Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 1, January, 2000 Page: 27
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
It was ranching, however, that was destined to displace cotton farming as the
county's agricultural base. The fantastic success of Robert Earl Stafford, who, in ten years,
had built a comparatively small investment into a small fortune, inspired many others to
imitation. Some attempted to exceed him. In October and November 1876, in what the
Colorado Citizen characterized as "a gigantic scheme," the International & Great North-
ern Railroad took title to 37,760 acres of previously unowned land in the southern part of
Colorado County. The railroad intended to put the land under fence, creating a giant pasture
on which cattle, hogs, and deer were to be raised, with the resulting beef, pork, venison,
cheese, and butter sold for a profit. The fences were to be constructed of wood and main-
tained by cowboys who were to reside in cottages built near the gates. Ultimately, the
constructed fence was to be replaced by a thick hedge, which was to be planted along the
fence in the ranch's first year of operation. The property was to contain suitable sheds for
the cattle, and numerous water wells, operated by windmills, to constantly fill troughs. Nearly
every aspect of the enterprise was revolutionary. At the time, few, if any, ranchers in the
county had fences, sheds, or wells. However, the railroad apparently encountered financial
problems, and never developed the ranch.34
expansive piney woods, dendrologists seem to believe that the Colorado County piney woods, like
those in Bastrop County, are "remnants of a once-contiguous range from East Texas" (see Paul W. Cox
and Patty Leslie, Texas TreesA Friendly Guide (San Antonio: Corona Publishing, 1988), p. 13; Benny
J. Simpson, A Field Guide to Texas Trees (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1988), p. 228). However, it
should be noted that no earlier mention of pine trees in Colorado County has been found, not even in
the extensive descriptions of the countryside provided by William Bluford Dewees (see Dewees,
Letters from an Early Settler of Texas), or in the list of the area's trees written in 1844 by Johann
Leyendecker, who lived just north of the present piney woods (see Anders Saustrup and Jean Gross,
trans. and eds., "From Coblenz to Colorado County, 1843-1844: Early Leyendecker Letters to the Old
Country," NesbittMemorial Library Journal, vol. 1, no. 6, August 1990, p. 184). And, the January 7,
1860 issue of the Colorado Citizen goes to great lengths to praise a man for arranging to regularly
bring "cedar and pine lumber (which is in great demand in our town,)" from Bastrop and Fayette
Counties, helping to alleviate "the very extravagant prices" locals then had to pay for such wood. One
must wonder why, if pine trees were present in Colorado County, citizens had to pay high prices to
obtain pine lumber from elsewhere. Further, in 1923, T. L. Bailey identified the Colorado County trees
as "short leaved pines (Pinus echinata), " and reported that the pine forest "occupies only a few
hundred acres and is surrounded by post oak woods... The pines here seem to be actually spreading
and numerous small pines interspersed with post oaks occur on the border of the area" (see Bailey,
The Geology and Natural Resources of Colorado County, University of Texas Bulletin No. 2333
(Austin: University of Texas, 1923), pp. 129-130). Most experts identify the pines in Bastrop County as
loblolly pines, that is, Pinus taeda, a different species. And, if the Colorado County piney woods are
indeed a remnant of a primeval forest, the question must be asked: what caused them to begin
spreading through the surrounding post oaks in the mid nineteenth century and to continue spread-
ing through them well into the twentieth?
34 Colorado Citizen, January 6, 1876; Index to Abstracts of Lands, Colorado County, Texas
(Ms. 43) Colorado County Abstracts Collection, Archives of the Nesbitt Memorial Library. In the
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 10, Number 1, January, 2000, periodical, January 2000; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151408/m1/27/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed June 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.