The following article, based on a December 22, 1926 clipping in the El Paso Herald, was written by Bob Chessey, El Paso historian. It details the “Christmas Rush” that occurred 90 years ago next week.
El Paso Christmas Shopping “Rush”-1926
El Paso had not yet completely shed its Wild West rough edges by noon Wednesday, December 22 when procrastinating holiday shoppers shared the downtown sidewalks and streets of El Paso with the businessmen of the district taking their lunch hour. While shoppers navigated store to store for the perfect last minute item or bargain and the businessmen wound through the crowds toward a lunch time meal a stampede of escaped horses thundered through the center of downtown El Paso. That morning approximately 100 horses, tied together in groups of two, three or four animals, were being herded toward the Stanton Street International Bridge for sale to the Mexican Government.
While approaching the bridge the horses became spooked and began racing north up Oregon Street. The length of the animals’ assault on downtown spanned about five blocks, with groups of 10 or 12 horses in each block. The initiative of fast thinking R. W. Woods, a policeman on duty at the Stanton St. Bridge, reduced the threat when he jumped in front of the panicked herd and redirected half of them from charging the business area.
As the scared horses approached the business area bustling with Christmas shoppers, the herd’s speed increased, women screamed, and men pushed their way through the crowds.
When traffic officer McMahan, who was working the intersection at San Antonio St., became aware of the approaching runaways he alerted pedestrians and traffic to clear the intersection by blowing several blasts on his traffic whistle before removing himself immediately ahead of the arrival of the pounding hooves at full gallop.
After the stampede charged through the intersection of San Antonio St. it surged past Mills Avenue, continuing on Oregon St. between the Plaza and the Mills Building. When the runaway herd encountered the train tracks north of the Plaza several horses lost their footing, slipped and fell, before bolting up and lurching forward as an approaching locomotive sounded in the distance down the track. At the intersection with the 300 block of Rio Grande Avenue the stampede pivoted 90 degrees right and ran east several more blocks before the sweaty and exhausted beasts tired and stopped in an open area at the base of a small hill at the 1400 block of Rio Grande Street. The tired and worn out horses were then calmly returned south toward the border, completing their journey to Mexico.[i]
[i] “Horses Stampede Through Traffic,” El Paso Herald, December 22, 1926, p. 1.