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Kaufman County History 1940

In 1885 Terrell had a try at securing the county seat, offering to build a $30,000 courthouse if the voters would sanction the removal, but the proposition failed of the necessary majority, and the courthouse has since remained undisturbed at the original county seat. Rockwall County had been cut off in 1873, taking a part of the voting population as well as some very fine farming country.

In 1890 we learn that the county had a population of 21,598, five banks, two private and three national, with a total capital of $252,000; seventy school houses, employing 99 teachers, with an average school term of 3.76 months; Kaufman had a population of 1,282; Terrell, 2,988; Prairieville, 206; Forney, 811; Elmo, 518; Kemp, 335; Lawndale, 264; Lawrence, 176; Crandall, 251.

There were 1,416 farms, 1,111 renters, 2,382 farm laborers, and 2,211 "chattel mortgages to produce crops" were recorded for a total of $274,074. Cotton occupied less acreage than corn, and more than 19,000 acres were devoted to the production of native prairie hay, whose fine quality made it famous far and wide under the name of "Forney" hay. More than a thousand acres were in orchards and gardens, there were over a thousand sheep and nearly ten thousand hogs, besides 26,692 cattle and about twelve thousand horses, mules, and jacks. Cotton production was 21,651 bales from 47,470 acres and an unusual crop is noted—eight acres of castor beans yielding 24 bushels, worth $48.

The end of the century found Kaufman County with 33,376 people, and this increased to 35,323 in 1910, of which 8,374 were negroes. The colored population more than doubled between 1890 and 1910, which, prior to emancipation, would have meant increased wealth. Now it was merely an index of the increasing emphasis on cotton production, which averaged more than 53,000 bales annually about this time. Cattle fell off to 15,974 in 1909 and still lower, to 11,994 in 1913, while cotton rose to 69,273 and 104,511 bales in 1911 and 1912, respectively.

In 1920 Kaufman County's population was 41,276, an all time peak in a census year to date. In 1925 there were 4,455 farms, with 281,949 acres of crop land, of which 206,836 acres were in cotton, yielding 65,832 bales the previous year. In 1925 the county ginned 71,265 bales and in 1926 the yield was 67,564 bales. There was less than a hog and one-half per farm, and only about three cows per farm had they been so distributed, so when the "bottom fell out" of the cotton price in the fall of 1926, the entire economic structure was adversely affected.

That was fifteen years ago, and it marked the turn of Kaufman back toward a true agriculture in which crops and livestock complement each other. In 1935 there were 4,793 farms, with 248,585 in harvested crops the previous year; there were two hogs per farm, 2,721 sheep, and cattle counted up to 24,286 double the number of twelve years previously and almost equal to the number back in 1890 when there were little more than a fourth as many farms. Between 1929 and 1934 the number of cows milked increased from 5,854 to 8,017. It is known that the numbers of livestock are still increasing, with improved pastures, trench silos, and increased acreage in feed crops. Despite the diversion of land to pastures and feed crops Kaufman produced 63,807 bales of cotton in 1937 and 45,374 in 1938.