Stonewall County Data
Stonewall County Neighbors
Dickens County, Texas
Jones County, Texas
Kent County, Texas
King County, Texas
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About Stonewall County, Texas...
Stonewall County is in Northwest Texas, in the central part of the North Central Plains and southeast of the Caprock. Aspermont, the county seat, is sixty miles north-northwest of Abilene. The county was named for Confederate general Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson. The soils in this area generally support short grasses, and mesquite. Cedar, hackberry, cottonwood, chinaberry, and shin oak trees are also found in the county.
Indians that roamed the area included the Comanches, Kiowas, and Tonkawas. Early explorers José Mares and Pedro Vial traveled through the area during the eighteenth century. In advance of the westward migration of the nineteenth century, Capt. Randolph Barnes Marcy led an expedition to open a route through Indian Territory. In 1854 Marcy was selected to explore the Texas frontier for the purpose of locating suitable sites for Indian reservations. On this trip he passed through the northeastern part of the county near Kiowa Peak, crossed the Salt Fork on the eastern edge, and continued over a valley toward Flat Top Mountain, which he recognized from his previous trip in 1849. An Indian reservation that Marcy helped to locate failed to eliminate the devastation the Comanches and Kiowas continued to inflict upon the white settlers along the Texas frontier. In an effort to stop the raids, in 1871 Col. Ranald Slidell Mackenzie led a force of cavalry against the Indians in the area.
Cattlemen soon started moving herds into the vast sections of open grassland. The first ranch in the future county was probably established by buffalo hunter John Goff, who grazed 200 heifers on Tonk Creek in the winter of 1873. Later, in 1877, One-Armed Jim (James D.) Reed, of Goliad County, brought in 3,000 longhorn cattle and established the Double Mountain Horseshoe T Cross Ranch on Tonk Creek. Reed built a large stone house for his residence. In late December 1876, Charles Rath of Kansas blazed the Rath Trail from Dodge City to the Double Mountain Fork and established Rath City, located a little east and south of Double Mountain and one mile north of the Fisher county line. Although Rath had hideyards in several other locations, Rath City was reputedly the greatest yard of all, where long ricks of hides were stacked ready to be hauled to market. The mail was taken to Rath City from Fort Griffin twice a week by cowboys riding relays. When the buffalo were gone after the great slaughter, the need for the trading post ceased, and the accumulated ricks of buffalo hides were moved to Fort Worth in April 1879.
Stonewall was one of fifty-four counties formed by the Fifteenth Texas Legislature in 1876 from the Young and Bexar districts. It remained attached to Young County until March 31, 1887, when it was attached to Jones County for convenience. Settlers moved to the county in increasing numbers during the 1880s. At first they settled a few miles south of the site of the present county seat, but they eventually spread to the west and northeast. About the same time, ten families settled on the east side of the county and established the community of Hooker.
In 1888 the residents of the county petitioned the Jones County Commissioners Court to hold an election for the organization of the county. The balloting took place on December 20 of that year. However, the question of the county seat had been omitted from the ballot. On June 12, 1889, W. E. Rayner granted land for a townsite, and the new town of Rayner became the county seat. The courthouse, a large stone building, was built the following year. The agricultural census of 1890 found 144 farms there, encompassing more than 23,000 acres, 6,758 acres of which was classified as "improved." The cattle industry dominated the local economy. As the county's population continued to expand in the 1890s, the placement of the county seat became a source of local controversy. A. L. Rhomberg had secured a patent in February of 1889 and platted a town, Aspermont, which was closer than Rayner to the center of the county. Beginning in 1892 the citizens of Aspermont made several attempts to make their rapidly growing town the county seat, and finally succeeded after an election held in June 1898. The controversy did not really end, however, until March 1900, when a contract to build a new courthouse in Aspermont was signed. Rayner soon ceased to exist.
Legends of buried treasure, Spanish missions, and gold and silver mines had led to many explorations for ore along the Salt Fork of the Brazos. In the late 1890s a tent town, later known as Orient, was started by workers at the Orient copper mines. The town grew quickly after false claims of a silver strike, but both the copper and gold mines were closed after a very short period of operation, having yielded no riches. By 1900 there were 381 farms and ranches in the county that year. More than 4,000 acres planted with corn produced more than 106,000 bushels; 3,800 acres planted with cotton produced 804 bales. Smaller crops of wheat and oats were also grown in the area. Cattle ranching dominated the county's economy and culture in 1900, however, when almost 37,000 cattle were reported in Stonewall County.
Settlement of the county intensified early in the 1900s, encouraged by railroad construction to tie the area to national markets. A number of new communities sprang up in the area. In 1904 a group of German families moved into the eastern side of the county, bought unbroken land north of the Double Mountain Fork, and established the town of Brandenburg, which was renamed Old Glory in 1918. Brandenburg was moved two miles to the west when the railroad built into the county; other communities also moved to meet the railroad at new townsites. Much of the area's growth during this time was influenced by the S. M. Swenson and Sons ranching operation, which later became the Swenson Land and Cattle Company. The Swensons, who controlled a great deal of land in the area, helped to establish at least two towns, including the one that carries their name.
The first three decades of the twentieth century saw the firm establishment of crop farming in the county, as cotton culture continued to expand for most of this period. More than 21,000 acres in the county was planted in cotton by 1910, and more than 67,000 acres by 1929. Though the population generally rose during this period, the difficulties of dry-land farming drove out some of the new farmers. Nevertheless, in 1918 the county had thirty-five communities with school districts, and the population began to grow again in the 1920s. Though ranching declined during the early twentieth century as farmers moved in, cattle remained important to the local economy.
Many of the county's farmers were ruined during the hard years of the Great Depression. During the early 1930s many communities also lost part of their local autonomy. New school laws and improved transportation led to the consolidation of the area's schools into three districts. The county's population declined by 1940, and the drop might have been more severe if modest oil production had not begun in the county in 1938. By 1940 the railroads that had once served the area were all gone except for one, which barely crossed the southeast corner of the county. Stonewall County's population dropped significantly during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, as mechanized farm techniques contributed to the consolidation of farmlands and young people moved to urban areas in search of economic opportunities. Only 447 farms remained in the county in 1969, and only 338 in 1978. The smaller towns were steadily depopulated during this period.
The county's decline occurred in spite of significant petroleum and gas production in Stonewall County during the post-World War II period. Though oil had begun to be produced in the county in 1938, as late as 1948 production totaled only about 18,000 barrels. By 1956, however, the county's oil production had jumped to almost 10,254,000 barrels. Though production declined in later years, oil helped to stabilize and diversify the local economy. By 1991 almost 226,089,000 barrels of crude had been pumped from Stonewall County land since discovery in 1938. The Stonewall County Fair is held in Aspermont each June, and the Aspermont Township Homecoming is held there in October.
The county has a total area of 920 square miles, of which 916 square miles is land and 4 square miles (0.4%) is water. The population recorded in the 1880 Federal Census was 104. It peaked in 1930 at 5,667. The 2010 census recorded 1,490 residents in the county.
Neighboring counties are King County (north), Haskell County (east), Jones County (southeast), Fisher County (south), and Kent County (west). The county seat is Aspermont. Other communities in the county include Old Glory, Peacock, Rath City, and Swenson.
Stonewall County, Texas Records
Birth Records - The Texas Department of State Health Services has records from 1903 to present. Records for the last 75 years considered private and will only be provided to certain individuals. To obtain current information on who may obtain a record, how to submit a request and an official request form, see the Texas Department of State Health Services website or write to Texas Vital Records, Department of State Health Services, P.O. Box 12040, Austin, TX 78711-2040.
For older birth records you will have to write to the County Clerk of the applicable county. The existence of birth records prior to 1903 will vary widely from county to county. Local historical societies and genealogy collections in local libraries may be able to provide some information.
Death Records - The Texas Department of State Health Services has records from 1903 to present. Records for the last 25 years considered private and will only be provided to certain individuals. To obtain current information on who may obtain a record, how to submit a request and an official request form, see the Texas Department of State Health Services website or write to Texas Vital Records, Department of State Health Services, P.O. Box 12040, Austin, TX 78711-2040.
Marriage Records - The Texas Department of State Health Services can provide a verification letter of marriage for Texas marriages from 1966 to present. This is NOT a marriage license. To obtain a certified copy of a marriage license you must contact the County or District Clerk in the county or district where the marriage took place.
Local historical societies and genealogy collections in local libraries may be able to provide some information.
Divorce Records - The Texas Department of State Health Services can provide a verification letter of divorce for Texas divorces from 1968 to present. This is NOT a copy of the divorce decree. To obtain a certified copy of a copy of the divorce decree you must contact the County or District Clerk in the county or district where the divorce took place.
Local historical societies and genealogy collections in local libraries may be able to provide some information.