May 25, 1899
A TEXAS LETTER.
STEPHENVILLE, TEX., May 4.
As I have been requested by a number of friends to write, and trusting that you will grant me space through the colums [sic] of your paper, I shall take this method of addressing them.
At present I have nothing to relate that would likely be of any interest, further than a meager description of this part of the "Lone Star State."
Stephenville, the county seat of Erath county, is situated on the Fort Worth and Rio Grande Railroad, seventy eight miles southwest of Fort Worth, and contains a population of about three thousand.
The town is surrounded by a fine farming and stock country, and is very beautifully situated. Since it is in the border of the great Cotton and Grain Belt portions of the State and is one of the most prosperous, and wide-awake little cities in the State.
Stephenville has one national bank, three newspapers, three gins, one broom factory, water works, electric light plant, complete telephone system, saddle and harness factory, steam laundry, oil mill, roller flour mill, wagon and repair shops and besides her two depots, fine hotels, six saloons, there thirty four or five mercantile establishments that would do credit to any city.
The surrounding county has a very fertile soil, since it is composed of the Sandy Loam, which is well adapted to the growth of cotton, corn, wheat and many other cereals too numerous to mention; and the people here seem to be turning their attention more to this industry than ever before. We are credibly informed that there are many acres of land near here, whose soil has been tilled for from eighteen to twenty years in succession, and yet produces one half to a bale of cotton per acre, and from 40 to 60 bushels of corn, and the same amount of wheat etc., in consideration. I have now been in this city nearly two months, and in the first, was a little disappointed in the climate on account of cool nights, and occasionally a cool day, more commonly known here as northerners, that can only be lain to the winding up of a blizzard back in some of the Northern States, which after completing its work there, remembers this part of the moral vineyard and comes sweeping along with all its qualities that are only termed purifying and healthful to this portion of the country.
While the winter here was severe, and one of great trial, with the thermometer registering ten degrees below zero. It has passed now and the woods are green, the sun shines brightly, yet not too warmly, since the air is pure, and fresh, and scented by a faint breath of the beautiful tree of china, the muscadine and lilac, in brief I can but call this "a beautiful country." I can not at present think of a word that would be more euphonious and also more truthful.
Farmers are very busy plowing corn, and owing to the recent rains the soil contains a splendid a [sic] season. Wheat is said to be good and there is prospect for a moderate fruit crop.
I have met with a great many Kentuckians since arriving here, and among them was L. H. Hughes, and W. H. Avitts, who was once counted residents of dear old Crittenden, but emigrated from that, to the breezy clime of Erath, and are among the many prosperous farmers of the county, and with their families seem as happy as the "proverbial kittens in the basket."
We are induced to believe that too many draw an idea, that Texas is merely a vast body of rolling prairie, and is occupied by "cowboys," (of which we may add are seldom given their dues,) and the remainder are out-laws, etc. But we find this to be not the case. It is true, that many aged men who have spent a great many years in this State, during its infancy, can hold his listners [sic] as it were, spell-bound, with account of the many acts that once occurred by the outlaws, who in those days made of yore, made this country their ground of prey, but tempora mutantur, and this country is as free from the desperado, we venture to say, as is any State in the union.
The people are refined, clever and sociable, and every ready to extend a welcome hand to all good people who wish to cast their lot with them.
This little city has fine water, good natural drainage, and is one of the healthiest cities in Southwestern Texas. The churches are handsome and comfortable, and are well attended, while the secret orders are in good condition. The town has also a splendid and well patronized school system, in addition to which is a college of a high order. The schools run from eight to ten months during the year, thus affording splendid opportunity to those desiring to educate and rear their families in the proper way. The teachers salary runs from forty to one hundred dollars per month, therefore we think this a better country for the teacher than is some of the Northern States.
One feature has most forcibly struck me, and, one that I truly admire, is the broad roadways, that are all free of rocks and stumps and are graded. I think that if any citizen in Crittenden, who has traveled those roads having to run the gauntlet between the stumps on this side and a tree on that, with a run in roadway, could view this country after the graders work, would be ready to crucify any system that would work them otherwise, or discontinue grader until every road in the county was put in good condition.
The people here drive from forty to sixty miles a day. A man told me that he drove a distance of sixty miles from seven o'clock in the morning until four that evening. I saw him one day recently with his wagon and team near a box car, and was as I thought, converting his "float bed" into a box car; and after wondering for some time where was the team that would pull it, I saw the load move away at a rapid speed, and was drawn merely by one span of horses; he had on five thousand pounds, and he said, "If I has a couple more thousand it would make me a pretty fair load." How is that for a two horse load? The gentleman of whom I speak of, is none other than our old friend, John Zimmerman, who lived in Crittenden quite a while, is now a citizen of this city, and is a prosperous freighter of the town.
I venture to hope that my rememberance [sic] of the PRESS and friends, will gain this a space for publication. With best wishes to the readers of the PRESS, I am most truly yours.
A. A. AVITTS.
Source: Crittenden Press. (Marion, Ky.) 1879-1907, May 25, 1899, Image 4 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.
[My comments are in brackets.]