Callahan County Map by Eltea Armstrong

How the T&P Railroad shaped West Texas

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This colorful map of Callahan County is an homage to the twin boom of railroads and immigration in West Texas. The checkerboard-like survey blocks on the map illustrate how railroad companies surveyed land in one-square-mile blocks as part of their contracts with the State of Texas.

Map maker Eltea Armstrong cleverly depicts the impact of the railroads on Callahan County — the Texas & Pacific (T&P) Railway Company’s "Immigrant House" and Belle Plain College. Belle Plain was the original county seat and the college housed a renowned school of music. When the railroad bypassed Belle Plain for the town of Baird, the town and the college disappeared. Armstrong indicates the approximate site of Belle Plain in the center of the map. In contrast to Belle Plain, the arrival of the railroad in Baird led to an influx of settlers. In 1881, the T&P built a two-story "Immigrant House" to provide temporary lodging for immigrants looking to find land of their own. 

In her nearly 40 years as a draftsman for the Texas General Land Office, Eltea Armstrong drew over 71 distinct Texas county maps. Each of Armstrong's county maps took approximately 900 work hours to complete as she patiently drew, inked, and lettered every survey by hand.

This map is on display in Mapping Texas, a special exhibition featuring maps from the Texas General Land Office.

See this and other artifacts on the Interactive Texas Map

Callahan County Map by Eltea Armstrong Artifact from Baird, Callahan County
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