Late settler colonialism (newly digitised): David B. Gracy, Littlefield Lands: Colonization on the Texas Plains, 1912–1920, University of Texas Press, 1968 (De Gruyter 2021)


Description: The phenomenon of colonization by big land companies, common throughout the history of the United States, came late to the Panhandle-Plains of West Texas. Ranchers held sway there up into the 20th century. Then, realizing that the future followed the plow, they, joined by business owners and speculators, founded towns on their land, competed for railroad connections, provided irrigation wells and other improvements, and engaged in a variety of advertising activities to interest prospective settlers and to sell the land to farmers at a profit. Trainloads of such “prospectors” were brought in to tour the land; and salesmen of all kinds roamed all the more settled states painting enticing pictures of the fertile lands which their employers offered for sale. Major George W. Littlefield created the Littlefield Lands Company and founded the town of Littlefield, Texas, in 1912, in order to sell as farmland a part of his Yellow House Ranch. His sales manager, Arthur P. Duggan (his nephew by marriage, and grandfather of the author of this study), used many of the techniques then current to attract buyers for the Lamb County land in and around Littlefield. He dug wells and operated a demonstration farm; he planted trees, planned a park, and otherwise beautified the town; he helped to create and maintain a school, a bank, and a number of businesses; and he negotiated contracts and coordinated the activities of innumerable independent land agents. Because the role of the big land company in the settlement of the United States has not, on the whole, received the attention which it deserves, this detailed examination of the operations of one such company is of particular significance. Most of the book is devoted to the creation of the company, the steps taken to make the area attractive to potential settlers, and the problems which beset the building of the community. One chapter discusses the techniques and the difficulties of selling land through independent agents. The final chapter considers the people who moved onto the Littlefield tracts—where they came from, why they came, what their reactions were to the plains country, and how they learned to cope with their new environment. An appendix gives pertinent information about all land transactions conducted by the company between 1912 and 1920, and about each buyer. For this study the author made use of previously unknown records discovered while he was gathering information for a biography of Major Littlefield.

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