Cities, Towns & Communities
Clay County History 1922. Though Clay County was detached from Cooke County in 1857 and given separate boundaries, the line of settlement barely, reached within its borders previous to the war. In 1860 the census enumera tors found only 109 people in the county. As a result of the population which came in during the ’50s a county government was organized in 1860, but the organization was soon abandoned. With the Red River as its northern boundary and located within what was then regarded as Northwest Texas, no progress was made during the decade of the ’60s, and at the census of 1870 no figures were credited to the county. The population at successive decades has been: In 1880, 5,045 ; in 1890, 7,503 ; in 1900, 9,231; in 1910, 17,043 ; in 1920, 16,864. A writer in the Texas Almanac for 1861 said: “Our county is just settling up, mostly from Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas. White labor makes the truck, but it is only because we are too poor to buy darkies at the present high prices—we want them bad enough. There is only one village started, Hubert Postoffice, lying between the Red River and the Little Wichita. There is no military post in the county, Van Dorn’s Station being beyond us, and his supplies of corn and other provisions are hauled through our county.” The following item is from the Texas Almanac for 1867: “Stock raisers commenced moving in about 1858, but have mostly left on account of the Indians.” During the early ’70s a sufficient population settled in the county to justify a county organization on November 24, 1873. A correspondent of a Fort Worth paper in 1878 noted a rapid increase in the population in the county. basing his observations mainly upon the many new houses that were conspicuous objects along his route of travel, the timber sections seeming to receive the bulk of this influx of settlers. Henrietta, the county seat by choice of the people over its rival Cambridge. was reported as a thriving business center in those days, obtaining of the stockmen and hunters for 100 miles to the west all trade, and it was also a considerable market for hides.
In August, 1882. the Fort Worth & Denver City Railway was completed through Henrietta. and at that time other towns in the county were Cambridge. Newport and Buffalo Springs. Stock rais ing was the leading industry. Cattle to the number of about 51,000 were assessed, about 3,700 horses and mules, 4,500 sheep, and about 2,700 hogs. In 1887 Henrietta became the terminus of the Gainesville, Henrietta & Western, a branch of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas, and the same system subsequently extended a line to Wichita Falls. In 1903 a branch of the Wichita Valley Railroad was constructed from Wichita Falls a distance of twenty-three miles to Byers. an old. town on the Red River in the northern part of Clay County. About 1910 a line of railway was completed between Henrietta and Archer City.
Within the last ten years Clay County has produced a large amount of gas and oil. Actual production in the field north of Henrietta, about the town of Petrolia, began in 1904. In that year about 65,000 barrels were produced, and by the close of 1907, 169 productive wells were in the field. The production of the petroleum field for 1911 was about 169,000 barrels. In the same vicinity natural gas was discovered in 1907, and that is now one of the largest fields in Texas, producing in 1913 between 8,000,000 and 30,000,000 cubic feet daily. From the field pipe lines supply gas to Fort Worth, Dallas and Wichita Falls, and also the chief towns in Clay, Montague, Wise, Cooke, Grayson and other counties.
The value of taxable property found in the county in 1881 was $1,894,353; in 1903, $4,761,110; and in 1913, $14,483,375. The chief towns of the county are Henrietta, Bellevue, Byers, Petrolia and Halsell.
The soil and climate are adapted for fruit and truck growing and diversified farming. Thus far fruit growing has not been indulged in on a large scale. Among the horticultural products of the county that produce considerable revenue are pecans. Pecan trees are found in abundance along the streams. Cotton, corn, wheat and oats are the leading staples. The live stock industry is conducted in connection with farming.
Several large ranches are operated in sections at a distance from railroads. The raising of fancy and thoroughbred poultry is receiving the attention of a large number of citizens, and poultry products are shipped in large quantities to Texas markets. The last census report supplies the following statistics : Total area of the county, 741,120 acres, of which 719,370 acres were included in farms and about 233, 500 acres in “improved land.” There were 2,308 farms in 1910, as compared with 1,223 in 1900. The number of cattle in 1920 was 44,169, horses and mules, 10,844. In 1920 the acreage in the chief crops was : Corn, 56,218 ; cotton, 71,086 ; oats, 10,767 ; wheat, 10,330; hay and forage crops, 10,689 ; about 1,000 acres were in potatoes, sweet potatoes and other vegetables ; about 94,000 orchard fruit trees were enumerated, and about 19,000 pecan trees. – History of Texas, 1922, by W. Barrett Travis.