Introductory-Natural Features, Etc.: [From Goodspeed 1889]
Location and Area - Texas County is located in 37 degree 30' north latitude, 97 degree 15' west longitude, in the second tier of counties from the Arkansas line. The county is 140 miles southwest of St. Louis, seventy miles south of Jefferson City and 200 miles southeast Kansas City; it has 1,145 square miles of land, making a larger territory than St. Charles and St. Louis Counties combined-the largest county by 145 square miles of any in the State. The Ozark Mountains raise their majestic form in this county from northeast to southwest. The Piney River, gathered from the bright and fresh springs of the neighborhood of Cabool, in the southwest corner of the county, runs its course almost due north, over pebbly shoals and gravel fords, between the oft-repeated cliff of 200 feet or more, rising in solid grandeur on the one side, and the rich alluvial deposits on the other, until it pours its share of clear, pure water into the Gasconade River in Pulaski County. The elevation of the mountains at Cabool is 1,250 feet, or 435 feet lower than Cedar Gap on the west and 310 feet lower than Sterling on the east.
The county was so named after the State of Texas, while the county seat, Houston, was so styled to commemorate Sam Houston's acts at San Jacinto, the date of naming being June, 1846. Assessment and Taxation - The Tax statistics of the county in 1853 point out 531 polls, yielding $199.12; 7,940 acres, yielding $115.96; town lots, yielding $12.16; thirty slaves, $27.10; notes and bonds, yielding $14.12; personal property valued at $73,061, yielding 146.12 tax; merchant's licenses yielded $20.73; dram-shop license, $75, and pill venders' license, $6. The present population is estimated at 18,000. The number of acres assessed in 1887 was 503,188, valued at $1,018,615, and 692 town lots, valued at $68,515. The valuation of stocks, bonds, personal property, etc., brought the total up to $1,615,510, the enumeration of stock being as follows: Horses, 4,387; mules, 1,349; asses and jennets, 54; cattle, 15,807; sheep, 10,131; hogs, 18,385.
Minerals - Zinc has been discovered and is now being taken out in large quantities in the south part of the county. It is the pure black-jack or blende, and yields 65 or 66 per cent of pure zinc. Lead has also been found in various places. In September, 1887, the Cabool Mining Company took out blende showing 65 per cent of zinc.
Timber - Some of the finest oak, pine and other timber exist. For some years before the oldest residents came hither, the lumber trade was a great industry here, and even in 1840 there were ten sawmills on Piney River, to which logs were hauled from the ridges and rafted to St. Louis by men sent specially from the Mississippi each spring. Pine and deer-skins were then articles of export.
Fruit Trees - The natural productions of this county are as varied as in any section of the Union. They consist principally of plums, cherries, grapes, pawpaws, persimmons, crabapples, huckleberries, strawberries, blackberries, gooseberries and other small fruits, besides walnuts and hazelnuts. This county, like Wright, is undoubtedly the home of the fruit tree. A great many new orchards have been planted during the past two years, and soon the productions will be largely increased. Better locations for large fruit farms cannot be found anywhere than upon some of the northern hillsides. The trees are healthy and always yield well, and the Kansas City, Springfield & Memphis Railroad places within reach a market where fruit is always in demand and commands good prices.
Lands - The land is what is usually called rolling, the hills not being very high and the valleys not very deep or narrow. As there is absolutely no land in the county not subject to cultivation, all kinds of grass, grain and clover (as well as cereals) grow with wonderful luxuriance wherever they have been sown. Such soil as is here in abundance lying idle and unclaimed is in the Eastern and Northern States cultivated and valuable, and will in a few years be valuable in this locality. Clover and alfalfa sown on the rockiest hills, without any cultivation besides removing the trees and undergrowth, do well and produce a good crop. After allowing 80,000 acres improved land, there yet remains, including the 70,000 or 80,000 acres of Government land, no less than 668,800 acres of good land waiting for some one to improve. On August 8, 1881, 9,345 acres of agricultural college lands were sold to the Fort Scott, Springfield & Memphis Railroad Company.
The Western Land & Cattle Company, founded in 1881, and incorporated at London, England, entered about 28,000 acres in Texas County in 1883, and in 1885 sent Charles E. Peter, of Fife Shire, Scotland, to take charge. Prior to this time the company had 125 acres cleared, and on this land a four-room frame house was erected in the summer of 1885. A hog ranch was started; but, owing to disease creeping in, hog breeding was abandoned, and the cleared lands leased to Mr. Peter, who cultivates the greater part of it. About 2,000 acres of this tract have been sold, the lands in the neighborhood of Cabool and Sargent selling for $3 and $5 per acre, the terms being six years' time at 7 per cent, the annual interest payable in advance. The location of the Peter ranch is on Steiner's Fork of Jack's Fork, within eight miles of Summersville. The company's lands are principally in Townships 28, 29, 30 and 31, Range 7; 28 and 29, Range 8; 32, Range 10; 33, Range 11, and also in Range 12.
Streams and Springs- Water is plentiful and easily obtained, the depth not being more than eighteen to thirty feet. There are, too, an abundance of flowing streams in the county, seven being of enough prominence to appear upon the local maps, besides innumerable springs and spring branches. The streams are clear as crystal, and abound with fine game fish, six-pound bass being not uncommon, and buffalo and cat weighing much more. Besides these are trout, perch, horn dase and eels in abundance; there are several fish ponds in the county, and there is no limit to the number that could be easily constructed, at trifling expense.
A short distance north of Houston, in a beautiful glen that branches off from Piney River, is to be found one of those natural apothecary shops. Almost a hundred springs can be distinctly traced in going up this glen a distance of a mile or less, some containing iron, some sulphur, some magnesia and others of different compoundings, as prepared by the Supreme Architect in the laboratory that lies deeply hidden away under these giant spurs and towering peaks of the Ozarks.
Game - The Gasconade country has been the paradise of game. John T. Lynch, speaking of this county as he knew it in 1841, says: "When I came here the wild deer roamed the hills in large herds, and turkeys were more numerous than pigeons are now. You could have the black bear for a pet more readily or more easily than you can a deer at this day. We had for the carnivorous animals the black bear, panther, the black and gray wolf, the wildcat and catamount, and, too, an abundance of the smaller tribes, such as the raccoon, opossum, mink, otter, ground-hog, the gray fox and the weasel. Of the herbivorous animals there were the elk and deer; of the feathered tribe, the wild turkey, prairie chicken, partridge or quail, the pheasant, snipe, duck and woodchuck." An elk was killed on Elk Creek, eleven miles from Cabool, in July, 1886. In 1870 Joe Harrison killed the doe, leaving the buck the last of the elk tribe to go free. For years he could be seen at intervals speeding across the country, and was named "Old Joe."
Tornadoes - The storm of April 18, 1880, struck the county at Carlisle's house, on Piney River, near Joseph Wilson's plank yard. Traveling eastward, it swept a clean path through the forest, carried away 13,000 feet of lumber from Hay's yard, destroyed D. B. Cantrell's out-buildings, Harris Watson's house, and then the town of Licking. The heaviest losers in property in the town were Drs. Collier and Orr, their business houses being literally torn to atoms, and their stock of goods rendered worthless. Dr. Collier lost three other houses in addition to his business house, his dwelling being materially damaged; the store of Campbell & Cravens was unroofed, and moved off the foundation. The new church, erected by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the new academy, erected in 1879, were a heap of ruins. The two grist mills were utterly annihilated, and the smoke-stack of the Shipp mill was carried a distance of 300 yards. The loss of life was small; a child of Robert Bates was burned to death, and a few persons injured. The storm of February 19, 1888, was first noticed at Almack's, on the Cabool road. Before reaching Indian Creek it gathered full force, wrecking Joe Mayfield's house, Samuel Henderson's out-buildings, Garret Halt's dwelling and Connelly's residence. This was the fourth cyclone which passed in sight of Houston during the past three years, the hills just west of it turning them into the air.
Debbie Linton and Penny Harrell
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