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They saw the future of the cattle business, and each bought lands at six cents to half a dollar an acre. The Kenedy ranch is now 800,000 acres in extent, and the King ranch contains 1,300,000 acres.
A strange freak of fortune at the outbreak of the Civil War gave obscure Brownsville one of the most unique booms in the history of any American settlement. The little trading post became the only fort in the United States not under blockade by naval forces, and consequently the only port from which the South could ship its cotton. This continued for five years; and the cotton of the Southwestern States found its outlet through Brownsville, which became a city of 40,000 inhabitants, and a very lively one.
But when the Civil War closed, the RAW LAND
fortunes of this remarkably prosperous A typical view in the country around Brownsville, Tex. city slumped as suddenly as they had
risen; for this whole empire was up many crumbs of overflow trade. touched by a railroad, and the river traf
Captain King, Captain Kenedy, and fic, so great under the artificial stimulus others prospered greatly; and when the of the peculiar shipping conditions discovery of gold in California and the of the war, diminished almost to nothing, opening of other gateways into Mexico leaving the city practically isolated from sapped the commercial importance of the world of commerce, save for the Matamoros, the two captains were to- patronage of the scattered cattle kings. gether worth about a million dollars. About fourteen years ago, a very com
her husband: “Now you can leave me long enough to make the expedition you have so long dreamed of making
and explore the Brownsville region.' monplace incident occurred which spelled At once he put out on the realization of almost as great results for this fallen his long-deferred purpose, and struck the metropolis of the Gulf Coast country as river at Rio Grande City. He footed it did the outbreak of the Civil War. P. E. most of the way down the valley, sleeping Blalack, a prosperous “sugar man” from in the open wherever night overtook him, Mississippi, was on a train bound for and coming in close and actual contact Chicago when he chanced to make the ac- with the soil. Although in the "tropics quaintance of a dealer in army supplies of the United States," he found the who was returning from a business trip nights so cool that the covering of a to Fort Brown. To the Mississippian, warm blanket was invariably necesthe army contractor gave a detailed and sary. enthusiastic account of the productiveness of the isolated region which he had visited, and made a prophecy that "some day a stray business scout from farther North would discover the riches of that forgotten land, build a railroad into it, and give the United States one of the greatest agricultural sections of which it could boast.
Every fact which the contractor could give regarding the soil, climate, water, and other conditions, was carefully noted by Mr. Blalack, who rehearsed them to his partner, on his return. “I've capitai to spare," said Mr. Blalack's associate. "You make a trip into that country, verify the things you have heard, and we'll buy a large tract of land.” For fully seven years this trip was de
HARVESTING ONIONS. ferred because the health of Mrs. Blalack was too delicate to permit her
When he reached the vicinity of Hidalhusband to leave her. Some seven years go, he found a few planters and saw the ago, they decided, because of her health,
results of their work. The productiveto remove to San Antonio. There the
ness of the soil surpassed the account ailing wife gradually improved, and a lit- given by his acquaintance, the army contle more than two years ago she said to tractor. The soil was black and rich
SHORT-HORN CATTLE GROWN IN SOUTHERN TEXAS.
At left are shown several "white faces," a standard stock.
the results of hundreds of years of al- and that this cane produces two to four luvial deposit from the Rio Grande-and per cent more sucrose. was at least thirty feet in depth. Here His fig orchard was planted February he bought 15,000 acres, paying one dollar 7, 1905, the “cuts” being about the size an acre, or less. At length he reached of a lead pencil. They began to bear the the commercially marooned city of following August, some of them yielding Brownsville, and his entry upon its streets 500 mature figs to the tree, and bringing was the most exciting event it had known three cents a pound in the green state. in several decades. The top story of the One-fifth of an acre in cauliflower, on big hotel, which had been crowded with Mr. Blalack's farm, produced a net profit guests during "war times,” was literally of $235. a buzzard's roost, and the town was at All land in the Rio Grande valley is ironce a reminiscence and a sepulcher. rigated from the river, and most of the
Of course he found it necessary to give planters have their irrigating plants. In a prompt and definite account of himself certain sections, however, capital and enand his mission. When he told the "lead- terprise have called the best engineering ing citizens” that he had come to look at talent into play to furnish irrigation to a land, and to buy if satisfied, he was be- vast extent of territory. At Lonsboro sieged with offers. There had not been for example, the writer found a corps of a sale of real estate in the county, of any engineers putting in a great irrigating moment, for ten years previous to his plant which will soon "make the water arrival, and men owning thousands flow down hill over 5,000 acres of land.” of acres begged him to buy at his Incidentally they were giving birth to a own price. He had already invested new city. Two box cars stood upon nearly all of his spare capital; but his the siding-two engineering homes on faith was as strong as the importunities wheels. The mistress of one of these of his new-found friends, and conse- homes was a New York woman, gowned quently he bought about 1,600 acres—the in white flannel and wearing natty white
— pick of the surrounding country-close slippers. When asked if she wished to to the city of Brownsville.
send her love to "old Broadway," her “I paid just one dollar an
eyes filled with tears—but she quickly that,” said Mr. Blalack in a recent con- added, “But I'm happy here and proud to versation with the writer, "and now, two be an indirect help to such a work. What years later, I am offering $35 an acre for can a man do more useful and helpful to an adjoining tract, and am thus far un- his fellows than to reclaim a wilderness able to induce its owner to part with it. and transform it into a garden?” The I expect to see the day when my farm other box car home was presided over by will be worth $500 an acre—as much as the young bride of the chief engineer's the choice orchards and garden lands of assistant. They had married just before California, Colorado, and Washington. his engagement with the irrigation comWhy? Because it will grow almost any- pany, and she had been left behind in thing, will bear as abundantly, and is Brownsville with the promise that the near the great central markets. It pro- husband would visit her "frequently." duces the table delicacies in fruits and When some two months passed without garden truck at the time when they bring a visit, he received a message that if his the highest price of the year in the mar- absence was to continue he could “fix up kets of the North."
some sort of a place" for his bride, as Mr. Blalack showed the writer a “dem- the separation would not be endured any onstration acre" devoted to sugar-cane, longer. He decided that she “had good for which the crop brought $240 when engineering stuff in her," and she was manufactured into sugar. The cost of told that a box car would be placed at planting was $25; but this is distributed her disposal, and that she might “fit it over five or six years, as successive crops up into a home and then come on in it.” are grown from the same stubble. He de- She took up the work with a will and clares that the cost of cultivation is not made a unique and thoroughly artistic more than half the expense in Louisiana, dwelling out of it.
dwelling out of it. The walls are done while the yield of cane is twice as great, in burlap with a dado of matting and
hung with pictures, while the floors are bellum railway equipment will soon be covered with rugs, and the bunks draped extinct, and one of the novel features of with Navajo blankets. She arrived two the Brownsville region will be supplanted months before the chief engineer's wife by the modern and “standard" railroad and was the only white woman in that
and the latest equipment. region. Her husband was called away From the moment the visiting stranger for two weeks and she presided over the reaches Kingsville, his attention is incamp of Mexicans, her only protectors stantly challenged by the splendid artebeing a faithful dog and a brace of re- sian wells which continue southward to volvers. When these wives wish to break
the Rio Grande valley. Here is a proup the monotony of their exile, one ar- vision of nature which is doing at small rays herself in a New York gown, pays expense what the civil engineer is often a call upon her neighbor, returns to her called upon to do at the cost of hundreds home, waits thirty minutes, and then re- of thousands-yes, millions-of dollars. ceives a return call. Sundays are espe- Actually, Driscoll is the most northerly cially exciting, for the quartette mount
limit of the "proven artesian belt,” which their broi chos and “ride the country.” contains about 300 wells, whereof the No trave :: who has had a glimpse of oldest has been flowing steadily and in these b: X-car mansions can fail to have a practically unabated volume for six years. new apprehension of what the civil engi- Here the big flow was struck at a depth neer gives to his fellows and his country.
of 650 feet. Lyford is at the southThe power-house of the irrigation ern extremity of the proven terriplant referred to is located at the railroad tory, and its wells were struck at a station, seven miles from the river, and greater depth, of about 800 feet The is being equipped with two steam tur- cost of sinking the average artesian well bines of 600 horse-power each. The elec- in this territory is not far from $1,000. tricity transmitted from this power-house The flow of these wells is greatly inis used to lift the water from the river creased by pumping. For this purpose a to a 350-acre reservoir-an average of twelve horse power gasoline engine is about twelve feet. Each turbine engine generally sufficient, and can be operated and its pump will act as a separate and at a very small expense. Earth reservoirs absolutely independent unit, and will are generally constructed to hold a rehave the power to raise the water in the serve supply of water. At Kingsville and reservoir one foot in three days. This practically all other stations, the railroad company owns 120,000 acres, all of which company has put in-a system of "demonwill be irrigated, and much of which will stration” parks on the right-of-way of the be sold in small plantations to the public. road through the town. One part is
One of the most picturesque remind- devoted entirely to citrous trees imported ers of "the old days of American rail- at great expense from California, another roading to be found in the United States, to native trees, another to nut trees, and is the narrow-gauge railroad running be
a fourth to park palms. tween Brownsville and Point Isabel—the The revolutionary change which has actual mouth of the Rio Grande-a dis
followed the coming of the civil engineer tance of about thirty miles. The tiny and the railroad, is indicated by the fact locomotive is of the most ancient "wood
that in securing its right of way through burner” type, and the cars which it hauls
a stretch of country 110 miles long, the can be actually described only by the railroad authorities found it necessary to word antediluvian. A night ride in this
deal with only four land-owners. To-day strange train is one of the most weird
these lands are being sold in 20-, 40-, 60-, and picturesque journeys that imagina- and 80-acre farms, and these little holdtion could suggest from the stackings are being made to pay $100 to $500 belches a trail of sparks, giving the im- net profit each year. The writer saw the pression that the train is being pursued harvesting of a 16-acre onion field at by a swarm of millions of brilliant fire- Kingsville, Texas, which yielded its flies. But this strange survival of ante- owner a clear profit of $500 to the acre.