Coleman County History Written in 1922
In 1870 Coleman County had less than 350 population, while in 1910 its inhabitants numbered over 22,000. A few cattlemen and their followers, a few ranch houses, and large herds of stock grazing on the open range, measured the development of the county in the first years. During the first ten years of the present century the county more than doubled in population, and the increase of its material wealth was even greater. It is now a county of farms, substantial towns and diversified business interests. In the summer of 1856 Maj. Van Dorn, of the United States Army, afterwards distinguished as a general in the Confederacy, established Camp Colorado on Jim Ned Creek in what is now Coleman County. Some remains of the stone and wooden buildings of this post still exist. Maj. Van Dorn kept a detachment of the Second Cavalry there for two or three years. The presence of the garrison attracted a few settlers, though they made no permanent improvements. The county was on the extreme frontier, and both the regular soldiers and the Texas Rangers patrolled throughout this district. Camp Colorado was abandoned after the war.
February 1, 1858, the Legislature defined the boundaries of a number of counties, among them Coleman, named in honor of Robert M. Coleman, a figure in the Texas Revolution. But nearly twenty years passed before the county was sufficiently settled to maintain a county government. In 1875 a local government was organized, and in the fall of 1876 Coleman, the county seat, was laid off. A quotation from an account written in 1877 reads : On a site that in 1873 had been barren of any vestige of human habitation, the beautiful plateau being the haunt of the buffalo more often than of domestic animals, was in the latter part of 1876 the growing little village of Coleman City. whose first house had been completed scarcely two months before and which now contained twenty-seven first-class buildings, with merchants, lawyers, building contractors, good school, hotel, and half a mile from town the United States telegraph line. A year later Coleman had a population of 400 and was incorporated.
Beginning in 1875 this county soon became one of the favorite centers of the range stock industry. The county was one immense pasture, and excepting the tradesmen at the county seat and one or two other places the population consisted almost entirely of the cattle men and their “outfits.” About 1880 the farmer class made some advance into this region, especially when it became known that the Santa Fe Railroad would be built. But in 1882 it was estimated that not over 4,000 acres had been touched by the plow, while the livestock at that time numbered about 9,000 horses and mules, 40.000 cattle and 85,000 sheep and other stock.
In March, 1886, what was then known as the main line of the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railroad reached Coleman, and was extended on through the county the same year. A tap line was built to reach Coleman City, it being the policy of early railroad construc tion in Texas to avoid towns which did not offer attractive subsidies, and Coleman City is one of the number of such cases in Texas. However, this tap line has since become the starting point of the Coleman-Texico branch of the Santa Fe, by which that system has a short cut from its main transcontinental division to gulf ports. This division was completed about 1911, and has furnished additional rail way facilities for Coleman County.
The population of the county at different decades has been : In 1870, 347; in 1880, 3,603 (35 negroes) ; in 1890, 6,112; in 1900, 10,077 (90 negroes) ; in 1910, 22,618 ; in 1920, 18,805. The population is largely native American stock, with the admixture of a number of different nationalities in small numbers, Mexico being the foreign country most numerously represented. In 1882 the only towns of the county were Coleman City and Trickham. The principal towns outside of the county seat at present are : Santa Anna, situated at the base of Santa Anna Mountain. in which vicinity a small oil and gas field has been developed ; Goldsboro ; Rockwood, located in the coal mining district along the Colorado River ; Glencove, Burkett, Talpa. Vilera, [sic] Novice and Silver Valley. Coleman City, which had a population of 906 in 1890, 1,362 in 1900, and 3,046 in 1910, has been developed both commercially and as a place of residence in recent years. It has the improvements and advantages of a progressive West Texas town, and is the center of a large volume of trade.
While the livestock interests are still important, there has been great agricultural development near the railroad and in the valley lands. It is estimated that about 1,000 acres are under irrigation. At the last census 2,938 farms were found in the county, as compared with 1,369 in 1900. The area of the county is 825,600 acres, and about 239,000 acres were classified as “improved land” in 1909, as against not quite 90,000 acres in 1900. The county has a great variety of crops. In 1909 the largest acreage was in cotton, 120,788; kaffir corn and milo maize, 19,401 acres ; corn, 6,238 acres ; hay and forage crops. 14.619 acres, besides oats, wheat, about 500 acres in potatoes and vegetables, and approximately 59,000 trees in orchard fruits.
The county also produces a considerable quantity of pecans. The live stock interests in 1920 were measured by the following statistics : Cattle, 23,920 ; horses and mules, about 11,456 ; hogs, 5,158 ; sheep, 12,137, making this one of the principal counties in that industry ; goats, 2,538.
In 1882 the taxable values of Coleman County were $1,733,603, more than a third being represented by live stock ; in 1903, $5,611,513; in 1913, $13,119,970; in 1920, $13,275,200. – History of Texas, 1922, by W. Barrett Travis.