Dairy farming

Years before Colleyville Town Center became a mecca of boutiques, restaurants, Market Street grocery store and Colleyville Cinema Grille, this area had a much different distinction.

It was the site of the largest dairy in an area that was a hot spot of dairy farming.

"In 1950, Tarrant County was the largest milk-producing county in Texas," said Ed Havran of Colleyville, a retired dairy industry professional and authority on dairy farming in Texas.

The rural communities of Pleasant Run and Bransford, now part of Colleyville, were designated the "Dairy Center of Tarrant County" by the defunct Fort Worth Press in 1935.

The tradition of dairy farming started with the first settlers, who typically acquired a cow to provide milk and butter for their families. As Dallas-Fort Worth grew, farmers saw an opportunity to earn a living through the Great Depression by producing milk, butter and ice cream.

Most settlers in the Colleyville area were of German and Czechoslovakian descent, and operated only small dairies. About 300 dairies operated in the Northeast Tarrant County area during the heyday in the first half of the 20th century, Havran said.

But several farmers established large commercial operations that were major suppliers in the Dallas-Fort Worth market.

Henry Behrens and his family were the first commercial farmers. They owned a 160-acre farm near Glade Road and milked 60 cows a day in the 1920s and '30s, according to the local history book, "Colleyville: Then and Now."

But the largest operator was William Henry Bogart. He began dairying on the 158-acre farm his father purchased in 1908, at the site of what is now Town Center. By 1929, Bogart owned about 800 Jersey cows and operated four farms.

The family also started Golden Gate Dairy, one of the first bottling plants in Fort Worth.

T.J. and Barbara McPherson, one of the last of the large dairy operators in Colleyville, brought in Holsteins and created a modern milking system with a filtration system.

After retiring in 1987, they sold their land to the city of Colleyville, which turned it into McPherson Park, at 240 W. McDonwell School Road. A renovated dairy barn in the park serves as a reminder of the city's dairy history.

The demise of area dairying began in the 1970s when land developers swooped in to buy land for housing developments. The opening of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in 1974 intensified demand for housing, Havran said.

"The price of land skyrocketed and farmers started selling out," he said. Besides, dairy farming is a 24/7 operation that demands hard work, and the '70s brought easier opportunities to earn a living, he said.

"Dairying was once a very important part of the economy of this area but it got to the point that it was just no longer profitable," said Havran, whose collection of records and memorabilia of the history of dairying in Texas are on display in the Special Collections Library at Texas Tech University.


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