History of Stamford
Stamford, Texas was founded in 1900 along the Texas Central Railroad on 640 acres of land donated by the sons of Swante Magnus Swenson who owned the townsite and surrounding area as a part of the Swenson Ranch.
The town was named after Stamford, Connecticut, the hometown of H. McHarg, the president of the railroad. The area had its first post office opened in December of 1899 and on January 2nd, 1900, the town was incorporated. The first businesses in Stamford opened shortly thereafter, including the first bank, The Bank of Stamford, which was founded by the “Father of Stamford,” R.L. Penick.
Over the first decade of Stamford’s existence, it grew to a population of almost 4,000 people and became a center for activity in the area. Several wholesale and grocery companies were founded and based in Stamford in those first years, and a flour mill was the leading industry in the town until a fire destroyed the mill in 1946. A cotton oil company, brick manufacturers, ice plant, bottling plant, cotton gins, clothing manufacturers and the railroad also were leading employers throughout the first decades. Farming and ranching were also, of course, important industries in the area, and the discovery of oil in the area in 1935 helped broaden the area’s economic base as well.
Stamford College was opened in 1907, and by 1909 had a faculty of 16 that taught 346 students. in 1920, the college closed due to drought, World War I and a fire that affected the facilities.
In 1930, a group of business leaders in Stamford gathered to discuss a way to encourage economic activity in the midst of the Great Depression. The idea of hosting a rodeo was settled upon and after discussion the name Texas Cowboy Reunion was suggested. While the group was taken aback at the grand aspirations the name suggested, the business leaders quickly agreed and decided that the Texas Cowboy Reunion rodeo would have the goal to preserve the western heritage and traditions that had laid the foundation for their world years ago. The event lives on today and still aims to achieve that objective identified so many years ago, to preserve “the memory of the West, to entertain the pioneers of the past, to keep alive the traditions of those that wrestled this country from the Indians and the buffalo.”
In 1941, Arledge Field was founded which served as a flying school for pilots during World War II. It was closed in September of 1944.
Stamford is also home of one of the last remaining operation Carnegie Libraries. Donated to the town in 1909 as a personal gift from Andrew Carnegie, Stamford was one of the smallest cities chosen to receive funding for a public library from Carnegie. The library also housed the Cadet Club for the Air Corps during WWII while the flying school was open.
Stamford’s long and romantic history endears it to the hearts of its townspeople. Through the many trials the town faced over its 117 year-history, it always carries on, serving as a beacon of hope that the western values that founded the area will live on.