[Congressional Record (Bound Edition), Volume 146 (2000), Part 9] [Extensions of Remarks] [Pages 12646-12648] [From the U.S. Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]
RECOGNIZE THE CENTENNIAL OF STAMFORD, TEXAS ______ HON. CHARLES W. STENHOLM of texas in the house of representatives Tuesday, June 27, 2000 Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a great deal of Texas pride to recognize [[Page 12647]] the Centennial of my hometown, Stamford, Texas. On June 30, 2000, citizens in this small West Texas town will gather to celebrate this event. Founded by owners of the SMS Ranches and the President of the Texas Central Railway, Stamford will honor the Centennial with the unveiling of a large sculpture made of steel that depicts a mounted cowboy meeting the railroad. The sculpture acknowledges the two industries--agriculture and railways--that contributed to the City's founding. Citizens will also place items into a time capsule that will be opened at the Bicentennial. I wish to include in the Record a brief history of the City. In addition, I want to include an excellent article by Stamford native Ron Calhoun that appeared in the June 2000 issue of Texas Co-Op Power. I know that many of my colleagues join me in congratulating Stamford on this important occasion. The City of Stamford The City of Stamford was established through the combined influence of the owners of the SMS Ranches and the Texas Central Railroad. Svante Magnus Swenson, who immigrated from Sweden in 1836, bought 100,000 acres of West Texas land, sight-unseen from railroad scrip which included portions of Jones, Throckmorton, Shackelford, Haskell and Stonewall Counties. Until 1882, because of the threat of Indian depredation, isolation and lack of operating capital, the ranch land lay unused. It was at that time, after receiving word that Texas was imposing taxes on land, that Swenson decided to bring his two sons, Eric Pierson (E.P.) and Swen Albin (S.A.) to Texas to begin utilizing the family's vast holdings in West Texas-- thus beginning the SMS Ranches. The Swenson Brothers realized that a railroad in their area was a necessity. In 1899, a meeting of the Swensons and Henry McHarg, president of the Texas Central Railway, resulted in the extension of the line from Albany, Texas, and the beginnings of a new townsite. The Swensons gave every other lot in the new townsite to the railroad, which was laid out on ranch property. McHarg named the new town Stamford after his hometown of Stamford, Connecticut. It was also the hometown of Eleanora Swenson Towne, a daughter of S.M. Swenson. The first building in Stamford was opened on January 8, 1900. Robert Lee Penick had the building moved from Anson to the site for the new town. Penick had arranged with P.P. Berthelot, manager of the townsite company, for certain lots to be established by the first business establishment. Sale of lots had not officially begun, but Berthelot assured Penick that he could have the lot if he were willing to take on possible change of price, since they had not yet been determined. A small frame structure, the house was set into place on that site and a sign tacked on the front of the building reading, ``The Bank of Stamford.'' The first deposit was 15 cents and was made by Nathan Leavitt, Stamford's first postmaster. Just one week later, J.S. Morrow of Anson opened up a second bank, the Morrow-Lowden. Additional lots were sold on January 15. Penick-Colbert- Hughes and Baker-Bryant were two of the firms to buy lots. Leavitt bought a lot for the post office. The town was plotted and the principal streets were named McHarg and Swenson, thus beginning the town of Stamford. The first train came over the new extension on February 11, 1900. In the spring of 1900, the construction of the historic Stamford Inn was begun. It was formally opened in February 1901, operated by the Townsite Company, under the direction of W.E. Gunnig. Destroyed by fire in 1924, the motel was rebuilt and purchased by A.C. Cooper, and in the 1930's, 40's and 50's became a well-known hotel for travelers, visitors and railroad workers. The Stamford Inn was sold in the mid 40's and was a retirement home until the mid 70's. Most of Stamford's early operatives were established by the Townsite Company. The electric light plant was installed in 1900. This was later disposed of to the Stamford Gas and Electric Company in 1907 and still later was acquired by the West Texas Utilities, still operating the City. Stamford's first chamber of Commerce was established a few days after the town started as the old Commercial Club with Penick as president. The town was incorporated on January 24, 1901, and P.P. Berthelot, secretary and business manager of the Townsite Company was elected as the first mayor. In 1903, city fathers built a two-story building in the middle of the downtown square. The first floor served as City Hall and the second floor was an Opera House. R.L. Penick had been elected mayor just prior to the construction. In 1917, the U.S. government purchased the land to build a new Post Office. The City Hall was torn down and rebuilt in it's existing location at the corner of Wetherbee and McHarg Streets. Agriculture was the primary industry. The Swenson's Hereford cattle herd combined with other area ranches were a huge boost to the economy. Additionally, cotton was the primary crop in the area. In 1905, a world-record 40,000 bales were shipped from the area. Another factor for growth was the building of other railroads through Stamford. In 1907, the Texas Central extended its rails 40 miles west to Rotan and the Wichita Valley Railroad reached Stamford, linking Wichita Falls and Abilene. The Stamford Northwestern Railway Company was chartered in 1909 and the railroad was built from Stamford to Spur. Swenson Cattle company was a large stockholder in this railroad and they built cotton gins for the farmers along the route. By 1915, approximately twelve passenger trains were departing from Stamford and many wholesale houses were opened to accommodate business in the area. Stamford's early religious, cultural and educational life was not neglected. Churches were especially deemed desirable additions to the community by the Townsite organizers who donated plots to each denomination. In fact, Cumberland Presbyterian Church (later re-named Central Presbyterian) was organized prior to the actual beginning of the town, on September 3, 1899. St. John's United Methodist church and the First Baptist Church were both organized in 1900 followed by the Christian Church and the West Side Baptist Mission. Stamford's first school was built on Moran Street with Professor Coss Rose as the first superintendent. Citizens subscribed $4,000 for the erection of the building. In 1906, twenty acres was donated by the Townsite Company to establish Stamford College. A fire in 1916 destroyed the administration building and the college was moved to Abilene and the name changed to McMurry University. In early Spring of 1930, a small group of Stamford men organized the Texas Cowboy Reunion as an annual rodeo and reunion of cowboys and ranchers of the area which would help boost the local economy, as well. Staged each year during the Fourth of July weekend, the Texas Cowboy Reunion, known as the World's Largest Amateur Rodeo, continues to entertain approximately 25,000 each year. In 1950, Paint Creek, north of Stamford, was damned to enable Stamford to have a lake with an adequate water supply. Today the lake is a popular recreational area for boating, camping and fishing. Today, the railroad which played such a large role in the development of Stamford one hundred years ago, is no more. The Burlington Northern Railroad (final proprietor of the line) abandoned the track in the late 1990s. However, cotton, cattle and wheat continue to be among the town's leading industry with Swenson Land and Cattle Company still in operation and headquartered in Stamford. ____ [From the Texas Co-op Power, June 2000] Stamford Centennial Celebration--The Saga of the Swensons (By Ron Calhoun) Out in the wide open spaces between Abilene and Wichita Falls, a traveler hardly notices Stamford anymore--not since Highway 277 bypassed the town square a few years ago. Unfortunately, it has gone the way of other small West Texas towns in loss of population and businesses. But Stamford still takes pride in its history in the settlement of the area. Stamford celebrates its centennial this year, and no family had more to do with the founding of the town and development of the area's economy than the Swenson family, one of the most remarkable ranching families in Texas. The visionary family donated the land on which Stamford was built, recruited fellow Swedes to settle the area and helped develop modern ranching techniques. Swante Magnus (S.M.) Swenson left Sweden at 22 and arrived penniless in Galveston in 1838. He was the first Swede in Texas and destined to lead many others from his native land to settle in the Lone Star State. Swenson, a resourceful, ambitious man, didn't take long to overcome tough circumstances. Knowing no English, he talked his way into a $15 a month job at a mercantile business in Columbia, Texas' first capital. Shortly afterward, he was selling goods out of a wagon among the plantations of the Stephen F. Austin Colony and shortly after that he was managing, then buying plantations. Swenson headed to Austin, the new state capital, in 1850 and became a close friend of Sam Houston and other Texas leaders of the day. He was put in charge of such important matters as furnishing the new governor's mansion and determining how to finance state and local government. He quickly became the biggest land dealer in Texas, retaining for himself 100,000 acres in unsettled northwest Texas--land he mainly obtained from railroad companies that were granted millions of acres by the state to extend their lines into the interior. But Swenson would never live in West Texas. An abolitionist, he fled to Mexico during the Civil War and afterward moved to New York City with his family. He leased his [[Page 12648]] acreage to his sons Eric and Albin. They also lived on the East Coast, but distance didn't discourage them from forming an ambitious Texas ranching operation known as Swenson Brothers. They started by fencing 50,000 acres east of what today is Stamford and stocking the acreage with quality cattle and horses. Those 50,000 acres eventually were sold off to Swedish immigrants encouraged by the Swensons to come to Texas. A community called Ericsdahl was formed, landmarked today by a beautiful Lutheran Church. Many Swedish immigrants worked as cowboys for the Swensons; others prospered by farming, and later by the discovery of oil on their land. The Swensons bought more and more land. Eventually their holdings included the Throckmorton Ranch (106,000 acres); the Flat Top Ranch (41,000 acres) adjacent to Stamford; and the Tongue River Ranch (79,000 acres) in King, Motley and Dickens counties. In 1898, the Swensons donated land for the Stamford townsite, giving every other lot to Texas Central Railroad to entice the company to extend lines from Albany. The railroad reached Stamford on February 11, 1900. The Swensons built the Stamford Inn to accommodate cattle buyers and other visitors. Known as the ``high bosses,'' the aloof and reserved Swenson brothers visited Stamford only occasionally. They wore derby hats and toured the ranches in Model T Fords. The Swensons also founded the town of Spur in Dickens County, the site of which was part of the Espuela Land & Cattle Co. and its 438,000 acres, which they'd purchased. In 1926, the firm became the Swenson Land & Cattle Co. Much of the Espuela acreage was sold over the years, and today hundreds of farmers and small ranches in the Stamford-Spur area trace their original land titles to Swenson land. The Swensons were to become even wealthier when oil was discovered on their land. They used the profits for water development and pasture improvements that were widely copied. Their firm had such a good reputation for management that one of their top employees, Clifford B. Jones, was named president of Texas Tech in 1938. But, alas, the Swenson Land & Cattle Co. is no more. It died in a Dallas law office in 1978. Like many other famous ranching empires in Texas, it fell victim to heirs who could not agree on the company's future. The ranches were divided and much of the acreage has been sold. Bruce Swenson of Dallas still owns the Flat Top and Throckmorton ranches. His great-grandfather, S.M., died in 1896, but his legacy lives on in the famed SMS brand (with the S's turned backward). On June 30, Stamford will celebrate its centennial with a parade, a hamburger cookout and the dedication of a monument. And, as it has for the past 70 years, the town will throw its annual Texas Cowboy Reunion (July 1-4), the world's largest amateur rodeo, complete with working cowboys, a parade, an old timers reunion, a ball, a western art show and real chuckwagon food. (For information, call Gary Mathis or Beverly Swenson at the Swenson Ranches office at (915) 773- 3614.) The Swenson record is finely detailed in a book by Mary Whatley Clarke, a Palo Pinto native and journalist. Published in 1976, it's titled The Swenson Saga and the SMS Ranches. Partly based on Gail Swenson's master's thesis at the University of Texas and conversations Clarke had with the last of the Swenson managers, it is the story of an astute, risk-taking family that helped make Texas the great state that it is today.