When people come
to Deaf Smith County one of their first questions is, "How did you come
up with the name Deaf Smith?"
Deaf Smith was sent by General Houston to verify the fall of the Alamo. On the way, he met Mrs. Dickerson and her child. She confirmed the report of the Alamo and the slaughter of its defenders. Deaf Smith escorted Mrs. Dickerson to Gonzales, carrying the child in his arms. On April 21, 1836, Smith was sent to destroy Vince's Bridge, cutting off the retreat of the Mexican Army. After successfully destroying the bridge, that same afternoon Smith went into battle with such courage he won praise from the whole army. Smith's exploits during the revolution led to his being made a captain of the Rangers. He soon retired from the Rangers and established a home in Richmond, Texas where he died on November 30, 1837. His monument reads: "Deaf Smith- The Texas Spy - Died November 30, 1837".
Although Erastus "Deaf" Smith never set foot in this county, it was in his honor and memory that the county bears his name. La Plata was the first County Seat, but the winter of 1897 brought disaster to the once promising little town. In February of that year, four inches of sleet was covered with eight inches of snow. The temperature stood at freezing or below for 21 days. It was impossible for cattle to break through the ice for grass or water. Over 350 head were lost, forcing half of the residents to leave and begin again elsewhere. The railroad track missed La Plata by 26 miles. The citizens then voted to relocate the town near the railroad.
Hereford was born on September 1, 1898. Troy Womble was given the honor of being called the first resident. His photograph was made on March 3, 1898, as he stood in the door of his dugout which was located 40 yards west of what is now Highway 385 and 10 feet south of the present railroad track. The town took the name from the registered Hereford cattle brought in by L. R. Bradly and G. R. Jowell from Hereford, England.
Hereford became the County Seat that same year. By 1900, the population had grown to 843 residents. Hereford continued to grow at a gradual but steady rate. The supply of water was one of the largest demands during that time, and windmills provided the solution. Pumping water from the underground supply provided more than adequate water for residents. Hereford became known as the "Windmill City" with more than 400 windmills in the city.
Farmers began to break the sod for field crops in 1903, primarily producing wheat. The first irrigation test well was dug in February of 1905 on the G. R. Jowell ranch. The 10-inch well, which was 100 feet deep, produced from 188 to 280 gallons of water per minute. With the possibility of making an annual profit of $1,000.00 and grain crops producing 40 bushels to the acre, this area became prime farmland.
From 1904 to 1912, land companies and local immigration companies in big northern cities made a business of relocating urban residents by showing them opportunities offered in other areas of the country. Immigration trains brought hundreds of people at a time to look at Hereford as a place to relocate and start a new life. One of the things that impressed the immigrants the most was the display of agricultural products including cabbage, onions, corn, cotton, and wheat. After the Dust Bowl days in the 1930's, new farming practices and an era of irrigation restored the area once again to being one of the top national producers of agricultural products. Hereford was doing so well, that, in 1910, the new White Georgia Marble courthouse was built - the only marble courthouse in Texas. The Deaf Smith County Library and the Deaf Smith County Museum are located just across the street to the north of the court house for those who would like to read more about county history and see a replica of the first Hereford home.
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