[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]



                        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

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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 
       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 
       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 
       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 
       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 

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     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 
       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-
       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.