Notes and Documents
The Forgotten Texas State
Census of 1887
TERRY G. JORDAN*
A LMOST TWENTY YEARS AGO, WHILE READING HERMANN SEELE'S
German-language volume about Texas, I was startled by his
cryptic and undocumented reference to "dem am 31 sten Dezember
1887 aufgenommenen Staats-Census" ("the state census taken on De-
cember 31, 1887") and to the significant ethnic data it contained.
Never before had I encountered mention of this Texas state census,
and, in spite of a hurried search after reading Seele, I found no titles
from the 188os or 189os that sounded even vaguely like the one I
sought. Pressed by the need to complete my doctoral dissertation, I
abandoned the quest. In the years that followed, the thought that there
existed a published document of fundamental value to my ethnic re-
search continued, from time to time, to nag my Teutonic mind.
Then, in the summer of 1981, serendipity provided the volume that
conscious search had failed to yield. While rummaging in the open
stacks of the North Texas State University library, looking for an al-
together unrelated book, I instinctively pulled an old (and hence to
me interesting) volume from the shelf. The title, First Annual Report
of the Agricultural Bureau of the Department of Agriculture, Insur-
ance, Statistics, and History, 1887-88, promised little, but the date and
emblazoned seal of the state of Texas captured my attention.2 A few
seconds of page flipping revealed that I had found the elusive, mis-
titled, and apparently forgotten census. Within five minutes I realized
that the volume contained some truly priceless information.
The 1887 Texas census is valuable for two main reasons. First, it
contains ethnic data by county unavailable in any other published
*Terry G. Jordan is professor of cultural geography and chairman of the department
at North Texas State University.
1Hermann Seele, Die Cypresse und Gesammelte Schriften (New Braunfels, 1936), 128.
See also Edward C. Breitenkamp's translation, entitled The Cypress and Other Writings
of a German Pioneer tn Texas (Austin, 1979), 37.
2Edited by L. L. Foster, commissioner, the Report was published in Austin by the
State Printing Office in 1889.
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 May 30, 2015.