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Brown County History 1922

Brown County, 1922

Much of the early development in West Central Texas was centered in Brown County. The first permanent settlements were made there before the war, but for many years the cattlemen had possession undisturbed except by Indian and outlaw. A little more than thirty years ago, in 1886, the first railroad, the G. C. & S. F., was built, and while some of the old stockmen directed their attention to banking and merchandising, the influx of many farmer settlers wrought more important changes over the county as a whole. For many years the county has possessed a particularly energetic and progressive citizenship. and the development of individual holdings has been accompanied by the building of good roads, the founding of church and school and the introduction of other conveniences which advance living conditions.

Brown County was created by act of the Legislature August 27. 1856, but there were only about a dozen pioneer families in the county. and county organization had to wait until 1858, when the coming of new settlers permitted the establishment of a local government. The Legislature directed that the County Court should select sites to be voted on as a county seat, and should also choose the name for the town, but the supplementary act of February 5, 1858, designated the name Brownwood for the county seat. The location of the old town was several miles down Pecan Bayou from the present site. The county was named in honor of Capt. Henry S. Brown, a prominent Texan who died in 1834. John Henry Brown, his son, writing in the Texas Almanac for 1859, said of the county : "Held back by Indian depredations, it has still grown rapidly since its first settlement three years ago * * * Brownwood is the county seat, beautifully located in the center of the county and on the west bank of Pecan Bayou." Bayou."

In 1856 Maj. Van Dorn had established Camp Colorado on Jim Ned Creek, in what is Coleman County, and under the protection of this post the settlement of Brown County began. In 1859 about 4,000 cattle were assessed in the county. The population was sparse, and the only form of wealth was the few herds that grazed over the range. During the decade of the Civil war many of the settlers were forced to retire, so that the county was practically undeveloped up to 1870.

Several years passed before the danger from Indian raids was over, but during the latter '70s the county received a large immigration, and other industries than stock raising were engaged in on a commercial scale. By 1881 the county had three cotton gins, six or seven flour mills, a sawmill and other minor industries. Numerous schools and churches had been established and there were five centers of settlement—Brownwood, Williams' Ranch, Clio, Byrd's Store and Zephyr.

In January,1886, the main line of the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railroad was completed from Lampasas to Brownwood. In July, 1891, Brownwood became the terminus of the Fort Worth & Rio Grande. These two roads have been the chief factor in making Brownwood a commercial center for a large territory, and in originating and maintaining the general agricultural development. In 1912 was built what is known as the Brownwood North and South Railway, a line twenty miles in lengthy, and financed and constructed by citizens along the route. Its northern terminus is May. It is now a part of the Frisco System. During the last twenty years Brown County has received a large immigration of settlers, especially from the North Central States, and its lands are largely occupied as farms, although live stock is still a large item of productive wealth. Agriculturally it is a section of well diversified farming. The soil produces almost every crop known to Texas, including cotton, wheat, corn, oats, rye, alfalfa, millet, sorghum, kafir corn, milo maize, potatoes, barley, vegetables, and the orchard and small fruits and nuts. More than half of the lands of the county are arable, and at the last census there were enumerated 2,741 farms, as compared with 2,044 in 1900. Of a total area of 611,840 acres, 542,843 acres were occupied by farms, with about 174,000 in "improved land." In 1909 twenty-five farms were irrigated, comprising a total of 715 acres. In 1913 it was stated that approximately 3,000 acres were irrigated from the creeks and rivers. The chief crop was cotton, to which 82,716 acres were planted in 1909 ; hay and forage crops, 13,611 acres ; corn, 9,503 acres ; besides a considerable acreage in oats, wheat. kaffir corn and milo maize. About 450 acres were in potatoes and other vegetables, 113,000 trees were enumerated in orchard fruits, besides 46,000 pecan trees, and a large number of grapes and tropical fruits.

Livestock farming is now largely combined with stable agriculture, and the figures supplied by the last census for live stock were: Cattle, 29,251 ; horses and mules, 11,215; hogs, 4,121; sheep and goats, 7,530. Among the mineral resources are limestone and brick clay, while the natural gas fields near Brownwood and Bangs are being developed. Brown County produces a large crop of pecans each year, and Brownwood has long held the honor of being the chief pecan shipping point in the state.

Brown County has taken the lead among West Central counties in the construction of good roads. Its road district No. 1 was the first to take advantage of the road law passed by the Thirty-first Legislature, voting bonds of $150,000 for road improvements. Forty miles of paved highways were constructed at a cost of $150,000, the mileage cost running from $1,500 to $2,500.

In 1860 Brown County had a total population of only 244; in 1870, 544; while the following decade brought increase- along all lines. The population in 1880 was 8,414; in 1890, 11,421; in 1900, 16,019; in 1910, 22,935 ; in 1920, 21,682. The value of the county's taxable property in 1881 was $1,565.213 ; in 1903, $5,326,275; in 1913. $11,493,835 ; in 1920, $12,210,570.

In 1890 Brownwood had a population of 2,176 and was the only town of any size in the county. Its population in 1900 was 3,965, and in 1910, 6,967. Brownwood is one of the progressive small cities of West Texas, and in recent years civic energy has been concentrated in promoting the general welfare and improvement of the town. It has a large wholesale and jobbing trade, with several wholesale grocery, produce, hardware and packing houses. Under municipal ownership a system of dams was constructed along the Pecan River, furnishing an unfailing water supply both for domestic and factory use. A large amount of money has been expended locally for street paving and other improvements. Brownwood is the seat of Howard Payne College, a co-educational institution now under the control of the Texas Board of the Baptist Church; and of Daniel Baker College, under the control of the Texas Synod of the Southern Presbyterian Church.

Outside of Brownwood the principal towns of the county are Blanket, May. Winchell, Zephyr and Brookesmith. - History of Texas, 1922, by W. Barrett Travis.


31° 42' 33.552" N, 98° 59' 28.176" W