The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992 Page: 352
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Southwestern Hzstorical Quarterly
Brown County lies in central West Texas. It consists of low hill ranges
and valleys, originally largely wooded, but with some tillable prairies.
Pecan Bayou crosses the county from the northwest to southeast, where
it joins the Colorado River, which forms the southern boundary of the
county. In 192o, Brown County had a population of 21,682. Brown-
wood, the county seat, had grown fairly rapidly, from a population of
3,965 in 1900 to a population of 8,223 in 1920.3
In 1924, the Brownwood Chamber of Commerce renewed its inter-
est in an old project: a plan to build a dam across Pecan Bayou. The
chamber believed that the reservoir created by such a dam could spur
Brownwood's growth and that of irrigated agriculture in Brown County.
Between 1925 and 1927, the chamber took a number of legal and engi-
neering steps toward the realization of its project, including the organi-
zation of the Brown County Water Improvement District No. 1 (with a
board of directors composed entirely of members of the chamber's
water committee) as a financing mechanism for the project.
In March 1927, the new Brown County District filed an application
with the State Board of Water Engineers to fill a reservoir on Pecan
Bayou and its tributary, Jim Ned Creek, with 500,000 acre-feet of
water, and to use the water in the reservoir for municipal, industrial,
and power purposes, and for the irrigation of 47,895 acres of land.
The Board of Water Engineers was the state agency with the exclusive
authority to grant permits for surface water use at that time. The board
scheduled a public hearing on the application for May 31, 1927.'
The Brown County project quickly stirred up controversy. Between
May 25 and May 31, 1927, the board received protests against the
Brown County District's application from virtually every major water
user on the lower Colorado River. Most of the protestants were rice ir-
rigation companies in Matagorda County and in Colorado County.
Each of these companies claimed the legal right to take large amounts
of water from the Colorado River for rice irrigation.6 The remaining
person to put water to a beneficial use from a stream is entitled to use of that water as against all
subsequent users. The common law doctrine of riparian rights, as it was established in England
and the eastern United States, provides that the owner of land bordering a stream has the right
to use the waters of the stream
s The Texas Almanac and State Industrial Guide, 1925 (Dallas: Dallas News, 1925)
4Brownwood Chamber of Commerce, Minutes of Meetings of the Board of Directors, Meet-
ings of May 30 and July 24, 1924 (Southwest Collection, T'exas Tech University, Lubbock, cited
hereafter as TTU), Ibid., Meetings of May 1 and Sept. 4, 1925, June 12, July 19, Aug. 11, and
Aug 17, 1926 (TTU), Presentation of the City of Brownwood, Application No 1085 file
(TWC); Brown County Water Improvement District No. 1 file (TWC)
5Appllcation No. 1085, Mar. 19, 1927, Application No. 1085 file (TWC).
6Protests of Markham Irrigation Company, Gulf Coast Irrigation Company, Lakeside Irriga-
tion Company, and Garwood Irrigation Company, Application No 1085 file (TWC)
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992, periodical, 1992; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/m1/412/: accessed June 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.