Marfa, Texas

Marfa, Texas

Marfa, Texas Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Marfa, the county seat of Presidio County, is at the junction of U.S. Highways 90 and 67 in the northeastern part of the county. It was established in 1883 as a water stop and freight headquarters for the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway. Reportedly, the wife of a railroad executive suggested the name Marfa from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, which she was reading at the time. Another version of the story claims that the town was named for the character Marfa Strogoff in Jules Verne's Michael Strogoff. Marfa is in an area that has been called one of the last American frontiers. It is situated at an altitude of 4,830 feet above sea level in a semiarid region with many dry streambeds that the summer thunderstorms fill and further erode. To the north are the Davis Mountains, to the southeast the Chisos Mountains, and to the southwest the Chinati Mountains. Marfa lies semiprotected within these escarpments on a great highland plain known as the Marfa Plateau. By 1885 Marfa had one or two saloons, a hotel, and a general merchandise store—Humphris and Company. Poker bets in the saloons were often made with deeds to town lots. At the St. George Hotel stayed drummers—traveling salesmen—who came by train, established their headquarters in the hotel, and from Marfa made stagecoach trips to Shafter, Fort Davis, Valentine, and Presidio to show their wares. Humphris and Company's store also contained the bank, the post office (established in 1883), and a restaurant. In 1885 Marfa replaced Fort Davis as the Presidio county seat, and in July of that year the public records were moved from Fort Davis to Marfa. Also in 1885 a three-story Renaissance-revival courthouse was built at Marfa. It cost $60,000, and in the early 1990s it still housed the county offices. In 1885 and 1886 Marfa gained churches, a school, and a newspaper. C. M. Jennings began publishing the New Era, the town's first weekly newspaper, in 1886. Over the years, it changed hands several times until the weekly finally merged with the Big Bend Sentinel under the management of T. E. Childers. In 1900 the population of Marfa was 900. Eventually the town had literary clubs, fraternal organizations, telephone service, and a bank. By 1920 Marfa reported 3,553 residents.

Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

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Marfa is classified as a Town


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Marfa by the Numbers

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Population Counts

Pop. Year Source
1,788 2020 United States Census Bureau
1,666 2019 Texas Demographic Center
1,981 2010 United States Census Bureau
2,121 2000 United States Census Bureau
2,424 1990 United States Census Bureau
2,466 1980 United States Census Bureau
2,682 1970 United States Census Bureau
2,799 1960 United States Census Bureau
3,603 1950 United States Census Bureau
3,805 1940 United States Census Bureau
3,909 1930 United States Census Bureau
3,553 1920 United States Census Bureau