Wichita County History 1922
Wichita County History Written in 1922
Wichita County has come into special fame in recent years as one of the chief centers of oil and gas production. The gas field at Petrolia in Clay County had been opened in 1907. In June, 1911, the bringing in of a 1,000-barrel well at Electra in the western part of Wichita County inaugurated the development of a field which at the beginning of 1913 had over 300 producing wells, and is now regarded as the chief center of oil production in the state. During 1911 the production of the Electra field was nearly 900,000 barrels. In July, 1912, at the north side of the county and three miles from the town of Burkburnett, near the Red River, another successful well was brought in. The development of these fields has brought a wealth to Wichita County which excels that of other productive industries, but so recent as to furnish no reliable statistics to measure their results. Gas and oil have contributed to the making of Wichita Falls, already a flourishing railroad and commercial center, one of the most attractive cities for manufacturing enterprises in North Texas.
Wichita County was created in 1858, but was not permanently organized until June, 1882, Practically all of its history has been written within the last thirty years. The Red River is its northern boundary, and, like other counties adjoining, its position was too exposed with reference to the Indian Territory to allow settlement and substantial industry until the beginning of the '80s. At the census, of 1880 the population was only 433, and the stock raisers who inhabited the county attempted a minimum of agriculture. During 1882 the Fort Worth & Denver City Railway was completed from Fort Worth to Wichita Falls. which remained its terminus until 1885. At that time there were three postoffices in the county, Wichita Falls. Gilbert and Toksana, the last two having disappeared from local geography.
With the railroad the county progressed rapidly, and by 1890 its population was 4,831 ; in 1900, 5,806 ; in 1910, 16.094 ; in 1920, 72,911.
Small farmers have developed the possibilities of fruit. vegetables and melon crops. The value of .taxable property in the county in 1882 was $412,031; in 1903, $3,899,660; in 1913, $18,507,195; in 1920, $72,043,810. During the past ten-year period the increase of wealth was nearly 500 per cent, and few counties of the state have developed so rapidly in the same length of time.
In the development of the county and particularly of the chief city railroads have played an important part. The Missouri, Kansas & Texas extended its line across the northern tier of counties as far as Henrietta by 1887, and soon afterwards to Wichita Falls. In 1890 the Wichita Valley Railroad was built from Wichita Falls southwest to Seymour. During 1903-04 the Wichita Falls & Oklahoma Railway was constructed from Wichita Falls northeasterly to Byers on the Red River, passing through what later became the Petrolia gas district. During the past decade the Wichita Falls & Northwestern has been constructed from Wichita Falls into Oklahoma, while the Wichita Falls & Southern leads south through Archer County. These lines have placed the chief city in direct communication with all the rich and developing territory of Northwest Texas, Southwest Oklahoma, and the chief market points in the entire southwest and western part of the United States.
While the development of Wichita County has been along the lines of stock raising and general farming, it has also become famous for its melons, particularly cantaloupes, and the growing of many special crops is the chief industry of a numerous colony of small farmers. A large amount of northern capital and northern settlers as well have come into the county during the past fifteen years, and the town of Iowa Park, a few miles west of Wichita Falls, developed as the seat of an enterprising colony from the state of Iowa.
Statistics on livestock and agriculture as supplied by the last enumeration report as follows : Total area, 386,560 acres ; 326,628 acres in farms; about 175,000 acres in "improved land," as compared with 106,000 acres in 1900. The number of farms at the last census was 1,039, and 423 in 1900. There were 11,607 cattle ; horses and mules, about 4.866; hogs. 4.933. In 1909, 46215 acres were planted in corn, which is the leading crop : 23,794 acres in cotton, 33,000 acres in wheat, 7,214 acres in oats, 6.584 acres in hay and forage crops. About 13,000 trees were enumerated in orchard fruit.
Outside of Wichita Falls the chief towns are Iowa Park, Electra and Burkburnett. At the last census Electra had a population of 640 and Iowa Park of 603. - History of Texas, 1922, by W. Barrett Travis.