Also in the diary of Father San Juan Antonio
de Pena, the chaplain of the expedition, tells of a tributary which
joined the Brazos about half a league from the Spanish camp. The dense woods around the junction of the two streams
suggested to the Spanish the name bosque, or "woodsy" for the tributary stream.
Bosque County is located in Central Texas. The county seat, Meridian, which is situated in the center of the county.
The county lies about sixty miles south of Dallas, and about forty miles north of Waco. Bosque County is bordered by
Erath County to the northwest Somervell County to the north, Johnson and Hill counties to the east, McLennan and
Coryell Counties to the south, and Hamilton County to the southwest. State Highways that run through the county are
6, 22, 56, 144, 174, and 219, along with numerous county and farm-to-market roads.
It is also important to mention archaelogical
sites. There are many (at least 45?) around Bosque and Hill County.
Smithsonian Institute found evidence of inhabitants in these counties back as far as between 1300 and 1450, finding
Archaic pre-pottery, pre bow and arrow items.
Bosque County, The land:
The Bosque County, a natural highway once used by the Indians, area covers approximately 989 square miles
of Texas. As a part of the Grand Prairie subdivision of the North Central Plains, the land is mostly an area of
shallow to deep, well-drained soils underlaid by limestone. In this region of rolling hills, the moist soils of the
river bottoms promote the growth of elm, cottonwood, river birch, sycamore, ash, pecan, and a variety of oak trees.
The area is also distinguished by clusters of flat-topped hills separated by low areas of flat grassland. Throughout
Bosque County, post oaks, cedars, oaks, junipers, and mesquites are prevalent. During the Spring months the
broad display of flowers on the hills and prairies include a colorful assortment of: redbuds, Indian paintbrushes,
fox gloves, pinks, daisies, yuccas, thsitles, dandelions, and of course, the prickly pea and bluebonnets.
Bosque County is considered a "well-watered"
area. The Brazos River borders the eastern edge of the county, and
the Bosque River cuts through the center of the county, from the north and going south. Besides these
major rivers, there are numerous smaller tributaries, such as Cedron, Childers (or Childress), Coon, Duffau,
Fall, Flag, Gary (named for William GARY, pioneer settler of Neils Creek), Grass, Hill, Hog, Honey, Little
Rocky, Meridian, Mesquite, Mill, Mustang, Neils (named by George Bernard ERATH, probably for Neil
McLENNAN or Claiborne NEIL), Plowman, Rock, Spring, Steele, and Turkey Creeks, among a few more that
are not yet known to me. Near the northeast corner of the county lies the well-known Kimball's Bend in the
Brazos River. In 1951 Lake Whitney was constructed on the Brazos River at the southeastern edge of Bosque County.
Bosque County, The Weather:
Bosque County is very hot in the summer and cool in the winter, with occasional cold surges that cause sharp drops
in the otherwise mild climate. The average temparature is about 70.6 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, the
average low temperature is said to be 47° F. The lowest temperature on record, however, is -3°, recorded at
Whitney Dam on 02 February 1951. During the summer, the average daily high temperature is 95°. A record
111° was recorded on 26 July 1954. Rainfall is uniformly distributed throughout the county with an average
of 33 inches a year. The heaviest one-day rainfall was 6.22 inches, measured at Whitney Dam on 19 October 1971.
Along the North Bosque River in the southmost corner of the county, where the unpenetrateable bedrock is
most widely scattered, serious floods occur.
Bosque County, The Indians:
Tonkawa, Caddo, Wichita branches (Waco, and Towash, and Tawakoni) Indians roamed Central Texas long
before permanent settlement by European Americans. The peaceable Tonkawas (Tonks) were the most predominant
in number. They are said to have claimed that they never took a scalp. These Indians were a small group, and the only
complaint that the settlers had against them was stealing. The Comanches, who lived nearby, occasionally raided
travelers or settlers in the Bosque territory to steal horses and property, or to take scalps. When whites followed them
in attempts to regain their property, the Tonkawas often acted as their guides, or spies. Like the Tonkawas , the
Tawakonis were enemies of the Apache and Comanch, and were generally friendly to the early Texas settlers.
Their importance in the history of Bosque County resulted from an association between the early settlers and
the related Waco Indian tribes that located along the banks of the Brazos River, near present-day Waco.
Bosque County, The People
Settlement of the area began in 1825 when Sterling C. ROBERTSON obtained a grant from the Mexican
government in order to colonize the area along the Brazos River. Very few of the homesteaders chose to live within
the current boundaries of Bosque County; however, the grant did prompt travel through the area. George Bernard
ERATH, a surveyor for both the Republic of Texas and the state of Texas, is credited with naming many of the streams
and landmarks in Texas. In the late 1830s he named Meridian Creek and the Meridian Knobs for the fact that
they were near the ninety-eighth meridian. In 1841 the botched Texan-Santa Fe expedition passed through
the region, and many of the travelers chose to stay. In 1847, Richard B. KIMBALL, a prominent banker from
New York, obtained a grant of land from the state of Texas along the west bank of the Brazos river fourteen miles
north of the mouth of the Paluxy River. Soon, KIMBALL formed a partnership with Jacob DE CORDOVA in
order to develop this land. They planned to establish a town so that they could lure prospective settlers to move to
the area. A site was chosen along the Brazos River where there was a shallow stream. They named the town
after KIMBALL. Since this was the best spot to cross the river for miles, many travelers, going east to west, came
through town. Also, it was at this point, the Chisolm Trail crossed the waterway. The location of Kimball,
therefore, made it a good stopping place for settlers, ranchers, and cowboys. Following a successful start,
however, Kimball was missed by the railroads that were built in the county later in the decade. This
resulted in the quick decline of the town, and only a few people remain there today.
Bosque County, The Founding
During the years 1851 - 52, F.M. GANDY, William GARY, J.K. HELTON, Jasper MABRY, William McCURRY,
and Lowry H. SCRUTCHFIELD, and probably others, settled in the Bosque River Valley. In the fall
and winter of 1852-53 the families of Frank M. KELL, Samuel S. LOCKER, A. C. PEARCE , John T
HOMAS, and William SEDBERRY, settled in the Beautiful Bosque Territory. Soon (prior to 1854), other
families migrated to Bosque Region. These were Govey, and Issac, and Matthias GARY (sons of William GARY),
Archibald KELL, James MABRY, Lum McCURRY (son to William McCURRY) ,
and probably many, many others.
Bosque County, The Formation:
In 1850, McLennan County was carved out of the Milam District. The same year the Universal
Immigration Company of England purchased 27,000 acres of land from Richard KIMBALL and laid out
a townsite on the west bank of the Brazos. In the late 185Os, the company sent over about 120 people
(30 families). They settled in an area between the present-day towns of Kopperl and Kimball under a massive
rock formation called Solomon's Nose. They named this idealistic colony Kent. (Read more in our Populated Places
Section) Unfortunately, the citizens of Kent fell to the same fate that their ancestors did more than a century
before in Jamestown, Virginia. The first harsh winter caused many hardships that led to a high number of
fatalities. The settlement quickly broke up, and the colonists migrated separately to other areas.
Some moved back to England.
By the winter of 1853-1854 the poplualtion
along the Bosque River was sufficient to warrant an
"official" organization. Bosque County was officially formed on 04 February 1854, from McLennan County.
Soon a site was chosen at which to locate the county seat. George Bernard ERATH laid out the town of Meridian
in the center of the county on land donated by Dr. Josephus M. STEINER. Town lots were sold at a public
auction on the Fourth of July 1854. Soon thereafter, the first courthouse, a one-story log cabin, was erected
by William McCURRY & possibly his son-in-law, Nathan SCREWS, in the middle of town. This building
served the needs of the residents until 1869, when a larger frame structure was built. In 1871 this second
courthouse burned. For four years the business of the county was conducted in a tent. In 1875 the third,
and I believe present courthouse was completed, a three-story structure of native stone. It has the most
beautiful stairway (inside) I have ever seen, with a sliced portion of The Election Oak, enclosed in a
"frame", among other items, by the stairway's left side.
Bosque County, The Immigrants:
In 1854, Norwegian immigrants began to move to the area. Ole CANUTESON, the first, believed that
the land was much like that in Norway. The state of Texas offered 320 acres to each family that would settle
in the new county, and the Norwegians took advantage of the offer. Cleng PEERSON, the "father" of Norwegian
immigration to America, led the settlers to the region. The bulk of them settled in a triangular covering
the present-day towns of Clifton, Norse, and Cranfills Gap. PEERSON was sixty-seven years old when
he moved to Bosque County, and he lived the remainder of his life in the area. Many descendants of
the CANUTESONs, DAHLs, QUESTADs, RINGNESSEs, among other Norwegian settlers,
still live in Bosque County.
Bosque County, The Elections:
Election Oak was so named because this was where the first county election was held, 07 August 1854. The
turnout was small, but county officials were chosen and the local government began to function. Three ballot
boxes were provided for voters. Only twenty qualified voters cast their votes that day. The newly held offices were:
Lowery H. SCRUTCHFIELD, county judge; Jasper N. MABRAY, county clerk; P. BRYANT, sheriff;
Isaac GARY, tax assessor-collector; Archabald KELL, treasurer; A.C. PEARCE, district clerk;
J.K. HELTON, justice of peace; and Sam BARNES, O. DENNIS, J.H. MABRAY, and
Israel B. STANDIFER, county commissioners.
The next significant election took place
on 23 February 1861, when secession was the issue. The citizens voted
for it by 233 to 81; the Norwegians voted against secession by 52 to 42. Like many other European immigrants in
Central Texas, the Norwegians of southern Bosque County maintained Union sentiments throughout the
conflict, though they did not join in the fighting.
Bosque County, The Civil
The history of the Civil War era in Bosque County is sketchy because of skimpy record keeping. Between 1861
and 1865 many men from the county served in the military. The most significant contributions were to the
Second Frontier District, the Nineteenth Texas Infantry, and Company H of Col. T. C. HAWPE's regiment.
The latter two units saw action in the Louisiana and Arkansas campaigns, and a few of the members fought
with the Army of Northern Virginia. The majority of the soldiers, however, guarded the area against Indians. In
January 1865 many of them fought in the famed battle of Dove Creek battle against the Kickapoos. Although the
battle took place in what it now Tom Green County, many Bosque County fighters participated; about ten
of them died. Probably the most significant impact of the Civil War in Bosque County was that it slowed, and
in some places halted, development. Few people moved to new counties at the time, and the Norwegians stopped coming.
Bosque County, Following
the Civil War:
The county began to make progress in the decades following the Civil War. During Reconstruction the county
population grew, from 4,981 in 1870 to 11,216 in 1880. Additionally, the black population increased from
293 in 1860 to 528 in 1870. But lawlessness, including the killing of freedmen, thrived. In early 1870 the situation
was so bad that the Austin Daily State Journal reported Bosque County was averaging two killings each week.
Bosque County, The Population:
By 1856, the population had increased only slightly, with most settlers living South of Meridian,
and along the Bosque River.
By 1880 the population had grown to 11,216,
and the value of the farms in the county had finally surpassed
the $1 million mark. New communities were established. In 1881 the Texas Central and the Santa Fe
railroads came to the area, and several towns began to flourish. The number of manufacturing establishments
increased from eleven in 1880 to eight-five in 1900. The county, however, did not sustain this surge of growth,
and by 1920 only twenty-one manufacturers remained; the number was the same in 1977.
At the turn of the century the population
had increased to 17,390, but growth fell off subsequently in livestock
production, crop production, and manufacturing. There were several reasons for the local depression.
The soil was exhausted and eroding. Declining prices, spring floods, summer droughts, unseasonable
weather, and onslaughts of insects plagued farmers. During the second decade of the twentieth century,
Bosque County witnessed its first decline in population, decreasing from a peak of 19,013 in 1910 to 18,032 in
1920. The downward trend continued until 1980. During the decade before the Great Depression, Bosque
County farmers and ranchers witnessed noticeable losses in agriculture. From 1920 to 1930, the value of
all farms decreased from $26,308,381 to $17,255,955. The production of wheat alone dropped
by more than 500,000 bushels. Manufacturers were down to eleven by 1930. When the depression
hit the entire nation in 1929, Bosque County residents were already suffering very hard times.
Bosque County, The Politics:
The citizens of the county had remained faithful followers of Democratic politics from 1876 to 1932. The only
break occurred in 1928, when they opposed Democratic candidate Alfred SMITH because he was a Catholic
with New York mannerisms. In November 1932 the county joined the voters of Texas and the rest of the nation to give
Franklin D. ROOSEVELT a tremendous victory at the polls. On March 25, 1933, when residents in need of aid were
required to assemble at the city hall in Clifton to register for assistance, 107 citizens applied. Within a few days,
half of them were employed clearing the municipal park under the Federal Emergency Relief Act. The Civilian
Conservation Corps opened Camp Clifton on the banks of the Bosque River on June 21, 1933. The corps was assigned
to beautify the city park and to construct low-water dams on nearby streams. In June, articles in the local paper
called for cotton growers to plow under a portion of their crops. Reportedly, at least 90 percent of the cotton farmers
of the county supported the program; county farmers received an estimated $125,831 cash for the destroyed cotton.
When Congress passed the National Industrial Recovery Act, "blue eagles" began to appear in store windows
throughout the county. But though the New Deal assisted Bosque County residents, it they could not stop the
downward trend that had begun in the 1920s.
Bosque County, The Population
During the 1980s, Bosque County grew in population and economy. In the late 1970s and 1980s citizens of
Clifton, the largest town, carried out "Operation Comeback." The town grew by 40 percent in population and
more than 100 percent in businesses. The townrenovated old buildings in order to open a modern home for senior
citizens, established Goodall-Witcher Hospital, and opened a 150-employee garment factory, an oilfield-tool
manufacturing plant, and a 100-employee lime plant.
During the 1980s, Bosque County grew in population and prospered.
In 1990, the population of Bosque County
reached 13,924; the peak of 1920 was still not achieved. Bosque County
ranks fourteenth among all United States counties in the percentage of its population that is sixty-five years of age or older.
In addition to Clifton, Meridian, and Valley Mills, the county has numerous small towns. As of 1982, there were
7,420 registered voters in the county. Voter turnout ranged remarkably between 58 and 73 percent in the 1980s; 97 percent
voted Democratic and three percent voted Republican in the 1982 primaries. About half of those registered cast a ballot.
Voting in presidential elections has varied. Since supporting Franklin Delano ROOSEVELT for four terms, county
voters switched to the Republican candidates in 1952, 1972, and 1980 through 1992. The education level in the county
has steadily increased. In 1850, 22 percent of the population had graduated from high school; in 1980, 44 percent.
Bosque County, The Prominent
Several prominent persons have hailed from Bosque County. Among them were Calvin M. CURETON, state attorney
general and a member of the state Supreme Court; Earle B. MAYFIELD, United States senator; James E. and Miriam
A. FERGUSON, governors of Texas; and the TANDY family, who formed the TANDY Corporation, & our most
recent president, George W. BUSH, from Crawford, McClenan Co., right next to Bosque Co.!
1) Texas County-Bosque- Government Information: www.state.tx.us
2) Bosque County, Land and People (Dallas: Curtis Media, 1985)
3) Bosquerama, 1854-1954: Centennial Celebration of Bosque County, Texas (Meridian,
Texas: Bosque County Centennial Association, 1954).
4) William C. Pool, A History of Bosque County (San Marcos, Texas: San Marcos Record
Press, 1954). William C. Pool, Bosque Territory (Kyle, Texas: Chaparral, 1964).
5) Texas Handbook Online:
6) Texas Handbook Online: Bosque County:
7) Texas Handbook Online: Bosue River:
8) WPA Life Histories Search: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/wpaquery.html
9) From the Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/datamap/cnty?48=035
10) Bosque County Researchers
11) Bosque County Handbook
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