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DESDEMONA, TEXAS. Desdemona, on State Highway 16 in the southeastern corner of Eastland County, is one of the oldest extant Texas settlements west of the Brazos River. Sometime around 1857 a group of settlers built a family fort for protection from the Indians on land owned by C. C. Blair. In 1873 the oldest organization of any kind in Eastland County, the Rockdale Baptist Church, was built nearby. Two years later William and Ben Funderburg acquired the old Fort Blair land, and a town began to develop. By 1877 the town had a post office, and although it was officially named Desdemona for the daughter of the town justice of the peace, for many years it was known as Hogtown for its location on Hog Creek. Some early sources refer to it as Desdemonia or Desdimonia. The main sources of revenue in early Desdemona were trade and agriculture, primarily peanut farming. Economic discontent in the early twentieth century spurred the growth of socialism, but political competition never grew more violent than a yearly picnic and baseball game pitting Socialists against Democrats. By 1892 the town was reported to have a population of 100, and by 1904 it had grown to 340.
The economic climate of Desdemona changed drastically in September 1918, when Tom Dees, director of the recently formed Hog Creek Oil Company, struck oil on land owned by Joe Duke. The discovery put Desdemona among the growing number of oil boomtowns in Eastland County. With speculators and workers flooding in, tents and shacks sprang up throughout the town, and the population may have reached 16,000 at one time. By 1919 the Desdemona field was probably the second largest in the oil belt, and the Hog Creek Oil Company's stockholders were able to sell their $100 shares for $10,250 each. As torrential rains broke an earlier drought, cases of influenza and typhoid reached epidemic proportions. Oil often overflowed tanks and dirtied streams or floated in clouds, making Desdemona an unpleasant place to live. Growing proportionately to the number of new wells was the number of gambling houses and brothels and violent crimes, and in April 1920 the Texas Rangers had to be called in to keep order. The Ku Klux Klan seems never to have garnered as much support in Desdemona as it did in Ranger, a neighboring boomtown, in the 1920s, but a Klan newsletter's reference to "three Kluckers from Desdemona" suggests that an organization did exist there.
Disappointment was probably not universal when oil production fell from 7,375,825 barrels in 1919 to 2,488,755 barrels in 1921, and an insignificant rise in 1922 suggested that the boom was over. The bust occasioned a decline in Desdemona much sharper than that experienced by other Eastland County boomtowns. In 1936 the city government dissolved itself. The twelve-grade school was closed in 1969. In 1976 ninety wells were still producing oil or gas n the Desdemona field, and a Mobil Oil Company plant was distilling butane. By 1980 Desdemona had an estimated population of 180 and three businesses. The population was still reported as 180 in 2000. See also RANGER, DESDEMONA, AND BRECKENRIDGE OILFIELDS.
Edwin T. Cox, History of Eastland County, Texas (San Antonio: Naylor, 1950). Dallas Morning News, May 23, 1976.
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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, Noel Wiggins, "DESDEMONA, TX," accessed August 24, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/HLD18.
Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on July 1, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.