Eastland, the county seat of Eastland County, is at the intersection of
State highways 6 and 112, northwest of Interstate Highway 20 on the
Union Pacific Railroad in the central part of the county.
In 1875 Charles U. Connellee & Jacamiah S. Daugherty purchased land on
the C. S. Betts survey and platted a town site. County voters opted to
move the county seat from Merriman to the newly platted site, as it was
closer to the center of the county, and the new community was named
Connellee, Daugherty, J. B. Ammerman, and others built a stone
courthouse, and the county commissioners court held its first session in
the town in September of 1875. By January of 1876 the population was
estimated at 250. The first public school was taught in the community in
1877, and Methodist, Baptist, and Christian churches were soon
The city's growth was assured when, in 1880, the Texas and Pacific
Railway was given a number of town lots to build through the community.
Eastland Independent School District was established in 1882, and a
second courthouse of red stone was constructed in 1883.
By 1884 Eastland had three churches, a school, a flouring mill, two
cotton gins, and an estimated 500 inhabitants. Among the early
newspapers in the town were the Anchor and the Chronicle.
Eastland was incorporated for the first time on June 6, 1891, with W. Q.
Connellee as the first mayor and for the second time on April 6, 1897,
with June Kimble as mayor. The second courthouse was destroyed by fire
in 1896, and a third courthouse was built the following year.
Eastland grew slowly in the first decades of the twentieth century,
reaching 596 inhabitants in 1900 and 855 in 1910. By 1914 the community
had two banks, telephone service, and a public library. The local
economy was heavily dependent on cotton.
Eastland County experienced a dramatic oil boom from 1917 to 1922, and
the city of Eastland grew rapidly, though not as rapidly as other
communities in the county, notably Ranger and Desdemona. Eastland
population increased four-fold between 1910 and 1920, reaching 3,368 in
1920, though some estimates claim that there were as many as 10,000
people in the town during the height of the boom in 1919.
A horned lizard, later to be become famous as "Old Rip," was supposedly
placed in the cornerstone. When the third and final courthouse was
erected in 1928, the cornerstone was opened, and the toad was found to
have miraculously survived. Though many doubted the toad's authenticity,
he (and eventually his remains) got quite a bit of state and even
national publicity and became an important part of town and county lore.
Old Rip wasn't the only commotion, just the most famous thing to happen
in the now quiet little town of Eastland, about 95 miles west of Fort
Worth on IH-20. Between 1917 and 1922 an oil boom swelled the population
of the town.
On Dec. 23, 1927, Marshall Ratliff donned a Santa Claus costume and with
three others robbed the bank in nearby Cisco. During a chase over
several days, 11 persons were wounded including three of the robbers,
and two lawmen and a robber were killed. Ratliff claimed insanity when
he received a death sentence, but was returned to Eastland to face the
charges of auto theft committed during the escape attempt. In a failed
escape from the county jail, he killed a popular jailer. On Nov. 19,
1929 a mob pulled Ratliff from his jail cell and hung him from a power
pole. The incident is credited with being the last mob lynching in
The town's prosperity in the 1920s helped fund city improvements like
the new courthouse, a new high school, and the paving of city streets.
The community reached its peak census population in 1930 with 4,648
inhabitants. Thereafter the city began a slow decline, falling to 3,849
inhabitants in 1940, 3,606 in 1950, and 3,178 in 1970. The community
experienced some small scale growth in the 1970s, as the number of
businesses increased from 78 in 1972 to 154 in 1982, and the population
increased to 3,747 in 1980. In 1990 Eastland had a population of 3,690.
The local economy depended on county government, agribusiness, printing,
and several manufacturing plants.