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If you read my article last week, you learned about my excitement of finding a booklet “History of Bailey County” written by Mrs. A.W. Copley. I came across the booklet as I was packing up and moving out of my home. My move was delayed when I found this booklet. It was just so interesting; I couldn’t put it down.  

Thanks to those of you who found it as interesting as I. Your calls and comments were greatly appreciated.  

Only the good Lord could design such a place as West Texas. Long before humans inhabited the plains, deer, elk, and pronghorn antelope called it home. Nature and these animals enjoyed co-existence for eons. It all changed when humans arrived. It changed even more when these humans chose to organize and become land owners. And that is where I will begin Mrs. Copley’s story today. 

“Twenty-four years after the county was created (1900) the first census report on its population appeared which was four inhabitants, only one of whom was a qualified voter. Ten years later, 1910, the cheap school lands, free federal lands and enterprising land companies had enticed three hundred twelve venturesome pioneers into the county.  

The year previous, 1909, marks the beginning of the struggle of the settlers with non-resident land owners for county organization. The general tax rate at this time was ten cents on each hundred-dollar valuation. All land owned by absentee land lords was exempted from taxation and the other was valued so low that sufficient money for the maintenance of schools and the building of roads was not available. The territory was attached to Castro County for judicial purposes and any legal transaction requiring presence at a county seat consumed at least three days of valuable time. It required one day for the forty-five-mile trip to Dimmitt, the county seat, driving in a spring wagon or buggy with a good team; another was spent in the transaction of business, while the third day was needed for the drive home. The conditions aroused in the minds of the people an insistent desire and demand for their own county seat and officials. 

Hence, in 1909, one hundred twenty-seven people, representing themselves to be qualified voters of the county drew up and signed a petition requesting that Bailey County be organized in accordance with the provisions of the revised Civil statutes of Texas. When this petition was presented to the Commissioners’’ Court of Castro County they considered the plea and granted the request, marked off the boundary lines for four precincts, and set the date for the election of officials for June 19, 1909. Some of the voters were so enthusiastic over their apparent independence that the entire night of June 18 was spent in celebrating the anticipated day of election. But the day brought a crushing disappointment in the form of an injunction served on the voters, prohibiting the selection of a county seat and local officials. The rich non-resident land owners, who had been watching the efforts to secure local government, knew that if the attempt were successful and county taxes were levied, they would suffer financial loss. J.A. Oden and B.P. Abbott, representing the non-resident land owners, were instrumental in serving the injunction which stated that there were names of many persons on the petition who were not qualified voters of Bailey County. That after deducting the names of minors, women, and children there remained less than one hundred fifty qualified voters of Bailey County, and that this was the result of a conspiracy and a deliverate design of Stevens A. Coldren and others to organize Bailey County and establish the town of Hurley as the county seat for the purpose of giving an enhance or speculative value to lands in and near Hurley and that the names of women and minors were placed on the petition to deceive the Commissioners Court. This action on the part of the property owners was accepted with resignation by the residents of the county because they knew that their list of voters would never pass rigid inspection by a court. In fact, the old timers of the county later humorously admitted that they were accused (perhaps justly) of not only adding names of minors, but also pets and animals. However, they settled down to watchful waiting and systematic planning for any opportunity that might present itself in the future.” 

We hope you all will be a part of our Thanksgiving dinner at our Senior Center on November 4th, 2021 from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Formerly the Jennyslippers fundraiser, they gave the project to us at the Senior Center when they disbanded a little over a year ago. We look forward to seeing all of you there!   

Carolyn Turner, Bailey County Senior Center

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