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EL CAMPO, TEXAS

"Pearl of the Prairies"

Wharton County, Texas Gulf Coast

Highway 59 and Highway 71
13 Miles SW of Wharton
About 65 Miles SW of Houston
52 Miles NE of Victoria

Population: 11,638 (2010) 10, 945 (2000)

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El Campo Texas - Hay
El Campo was once the second largest hay-shipping center in the US
Courtesy Fayette County Heritage Museum and Archives

History in a Pecan Shell

The town began life in the early 1880s as a switching point called Prairie Switch on the New York, Texas and Mexican Railroad. The lights of the tiny settlement could be seen for miles at night - giving it the nickname "Pearl of the Prairies."

Mexican cowboys started calling it El Campo and the name stuck in 1890. Thousands of head of cattle were shipped to markets in San Antonio from the four huge ranches that surrounded the town - including the Pierce Ranch.

The town was little more than a section house and a cattle-loading chute before a store was built in 1889. This was followed by a post office the following year but still the population was a mere 25 people by 1892.

The town once became the second largest hay-shipping center in the United States and made the most of newly introduced rice industry. In the 1890s El Campo organized Swedish Lutheran and Methodist churches, as well as Presbyterian and Baptist congregations. German Lutheran and Catholic churches completed the inventory.

A fire in 1896 destroyed the town's business section which rebuilt by 1900, only to be burned again a year later. The town got the message and the second rebuilding was done with brick. El Campo acquired a library in1901 - a year before they opened the first bank.

The town incorporated in 1905 and two years later the El Campo Ice and Water Company provided electricity and ice. The El Campo Rice Milling Company opened in 1903 and was used by seventy rice farms in 1904.

The 1910 population was 1,778, growing to 2.034 by 1930 and nearly 4,000 by 1941. Gas and oil were discovered in Wharton County in the mid-1930s which stabilized the economy. It reached just over 6,216 in the early 1950s and by 1970 it was five citizens short of 10,000.


El Campo Landmarks & Attractions >
El Campo Vintage Photos
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El Campo Landmarks & Attractions

El Campo TX Post Office Mural Rural Texas Gulf Coast  detail: houses, roads,  fields, trees
"Rural Texas Gulf Coast" by Milford Zornes, 1939
Photo courtesy Gerald Massey, March 2009
El Campo PO Mural >
El Campo Texas town square
El Campo town square
Photo courtesy George Shaffer, 2007
El Campo Texas Prairie Switch
"Prairie Switch" of the original switching station, now on town square
Photo courtesy George Shaffer, 2007
El Campo Texas former bank building
Former bank building in El Campo
Photo courtesy George Shaffer, 2007
El Campo Texas Rice Farms Coop grain elevators
Rice Farmers Coop
Photo courtesy George Shaffer, 2007
El Campo Texas rice mural
Rice murals
Photo courtesy George Shaffer, 2007
El Campo Vintage Photos
El Campo Texas cotton gin advertising postcard 1910
Cotton Gin. "King Cotton is picked in August. Yield 1/2 ti 3/4 bales per acre, makes $25 to $40 per acre. Nine thousand acres in the El Campo district. Rice harvesting begins also in August."
Advertising Postcard circa. 1910 courtesy William Beauchamp
Isaacson Gin Co's. Plant at El Campo, TX
Isaacson Gin Co's. Plant at El Campo, Texas
Postcard courtesy Will Beauchamp Collection
El Campo Texas cotton scene
Cotton scene in El Campo.
1916 old photo courtesy William Beauchamp
Courtesy Fayette County Heritage Museum and Archives
Hay-shipping in El Campo
Courtesy Fayette County Heritage Museum and Archives

More on Cotton & Cotton Gins
 El Campo TX South Side St 1905
South Side Street 1905
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
El Campo TX School

Public School Building in El Campo
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
More Texas Schoolhouses

El Campo Texas
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