“Before it was settled, the area that is now Baylor County lay within the range of the Wanderers, a nomadic Comanche band, who relied upon buffalo for food, clothing, shelter, tools, and ornaments. In 1848 special Indian agent Robert S. Neighbors found 250 Comanche, fifty Tonkawa, and ten Wichita lodges on Lewis Creek at the site of present-day Seymour. When the first surveys were made in the area in 1853 the Indians were still using it as a major hunting ground for buffalo, a fact that made settlement nearly impossible. This continued until the final defeat of the Comanches in 1874 by the United States Army and their removal to a reservation in Indian territory.”
“Baylor County was separated from Fannin County in 1858 and named for Henry W. Baylor, a surgeon in a regiment of Texas Rangers during the Mexican War. The county was attached to Jack County for administrative and judicial purposes. The first settlement was at Round Timber, nineteen miles southeast of the site of present Seymour. Tradition holds that the first settler was Col. C. C. Mills, who may have been at Round Timber during the Civil War and was certainly there by 1870. He was driven out by Indian raids, but returned by 1875 to join J. W. Stevens, who had arrived a year earlier.”
“Settlers from Oregon, led by Col. J. R. McClain, moved to the site of Seymour in 1876, for example, but were driven off when cowboys ran cattle over their corn. In 1879 the Millett brothers—Eugene C., Alonzo, and Hiram—came from Guadalupe County to begin ranching in Baylor County. They ran a tough outfit and used their armed cowhands to intimidate would-be settlers and the citizens of newly founded Seymour. Violence and contention plagued the county during the first years of settlement.”
“Baylor County was formally organized in 1879 with Seymour as county seat. That same year both Seymour and Round Timber were assigned the county’s first post offices. By 1880, fifty farms and ranches encompassing 13,506 acres had been established in the county, supporting a population of 708 people; more than 13,506 cattle were counted in the county that year.”
“In 1890 county residents raised $50,000 to insure the completion of the Wichita Valley Railway, which linked Seymour to Wichita Falls, fifty-two miles to the east. By 1892, the Texas Gazetteer reported that Seymour was a thriving town, with two newspapers (the Monitor and the News), the First National Bank, two physicians, and a dentist. The town also had three hotels and was home to a number of lawyers, storekeepers, shoemakers, saddlers, and county officials who served its population of 1,900.”
“Between 1900 and 1910 Baylor County had another boom as old ranchland was divided up into hundreds of new farms. By 1910 there were 1,040 farms in the county (616 of them operated by tenants), and cotton had replaced wheat as the most important crop. Only seventy-seven acres of Baylor County land was planted in cotton in 1880, and only 3,065 in 1900. But by 1910, cotton cultivation had expanded to more than 38,000 acres in the county. During that same period, land devoted to wheat production had dropped from about 9,500 acres to 2,621 acres.”
“By 1920 only about 29,600 acres was planted in cotton, and the number of farms had dropped to 811. The population of the county also fell; by 1920, 7,027 people remained in the county. During the 1920s Baylor County had another brief but intense cotton boom. By 1929 more than 66,000 acres was devoted to cotton, and the number of farms in the county had increased again to 867. Meanwhile, the population rose to 7,418 by 1930. The Great Depression of the 1930s put an end to this expansion, however, and by 1940 only about 27,000 acres was planted in cotton in Baylor County; the number of farms had dropped to 718.”
“The population of the county dropped steadily after World War II. From its 1940 population of 7,755, the number of people in Baylor County declined to 6,875 in 1950, to 5,221 in 1970, to 4,919 in 1980, to 4,385 in 1990, and to 4,093 in 2000. The county remained fundamentally agricultural. The United States agricultural census for 2002 reported that the county harvested 636,391 bushels of wheat that year. The census also credited the county with 195,800 bushels of oats and 65,225 bushels of sorghum. Cotton production was 5,870 bales, and 73,079 cattle and lesser numbers of other livestock were reported to round out a fairly well-diversified agricultural economy.”
Lawrence L. Graves, “BAYLOR COUNTY,” Handbook of Texas Online
I was the guest of Baylor County and Seymour on July 18, 2013 and again on May 29, 2014.
Baylor County Courthouse 1884 (Photo Courtesy: THC)
The original Italianate structure that once stood in downtown Seymour was designed by James Flanders and constructed by Ferrier Brothers & Wirz. In 1912, the courthouse underwent a renovation that included the addition of a dome in place of Flanders’ tower.
(Photo Courtesy: TXDOT)
The courthouse, as it appeared with its dome, circa 1939.
Baylor County Courthouse 1968
(Photo Courtesy: THC)
This single-story, concrete, modern building replaced the domed courthouse in the sixties. It was designed by the firm Pierce, Norris, & Pace and cost the county $350,000.
There are two piece of the 1884 courthouse on display at the courthouse, one on the western side…
…and one on the northern side.
Central Bail Bonds and the Knowles Family! Last time I saw them was in Montague County. Before visiting Seymour, I had no idea there was a second location.
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