Erath County History Written in 1922
Erath County. The development of this country began during the decade of the ’70s, after the fear of Indian raids had ceased. Population increased six or sevenfold during the ’70s, and since 1880 has increased about 300 per cent. Erath County is well above the average agriculturally, with cotton its largest crop, is also a producer of apples and peaches, has coal mines in the northern part, and still retains a share of the live stock activities that once were almost the sole industry.
Erath County was created January 25, 1856, from Bosque and Coryell counties. Settlement began in the early ’50s, and before the county was organized the town of Stephenville had been laid out. Its proprietors on July 4, 1855, offered land for the county buildings, provided the county seat was located there, and the legislative act above noted designated that town as the seat of justice, provided these donations were made.
The population of the county in 1858 was estimated at 766 and only about 1,500 acres were in cultivation. For twenty years after the county was organized it was on the frontier, and property was never secure from Indian raids. After the war this entire region was in the great cattle ranges.
In 1860 the population of the county, according to the Federal census, was 2,425. There was a decrease during the war decade, and in 1870 the population was 1,801; in 1880, it was 11,796 (257 negroes) : in 1890, 21,594; in 1900, 29,966 ; in 1910, 32,095; in 1920, 28,385.
The county has a considerable foreign element, chiefly furnished by the three countries of Italy, Austria and Mexico.
The Texas Central Railroad, which began building in 1879, was completed through Erath County about 1881. Rapid development followed, a large number of farmers came in and partly dispossessed the range cattle men, and the raising of wheat became an important industry. In 1882 the country had four sawmills and four cotton gins, dependent on the agricultural activities. Along the line of the rail road were established the towns of Dublin, Alexander and Mount Airy. Stephenville, though twelve miles from the railroad, still led in population and had an annual trade of about $400,000. Duffau and Morgan’s Mill were other settlements at that time.
In October, 1890, the Fort Worth & Rio Grande Railroad was completed to Stephenville. During the first decade of the present century the Stephenville North & South Texas Railroad was built from Stephenville south to Hamilton, and has since been acquired by the St. Louis Southwestern (the Cotton Belt). The coal deposits at Thurber have been developed in recent years, and that is now a considerable mining town and also a center for the manufacture of paving brick. In agriculture, the county has made great progress since the first railroad came. Special claims are made for the apple crop of Erath County. In 1910 the county had 4,225 farms, as compared with 3,783 at the preceding census. Of a total area of 693,120 acres, much the greater part was occupied by farms, and about 256,000 acres were classified as “improved land.” Stock interests are : Cattle, 21,800 ; horses and mules, about 12.238; hogs, 9,647.
The assessed wealth of Erath County in 1870 was only $356,916; in 1882, $2,240,917; in 1903. $6,456,815; in 1913, $12,071,575, and in 1920, $14,276,830.
In 1920 the principal towns of the county, in order of population, were Dublin, Stephenville, Thurber, Alexander, Duffau and Bluffdale. Dublin and Stephenville have been close rivals as population and business centers in recent years. – History of Texas, 1922, by W. Barrett Travis.