Eastland County History 1922
Eastland County History Written in 1922
Eastland County. Created on February 1, 1858, and named in honor of William M. Eastland, who had been murdered while a prisoner in Mexico, Eastland County was one of the number of blocks of territory carved from the public domain before the war by legislative enactment, but which for many years had no population to justify a county government. The county was formally organized December 2, 1873. In 1860 the Federal census enumerated ninety-nine inhabitants of Eastland County, and in 1870 this population had decreased to eighty-eight. The few settlers that remained during the '60s comprised a sort of advance guard against the forces of barbarism that still held the entire western region of Texas. From the immigration which followed the war Eastland profited to some degree, but its real development was due to railroads, and in this connection some generalization may be noted with reference not only to Eastland but to other counties in the same vicinity.
The decades of the '70s and '80s witnessed the real settlement of Western Texas. During the '70s the buffalo were finally hunted from the plains, and quickly following them came the great herds of domestic stock and the old-time stockmen. For a few years these latter were supreme lords of the domain of grass-covered prairies. Not far behind was another instrument of progress—the railroad—which invaded the cattlemen's country and, while co-operating with the stock industry, it also served to introduce permanent settlers. More than any other factor. the railroad has made West Texas a home for people. Where the railroad has penetrated counties have been organized, towns have been built, and fences have divided the prairies from the sown fields.
In anticipation of the railway, settlement became fairly rapid in Eastland County at the middle of the '70s. A newspaper correspondent writing in January, 1876, said : "Six months ago Eastland City, the county seat, was laid out on the north prong of the Leon River. At that time it was nothing more than a wilderness. We now number about 250 people ; have twenty-five dwelling houses ; one saw and grist mill; two large retail stores ; one large stone house is being built on the public square, the upper story to be used gratis for a court house. Our county has not been troubled by the red men for two years." This last reference indicates how closely the modern era followed upon the close of Indian troubles.
By October, 1880, the construction trains of the Texas & Pacific had reached Eastland City, and Ranger in Eastland County had become a regular station on that road. In 1881 the Texas Central was built from the southeast to Cisco, making a junction with the Texas & Pacific. It was soon afterwards continued into Shackelford County, and these two lines comprised the only railways of Eastland County until recently a branch of the Texas Central was built across the southern edge of the county.
The settlement of the county following the railroad period is indicated by the following statistics for the ten-year periods beginning in 1860. In 1860 the population was 99; in 1870, 88 ; in 1880, 4,855 ; in 1890, 10,373 ; in 1900, 17,971; in 1910, 23,421; in 1920, 58,505. As a railway junction point Cisco was the chief population and business center of the county until the discovery of oil in the county, since which time Eastland and Ranger have larger populations, the last census showing Ranger more than 16,000 ; Eastland, 10,000 ; Cisco, 7,500. Cisco's population in 1890 was 1,063 ; in 1900, 1,514, and in 1910, 2,410. At the last census Eastland had a population of 855 ; Gorman, 963 ; Rising Star, 640, and Carbon, 479. In 1882 the only towns outside of Eastland and Cisco were Ranger and Desdemona.
In 1881 the county had taxable values of $1,077,682; in 1903, $4,575,172 ; in 1913, $9,816,415 ; in 1920, $24,037,100 ; in 1921, $55,000,000. The county has an area of approximately 592,000 acres, much of it rugged land and best suited to grazing purposes. In 1882 it was estimated that only about 10,000 acres were in cultivation, and the stock industry, according to assessment returns, was at that time not so important as in other counties in the same general locality. In 1910 about 420,000 acres were included in farms, and the amount of "improved land" was approximately 174,000 acres. There were 2,981 farms in 1910 as compared with 2,510 in 1900. The stock interests in 1920 are : 14,850 cattle, about 7,340 horses and mules, 9,560 hogs. The acreage in the principal crops in 1909 was : Cotton, 87.441; corn, 15,525; kaffir corn and milo maize. 1,791 ; peanuts, 1,082 ; hay and forage crop, 8,823 ; while about 179,000 trees were enumerated in orchard fruits, and about 15,000 pecan trees.
Concerning agricultural and general development of resources, a writer in the Texas Almanac for 1914 said : "An increased acreage of peanuts and other feed crops has increased the number of live stock on farms, and large numbers of cattle and hogs are marketed in a finished condition every season. Livestock raising on ranches continues as an important industry, but greatly improved as compared with old conditions in both class of animals and in methods of handling. In all sections there is progress in agricultural and horticultural lines. The small-grain crop is generally good. Cotton is grown on nearly every farm and the feed-stuffs adapted to this section yield a heavy acre tonnage. Silos are being introduced and the practice of selling the feed crops on the hoof is becoming more general. Most farmers grow their own fruit, local markets are also supplied and small express shipments are made in season. Apples, pears, plums and grapes are well adapted to climatic and soil conditions. Coal is mined several miles north of Cisco, and deposits of this mineral exist in several other sections."