History of Schleicher County
See also: Schleicher, Gustav (1823-1879)
Schleicher County is in west central Texas 290 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexicoqv and ninety miles northeast of the Texas-Mexico boundary. It is bordered by Tom Green, Concho, Menard, Kimble, Sutton, Crockett, and Irion counties. Eldorado, the county seat, is at the intersection of U.S. highways 190 and 277, forty-five miles south of San Angelo.
Situated in the Edwards Plateau,qv the county comprises roughly 1,309 square miles of rolling to hilly terrain at elevations ranging from 2,100 to 2,400 feet above sea level. The southwestern part of the county is in the Rio Grande basin, with the uppermost tributaries of the Devil's River draining the runoff south; the rest of the county lies within the Colorado basin and is drained by the upper reaches of the San Saba River to the east and by the South Concho River to the north.
Schleicher County was part of the Fisher-Miller Land Grant,qv made by the Republic of Texas in 1842, but none of the immigrants who settled within the limits of the grant came so far west. Settlement of Schleicher County occurred well after the annexation of Texas to the United States. Some people may have moved into the easternmost part of the county after the United States War Department opened Camp San Saba (see FORT MCKAVETT) in western Menard County in 1852, but it was not until the mid-1870s that permanent ranches were established
The Texas legislature established Schleicher County from Crockett County in April 1887 and named it in honor of Gustav Schleicher,qv an early surveyor, engineer, and politician. It is not clear why the legislature decided to form the county at that time; there is no evidence available to suggest any lobbying efforts by local residents. In fact, because the county had such a small population, it was attached first to Kimble County and later to Menard County for judicial purposes. It was not until July 1901 that Schleicher County residents elected their first county officials.
The first census of Schleicher County was recorded in 1890 and listed 155 residents, of whom 134 were listed as white, four as black, and seventeen as American Indian. Most of the people who moved to Schleicher County came from other parts of Texas or from other states; however, about a third of the 1890 population was native to Mexico. Most of the early settlers engaged in large-scale ranching operations, to which the climate and terrain of Schleicher County was well suited. In the early 1890s a group from Vermont settled in the central part of the county and established the Vermont Ranch, out of which grew Verand, the county's first town. When the Eldorado community was laid out in 1895, Verand residents moved their homes and businesses to the new location. By 1900 the number of people residing in the county had risen to 515. The most dramatic increase in population resulted from land rushes between 1901 and 1905, when tracts of public school land became available for sale. The 1910 census reported the number of residents at 1,893, more than 250 percent higher than in 1900. The 135 residents who were recorded in the 1910 census as being native to Mexico represented 7 percent of the county's population, although the percentage of residents of Mexican descent was probably much higher.
The first public school in Schleicher County opened at Verand in 1894 and was moved to Eldorado by 1897. Other schools were established in small communities, such as Adams and Mayer, and near large ranches. Two schools were established for Mexican-American children: one in Eldorado in 1916 and one in the Bailey Ranch district in 1926. In the late 1920s the county had eight common school districts and one independent school district. By the 1940s improved transportation made large-scale consolidation of schools into one independent school district possible. Until the mid-twentieth century extensive schooling was for many children in Schleicher County a luxury that took second place to duties on the family farm; also, the migratory nature of much of the work force was such that in many cases children of workers were able to attend school only on an irregular basis, if at all.
The West Texas Woolen Mills was established in Eldorado in the early 1940s, making Schleicher County one of the state's most important wool- processing centers