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REA begins bringing electricity to rural Texas
March 09, 1936

On this day in 1936, a fifty-eight-mile power line near Bartlett, Texas, was energized, according to some sources the first in the nation under the Rural Electrification Administration. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt began the REA in May 1935, only about 2 percent of the farms in Texas (and only about 10 percent nationally) had electricity. The REA was originally intended to be a large-scale depression relief agency like the Work Projects Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps, but became a lending agency instead with the passage of legislation cosponsored by Sam Rayburn. The $33,000 loan to a group of farmers at Bartlett was one of the first ten loans made by the REA. The REA had an incalculable impact on life in rural Texas, especially in the Panhandle, which had become something of a proving ground for New Deal programs thanks to the influence of Marvin Jones, chairman of the House Agricultural Committee. The REA first brought electric power to the rural Panhandle in Deaf Smith County in 1937. By 1965, instead of only 2 percent of Texas farms with electricity, there were only 2 percent without electricity.

Spanish expedition enters Texas
March 09, 1707

On this day in 1707, the Ramón expedition, with thirty-one soldiers and citizens, 150 horses, and twenty pack mules, left Mission San Juan Bautista for a trek north of the Rio Grande. Diego Ramón was sent on this excursion by Coahuila governor Alarcón to punish raiding Indians, to gather neophytes for the smallpox-ravaged Rio Grande missions, and to explore the region. After a successful expedition that reached up to the site of present-day Webb and Dimmit counties, Ramón and his men arrived back at San Juan Bautista on April 3, 1708.

State steps into sheep wars
March 09, 1881

On this day in 1881, a Texas law provided for the appointment of state sheep inspectors and the quarantine of diseased sheep. The measure was but one part of the saga of the sheep wars. Sheep ranching already had an extensive history in Texas. The first Spanish explorers and missionaries brought their flocks, and mission ranches near San Antonio and La Bahía expanded the industry during the eighteenth century. In the mid-1800s Texas sheep ranchers found profitable wool markets in New England, and entrepreneurs such as George Wilkins Kendall of Boerne espoused the benefits of sheep raising in Texas. But sheepmen often clashed with cattlemen over grazing rights, and by the 1870s these conflicts came to a head. Cattlemen viewed shepherds as encroachers and sometimes used intimidation and violence to force them out. Some out-of-state herdsmen crossed into Texas lands, and sheep ranchers also drove sheep infected with scab. Additional legislation helped stem the movement of diseased sheep, and eventually the widespread use of barbed wire fencing brought an end to the open range and the sheep wars.