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Taylor County Texas

The Taylor County Courthouse is located at 300 Oak Street, Abilene, TX 79602; phone: 325-674-1202.

Beginnings [1]

Taylor County was formed from portions of Bexar and Travis counties, February 1, 1858, and a change in boundaries was made in 1876. The county was formally organized July 3, 1878. Near the center of the county was the old town of Buffalo Gap, which was the first county seat. The county had received more than a proportionate share of settlers during the '70s, and over a thousand inhabitants were enumerated by 1880. In 1881 the Texas & Pacific Railway was built across the north side of the county, and that gave stability to conditions which hitherto had depended upon the migratory enterprise of range stockmen.

A quite accurate summary of conditions and developments of the county is quoted from a recent issue of the Taylor County Year Book:

"Cattle, horses, mules, sheep and goats, up to about twenty-five years ago, constituted the principal available wealth of the section. The conditions as to climate, rainfall, water, native grasses and forage plants were all especially favorable to the live stock industry. As late as 1875 large herds of buffalo ranged almost undisturbed over all of the section, and still later small herds found their way in, to be killed off quickly by hunters and the pioneer stockmen. They were in the section because they found here precisely what they needed, namely, abundant supplies of forage and water. Passing through the county as late as 1879, established ranches were to be found only at long intervals, and there were then in Taylor and Jones counties, for illustration, comparatively few settlers, and most of them in the main were engaged in stock raising, and had been attracted to the country by the abundance and luxuriance of the native grasses. A stockman who traveled through the entire section as late as the summer of 1876, says that the grasses everywhere were from one to three feet high, and that sometimes they were as high as a cow's back, not only in the bottoms, but also in spots on the drier upland. It was, indeed, an ideal stock country. There was plenty of stock water, and the man with the hoe had not yet put in his appearance to dispute with the stockmen the right and title to the boundless meadows. Some sheep men even then were scattered here and there along the uplands, where there was a shorter and richer growth of herbage, but they were so few in number that they were tolerated by the cattlemen for the reason only that there was such an abundance of both grass and water. Few, if any, of the stockmen then owned, or had in fact any exclusive right to a foot of the land occupied by them, but there was plenty for everyone and range rights were determined by rules that were agreed upon by all, though there was no statute laws to bind anyone. Now there is no longer any open range in Taylor County and the farmer is distinctly 'on top,' and the one traveling from one neighborhood to another, must travel through lanes, or along well defined public roads, between well improved farms on both sides. The natural conditions in 1913 are quite as favorable for the live stock industry as they were in the former years mentioned, except that instead of large herds of cattle, horses and sheep roaming almost at will on free grass, now live stock are fenced in on the pastures of the farmers and stock farmers who have purchased and now hold the land under title that the courts recognize as being good. It is the current opinion of those not informed on these subjects, that in consequence of the changes noted, there are not nearly so many of live stock throughout this section of the state as there were in the former years when on every hand they were to be seen on the open range. The fact is, however, as shown by the books of the several tax assessors and collectors throughout the section, that there are not only more live stock, but that they are superior in quality. In no other section of Texas are to be found cattle, horses, mules and sheep that class better, on the pastures and in the markets, than do those now in Taylor County, and every year the grade of each is improving."

These latter statements are particularly true, not only of Taylor County, but of many other counties, and the facts have been indicated in other county sketches. Taylor County, in 1882, had in round numbers, 13,000 cattle; 11,000 sheep and goats; 2,300 horses and mules; and about one thousand hogs. The Federal census, in 1910, enumerated the live stock as follows: 18,199 cattle; 12,000 horses and mules; 6,837 hogs; 4.532 sheep; and 78,779 poultry. Numerically the sheep industry alone has declined since 1882.

Taylor County now has several railroads. All, except the original Texas & Pacific, have been constructed within the last ten years. About 1905, the Abilene & Northern was chartered to build from Abilene to Stamford, and a little later the Abilene & Southern Railroad was started at Abilene and constructed as far as Ballinger, in 1909. During the present decade the Pecos & North Texas division of the Santa Fe system has been constructed through the county. The population of Taylor County, in 1880, was 1,736; in 1890, 6,957; in 1900, 10,499; and in 1910, 26,293. In 1882, the assessed value of taxable property was $733,809, a third being represented by live stock; in 1903, $5,047,167; and in 1913, $14,114,950.

For the past twenty years Taylor County has been the home of many prosperous farmers, and agricultural development has proceeded on diversified lines. The total area of the county is 581,120 acres, of which 468,377 acres were reported as included in farms or ranches in 1910. The amount of "improved land" at the last census was about two hundred and one thousand acres, a large increase during ten years, about eighty thousand acres having been so classified in 1900. In 1910, the county had 2,404 farms, as compared with 1,152 in 1900. The stock interests have already been noted. Few counties in west Texas have a larger acreage in crops, and the figures for 1909, are as follows: Cotton, 101,075 acres; kafir corn and milo maize, 20,961 acres; hay and forage crops, 19,778 acres; corn, 1,588 acres; oats, 1,227 acres; wheat, 1,557 acres. About fifty-eight thousand trees were enumerated in orchard fruits.

Taylor County voted out saloons from its area in 1902. It has been progressive in many lines, has voted a large amount of money for the construction and improvement of roads, has many farmers' institutes organized, and another important expression of the character of society is found in the fine public schools and colleges and the many beautiful churches in the county.

The chief city and county seat is Abilene, but the county has many other thriving small towns. The largest is Myrtle, on the Texas & Pacific west of Abilene, with a population in 1910 of 2,008. Other towns on the Texas & Pacific are Trent, Tye, Elmdale. Along the line of the Abilene & Southern are located Tuscola, also a junction point for that road and the Pecos & Northern Texas; Ovalo, Guion, Iberis and Bradshaw. On the line of the Pecos & Northern Texas are Buffalo Gap, the oldest town in the county, and other stations are Blair, Lawn and View. Some of the rural villages are Hamby, Potosi, Moro and Inkum.

  1. Frank W. Johnson, Eugene C. Barker, Ph.D., editor and assisted by Ernest William Winkler, M.A., A History of Texas and Texans, Volume II, The American Historical Society, Chicago and New York, 1914.
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