these days get election results from official sources, but the process
used to be a lot less formal. In the summer of 1891, for instance,
the San Angelo Standard learned the outcome of the first election
in Crockett County
from two men who had just ridden in from Ozona.
"W.S. Kelly and N.P. Lewis arrived from Crockett
County yesterday and from them the Standard obtained the following
approximately correct news of the election in that county," the
West Texas newspaper
Named for David Crockett, the county had existed on paper since
1875, first attached for judicial purposes to Kinney
County and by 1885 to Val
Verde County. Finally, on July 7, 1891, Crockett
County's all-male electorate cast ballots for the first time.
Residents voted in the county's first office holders. But more important
for posterity's sake, they picked the county seat.
As the Standard reported, "The vote for county seat with two boxes
yet to hear from is as follows:
* Joe Moss Ranch: Ozona
24, Eureka, 7.
* Jackson Ranch: Ozona
9, Eureka, 3.
* Henderson's Ranch: Ozona
12, Eureka, 6.
* Couch's ranch: Ozona
9, Eureka, 3."
Doing the math showed 54 votes for Ozona
to 19 for Eureka.
That, the Standard went on, "is so far above the two-third of all
the votes that have already been counted that it is almost impossible
for Eureka to get a one-third of the vote from the boxes not yet
heard from, but we would not yet be certain that Ozona
Of course, Ozona
did become the county seat. Today, Eureka - first known as
Couch Well - is not even a ghost town, only a ghost name.
A couple of weeks after the election, a correspondent known as "La
Vaquero" (either someone who didn't know Spanish very well, a woman
with a sense of humor or both) wrote a letter to the editor the
Standard published on August 11. Ozona,
the local informant said, boomed with a capital B.
"The town, although only a few weeks old, boasts of one store, with
lumber on the ground for two more, one saloon, two restaurants,
meat market, feed yard, boot shop, etc.," they wrote. "Most of the
business is done in tents, although there are a dozen houses in
course of construction and the sound of the saw and hammer is heard
on every hand."
Despite the fact that the electorate had spoken on whether the capital
of Crockett County
should be the rapidly growing Ozona
or Eureka, a judge in Val
Verde County had a petition before him to overturn the results
of the vote.
"Although we have been informed that the…judge…has reversed his
decision in regard to our county seat," the correspondent continued,
"the people are paying no attention to it, as it is a settled fact
will still be the county seat, there being no opposite worth mentioning."
will of the people prevailed, no matter the validity of the election.
"The land on which Ozona
is situated is patented and belongs to E.M. Powell," the newspaper
report continued. Powell had "generously donated to the town a good
well, with 18-foot Eclipse windmill and cistern, also all lands
for public buildings such as courthouse, jail, churches, etc.
"He has also just completed a nice school…24x50, which has also
been donated to the town, his idea being to build a good town regardless
of the cost to himself, as he has a large body of land in the county
which will enhance in value as the town improves.
"Joe Moss, our handsome surveyor [something of a clue that the letter
writer was a cow girl], is his agent, and is kept constantly busy
selling lots and showing prospectors around."
So far, some 75 lots had been sold, the letter writer said. And
though reports had made the rounds that the lots went for "enormous
prices," the author strove to set the record straight: "Right here
I wish to state that the size of the residence lots are 200 square
and can be bought from $25 to $50, according to location, one-third
cash, balance on time. Compared with the size of lots in other towns
(50x100) they are cheaper than any town in the state."
In addition to the sale of lots, Moss and Powell were drilling two
more wells in the new town, enough to insure "abundance of pure
water for all purposes."
"La Vaquero," though writing under an ambiguous name, had no doubt
as to the future of Ozona
and Crockett County.
"Prospectors are coming in every day," the dispatch concluded, "and
the majority of them invest before leaving, well satisfied that
they have found the best portion of the stockman's paradise."
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" May
12, 2006 column
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