The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982

The Saga of a Railroad Town:
Calvert, Texas (1868-1918)
JOHN S. GARNER*
A SINGULAR COMMITMENT TO THE CULTIVATION, PROCESSING, AND
marketing of cotton brought Calvert, Texas, phenomenal success
and eventual ruin.1 Calvert's founding and mercurial growth were
condensed into the lifetime of one generation, and its collapse fol-
lowed in the next; thus in a fifty-year period-between 1868 and 1918
-the town grew and prospered, leveled off, and then declined. Be-
cause of an economy devoted solely to cotton, Calvert exists today as
a relic of late nineteenth-century urban planning. Its present, care-
taker population of 1,714 is about half the number of residents it
boasted during its prosperous turn-of-the-century years.2 Its story is
not unique. Other towns met similar fates, and because of this com-
mon urban experience, Calvert's history may exemplify what hap-
pened to many of its kind.
Calvert was platted in 1868 by Theodore Kosse, an engineer for the
Houston and Texas Central Railway Company, though events leading
to its founding extend back to 1827. In that year the Mexican gov-
ernment granted the Nashville Company of Tennessee permission to
settle 8oo families on a large tract of land in East Central Texas. A
party of pioneers led by Sterling C. Robertson arrived in 1830 to
*John S. Garner is associate professor of architecture at Texas A&M University.
1During the summers of 1977 and 1978, graduate students in the Department of Archi-
tecture, Texas A&M University, conducted a survey of the commercial area of Calvert,
Texas, investigating and recording its nature and history. They uncovered many interest-
ing facts about the town's development and produced measured drawings of the building
facades along Main Street, which will be registered by the Historic Architectural and
Engineering Record.
2Calvert's population rose from 2,28o in 188o to 3,322 in 19oo--its largest number ac-
cording to the censuses-before declining to 2,099 in 192o. Texas Almanac and State In-
dustrial Guide, 198o-198I (Dallas, 1980), 358; U S., Department of the Interior, Census
Office, Compendium of the Tenth Census (June 1, 1880) (2 pts; Washington, D.C.,
1883), Pt. I, 30o6; U.S., Department of the Interior, Census Office, Twelfth Census of the
United States, Taken in the Year Igoo (io vols.; Washington, D.C., 1901-1903), I, Popula-
tion (1901), Pt. I, 387; U.S., Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth
Census of the United States, Taken in the Year I92o (11 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1921-
1923), Volume I. Population, 1920: Number and Distribution of Inhabitants (1921), 303.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101208/. Accessed August 28, 2014.