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