The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984 Page: 184
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
the region was irresistible to many Georgians, grinding out a hard-
scrabble existence on soil that required more fertilizer every year. So
in the winter of 1870-1871, the McElvy family became part of a con-
siderable southern migration to Texas.2
McElvy and his family settled in Collin County, renting a farm
somewhere near McKinney, a village of 503 people and the seat of
government. Located directly north of Dallas County, Collin was
formally organized in 1846. Growth had been steady, and the popula-
tion reached 14,013 in 1870 (12,348 whites and 1,653 blacks).3
Generally, the situation in Texas during Reconstruction paralleled
that of Georgia and other southern states. Yet conditions were not so
severe. At least, as one historian has noted, the state's "direction was
flexible and its politics were fluid." Collin County was an overwhelm-
ingly agricultural area. Manufacturing in 1870 was limited to four
flour mills that employed eight workers. The rolling terrain of black,
waxy soil appealed to McElvy. Besides alfalfa, a cover crop alien to
him but said to have merit, the land was good for crops traditional in
Georgia: cotton, peas and beans, corn, tobacco, oats, sweet potatoes,
Irish potatoes, and sorghum. The Georgian had worked with cows and
hogs most of his life and was willing to adapt, if it proved profitable, to
the techniques of raising sheep.4
In the summer of 1871, McElvy responded to a letter written by a
friend back in Whigham. The reply to "Lawson," a physician, revealed
that the transplanted Georgian was a skilled, if ungrammatical, ob-
2For immigrants lured to Texas, see Edward King, The Great South, ed. W. Magruder
Drake and Robert R. Jones (Baton Rouge, 1972), 99-100, 133, 137, 366, 792. Most con-
temporaries were not the polished writer that King was. W. Bradley, who settled in Co-
lumbus (Colorado County) in 187o, wrote a typical letter to a Mobile, Alabama, news-
paper describing his new home in Texas. Bradley added, "I merely wish to state these
facts that those coming this fall will not have to run around so much to find cheap lands,
and where best to go to find a place." Mobile Daily Register, Sept. 28, 187o. For a discus-
sion by modern scholars see E. Merton Coulter, The South during Reconstruction,
1865-1877 ([Baton Rouge], 1947), 186, and C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South,
1877-1913 ([Baton Rouge], 1951), 1o8-log.
SThe county had twelve Indians. U.S., Department of the Interior, Census Office, Ninth
Census (3 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1871), vol. I, The Statistics of the Population of the
United States ... , 64-66. See also Walter Prescott Webb, H. Bailey Carnoll, and Eldon
Stephen Branda (eds.), The Handbook of Texas (3 vols.; Austin, 1952, 1976), I, 375;
H. P. N. Gammel (comp.), The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897 . . . (1o vols.; Austin, 1898),
4Joe B. Frantz, Texas: A Bicentennial History (New York, 1976), 115 (quotation); W. C.
Nunn, Texas under the Carpetbaggers (Austin, 1962), 3-9; T. R. Fehrenbach, Lone Star:
A History of Texas and the Texans (New York, 1968), 393-442; U.S., Ninth Census, vol.
III, The Statistics of the Wealth and Industry of the United States .... 50-251, 253, 735.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984, periodical, 1983/1984; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117150/m1/220/: accessed July 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.