Agriculture

This article originally appeared in Garland/Mesquite section of The Dallas Morning News on July 28, 1995.

 

By Michael R. Hayslip

 

When the local cotton market finally got into full swing, prices and production swung with it.

Determined nationally by supply-and-demand, annual price averages from 1900 to the beginning of World War I gyrated from a low of 8.4 cents per pound in 1901 to a high of 14.6 cents in 1910, sometimes moving up or down by as much as one-third in a given year. At the beginning of that war 80,000 Dallas and Rockwall county bales accounted for two percent of Texas production, and wartime demand pushed annual average prices as high as 38.2 cents by 1919.

Landowning farmers sometimes bet their farms, as they planned cotton allocations on a hunch, then tried to hold ginned bales for a market high. Tenant farmers, by then producing over half of the cotton for a two-thirds to three-quarters’ share of their crop proceeds, had less to gain or lose. Creditors, including the banks and the merchants, sat beside each one at the game table.

The “roaring ‘20s” began with a whimper for cotton, as prices slid back to an average of 16.5 cents for the decade’s first year. That adjustment forced realignments of assets and ownerships throughout the area, toppling the Citizens National Bank group with offices in Garland, Rowlett and the Reinhardt community. Local farmers maintained average production levels, now approximating only one-and-one half percent of the statewide cotton totals, which led even petroleum in production dollars until 1928, when petroleum edged ahead.

Short-term production cuts often precipitated price increases, which then encouraged more production. Betting on higher prices and aided by easy financing, many individuals extended their holdings through debt, only to falter when cotton supplies next exceeded demand.  Still, the roller coaster sped on, with average prices bouncing as high as 30.4 cents in 1923 and sinking alongside the rest of the economy to 5.4 cents in 1931. But by then the Wylie bank had failed, and the larger bank in both Garland and Mesquite had absorbed the smaller, returning both cities to one-bank status.

A major thrust of New Deal policy was to stabilize farm commodity prices at levels that provided financial relief to America’s beleaguered farmers. Beginning with subsidized crop destruction, mortgage relief and planting allotments to control cotton supplies, a number of public schemes surfaced, culminating in loan guarantees for ginned cotton at pegged prices.

H. A. “Bud” Walker, a cotton buyer for the Texas Cotton Growers’ Cooperative from the mid-’30s through the late ‘50s, worked Garland, Mesquite, Richardson, Rockwall, Rowlett, Plano and smaller towns in the area. He says he well remembers the early depression years, when Dallas insurance companies were scrambling for solvent individuals to take up payments on foreclosed farm tracts.

When the government “put the loan” on cotton, a licensed appraiser such as Mr. Walker would classify ginned bales by grade, which indicated color and purity, as well as by staple, which denoted fibre length. Based upon that classification, the Commodity Credit Corporation “loaned” the farmer immediate cash for the pegged value of bales he stored in a bonded warehouse pending sale. If prices rose, the farmer could reclaim the cotton and reap the increase.  If they fell, the government bore the loss.

In 1941, as the United States moved toward World War II, cotton prices reached a dime, dancing up to 40 cents during the war itself, but the local share of state production eased back to one percent, while some fields were converted to manufacturing and housing. Ten years later the local share was only .05%, and by 1960 cotton farming had all but disappeared from the area.

Although development of new cotton strains had improved per acre yield potential and mechanized farming had reduced the potential costs of a labor-intensive system, the deterioration of soils, particularly in this area, from decades one-crop planting had gradually reduced the value of the yield. Tariffs on manufactured goods, which may have protected domestic industry, had also added to the farmers’ burden for mechanization. While price supports through loan guarantees may have saved, or in some cases enriched, cotton farmers and their creditors in the short run, they also created an artificial level which encouraged development of synthetic fibers and allowed foreign cotton producers to undercut domestic prices in the world market. Land development became more profitable then farming.

Photo not available

 

Photo captions;

W. C. Kingsley and his nephew W. C. Daugherty, Sr., stand amidst cotton laborers on the Kingsley farm in Garland about 1910. The site was located south of Kingsley Road between Glenbrook Drive and Saturn Road.

Photo courtesy Garland Landmark Museum.

 

Tom Moss and Carl Armstrong (standing l-r) consider 1940 cotton prices with H. A. ”Bud” Walker and Ruth Harris Martin at the Texas Cotton Growers’ Coop office in downtown Garland.  Photo courtesy H. A. Walker

This article originally appeared in the Garland/Mesquite section of The Dallas Morning News on July 21, 1995.

By Michael R. Hayslip

 

The cotton market bloomed late in the Garland/Mesquite area, but it came on strong in the finish. All it needed for encouragement was war, gins, and trains.

Before the Civil War settlers of this area asked only enough cotton from their blackland farms to meet household needs. Wheat, corn and livestock generated the bulk of their income.   Although the United States had become a major world cotton producer after the Whitney/Holmes saw-type gins were invented in 1794/96, the output came primarily from plantation systems of  the deep South. Dallas and its surrounding counties had neither a slave population to work the fields nor an effective transportation system to move the cotton to market.

In her 1927 Garland News series “Seventy Years in the Garland, Dallas County, Texas, Area,” Mrs. George W. “Kate” James noted that there were only “small patches” of cotton raised around here for quilt batting, ropes and knitting thread, some of which was used to make summer socks and hose. Since the closest pre-war cotton gins were in Dallas (near SMU) and Farmers Branch, seeds and other particles, called “motes”, had to be picked out of the local cotton fibre by hand; otherwise, the thread would break in spinning.

At the outbreak of war cotton demand skyrocketed, and able men left the fields to fight. “The government (Confederacy),” wrote Ms. James, “confiscated all cotton bales to make breastworks.” Demand for consumption was such that any cotton available traded for as high as $1.50 per pound to those who could buy it.

Some women near Greenville, she reported, held up a government cotton wagon and took off a bale. “They told him their husbands were away fighting for the government, and their children were in rags.” One of the women fell off with the bale and broke her arm in the process.

After that war there was a wave of immigration here from the older cotton-producing regions, and local cotton acreage increased to the point that in 1868 Ms. James’ father, R. D. Jones, built the first cotton gin in Duck Creek, Garland’s predecessor village. Run by horse power at a capacity of only 16 bales per week, the Jones installation was supplemented within a year by the nearby gin of Col. T. J. Nash, and others soon appeared throughout Dallas and surrounding counties.

The cotton gins mechanically brushed out seeds, motes and other debris from the cotton fibres of mature bolls, leaving lint, which could be spun into thread. Once separated, the seeds were available either for planting or processing by a mill, which peeled off their hulls, cooked out the oil component and ground the residue into high-protein cottonseed meal. Normally, the gin installation included presses for bailing the lint into bales of cotton, and some contained grist mills as well.

Since many of the men returning from war had taken up freight hauling to earn a living, the bales, weighing an average of 490 pounds each, could be slowly hauled to a shipping point.  For an average rate of between $4.50 and $5.00 per hundred pounds the “driver” transported cotton by walking on foot beside the wagon, cracking a whip to encourage from three to eight yoke of oxen pulling the load.

Routing of the Texas & Pacific Railway and the creation of Mesquite in 1873 gave cotton farmers in that vicinity the jump on those in Garland, Rowlett and Rockwall, who waited until 1886 for connections from either the Missouri, Kansas and Texas or the Santa Fe lines.

But by the late 1880's the local cotton market had begun to flourish. Besides the uncertainties of weather pestilence, the farmer was frequently strapped for cash during the growing season, and since there were no banks in the immediate area until the mid-‘90s, credit flowed only from merchants and a few established individuals. Although 16 to 18 per cent was the going interest rate on crop loans, many a farmer still prospered with a couple of hundred acres and a healthy family. There were no income taxes at the time, and property taxes were negligible.

The 20th century dawned with King Cotton established as the dominant factor of the area’s economy. Aside from the brickyards in Mesquite, there were no industrial payrolls, and commercial activity reflected the price of white lint coming out of the gins.

Photo not available

Photo Caption:

The brand-new, steam-powered Tinsley and Tinsley cotton gin was one of several operating in the Garland/Mesquite area by 1910. Located near the present Historical Society building site in Rowlett, it stood on the location of a pre-1900 gin destroyed by fire in 1909.

Photo courtesy Earl Hammond.

This article originally appeared in the Garland/Mesquite section of The Dallas Morning News on Friday, May 26, 1995.

 

By Michael R. Hayslip

One of the cards from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal fell in Mesquite’s pile.

In the hot summer of 1933 a number of young single American men had joined what was then the U. S. Reforestation Army, a part of the Civilian Conservation Corps., which was conceived during FDR’s first 100 days in office.

The stated purpose of the CCC was to promote economic recovery from the Depression by improving U. S. farm production through soil conservation measures. At the height of the program’s activity, some 500,000 Americans were employed under its banner.

Local enrollees, or “Tree Army Boys,” bent upon combating soil erosion by planting trees, trained in military fashion at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, then scattered by companies across the country. Compensation included room, board and base pay of $30 per month to explore opportunities for social interaction of various types.

By 1935 Mesquite itself had been designated a CCC work camp site. An eight-acre tract was selected on the farm of Hicks Jobson, who furnished it rent-free for two years. The City of Mesquite provided roads and water for the camp, which was built 1/4 mile east of town to house 250 men from Mesquite and beyond.

When camp staff, primarily military personnel, faced a shortage of off-camp housing, the Texas Mesquiter urged local residents to cooperate and to charge reasonable rates; otherwise, the newcomers might fall into open Garland hands. One officer, W. H. “Bill” Coyle of Rowlett, Comandant from 1935 to 1937, lived close enough to commute.

Two of the enrollees, Lyndell Davis and Robert Lawson, recall coming down to Mesquite from the town of Blue Ridge in order to find “three squares”, clothes, bunks, jobs and a way off the farm. A year short of his high school diploma, Lawson was allowed to finish his course work while attached to the camp. Fatigued from the strain, which was worsened by a stint as night watchman, he sometimes catnapped behind the stove of Davis, the chief cook, who kept a lookout for supervisors.

Besides constructive work and educational opportunity, the camp offered planned leisure events in its canteen. There, enrollees could socialize and swap information, such as who had amassed special credits to raise their pay as high as $45 per month. In camp they were uniformed in khaki with black tie, rather than the blue fatigues supplied for field labor.

Both Davis and Lawson, who have stayed on in town, agree that aside from its national purpose, the CCC camp provided a wholesome environment for those who could easily have followed other pursuits.

Within the camp’s six years of operation in Mesquite, its men completed soil conservation projects _ primarily terracing and fencing _ on an estimated 40,000 acres in Dallas, Kaufman and Rockwall counties. These Blackland Prairie spaces, shorn of native trees and grasses in order to host field crops, were vulnerable to wind and rain, and they had suffered a steady decline in productivity over the preceding half century.

When the camp closed in early 1941, the remaining 144 enlistees were transferred to Carlsbad, New Mexico. The soils the Mesquite CCC men left behind were raising more and better crops for their efforts.

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Photo Caption: The men of Mesquite’s CCC Company 850 stand at attention in 1936 for evening retreat. In the background are barracks and an infirmary, which supervised a two-week quarantine for “spotted fever” and a one-week quarantine for a meningitis scare.

This article originally appeared in the Garland/Mesquite section o The Dallas Morning News on September 29, 1995.

 

By Michael R. Hayslip

 

The Garland/Mesquite range during the early settlement days of the 1840s and 1850s was definitely a home where deer, if not antelope, played. And while the buffalo might have already roamed away toward near extinction, the locals still hosted wild hogs and wolves on their properties.

In her personal recollections, published in part by the Garland News in 1927, Mrs. George W. “Kate” James paints a view of the surroundings when her family’s wagon arrived from Tennessee at Breckenridge (now Richardson) in 1855: “Our first impression of Texas was the vastness of the prairies and the long range of vision. It seemed as if we could see where the earth and sky met.”

After settling a few years later in the settlement of Duck Creek (now Garland) near Forest Lane, she continued, “[the prairies] were one great flower garden of every hue in such quantities we could gather them by armfuls. . .  There was still lots of game here, such as fox, deer, wild turkey, squirrel, quail and prairie chicken, so there was no need of not having all you needed.  The greatest problem was the lack of guns and ammunition, especially the latter, but the men and boys resorted to traps and snares, aided by well-trained dogs. Deer were plentiful, and most everybody kept a supply of dried venison or dried beef.  The air was so pure that meat did not spoil like it does now.”

“There were lots of hogs in the timber that lived on nuts mostly. In the fall of the year settlers would herd them into pens and feed them corn for a few weeks before they killed them for bacon. . .There were numerous old male hogs who had defied being caught until they had grown large and possessed tusks four or five inches long.  When they heard hunters coming they would stand in front of their herd and give warning grunts, and snap those tusks that could be heard a long distance.  Woe betide a man or dog that came into striking distance.”

Mrs. James also wrote that as children she and her brothers were picking berries near the present Kraft Foods plant when they “found a little spotted fawn, apparently only a few days old, asleep in a bunch of grass.” After capturing the animal, they named him Billie, carried him home and fed him on milk, somehow training the dogs to leave him alone. After the deer became old enough to bound over the garden fence, Mrs. James’ father converted him to venison, but she steadfastly refused to partake of the meat.

Another Garlandite partial to pet deer even after settlement expelled the native herds was T. K. “Uncle Tom” Flowers, who raised the native white tails on his farm at First Street and Avenue D. Although written accounts are sketchy, some local octogenarians believe that Flowers began deer farming before 1900 and continued for some years thereafter, since they claim to have seen the herd. Reports are that the animals were tame enough that visitors drove out from Dallas to feed them.

One of the surviving photo records shows Flowers feeding peanuts to his deer.  Although peanuts never became a cash crop in this area, tradition has it that some individuals produced them in small quantities from home gardens. Unless he was one of those home growers, Flowers was forced to purchase the feed elsewhere.

No one is known to have made pets of the wild hogs, regardless of what they liked to eat.

According to the Texas Agricultural Extension Service, the white-tailed deer is the number one game animal in Texas, and Texas now has more whitetails than any other state.  Besides hunting recreation, this resource provides well over 16 million pounds of boneless venison each year.

Photo caption: Uncle Tom Flowers

Uncle Tom

This article originally appeared in the Garland/Mesquite section of the The Dallas Morning News on May 5, 1995

By Michael R. Hayslip

Once upon a time the upstart onion challenged cotton as king of crops, not only in Garland, but also in Mesquite, Rowlett, Rockwall, Sachse and other surrounding towns and counties.

In this time a young maiden was selected by annual competition for the role of Onion Princess. Parades followed, replete with pageantry befitting someone mentioned in the same breath as the onion.

Cotton had reigned supreme since the building of the railroads, completed in 1886, which provided the necessary transportation of the weighty crop to market. But when cotton prices sank to a nickel for the pound and remained low for most of the ‘30s, onions smelled more profitable.

Chosen for local fields was the Bermuda onion, available in both white and yellow varieties, and planted as “sets,” rather than seeds. Already sprouted from seeds, sets were young plants, harvested with roots intact and tied together in small bundles for delivery to a grower.

Onions were “set” or stabbed alongside an extended index finger into rows of plowed earth at three-inch intervals. Poking them in with a thumb could damage the set. G. W. Range of Garland remembered crawling along his family’s rows with sore fingers and kneepads to avoid stooping. Vernon Schrade of Rowlett recalled that setters paid by the row tended to widen the spacing, while those paid by the set might draw off extra bundles and hide them unplanted in suspicious mounds within the rows.

To hedge their bets, more enterprising farmers planted onions and cotton or onions between cotton rows. The onions matured earlier, donating their fallen stalks as fertilizer for the cotton crop, which drew heavily upon soil resources.

An Onion Princess never set onions. Both planting and harvesting were accomplished by the farm families and temporary help, some of it provided by migrant workers. Temporary employees also found work in the onion sheds, where the crop was sorted and stored for rail shipment. Many of the locals gained new and broadening experiences from their contacts with these travelers.

As the curtain closed on World War II, local onion production peeled off and disappeared, except from private plots. Cotton prices rebounded, and onion prices fell, due to gluts from early harvests in South Texas and lower-cost production in California. Storage sheds emptied as the Bermuda onion was supplanted by the larger Globe onion, which was much in demand for a new sandwich rage--the hamburger.

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Photo caption:

The battleship float representing Garland in the parade at the 1935 North Texas Onion Festival held in Farmersville. Other participants included Mesquite, Plano, Richardson, Rowlett and Sachse. On the bow (l-r) are Richard Roach, Mary Louise Chenault, Fannie Beth Harris, Jack Shugart, Onion Princess Mimi Olinger, and Mildred Burleson. The sailors on board were twelve members of Ms. Mary Squibb’s elementary school rhythm band, including Bill Armstrong, James Baker, Charlotte Bell, Billy Boy Bradfield, Dorothy Brown, Bill Grady Burleson, Gloria Bussey, Mary Evelyn Harris, Mary Joe Johnson, C. F. Quinn, Hiram Steve Range and Margaret Helen Talley. Ben Jackson, Hap Manzer and Dr. C. F. Quinn were responsible for Garland’s entry.

From Garland Local History & Genealogical Society, Volume 3-Number 1, April 1974

 

THE CATTALO

Half cow and half buffalo, the Cattalo was first proclaimed by Colonel Charles J. (Buffalo) Jones as the salvation of the western range in 1888. Colonel Charles Goodnight contended that Jones was a little late as he had inadvertently become a Cattalo breeder some years before when a pet buffalo bull of his named Old Sikes developed a strong attachment for a number of Goodnight’s Longhorn cows. Apparently Goodnight became the largest breeder of Cattalo in the West.

The male calves were quite frequently sterile, and deaths occurred often in calf, mother or both. Most cattlemen considered the hybrid with its buffalo hump, goat like beard and voice like a low-pitched pig grunt a big mistake. William C. Kingsley considered the Cattalo an oddity that would draw visitors to his farm.

Following is the last in a series of letters on the care and feeding of these creatures from Col. Goodnight to Mr. Kingsley:

My Dear Mr. Kingsley –

In reply to yours of the 25th will say the buffalo will eat anything they are scavengers of the cow king. We often feed the heard of the covall waste. They had never seen corn get them on cakes we suppose they were eating cake when they left here. Peacake & meat is best for them, any kind of chops. If they are not eating any kind of feed. They are very smart are more so than cattle. It is the best to let the same man feed them until they are gentle. I am very much interested in you effort, and I will spare know pains in helping you. As soon as I feel a little better I will write you a long letter. You bought those heifers cheap I want you to feed them good. Give them all the salt they can eat. And be careful that the salt does not pack in the troos so they can get it. If you will take & mix 5% of well slack lime & 10% sulphor. Take a find garden sprinkler and sprinkle slowly coal oil in the rate (?)% one gallon to 100 lbs salt. More if you can afford it. Try this formula and see if cleans lice off your cattle. I look upon this as the most valuable discovery I have ever made. But mind you they must eat salt and not hard rock.

I remain yours                                                           (signed) C Goodnight.