.
Will the headless rider once again race across the Hoxie Bridge? Or has he finally abandoned his nocturnal rides?