Editor’s note: Reprinted from the May 3, 1970, Longview Morning Journal.
Pioneer settlers were naturally concerned with the prospects for raising a good crop in the Longview area.
The fertile soil, mild climate, nearness to water and rail transportation induced many families to stay and build homes.
In 1849, an English company sent a lawyer-doctor-farmer to investigate agricultural possibilities before deciding whether to sponsor a colony. The versatile Edward Smith, M.D., L.L.B, B.A. etc., made a glowing report on his return to Liverpool.
He devoted particular attention to the cash crops such as cotton, tobacco and livestock. He also investigated fruits, vegetables and grains growing in Northeast Texas.
Dr. Smith said the best cotton produced in the area from Jefferson to Paris and the Red River to the Sabine grew in Cass, Bowie and Harrison counties. The future site of Longview was on the southwestern fringe of this area.
“The cotton thus produced ranks in the New Orleans maket as ‘Red River’ cotton, and is a fine long staple. That produced in Titus, Hopkins, Lamar and Fannin counties is a shade inferior in quality, and consequently in price. The average yield is somewhat under one bale, or 500 pounds per acre.
The past season the price in Titus, Hopkins and Lamar counties was just under five cents, but financial return is apt to vary greatly.”
He noted that tobacco was not cultivated as an article of exportation, “but for home consumption it sells for one shilling per pound. I saw it growing most luxuriantly in Lamar County and nearly every farmer grows it for his own use.”
Dr. Smith said that flax would grow readily, but he did not see it under cultivation.
“We saw every variety of vegetables known to the English gardener growing luxuriantly, Irish and sweet potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, beans, rhubarb, beet-root, lettuce, celery, parsnips, carrots, turnips and tomatoes make good crops. There is not a month in the year in which the settlers have not fruit and garden vegetables.”
The corn crop, he noticed, was of fine quality and produced in every county.
“The supply is not by any means equal to the demand, so that the price is far higher than in any other State of the Union. In no instance did we find it selling for less than 75 cents per bushel. … The usual price throughout the country is 50 cents per bushel.”
Apples were seen throughout the region, and, he said, “Figs grow luxuriantly, but are not much cultivated at present. Peaches are highly prized. They are grown by every settler for the purpose of making dried fruits or for feeding swine. We also saw apricots.”
Smith was overwhelmed with the potential profitability of the livestock industry. He said the exportation of “salted meats” and hides would soon be profitable.
He noted that cattle purchased for $10 in Lamar County could be transported for little over $5 to New Orleans and sold for $45.