Lumberman predicts big future for El Paso
On this day in 1880, O. T. Bassett, visiting El Paso on business, wrote in his diary, "Plenty of room here for a big city, which it will be in time after the railroads come." Bassett, born in Vermont in 1850, had moved to Fort Worth in 1879 and established a lumber business. The following year, he traveled to El Paso by stagecoach with Charles R. Morehead to buy land for the Texas and Pacific Railway and to investigate some Arizona mines. His prediction was right on target, as most authorities agree that the arrival of the railroads in 1881 and 1882 was the single most significant event in El Paso history, transforming a sleepy, dusty little adobe village of several hundred inhabitants into a flourishing frontier community that became the county seat in 1883 and reached a population of more than 10,000 by 1890. Bassett died in 1898, shortly before El Paso began to shed its frontier image and develop as a modern municipality and significant industrial, commercial, and transportation center. The city grew from 15,906 in 1900 to 39,279 in 1910 and 77,560 in 1925. Factors making this rapid development possible included El Paso's geographic location as a gateway to Mexico; its proximity to the mining areas of Mexico, New Mexico, and Arizona; its plentiful natural resources; and an abundant supply of cheap Mexican labor. By the late 1990s the El Paso metropolitan statistical area was the sixth largest in Texas.