Cooke County History Written in 1922
Cooke County. One of the foremost agricultural and horticultural counties of North Texas, Cooke County, became settled during the decade of the ’70s, and for more than thirty years its population has kept within the twenty thousands. The county was created by the Legislature in 1848 and organized in the following year, and in 1850 its population was a little more than 200. Cooke County is near the northeast corner of the original Peter colony grant, and its first settlers were Peters colonists. The pioneers began coming into the county about 1845. Gainesville was settled in 1848, and was selected as the county seat, and in 1856 was the only postoffice in the county. As the Red River forms the northern boundary and north of that was formerly the Indian Territory, the inhabitants were especially exposed to Indian attacks for many years, particularly during the Civil war decade. In December, 1863, a raid into Cooke County resulted in the death of nine citizens and three soldiers, also the wounding of three soldiers and four citizens, and ten houses were burned, also a great quantity of grain. A number of the citizens left their homes and moved farther east, some in a destitute condition, without bedding or change of clothing. All the houses in Gainesville were crowded with refugees from the north and west part of the county. It was in 1868 that the Comanches made their last raid into Cooke and Denton counties. Thus to a large degree the progress which had been made before the war was lost, and the old and new settlers who returned during the late ’60s found the fields almost in their virgin condition, and the work of development had to be begun over again.
During the ’50s Cooke County was one of the large centers for the growing of wheat in North Texas, and in 1856 it was estimated that about 20,000 acres were in that crop.
By 1870 Cooke County had a population of 5,315; then followed the years of rapid settlement, and by 1880 the population was 20,391; by 1890, 24,696; in 1900, 27,494; and the first decade of the present century was marked by a decrease, the census figures of population being 26,603. Cooke County is the home of a considerable number of thrifty German people, and the last census reported over 1,000 inhabitants of that race.
The first railroad penetrating Cooke County was a branch of what is now the Missouri, Kansas & Texas. It was first built under the name of Denison & Pacific Railroad, west of Denison, and reached Gainesville by November, 1879. About the same time a telegraph line was put in operation between Denison and Gainesville. Gainesville thus became the commercial metropolis for Cooke and several other counties and also for the Chickasaw Nation of Indian Territory. Soon after the first railroad reached the town it began building rapidly, and in a few years claimed a population of 5,000 and was a considerable manufacturing and trade center. In 1886-87 the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railroad was extended north from Fort Worth to Gainesville, and subsequently construction work was extended north through the Indian Territory.
A report on the county in 1882 estimated that about one-fifteenth of the arable land was in cultivation, while the one most profitable industry was stock raising, and the county then had in round numbers about 40,000 cattle, 10,000 horses and mules, 6,000 sheep and 12,000 hogs. The following paragraph from the report refers to the rail roads and towns and school facilities: “The Denison & Pacific branch of the Missouri Pacific Railway, in operation to Gainesville, is projected westward through the county. Gainesville,the county seat and principal station on that road, has 4,000 inhabitants and an annual trade of $6,000,000. Custer City, Dexter, Rosston, Maryville, Valley View, Era, Lindsay and Muenster are villages with from 100 to 300 inhabitants and each with a good local trade. There are eighty public free schools in the county, with a scholastic population of 7,300, and these are taught eight months in the year. A handsome and sub stantial public free school building, with a capacity of 600 pupils, and supplied with the most approved outfit of globes, apparatus and other conveniences, has been erected in Gainesville, and the school put in operation on the basis of a nine months’ term.
Gainesville in 1890 had a population of 6,594; in 1900, 7,874; in 1910, 7,624; in 1920. 8,648. As a city its chief importance is derived from its position on two railway lines and as the trading point for a large and prosperous country surrounding.
It has several factories of iron and machinery products, a canning factory, broom factory, cotton gins and oil mills, flouring mills, a brick plant to utilize the beds of brick clay in the vicinity, and a refinery. Besides Gainesville the chief towns, some of which have developed in recent years and others dating back to the ’60s and ’70s, are Valley View, Windsor, Fair Plains, Maryville, Muenster, Myra, Lindsey. [sic] Woodbine and Dexter.
Cooke County has done much in recent years to improve its high ways, and now has more than 100 miles of paved roadway. While for many years its agriculture has been important, the farmers have done much to diversify their industries and in the vicinity of the towns and cities fruit and truck growing is a large and profitable resource. The fruit country is the cross timber section of the county, where the soil is especially adapted to fruit. In spite of the long con tinued efforts of farmers in the county for more than forty years.- this county still has a great amount of virgin soil, and while fully three-fourths of the county is tillable, little more than a half has been brought under cultivation. The total area of the county is 577,280 acres, of which 500,129 acres were included in farms at the last census. The amount of “improved land” in 1910 was about 250,000 acres, as compared with about 225,000 acres in 1900. The number of farms increased from 3,307 in 1900 to 3,438 in 1910. A survey of the chief resources of the county on the farms is found in the statistics fur nished by the last census. There were 25,985 cattle ; about 14,469 horses and mules; 8,224 hogs. The acreage planted in corn, the chief crop, in 1909, was 80,360; in cotton, 73,741; in wheat, 16,807; in oats, 13,142; in hay, 13,823. With a much smaller acreage some of the minor crops usually classed as truck have a large proportionate value. About 2,000 acres were planted in potatoes, sweet potatoes and other vegetables, several hundred acres in peanuts. Alfalfa is a valuable crop, especially along the bottom lands, and in 1910 about 145,000 orchard fruit trees were enumerated, besides about 17,000 grape vines. In 1870 the taxable value of property in the county was $863,629; in 1882, $3,674,770; in 1903, $8,321,820; in 1913, $16,471,897: in 1920, $17,703,810. Thus the increase of material wealth nearly doubled in the last ten years, although population remained about stationary. – History of Texas, 1922, by W. Barrett Travis.