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Eastland County History

The town of Eastland has been the county seat of Eastland County, Texas since 1875. The courthouse had been housed in four buildings before the present one was built in 1928-1929. The courthouse became well known because of the horned-toad that had remained alive since being placed in the cornerstone in 1897. The toad became known as "OLD RIP" and there is still an annual parade and Peanut Bowl held each year in October. The football game is between the two college on either side of us, Ranger and Cisco.

Eastland County was created out of Bosque, Coryell, and Travis County February 1, 1858. This territory was part of Stephen Austin and Samuel Williams empresari. Source: Texas Boundaries Evolution by Luke Gournay. The county was organized December 2, 1873 and Merriman became the first county seat. The first survey was done June 29, 1849, the second, June 28-29, 1852 and the third, April 21, 1857. There is an uncertainty about the person for whom the town was named. It may have been Thomas B. Eastland who came to LaGrange in 1834 from Tennessee, fought at San Jacinto. He organized a company to defend against General Woll in San Antonio in 1842. He was captured in the Battle of Mier and executed in 1843. Or it could have been William M Eastland who organized an expedition against the Indians in 1837. He left LaGrange and came to Eastland being one of the first white men in this county. He was one of the seventeen men martyred in the draw of the black bean. Source of information: Eastland County History Book Volume 1.

Eastland County occupies a total area of 955 square miles, and was originally included as part of Peter's Colony in the empressario grant to Stephen F. Austin. Stephen F. Austin and Samuel Williams received a large grant of land in the colonization law of 1823, and agreed to settle 800 Mexicans and their families in this territory. During this period, Texas was divided into large grants by the Mexican government. Grants could be secured by leading colonists called "empresarios" and, having secured the grants, agreed to settle a certain number of families. On fulfillment of this agreement, a deed was then to be given. Few of these grants were ever fulfilled.

The Homestead Law was passed in 1839, and under this law, grants were given in this region of Texas. The Texas Congress passed a law in 1841 introducing a large number of colonists in north Texas. Each single man who came to make his home here was to received 320 acres of land. A married man with a family received 640 acres. Land in this contract was known as the Peters Colony, and its southern boundary extended through the north part of Eastland County.

This colony began to expand and Peters and Associates organized a company then known as "Texas Immigration and Land Company," and a good bit of this land was the northwest part of Eastland County. The State Police, once charged with protection of the state was disbanded and appointed Texas Rangers now guarded the rapidly moving frontier line. New settlers came into the county and the land was being maded into small farms. Tent-roofed houses were gradually being replaced by more substantial houses, families were growing up, and communities had begun to develop.

The new county was created February 1, 1858, and named in honor of William Mosby Eastland, the son of Thomas B. Eastland, lieutenant in the United States army. Although the name of the County Seat of Eastland County was to be known by the same name, the provisions of this Act were not at first complied with. When the county was organized on December 2, 1873, Flannagan's Ranch headquarters became the county seat and the town was named Merriman. In 1875 the county seat was moved to Eastland and a second courthouse was built.

Charles Ulrich Connellee wrote, November 4, 1929, in the Rising Star Record:

"Henry Schmick was Sheriff of Eastland County and Ike Schmick was Treasurer. A.J. Stuart was district and county clerk, living near Mansker's lake. We gave bond to the County in the sum of $5,000 if they would move the county seat to Eastland where we would build a rock house 25x60 feet, two stories high, and furnish most of the upper story which could be used as a county courthouse with district clerk's offices ... We commenced erection of the house, and it is now on the corner of the square where the Corner Drug Store is, at the northwest corner. Dougherty, Conellee and Ammerman furnished the upper story which they owned, free of cost to the county from 1876, when it was completed, to 1883 when the rock courthouse was built on the public square."

An election was held in Merriman in August of 1875 and there were 127 votes cast: 67 for removal to Eastland.

When the railroads came, Cisco petitioned for the county seat to be moved there, and asked for a county election. This election was held on August 2, 1881. Cisco lost and the county seat remained in Eastland.

One old settler, the Rev. C. Brashears, said there were six families at or near McGough Springs, three at Mansker Lake, one settlement at Flannagan's consisting of a cow-ranch and one family; another on Palo Pinto Creek of two or more families; two families on the Sabanna River, with three at Ellison's Springs, and three or four at Desdemona, then known as Hog Town. These made up the entire population of Eastland County when he came.

"This was a fine stock country," he went on. "Game was plentiful, such as bear, wolf, deer, turkey, buffalo, with a few panther. Even some wild cat, fox, opossum, skunk and Indian. Wild horses roamed here at the time with any number of wild cattle. This was also a fine hog country and hogs were plentiful."

Early Settlers:

(Some of these could be listed twice since some were just initials of the first names)

H. Anderson,
J.T. Allen,
Silas C. Buck,
N. L. Bartholomew,
J.W. Brashears,
H.F. Brashears,
C.J. Brown,
J.R. Bagwell,
E. F. Blackwell
William Brown
George W. Buckbee,
J. H. Calhoun,
Jim Caradine,
Robert and Stuart Cone,
W. B. Cobb,
John Crowd,
J. M. Cresman
J. M. Corsman,
G.J. Drake,
Bill, Hilly and Joe Dennis,
Mr. Drake,
N. Danvers,
John Davis,
Thomas B. Eastland,
J.M. Elison,
West Edwards,
Gaston Evans,
Joe Funk
I. Gunsalas,
John W. Gibson,
W.M. Gwaltney,
John Griffith,
W.Charnel Hightower,
F. Hale, A. J. Hennings,
S. M. Hale,
E.H. Henry,
C.C. High,
Mike Henderson
E. E. Head,
J.A. Jones,
D. A. Johnston,
C. R. Johnson
T. E. Johnson,
J.A. Kenzie,
R. G. Luse,
I. Lamb
J. F. Loony,
John Lane,
O. H. Lovelady,
J. B. McGough,
Charles Ulrich Merriman,
T.C. McGough,
T.S. March,
J. C. Morris,
Josa Motley,
I. McAllen,
J.F. Mansker,
B. Martin,
L.F. McCombs,
George Mailin,
D. P. Murphree,
Major Munn,
Josh and John Morris,
J. P. Montgomery,
Mart Owens,
M. B. Owens,
J. T. Phillips,
B. L. Pate,
M. V. Parmer,
J. E. Ringer,
A. D. Ruggles,
N. P. Rice,
Lacy Rhoads,
Henry Schmick,
A. J. Stuart,
Ike Schmick,
J. P. Schmick,
J. C. Smith,
George Strawn,
C. Smith,
L. Spenks,
J.P. Scholar,
Billy Stevens,
Albert Stephens,
John Towns,
H.B. Treadwell,
J. A. E. Trader,
Andrew Tarter
N. Turknette,
Bunson Townsend,
Mr. Watson,
T. E. Wilcox,
T. A. Wright,
E. B. Williamson
J. J. Wallace,
Frank Young,

If you know of any other early settlers, (before 1880) let me know and I will add them.

 

Eastland County was created out of Bosque, Coryell, and Travis County February 1, 1858. This territory was part of Stephen Austin and Samuel Williams empresari. Source: Texas Boundaries Evolution by Luke Gournay. The county was organized December 2, 1873 and Merriman became the first county seat. The first survey was done June 29, 1849, the second, June 28-29, 1852 and the third, April 21, 1857. There is an uncertainty about the person for whom the town was named. It may have been Thomas B. Eastland who came to LaGrange in 1834 from Tennessee, fought at San Jacinto. He organized a company to defend against General Woll in San Antonio in 1842. He was captured in the Battle of Mier and executed in 1843. Or it could have been William M Eastland who organized an expedition against the Indians in 1837. He left LaGrange and came to Eastland being one of the first white men in this county. He was one of the seventeen men martyred in the draw of the black bean. Source of information: Eastland County History Book Volume 1.

The elevation of Eastland is 1420'. The North Fork of the Leon River runs north of Eastland along the T & P Railroad and runs into the Leon south of town before making the way to Lake Leon made a in the early 1950's. There are two other lakes near town, Ringling and Eastland, both of which have been used for recreation for many years. The population according to the 1990 census is 3690 with the zip code population of Precinct 1 of 5140. The average rainfall is 27" of rain a year and the average temperature is 65 degrees. You need to be aware that in January it may get to 10 degrees or lower and in August and September the temperature may go well above 100. The economy is created by farming, ranching, oil and gas production and by manufacturing. The peanut crop ranks 5th in the state of Texas.


THE BIG SLEEP

By Houston O'Brien

Nearly 100 years ago, pranksters imprisoned a horned toad in a cornerstone as a building was being constructed in Eastland, Texas. Now the people of Eastland are celebrating the centennial with parades, booklets, and merchandise inspired by the lizard they fondly call Old Rip.

Why all the fuss over dead horned toad? Well, Old Rip stayed in the stone for 31 years without food or water. Presuming the old reptile dead, the county judge uncovered Old Rip in February 1928, in front of thousands of spectators.

As the judge held Old Rip by one leg for all to see, another leg began to kick. He was alive! The crowd roared, and the horned toad became an instant celebrity. Old Rip even toured the country, meeting President Calvin Coolidge in Washington.

But the glamour didn't last long for Old Rip. Less than one year later, he got pneumonia and croaked - er, died.

You can see Old Rip today, embalmed and reposing in a plush casket, in the lobby of the Eastland courthouse. Every year, locals and visitors gather at the courthouse to commemorate the toad's untimely death. Old Rip booklets, tie tacks, pins, stuffed replicas and photographs, available for sale at the local newspaper office, keep Old Rip's legend alive.

(This article was printed verbatim with the express permission of Houston O'Brien , author )

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