Stephens County History Written in 1922
Situated west of Palo Pinto County, Stephens was created in 1858, but remained unorganized until the year 1876. A greater portion of the land was located and surveyed by the Texan Emigration & Land Company for State University and Asylum lands, and most of the settlers in this county were stock raisers who had squatted on the company and state lands. For many years the county contributed wealth only in proportion as it was used as a range by the cattlemen, but the permanent settlement of the county occurred between 1870 and 1880. In 1880 the Texas & Pacific Railroad was built across the southeastern corner of the county. Lack of transportation has been the chief bar to the development of agricultural and mineral resources. The growing of a cotton crop began during the ’70s, and about the same time the coal deposits in the northern part of the county were opened, but the latter have never been developed except for local use. More recently a gas field has been developed near the county seat of Breckenridge. In recent years the underground water supply about Wayland and other points in the county has been tapped, and it is estimated that about 1,000 acres are irrigated. The progress of population during the first half century of the county’s. existence was as follows : In 1860, 230; in 1870, 330; in 1880, 4,725; in 1890, 4,926; in 1900, 6,466; in 1910, 7,980; in 1920, 15,302. In 1870 the taxable property of the county was assessed at $182,347 in 1882, $1,166,676 ; in 1903, $2,644,260; and in 1913, $4,707,071; in 1920, $18,202,010. The total area of the county is 592,000 acres, the most of which were reported in farms at the last census, and 86,699 acres in “improved land,” against about 58,000 acres classified as improved in 1900. There were 1,375 farms in 1910, and 1,049 in 1900. The live stock and agricultural statistics from the last enumeration were as follows Cattle, 20,013; horses and mules, 4,863 ; hogs, 4,510. In 1909 the cotton acreage was 28,956; hay and forage crops, 5,343 ; corn, 3,700; kafir corn and milo maize, 3,541 ; and a limited acreage in wheat. There were 38,000 orchard fruit trees enumerated, and about 9,000 pecan trees.
The county has developed no important towns. Breckenridge, the county seat, lies in the center of the county and many miles from railroads. Other towns are Caddo, Wayland and Gunsight. As a matter of history it should be noted that when Stephens County was created in 1858 the Legislature gave it the name of Buchanan County. The settlers who ventured into the region before the period of hostilities beginning with the war attempted a county organization in 1860, but the county government was soon abandoned, and, as already stated, the official existence of the county begins in 1876. In 1861 the State Legislature changed the name of the county to Stephens, in honor of Alexander H. Stephens, then vice president of the Confederate states. – History of Texas, 1922, by W. Barrett Travis.