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ITASCA, TEXAS. Itasca is on Interstate 35 West at the edge of the Blackland Prairie in the northeast corner of Hill County. The elevation of the town is 702 feet above sea level. A limestone outcropping overlooks Itasca from the east at an elevation of 858 feet. The town is at the head of Richland Creek on a natural watershed that divides the Brazos and Trinity river basins. It is named after Lake Itasca, at the head of the Mississippi River in Minnesota.
G. M. Dodge of New York purchased 100 acres as an agent for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad in 1881. The town was platted on the Arthur Renshaw survey. Town lots went on sale on October 10, 1881. The first building, a general store, was erected by Will I. Hooks and James H. Griffin. Rev. J. W. Lackey became the pastor of the newly built Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1884. The Itasca Mail began the same year; in 1900 its name was changed to Itasca Item. The weekly paper continued publication for over 100 years. The town was incorporated in 1885 and by 1890 had a population of 548. An artesian well dug in 1893 was the primary source of water. A two-story frame schoolhouse built by Robert E. Lee Masonic Lodge No. 449 opened in 1887. In 1920 the streets were paved, and Lone Star Gas began providing service in 1923.
The Itasca Cotton Manufacturing Company began operation in 1901. The mill and mill village were completed within the year. On an average the company purchased 10,000 bales of local cotton annually. The company manufactured sheeting, drill, and ducking and employed 350 people. The mill was closed from January 1932 to May 1933. About 1935 the Itasca Weavers Guild was established to utilize cloth left over from wholesale orders. A "factory direct store" was organized in Dallas as early as 1949. Within five years eleven stores were located throughout Texas.
Switzer Woman's College and Conservatory of Music moved from Weatherford to Itasca in 1902, then to Dallas in 1912. Burney Military Academy subsequently operated for two years before it too closed. By 1906 the town population was 2,500. The community supported seven grocery stores, two furniture stores, two banks, two hotels, four cotton gins, and a bottling works. In 1937 Hill County Electric Cooperative was founded by Earl Farrow to service the rapidly growing rural population. The cooperative was the third to be established under the Rural Electrification Act.
The town began to decline in May 1962, when the Itasca Cotton Manufacturing Company was sold to Harris Electric Manufacturing Company. Fewer employees were necessary, and the need for local raw materials dropped. The population of Itasca in 1990 was 1,523. Major businesses included the Hill County Electric Cooperative, the Itasca Item, Itasca Grain and Storage, the Itasca Gin, and the Itasca Presbyterian Children's Home. Wheat, grain sorghum, some cotton, and cattle are grown in the area. In 2000 the town reported sixty-nine businesses and a population of 1,503.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:Ellis Bailey, A History of Hill County, Texas, 1838–1965 (Waco: Texian Press, 1966). Hill County Historical Commission, A History of Hill County, Texas, 1853–1980 (Waco: Texian, 1980). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Kenneth and Deborah Austin, "ITASCA, TX," accessed September 19, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hji04.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.