Wise County History 1922
By the latter part of 1876 Wise County claimed a population of 15,000, and although without railroads development was substantial and rapid. Decatur, the county seat, had a population of 1,500 in 1878, and its citizens were enthusiastic in advocating the building of a railroad through the country. Aurora, already mentioned, had grown to 500 population, with a dozen business houses and a two-story school building. The Town of Chico was started in 1878.
Towards the close of 1881 actual construction work was begun on the Fort Worth & Denver City Railway, near Fort Worth. and during the following year the line was constructed through Wise County as far as Wichita Falls, which was reached in September, 1882. This was the first line to penetrate the country to the northwest of Fort Worth, and its results in the upbuilding of towns along the way were remarkable, not to mention the transformation caused in the line of agricultural improvement and settlement. At Decatur the driving of the last spike in the railroad connected that town with Fort Worth on April 15, 1882. The railroad at once gave a great impetus to the upbuilding of Decatur, while the old Town of Aurora was left five miles to one side, and its population migrated bodily and concentrated its two schools, four churches, twelve merchandising houses, three gins and other enterprises around the railroad station. The genesis of several towns in the county dates from the laying of track for the Fort Worth & Denver City. In 1872 the Village of Herman was described as consisting of a side track and several box cars. Cowen was distinguished as a side track without any cars. A report on the resources of the county in 1882 said: "The Fort Worth & Denver City Railway passes diagonally through the county from southeast to northwest, via Decatur, having a length of thirty-five miles of road within its limits. Decatur, the county seat, has a population of about 1,500, it is situated on a commanding eminence on the divide between the west and the Denton forks of the Trinity River, and has a large and increasing trade. Aurora, a thrifty town of 400 inhabitants, is situated fourteen miles southeast of Decatur. Chico, Greenwood, Pella, Audubon, Crafton, Paradise, Bridgeport, Willow Point, Boonville, Cottonvale, Cactus Hill and Cowen are all growing towns. A coal bed has been opened at Bridgeport, and the coal is in use as fuel.
The second railroad in the county was the Rock Island lines. This road was opened between Red River through Bridgeport to Fort Worth in August. 1893. The branch from Bridgeport was built to Jacksboro in 1898 and extended to Graham in 1902.
In 1870 the population of Wise County was reported as 1,450 ; with the danger of Indians removed and with the rapid development that followed during the '70s in all North Texas the population by 1880 was 16,601 ; in 1890, 24,134 ; in 1900, 27,116; in 1910, 26,450; and in 1920, 23,363.
Of the many towns and villages in the county the two largest are Decatur and Bridgeport. Decatur in 1890 had a population of 1,746; in 1900, 1,562, and in 1910, 1,651. Bridgeport in 1890 was a town of 498 population; in 1900, 900, and in 1910, 2,000. Besides being the junction point of the two branches of the Rock Island Road, Bridgeport is also an important coal mining town, and has several small industries. Wise County claims about three hundred miles of improved public highway, built at a cost of about five hundred dollars per mile. It is one of the well developed counties of North Texas ; diversified farming is now the rule, and as most of the population is rural, nearly all the lands are occupied and utilized in the joint activities of stock farming and agriculture. In 1870 the value of property as returned by assessors was $378,411; in 1882, $2,980,602; in 1903, $6,555,910 ; in 1913, $14, 010,450; in 1920, $14,833,224.
While population fell off during the first ten years of the present century, the number of farms and ranches also declined from 4,029 in 1900 to 3,721 in 1910. The total area of the county is 552,320 acres, of which 489,121 acres were occupied in farms and ranches in 1910. The amount of "improved land" in 1910 was about 250,000 acres, an increase over the preceding census. The varied stock and agricultural resources are indicated by the following statistics from the last enumeration report : Cattle, 25,857; horses and mules, about 14,637. In 1909 the acreage in cotton was 93,076; in corn, 72,919; in hay and forage crops, 12,245 ; in wheat, 6,877; in oats, 2,512; in potatoes, sweet potatoes and other vegetables, about 1,500 acres ; peanuts are also a profitable crop about 145,000 trees were enumerated in orchard fruit, and about 4.000 pecan trees. - History of Texas, 1922, by W. Barrett Travis.