Other Views from 1891

Where is Wolfe City?

Above: Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler (1842–1922). Wolfe City, Texas: 1891, 1891. Toned lithograph, 14.4 x 20.8 in. Published by T. M. Fowler & James B. Moyer. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth.

Wolfe City in 1891

Wolfe City was founded in the late 1860s or early 1870s when J. Pinckney Wolfe built a mill near Oyster Creek in north-central Hunt County. For a while it was known as Wolfe’s Mill, but by the time it received a post office, the name had been changed to Wolfe City. Adding “city” to the name was an affectation that dozens of small towns in Texas and across the nation employed, as one historian of Omaha, Nebraska, observed, to serve as a “kite” to elevate their profile. This worked against some cities, as travelers often felt that the actual visit did not live up to expectations.[1] That probably was not the case with Wolfe City, because Fowler depicted it just as it had begun to grow to accommodate the nearby stock and cotton-growing areas of Hunt County. The city had approximately sixty businesses and perhaps 1,800 residents at that time. It grew slowly, however, for cotton prices began their precipitous decline the following year, and the Sanborn-Perris Map Company estimated the city’s population at only 2,000 five years later. Cotton production reached a peak in 1900 when Wolfe City’s five gins handled more than 15,000 bales of cotton.[2]

Fowler viewed the city from the northeast looking southwest, with the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe and Cotton Belt railroads and the Wolfe City Cottonseed Oil Mill in the foreground. The mill, supposedly the largest west of the Mississippi River, is also featured among the larger, marginal drawings, as is the Wolfe City Iron Foundry. The artist probably supplemented the income he received from selling the prints by charging fees for businesses to be identified within the image (as is the O. T. Lyon & Son Lumberyard), included in the key at the bottom margin and featured in the marginal drawings.[3] Main Street is shown in the middle ground with the Opera House, Hotel Melville, and the bank on either side of the street between Preston and Manson streets.