Texas Almanac, 1992-1993 Page: 50
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50 TEXAS ALMANAC 1992-1993
St. Paul Lutheran
Church in Serbin,
Lee County, was
built in 1868-71 by
Wends, who mi-
grated from Ger-
many to Texas in
1854 seeking free-
dom from religious
Almanac staff photo.
loads of wool being brought
1 to town and stored in vacant
houses. The West Texas Co-
operative Marketing Associ-
ation was formed in San
Saba when it was the ter-
minus of stagecoach lines to
the west. When the Santa Fe
laid tracks to San Angelo,
the wool markets moved
Italian immigrants. Statewide, the number of Italian-
born residents jumped from 186 in 1870 to 2,107 in 1890
and to 8,024 in 1920.
Foreign-born settlers were so numerous in Texas
near the turn of the century that several towns had lo-
cally published foreign-language newspapers. German
newspapers were published in Austin, Giddings, La
Grange, Lockhart, San Antonio and Temple. Czech
newspapers were distributed from La Grange and
Taylor, and Swedish from Austin.
Severe droughts in 1886-1887 were disastrous to Cen-
tral Texas farmers. George Tyler in Bell County report-
ed that there was no rain in the winter and spring of
1886. The corn failed, but a late summer shower saved
some of the cotton. The first substantial rain was on
June 4, 1887, too late to save the corn, but early enough
to make a somewhat better cotton crop than the previ-
A few barbed-wire fences had been strung in Texas
by 1880, and the wire, which was first patented by J.F.
Glidden in DeKalb, III., in 1873, was widely used by 1883.
Free-range cattlemen, accustomed to running their
cattle across unfenced lands at will, were enraged to
find fences blocking their way across private property.
The fence-cutting wars that ensued prompted legis-
lation in 1884 making fence cutting a felony and requir-
ing gates in fences every three miles.
The last two decades of the 19th century were
marked by a series of epidemics in Central Texas.
Smallpox hit Robertson County in 1883; the Austin area
in 1886; the area around San Gabriel, Milam County, in
1891; and the Taylor area of Williamson County in 1895.
Agriculture history was made in San Saba County in
1888 with the development of papershell pecans by the
West Texas Pecan Nursery. Pecans are very much a
part of San Saba's history: Fossil pecans have been
found there that date from prehistoric times. San Saba
also developed into a major wool market, with wagon-
A different kind of agri-
cultural history was made in
the cotton fields of Central
Texas starting about 1895.
The boll weevil first
" , appeared in the Lower Rio
Grande Valley from Mexico
in 1893. By 1895, it had
advanced as far north as San
Antonio. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recom-
mended to the Texas Legislature that it require farm-
ers to plow up their cotton stalks, where the insects
lived, as soon as the harvest was complete. The Legis-
lature dragged its feet; the voracious insect quickly
spread across the state and throughout the South.
The financial Panic of 1893 brought several years of
relative depression in both the rural and urban sectors.
Farmers continued to be plagued by high freight rates,
monopolies, depressions and declining prices despite
the gains made by farmers' organizations.
In James Stephen Hogg, who served as governor
from 1891 to 1895, the farmers found a champion. Hogg
established the Texas Railroad Commission to regulate
freight rates and to establish rules for railroad opera-
tions within the state. Railroad Commission Chairman
John H. Reagan, who resigned from the U.S. Senate to
take the post, claimed that lower cotton rates saved
Texas farmers 5800,000 in 1897.
By 1900, about half the farms in Texas were tenant-
operated. The shift from self-contained to commercial-
lized agriculture was widespread. But cotton was no
longer the only commercial crop. It had been joined by
wheat and hay and, in South Texas, sugar cane and
rice. Poultry and eggs also were added. In 1870, the
most important industry in Texas was flour milling. But
by 1900, lumbering, mostly confined to the East Texas
Piney Woods, was first in value of output, followed by
cottonseed oil and cake, with flour milling third.
Then the oil well known as Spindletop blew in near
Beaumont on Jan. 10, 1901, and Texas' economy turned
from agriculture toward manufacturing. In 20 years, in-
dustrial output exceeded the value of agricultural prod-
ucts, and the disparity continued to increase. Texas was
on the verge of its own industrial revolution.
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Kingston, Mike. Texas Almanac, 1992-1993, book, 1991; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth279642/m1/54/?rotate=90: accessed March 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.