Heritage, Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 1990 Page: 22
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Top: Back in 1910, these six steers averaging 1,596 pounds sold for eight cents a pound. They each netted
Charles Albert Menke of Menke Ranch in Waller County $127.68. Menke pioneered the development
of crossbred Brahman-Hereford cattle and scientific feeding methods. Known for breeding high-quality
beef animals, he always got top dollar for his cattle in Kansas City.
Above: In the early years, all the family baking on the McAllen Ranch in Hidalgo County was done
outdoors in a rock and clay oven.
southeast of Zapata, and the house in
Falc6n. The old house was still in use in
1953, when Falc6n Dam was completed on
the Rio Grande, and Lake Falcon inundated
the old village. Maximiano, Angela,
and their four children-Emma Eva,
Tomas Luis, Crescencia, and Mario-established
permanent residence at Santo
Tomas Ranch The children inherited their
parents' land, which they have divided four
ways. They run Beefmaster cattle.
22 HERITAGE * FALL 1990
Singletary Farm, 1854,
Drawn by the magnet of land, William
and Amy Watters of Oglethorpe County,
Georgia, piled twelve children and their
belongings onto a covered wagon and
headed west. In 1854 the Watters bought
700 acres of rich red land outside Alto in
East Texas. The land rewarded long hours
of hard labor with bountiful harvests of cotton,
grains and sorghum cane. Cattle and
sheep provided meat, milk, and wool;
horses were used for transportation. The
farm became a self-sustaining unit that always
produced more than the family
needed. Surpluses were sold and traded.
William Cornelius, the Watters' ninth
child, inherited 200 acres in 1868. Like his
father, William managed well. He and his
wife and able helper, Patience Elizabeth
Spain, ran a diversified farm that enabled
them and their five children to live comfortably
even through the difficult years of
Reconstruction. Every week they would
load their wagon with produce, eggs, and
dairy products to sell at market. Proceeds
from the sales provided the family with a
steady income all year long.
With the arrival of the Cotton Belt
Railroad in 1885 and the construction of
gins near Alto, cotton became Cherokee
County's most important crop. In 1897,
however, a few of the most enterprising
farmers planted tomatoes that produced
exceptional fruit in the county's fertile soil.
Three years later, the first commercial
shipment went by rail to Chicago. Ella
Watters Singletary inherited a parcel of her
parents' land in 1912. Though her husband
Daniel raised cotton, he too diversified
into tomatoes. "They were a moneymaker
back then," recalled their daughter, Doris
*Ella Singletary Hartman, age seventy-two.
"The tomatoes were packed in crates and
loaded onto a wagon at the farm. We children
made some of those crates."
The tomato crop thrived, reaching
2,000 acres countywide at its peak during
the 1920s. In those days farmers picked
tomatoes pink, which allowed the fruit to
ripen fully on the trip to market. When
growers began shipping green tomatoes,
Cherokee County lost its reputation for a
vine-ripened product. Sales plummeted,
and eventually the industry went under.
Recently, however, Cherokee County has
begun to re-establish itself as a tomatogrowing
center, but Singletary Farm has
converted to registered Braford cattle
production. Mrs. Hartman, a widow and
retired teacher, lives in the farmhouse
where she grew up.
Porter Ranch, 1865,
Henry and Malinda Caruthers and
their two sons came to Texas from
Tennessee as slaves in 1847. For the next
eighteen years, they worked for the
Lawrence family. The two families-slave
and free-became friends, and in 1865,
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 1990, periodical, Autumn 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45429/m1/22/: accessed May 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.