Montague County History 1922
Montague County History Written in 1922
Montague County was taken from Cooke County in 1857, and organized August 2, 1858. The county was fairly well settled before the war, was credited with a population of 849 in 1860, but as a result of the depredations of that decade its population in 1870 was only 890. During the '70s it began to be settled permanently. In one respect, however, it was still on the frontier, since its northern boundary was the Red River, on the north side of which was the Indian Territory, which, without any civil government, offered shelter to many thieves and desperadoes whose depredations of the Texas frontier were long a standing menace to the prosperity of the northern tier of counties. To prevent horse stealing from this source during the '70s and '80s a number of vigilance committees were organized in Montague County.
In September, 1866, a correspondent in the county wrote a Dallas paper as follows : "We stand as a breakwater for the protection of the state against the Indians—have done so for years. We will be forced to give up the frontier unless sustained ; sustain us and we will still protect you." In July, 1870, another correspondent wrote that the Indians were all around Montague County settlers, whose exposed situation on the extreme frontier rendered constant vigilance necessary, and that very recently attacks had been made on Victoria Peak and Henrietta.
During the decade of the '70s the population of Montague County increased more than 1,000 per cent, and settled conditions prevailed, while a number of towns sprang up. In 1878 the towns and villages in the county were : Montague, the county seat, containing some five or six stores ; St. Jo, Burlington, Red River, Scranton and Forestburg. These were all rural villages, and the nearest railroads were many miles to the east and south.
The first railroad was the Fort Worth & Denver City, constructed across the southwestern corner of the county in 1882. The railroad gave origin to what is now the metropolis of the county, Bowie, which in June, 1882, was without a single store and merely a station for the surrounding country. Another station established on the railway was Sunset. A report on the county in 1882 mentioned industries and the towns as follows : "There are in the county a number of flouring and sawmills run by steam power, but hardly enough to supply the local demand for flour and lumber. Montague has 500 inhabitants ; St. Jo, 350; Forestburg, 200; Queen Peak, 250 ; Spanish Fort, a very old settlement, 250; Eagle Point, 150; and Salt Creek Station, 100." The county at that time was a rich stock range, and its live stock in round numbers was estimated at 36,000 cattle, 8.000 sheep and goats, 7,800 horses and mules, and 11,000 hogs.
Beginning with the census of 1870 the population figures for successive decades have been : In 1870, 890; in 1880, 11.257 ; in 1890, 18,863 ; in 1900, 24,800 ; in 1910, 25,123 : and in 1920, 22,200. In 1870 the total property assessments in the county aggregated only $153,542; the rapid development of the following ten years was indicated by tax assessment for 1882 as $2,040,472; in 1903, $6,428,005; in 1913, $12,806,265, and in 1920, $14,134,555.
The second railroad in the county was the Missouri, Kansas & Texas, which was built under the name Gainesville, Henrietta & Western from Gainesville to Henrietta in 1887, across the northern half of the county. In 1893 the Rock Island line from the Red River to Fort Worth was opened through Bowie.
The building of railroads has resulted in a general readjustment of population centers. Montague, the county seat, is still without railway connections, and from a population of 795 in 1890 declined to a population of 284 in 1910. The chief city is Bowie, which profited by its relations to the first railway. In 1890 its population was 1,486; in 1900, 2,600; in 1910, 2,874; and in 1920, 5,000. The three other principal towns are located in the northern part of the county along the Missouri, Kansas & Texas and are St. Jo, a town antedating the railway, Belcher and Nocona. Other towns are Montague, Ringgold, Stoneburg, Sunset, Bonita and Hardy.
As one of the rural counties of North Texas, Montague now has a fairly well balanced economic condition. Only a few of the large ranches still remain undivided, while the breeding of improved live stock, dairying, fruit culture, and the diversified crops of the Red River Valley are all phases of progress. At the last census 3,691 farms were enumerated, as compared with 3,571 in 1900. The total area of the county is 594,560 acres, of which 531,057 acres were reported in farms, and about 244,000 acres as "improved land." While thirty years has resulted in the cultivation of nearly half of the total area of the county, live stock interests are more valuable than ever. The enumeration showed 31,429 cattle, about 14,078 horses and mules, 17,979 hogs, and the crops in 1919 were : Cotton, 88,041 acres ; corn, 74,841 acres ; hay and forage crops, 9,468 acres; oats, 1,381 acres, while wheat and peanuts formed a considerable item in production, and about 1,800 acres were planted in potatoes, sweet potatoes and other vegetables. The rank of the county as a fruit section is indicated by the enumeration of 293,000 orchard fruit trees, while about 10,000 pecan trees were found. - History of Texas, 1922, by W. Barrett Travis.