Runnels County History 1922
Runnels County History Written in 1922
Runnels County. This was one of the West Texas counties which shared in the phenomenal increase of population and the development of resources during the first decade of the present century. That rapid growth has not been continued in the last three or four years, owing to the continued dry weather conditions that have prevailed over most of Texas, but the county has done well to maintain the level of prosperity attained in previous years. When the first official census was taken of Runnels County its population, in 1880, was only 980, including fifteen negroes. Population grew by 1890 to 2,193 ; by 1900 to 5,379 ; and by 1910 to 20.858, showing nearly a quadruple gain ; in 1920 the population was 17,074. While the great bulk of the population is native American, Germany, Austria and Mexico have contributed a substantial number of their people. The progress of the county is also well illustrated in figures taken from the tax assessment. In 1881 taxable property was assessed at $665,077, nearly half being represented by livestock ; in 1903, $4,188,000; in 1909, $10,571,775; while valuation showed a small decrease by 1913, the figures being for that year $10,167,342 ; in 1920, $10,411,980.
Runnels County was one of the counties laid out by the legislative act of February 1, 1858, being named in honor of Governor Runnels. The county was not permanently settled for twenty years afterwards, and was finally organized in 1880, On Oak Creek, just beyond the west boundary of the county, Fort Chadbourne was established in the '50s, and was garrisoned by federal troops until the Civil war. Under this protection a few settlers had located in Runnels County, but they were traders or wandering stockmen, and during the troublous times of the war decade the county was practically abandoned.
During the '70s the cattlemen took possession of Runnels County, driving the buffalo before them and establishing their camps along,
the Colorado and its tributaries. By 1880 the Texas and Pacific Rail road had been built through Abilene, about twenty-five miles from the county, and for many miles on both sides of that route, the stockmen and settlers began permanent occupation.
At that time agriculture had hardly been attempted, merely enough to test the productiveness of the soil. When the county was organized the place selected as the county seat was given the name Runnels. In 1886 the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad was built through the county, and the town of Ballinger. founded on this line, soon afterwards became the county seat and has since been the metropolis of the county. The county had no other railroad for more than twenty years. In 1909 what was known as the Concho, Llano & San Saba Valley Railroad was constructed a distance of seventeen miles from Miles to Paint Rock in Concho County and is now operated as a branch of the Santa Fe. During 1910-11 the Abilene & Southern Railway was finished from Abilene to Ballinger. In 1882 the county had about 42,000 cattle ; 30,000 sheep, besides other stock. Since the '80s the county has changed from an exclusive range to a well diversified farming country. In 1903 over 15,000 bales of cotton were raised in the county, and Ballinger claimed to have the largest wagon receipts of cotton among all the cities of Texas, 54,000 bales having been brought into town in 1909 over the country roads. In the meantime the number of livestock has decreased. although the values under conditions of modern stock farming are greater than thirty years ago. The report of the last federal census was based upon conditions existing in 1909-10, at the climax of the county's modern development. That report showed 2,526 farms in the county, as compared with 669 at the preceding census. Of a total area of 623,120 acres. the greater part was occupied in farms and ranches, and about 232,000 acres were "improved land," by comparison with approximately 48,000 acres in 1900. Figures representing the livestock interests were : Cattle. 18,315 ; horses and mules, about 7,180 : hogs, 4,110; sheep, 10.610. The acreage planted in cotton in 1909 was 121,957 ; in kafir corn and milo maize, 38,458 acres ; in hay and forage crops, 12,907 acres : corn, 2,981 acres ; a minor acreage in oats and wheat, about 500 acres in potatoes and other vegetables, and with approximately 65,000 trees in orchard fruits and about 5,000 pecan trees. Along the Colorado River about 2,500 acres are under irrigation.
By 1920, 265,500 acres had been improved. Figures representing the livestock interests were as follows : Cattle, 25,000 ; horses and mules, about 8,500; hogs, 4,110; sheep, 35,000. The acreage planted in cotton in 1920 was 150,000 ; in kafir corn and milo maize. 50,000 acres ; in hay and forage crops, 12,907 acres ; corn, 2,981 acres ; a minor acreage in oats and wheat, 5,000, about 500 acres in potatoes and other vegetables. and with approximately 65.000 trees in orchard fruits and about 5.000 pecan trees. Along the Colorado River about 2,500 acres are under irrigation. - History of Texas, 1922, by W. Barrett Travis.