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Newsweek chronicles decline of Texas steel town
March 31, 1986

On this day in 1986, Newsweek magazine published an article detailing the economic problems in Lone Star, Texas, in southern Morris County. The site was probably settled around the time of the Civil War, but a community did not develop until the 1930s, when Dallas-based Lone Star Steel established a steel mill in the area. During World War II the plant expanded to cover 600 acres and employed as many as 6,000 workers. Many of the workers settled in the area, and by the mid-1950s Lone Star was an incorporated city with a reported population of 1,131. The town continued to prosper in the 1970s, and in 1980 it had a population of 2,006 and eighty-six businesses. In 1981, thanks in part to the steel industry, Morris County ranked twenty-ninth among the state's 254 counties in per capita income--the highest among the sixteen counties in the northeastern corner of the state. During the 1980s, however, the steel plant began having economic difficulties, mainly because of the slump in the oil industry and competition from foreign steel suppliers. In 1986 company officials laid off 2,000 of their 3,800 employees. Subsequently the town declined, and by 1990 its population had fallen to 1,615. In that year Lone Star Steel filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy and was subsequently reorganized. In 2000 the town's population was 1,631.

Texas Mormon leader dies leading followers north
March 31, 1858

On this day in 1858, pioneer Mormon leader Lyman Wight, determined to lead his people back to the North following a premonition of the coming Civil War, died near San Antonio. Wight, born in Connecticut in 1796, was living in Ohio in 1826 when he converted to Mormonism. In 1838, Wight and Joseph Smith were among fifty Mormon leaders tried in Missouri for treason and other crimes against the state. After Smith's death in 1844, Brigham Young was selected as head of the Mormon church and resolved to lead his people to Utah, but Wight refused to accept Young's authority. He claimed that Smith had told him to found a Mormon colony in Texas. With some 200 followers, Wight moved to Texas in 1845, and received John O. Meusebach's permission to found a colony near Fredericksburg in 1847. The community of Zodiac (later renamed Rocky Hill) quickly became a central element in the Gillespie County economy. The Mormons built the first sawmill in the county and soon became the principal suppliers of seeds, lumber, and flour to the Germans of Fredericksburg. In 1848 Young sent two messengers to Texas to convince Wight to come to Utah, but Wight, nicknamed "the Wild Ram of the Mountains" by his fellow Mormons for his stubborn independence, refused. He was disfellowshiped by the Mormon church in 1849. In 1851, following a flood that destroyed their mills, the Mormons left Gillespie County and eventually settled in Bandera County.

Cowpunchers' planned strike starts slow, then flops
March 31, 1883

On this day in 1883, many Texas cowboys went on strike against their bosses, absentee ranchers. The cowboys' grievances, however, were against developments that proved permanent. As closed-range ranching wiped out the previous open-range industry, some of the cowboys' traditional perks were denied them. No longer could they brand mavericks, keep small herds of their own, or receive part of their pay in calves. The strike mustered some 300 cowboys at its peak strength, but after 2 1/2 months the work stoppage was so weakened that the May roundup occurred without incident. The last press mention of the strike was in the Dodge City Times for May 10, 1883.