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Shackelford County History 1922

Shackelford County History Written in 1922

Situated on the upper courses of the Brazos River, Shackelford has long been regarded as one of the best watered counties in Western Texas, and was therefore an attractive range for stockmen. The stock interests have always predominated, and while agriculture has made much progress during the last twenty years, only a limited area, compared with the total surface of the county, is in cultivation. The livestock reported at the last enumeration was : Cattle, 21,851; horses and mules, 3,583 ; sheep, 2,913. Farms enumerated in 1910 were 589, as compared with 251 at the preceding census. The total area of the county is 606,080 acres, with 487,375 acres included in farms or ranches at the last census, but only about 47,000 acres are "improved land," as compared with about 35,000 acres ten years previously. Cotton is the chief crop, 15,519 acres being planted in 1909; 2,699 acres in kafir corn and milo maize, and 4,862 acres in hay and forage crops. The county had a limited number of orchard fruit trees, and about 32,000 pecan trees were enumerated. The mineral resources consist of coal, gas and oil, and have been little developed. Natural gas wells near Moran supply that town with fuel and light.

Shackelford County was created in 1858, but remained without a county organization until 1874. Its population in 1860 was given as forty-four ; in 1870, 455 ; in 1880, 2,037 ; in 1890, 2,012; in 1900, 2,461; in 1910, 4,201 and in 1920, 4,960.

The first important factor in the county's settlement and develop­ ment was the establishment, about 1867, of Fort Griffin, on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River at the north edge of the county. During the decade or more of its existence, Fort Griffin was the most notorious town in West Texas, and among the old timers was as familiar a geographical locality as Fort Worth is to the present generation.

It was a military post, a cattle town, and a buffalo hunters' supply and trading place. During the decade of the '70s, while the railroads were being built into North and West Texas and civilization was pressing the frontier westward, the Indians and the buffalo made their final stand, and while the former were driven out so as to no longer interfere with the advance of the white settlers, the latter were practically exterminated by a ruthless slaughter conducted by a large number of organized bands of "buffalo hunters," chiefly for the sake of the profit derived from the hides. The center of the buffalo hunting business in West Texas was old Fort Griffin, it was there that the army of hunters had their rendezvous, they got their supplies of food and ammunition, thither they returned when the hunt was over and the wagons were piled high with the bales of hides, to revel and carouse in what was probably the "wildest and the wooliest" town of Texas. Cattlemen, soldiers and skin-hunters formed a rough and characteristic population, mingled with which were the professional gamblers and whiskey sellers. Fort Griffin was for some years a junction point for two industries. During the '70s it became a main station of the Fort Griffin cattle trail from South Texas, and until the railroad concentrated cattle shipment at Fort Worth, great herds passed to the northern pastures and markets through this old town. At the same time its prestige was increased as the headquarters for the buffalo industry. These two factors, combined with its military post, gave the town unrivaled importance in the territory west of Fort Worth. Its fame and existence were transitory, and now it is hardly recognized as a point in Texas geography. A few sentences quoted from a Fort Worth paper during 1877 will illustrate some phases in the life of the town.

As to its superficial aspect one writer says : "Nothing save a few adobe and picket houses, corrals, and immense stacks of buffalo hides. The post, on the hill a quarter of a mile south, is almost depopulated. one company of negro soldiers keeping garrison. F. E. Conrad's store­ rooms, near the post, are the most extensive establishment in the place. There hunters procure supplies and deliver most of their hides. To give an idea of the immensity of his business, imagine a huge, rambling house, of several different rooms, crowded with merchandise; with forty or fifty wagons to be loaded, and perhaps one hundred hunters purchasing supplies. Since the evacuation of the post the business of Griffin depends almost exclusively on the buffalo trade." Another correspond­ent, in the same year, said : "The military post was located here about ten years ago. This is a frontier town, with all the usual characteristics, but is orderly.

"The picket houses are giving away to rock and shingle-roofed frame buildings, the lumber being hauled from Fort Worth. The buffalo hide industry has reached large proportions, two hundred thousand having been received here last season. Near the town coal deposits have been discovered, and are being worked to supply the local demand," Con­cerning the life at Griffin at night. he said : "It is a gay and festive place : night is turned into day ; the dance and flowing bowl are indulged in freely, while hilarity and glee range supreme from eve until morning hours. Lager beer is twenty-five cents a glass." That was Fort Griffin in its most prosperous day, but only two years later, in 1879, a visitor said: "Griffin is not the live, bustling place we first knew it, in the palmy days of the buffalo." After the post was evacuated and the killing of buffalo for their hides had ceased as a large and profitable industry, there remained little to attract the various elements of popula­tion and business which had made the town so famous on the West Texas range.

Only a few years later, in 1882, the Texas Central Railway was completed to Albany, the county seat, and that remained the terminus of the road until 1899, when it was extended further west. Albany at once became the market town and the point of concentration for most of the stock gathered from the surrounding ranges, and he has since remained the chief center of business and population. There are several other railway stations, and Moran is the only other important town in the county.

In 1882 the assessed value of taxable property in the county wag $1,037,300, of which more than a third was represented by livestock. The valuation of property in 1903 was $2,391.628 ; in 1913, $3,663,204, and in 1920. 4,811,248. - History of Texas, 1922, by W. Barrett Travis.

Location

32° 43' 24.42" N, 99° 17' 50.28" W