Plano in 1891
Plano is known today as a suburb of Dallas, completely engulfed by the larger city along with other nearby communities. But in 1891 when Fowler made this view, Plano stood separate and apart, with an economy that had begun to develop as a result of the arrival of the railroads in the previous decades. The first Anglo-American settlers in Collin County, prior to the Civil War, engaged mainly in subsistence farming, because the nearest market was Jefferson, more than 150 miles to the east. But with the arrival of the Houston and Texas Central Railway in 1872, Plano was linked to Dallas and Houston and much closer to the outside market. Many of the county’s residents went to work for the railroad contractors, grading the bed and cutting and laying the ties. Perhaps as many as 1,000 men were able to get work for $10 a day, wages unheard of in Collin County at that time; if a man brought his own team or horses or mules, he would be paid $15 a day. Within a few years, as many as six railroads crossed some part of Collin County, including two that intersected in Plano: the H&TC and the St. Louis, Arkansas and Texas Railway, which Fowler called the “Cotton Belt” in his print.
Residing in the heart of the Blackland Prairie, perhaps the richest agricultural land in Texas, local farmers turned to commercial crops such as cotton and wheat, and crop production increased dramatically. Although Collin County had not been known for its cotton production prior to the arrival of the railroads, Fowler included several gins and a cotton press, with dozens of bales of cotton stacked and waiting for shipment to show that cotton, too, had increased in importance in the county. The view is from the southeast.