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History of Presidio County, Texas

See Also: Story of Shafter Texas
transcribed by Janice Rice
Presidio County is situated in extreme Southwest Texas, and Is bounded on the west and south by the Rio Grande River; it was created from a portion of Bexar County In 1870. and named for Presidio del Norte. The county's estimated population is 8,000; Marfa, the county seat, has about 1,500, Shatter 1,000. Total assessment, $4,511,200. The northern portion consists of high rolling prairies, destitute of timber and almost entirely destitute of natural or surface water. The southern portion, bordering on the Rio Grande, Is broken and mountainous, and while having a few running streams, is not so well adapted for stock raising purposes as the northern portion. It has timber, consisting of a stunted growth of live oak and cedar, sufficient only for fuel. Water Is obtained by boring at depths varying from 150 to 500 feet. Along the Rio Grande, on the made lands, are a few farms, devoted to raising corn, beans and wheat. The important streams are the Rio Grande, which is a dry river bed a greater part of the year, and the Alamito and Cbolo Creeks. This is pre-eminently a stock raising country. Last year there were 44,845 cattle. 4,387 horses and mules, 10,117 goats and 1,942 sheep. There are six irrigating plants along the Rio Grande River, watering about 10,000 acres; a little more than half of this acreage was in cultivation last year. As a rule the farms are cultivated by Mexicans. Corn is the principal crop, producing from 15 to 20 bushels per acre; some wheat is grown, but the greater portion of the cultivated lands are planted In such produce as Is necessary for local consumption, including vegetables and fruits. The Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railroad crosses the county with 44.53 miles of trackage. There are 17 public free schools, employing 21 teachers. Much of the mountain country is richly mineralized, and the mining industry is of great importance. Silver mines near Shatter, which have been successfully operated since 1884, are producing $700,000 worth of silver annually. Several silver mines are being opened up in the San Antonio Canyon. The Big Bend, Mariposa and Dallas quicksilver mines, located Just over the border in Brewster County, draw their supplies from Marfa, and, being close to the Presidio County border, it is believed that these same deposits will be found In this county. Quarries of fine marble, familiarly known as the Jordan and Kane quarries, are located a few miles southeast of Marfa; a large syndicate is now preparing to develop them. Marfa is noted as a health and summer resort, having an elevation of 4,696 feet above sea level. source: Texas Almanac 1910

Presidio County
Presidio County, formed in 1850, for a number of years comprised the greater part of the Trans-Pecos region of Texas. In 1871 Pecos County was set off, and in 1887 Brewster and Jeff Davis counties were created, leaving its present area of about twenty-five hundred square miles. The county was organized in 1875, and Fort Davis was the county seat until 1887, and after the creation of Jeff Davis County a county government was established at Marfa, on the line of the Southern Pacific Railway, which was constructed across the north end of the county in 1880. The northern part of the county consists of high, rolling, treeless plains, but a large part of the area is mountainous and there are very few streams of running water. The mountainous districts are chiefly noted for their mineral deposits, and the stock raising industry is confined to the plains region in the northern part. About thirty years ago efforts were made to develop the silver deposits in the southern part of the county near Shafter, and the Presidio mine in that vicinity has been in successful operation for over twenty years and is the principal precious metal producer in Texas. In 1911 Texas produced silver to the value of over two hundred thousand dollars, and a large part of it came from Presidio County. The town of Shafter is off the railroad, and is a mining camp, with several hundred inhabitants, most of the labor being performed by Mexicans. The oldest town in the county is Presidio, located on the Rio Grande, and which has long been a port of entry and the site of a custom house. Marfa, the county seat and chief town, has a population estimated at about seventeen hundred, is a distributing point for most of the country to the South and North, and is also noted as a health resort, having an elevation of nearly five thousand feet. For many years most of the supplies for Fort Davis, Shafter and other points along the Rio Grande have been hauled out of Marfa by wagon train. The line of the Kansas City, Mexico & Orient Railroad is now practically completed through Presidio County, running from Alpine to Presidio on the Rio Grande.
     Agriculture is as yet in its infancy in Presidio County, and has been largely confined to small patches along the Rio Grande, operated by Mexicans with small irrigation plants. Recently a dam has been constructed across Alamita Creek south of Marfa, and with the accumulation of flood waters it is estimated that about 12,000 acres may be put into cultivation. At the present time the amount of irrigated land in the county is about 1,000 acres, and experiments have proved that alfalfa, wheat and fruit are profitable crops under irrigation. For many years the county has supported large herds of cattle, sheep and goats, and the raising of goats and sheep is increasing, with Marfa as the market for wool and mohair. Besides its silver mines Presidio County has undeveloped deposits of copper and lead, and great quantities of excellent marble.
     The population of Presidio County in 1870, when its territory still included all that part of the Trans-Pecos region except El Paso and Culberson counties, was l,636; in 1880, before Jeff Davis and Brewster counties were set off, 2,873; in 1800, 1,698; in 1900, 3,673; in 1910, 5,218, including about 3,000 Mexicans. The value of taxable property in the county in 1903 was $2,827,572; and in 1913, $5,762,793. The total area of the county is 2,439,680 acres, and about a third was included in farms or ranches at the time of the last census. The amount of "improved land" was about 7,000 acres, compared with about 2,500 acres in 1900, and the number of farms was 186 in 1910. Forty-three of these farms were irrigated, and in 1909 the acreage irrigated was 855. The live stock enumerated was 49,191 cattle; about 4,400 horses and mules, and 4,197 goats. In 1909, 601 acres were planted in corn; 504 acres in wheat; and 479 acres in hay and forage crops.  Source: A History of Texas and Texans, Volume 2  By Francis White Johnson (Published by American Historical Society, 1914) - Transcribed by Veneta McKinney

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