Lapas attēli

and two small buildings. He paid $800 cash and the remaining $400 within four years with 10 per cent interest. This case is typical.

Three of the families in this settlement came direct from Italy, while the others as a rule came from the coal mines of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, where they had spent from one to ten years working as miners. Nearly all the settlers had been farmers or employed in some agricultural occupation in Italy.

The growth of the colony has been very slow. In twenty-five years it has increased from 3 to 40 families and from 15 to 250 persons. But while the growth has been slow it has been steady, for there have been no desertions, none of the property owners having moved away. The probabilities are that this growth will continue, as good land is available at reasonable prices and the crops are sold at a good profit. The only drawback is the lack of convenient railroad facilities.

The climate is comparatively dry and is characterized by high winds and light annual rainfalls. The temperature during the summer months is high, but more or less uniform; in the fall and winter considerable fluctuation is noted. Cold winds from the north frequently change the temperature many degrees in a few hours. Henrietta is about 25 miles northwest of Montague and Forestburg is 20 miles southeast, but weather records made at these places will serve very well to illustrate climatic conditions in this locality.

Average monthly and annual temperature and precipitation Henrietta and Forestburg,


[United States Department of Agriculture. Field Operations of the Bureau of Soils, 1902. Fourth Report, p. 367.]

[blocks in formation]

a The table from which this is taken has the following note: "This table has been compiled from fragmentary records, covers different periods of time for different stations, and is not strictly comparable station by station or with tables of normals given for other areas covered by this report."

The elevation is high and the country consists largely of rolling prairie interspersed with low hills. The land is drained by means of rivers and creeks, and sometimes after a heavy rain the roads become impassable on account of the washes and gullies and the height of the water at the fords. The land is composed of heavy loam and clay, well suited to the production of hay and cotton.


The farms vary in extent from 20 to 400 acres. Only a small portion of the land is cultivated, the rest being in natural pasturage, woods, or meadows. Cotton is the principal money crop and averages about one-half of a bale an acre. Apples and peaches have been planted extensively, but the trees are young and little money has been realized from their fruits. Up to two years ago the Italians raised large quantities of grapes and made them into sour Italian wine. This sold readily in large quantities to the natives. Recently the establishment of prohibition in the county stopped the sale of this wine and cut off a profitable industry for the Italians.

The method of handling the cotton does not differ from that in other cotton localities. The growing of fruits was introduced by the Italians, and to all appearances they will succeed as horticulturists. Corn and hay are grown in small amounts. The settlers raise only enough to make them independent of grain dealers, and are not obliged to buy any hay or grain to feed their stock.

The buildings owned are substantial frame dwellings, neatly painted; the sheds and barns are well built, and the whole presents an air of prosperity. Some of the Italians operated land" on shares" before buying their present holdings. The crop rent paid was onethird of the corn and one-fourth of the cotton crop.

Owing to lack of railway facilities the Montague farmers are at serious disadvantage in marketing their crops. There is little local demand for the crops produced by the Italians, and practically everything that is sold has to be hauled a considerable distance to the railway.

Most of the property owned by the Italians is now free from debt, the majority having paid off the mortgages on their farms by hard work in the fields. They have little use for the banks, putting most of their money into farm improvements and equipment in the endeavor to increase the productivity of their farms. Some still send money back to Italy, but this practice is less common than in former years. One Italian owns a butcher shop, but he is the only Italian in the community not engaged in agriculture. The Italians are now fully Americanized with respect to clothing, wearing the same garb as the Americans. The houses are neat and well kept, and the farms, on an average, look as well as any native farms. Vegetables constitute the larger part of the Italians' diet, and the raising of chickens, pigs, and cows enables them to live very comfortably.

The women and children work on the farm fully as much as in the house, and aid materially with the farm work. The cotton crop is one in which women and children are very useful, and the Italian with a family is able to produce his cotton at a much lower price than his neighbor who is obliged to hire laborers. They seldom mingle with the Americans except on business. On Sunday they visit their fellow countrymen, and occasionally hold a social dance on Sunday afternoon. They have not really segregated themselves, as many now have one or more American neighbors. Race prejudice has never prevailed.

A Catholic church was built some years ago, and a priest from a neighboring town holds local services once a month. The public school has only ten Italians enrolled, as the majority of the Italian

children are kept on the farm and not allowed to go to school when they can be of use at home. This means a serious drawback to the rapid Americanization of the younger generation.

Among the Italians there are fifty men of voting age. About half have secured their final papers and exercise the privilege of voting, but none manifest any desire to hold office.

The settlers are spoken of as very industrious and peaceable, seldom getting into trouble and always trying to keep the good will of the natives. While the effect of the colony upon the community has not been marked, the forty families of Italians are helping to make the region prosperous. The following table shows the economic condition of three typical North Italian families who have been in the community for a considerable period of time. The farms owned by them average 195 acres, and their present value has increased somewhat over the price of the land first purchased by them.

TABLE 66.-Economic condition of certain typical North Italian families, Montague, Tex.

[blocks in formation]

The value of produce sold is not large, but when it is considered that each family earns its living in addition to what is sold, it is evident that they are in a fairly prosperous condition.


League City is in Galveston County on the main line of the Galveston, Houston, and Henderson Railroad, from Galveston to Houston. Six Italian farmers are located at this point, the first having come twelve years ago. All moved from Dickinson and Bryan, Tex. They are engaged chiefly in raising strawberries, although all varieties of garden truck are grown. Several other small towns in the neighborhood have each two or three Italian farmers within its boundaries.

The following table shows the present economic condition of three of the League City farmers:

TABLE 67.-Economic condition of certain typical North Italian families, League City,


[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][subsumed][merged small][merged small]

In Hitchcock, in this same region, there are 20 Italian families and 2 unmarried Italian farmers. The first man to arrive there was Mr. Mosso, who came in 1888 from Galveston. On arrival he wrote to a friend in Italy, and induced the latter to come the next year with his family. This was a prosperous little settlement in 1900, when the storm which caused the destruction of Galveston destroyed many of the Italian homes and laid waste their crops, causing severe financial losses. Subsequently, several families moved elsewhere.

Near San Antonio are about 25 Italian families, devoting all their time to truck gardening. These men raise all varieties of vegetables and supply the retail trade of the city.

Victoria is located in the center of the county that bears its name. In 1883, when the railroad was built through the town, a large number of Italians were employed on the rough construction work. They were all under the direction of an Italian, who had secured them from northern Italy. When the road was completed a few of the Italians_remained and purchased homes. At present there are 17 North Italian families located near the town, all owning their farms. They are in a prosperous condition. Their farms vary in size, but all raise cotton, which, both in quality and yield per acre, compares favorably with that raised by the natives. Three Italians are in business in the town. All the Italians have their full naturalization papers, and are said to be very industrious and law abiding.


With the exception of the Italian colonies at Hammonton and Vineland, N.J., the settlement at Bryan, Tex., is perhaps the largest Italian agricultural community in the United States. It is by far the most extensive colony in the Southern States. Moreover, it is prosperous and progressive, though increasing rather slowly in numbers.

Bryan is situated in the center of Brazos County, in the midst of the "bottom lands" of the Brazos River. The soil is very fertile, and the Italians from Sicily have for the most part purchased land along the river, as that is conceded to be the best soil for raising cotton. There are 350 families in the colony, numbering about 1,700 to 1,850 people. Nearly 50 per cent of these farmers own their land and a large percentage of the farms are free from debt. The remainder either rent land "on shares" or for a fixed rental. The usual course of development is as follows: First, the immigrant becomes a "cropper," furnishing only labor and giving the landowner one-half of the cotton; next, he is a cash tenant, owning a mule and equipment and paying the landlord a cash rent of $6 to $8 per acre; finally, when a little money has been accumulated, he becomes the owner of a small farm, usually cleared and improved, and bought on time at 8 per cent interest. The period between "cropping" and ownership depends on the size of the family, the industry of the head, the boll weevil, and the price of cotton. Very few continue to operate land as share croppers many years, and there is no permanent tenant class among the Italians of Bryan. Cotton, corn, and buckwheat are the principal crops, but every Italian has his vegetable garden.

A large number of the Italians who have acquired a little personal property operate land on the cash-rent basis, paying $5 to $7 per year per acre, and a few of the latest arrivals rent on "shares," one

half of the cotton crop being the customary rental. These are the "croppers," and have little or no property of any sort.

The first Italian settler came to Bryan in 1868, after living in Houston for two years previous. He was a shoemaker by trade. From that time to the building of the Houston and Texas Railroad in 1880 very few Italians settled there. When the road was completed, inducements were offered to the Italian railroad laborers to buy land and try farming. Many accepted the opportunity, and the colony took a fresh start. In 1900, according to A. Mastro-Valerio's account in the Industrial Commission Report, there were in the colony 500 persons, From that number, in 1900, the colony has grown steadily until it has reached its present size.

Several of the Italians came directly from Italy to this settlement; others were working in agricultural localities as farm laborers. had been working in cotton regions, so that that crop was new to them, yet they had little difficulty in acquiring a knowledge of its culture. After settling and buying land in Bryan few have moved away. A few of those operating on the "share" or "cropping" basis move yearly and constitute the migratory population.

In 1897 a group of five North Italian families came to the colony from Illinois, but they remained only a year. Very few Italians have settled in Bryan in more recent years, the high price of land and its scarcity accounting in some degree for the decrease. The majority of the settlers paid from $40 to $70 per acre for their land a few years ago, and now very little of the best land can be purchased for less than $100 per acre.

Cotton averages one-half bale to the acre, but with care and the application of fertilizer this yield can easily be increased to at least three-fourths or even a bale to the acre. It is said that the Italians make a better cotton crop than many of the Americans or the Bohemians. The cotton is all sold in Bryan, as cotton gins, presses, and warehouses are located in the town. The roads through the country are fair dirt roads and are in good condition the greater part of the year, so that the cotton can be marketed with little trouble.

Most of the Italians use the banks for investing their savings, and others do all their business by means of checks. During the panic of 1907 many Italians withdrew their money, but some of the largest depositors neither withdrew their deposits nor came near the bank during the hard times. A few of the Italians keep their money in the house or about their persons, but the majority seem to make use of the banks. The settlers of late years have been borrowing from one another in preference to going to the banks, thus saving 2 or 3 per cent interest. Some still send money abroad, but not nearly as much passes through the post-offices as was the case a few years ago. During 1908, $1,797 was sent to Italy from Bryan. The individual sums were small, only 24 of the orders being for more than $25 each.

Whenever a farm is offered for sale, a number of Italians are likely to bargain for it, and the price of land has advanced very materially because of the demand made by the settlers. From 1870 to 1890 improved land sold for $20 per acre, but the price has increased five

• Reports of the United States Industrial Commission, 1901, vol. 15, p. 500.

« iepriekšējāTurpināt »