Food Production

It was the upper south that supplied not only the additional food needs of the Lower South, but also sent large amounts for the international market. Large food-surpluses were characteristic in counties dominated by upper southerners Within pre-Civil War Texas, this same contrast of food-surplus and food-deficient areas was observable. In the period shortly after the Texan war of independence, when a lower southern society and economy was taking firm root in the southeastern part of the republic, food imports began to attain major importance. As an example, during the first half of the year 1838 nearly 10.000 sacks of corn were imported from New Orleans to Texas, and the trade increased in the years that followed as the lower southern foothold expanded to include much of the settled portion of Texas. By the 1850s, wheat flour was being imported to Gulf southern Texas from sources as distant as Ohio.

Fully 82 percent of the cultivated acreage in this area was planted with corn and wheat in 1858, as compared to 55 percent in the Gulf Southern counties. However, in one important respect, the interior of Texas differed from the more eastern states of the Upper South, a divergence involving the markets for the food surplus. The Upper southern counties apparently engaged in very little exchange of goods with the Gulf southern areas, and the two parts of Texas functioned independently from one another. The primary barrier was a lack of adequate transportion facilities. Texas lacked the fine river connection which characterized the more eastern areas of the south, and prior to the civil war there were no railroads linking the two parts of the state. The only alternative was expensive overland transport by ox-wagon.

Finally, in the early 1870`s, several railroads linking the two parts together, were completed. The results were not what contemporary observers had expected, for instead of serving as outlets for the surplus wheat and corn of the interior, the railroads facilitated the spread of cotton into Upper Southern counties. Within a very few years following the construction of the railroads, cotton had largely replaced wheat, reduced the per capita level of corn production, and eliminated the food surplus.