SFA Story: The History of Stephen F. Austin State University

The Founding Years

The Nacogdoches Case - The Twenty-Three Reasons Why

Cover 23 Reasons
Cover of "Twenty-Three Reasons

Editor's Comments. In the spring of 1917, the citizens of Nacogdoches assembled their case for being selected as the site for the new East Texas Normal scheduled to be "east of the 96th meridian." The famous brochure entitled The Twenty-Three Reasons Why was a snapshot of an East Texas town, in pictures and words, which is exceptionally rare. There is, historically speaking, nothing quite like it on any other town in the state. The brochure ended with a list, a summary of the Nacogdoches case, with each item beginning with the word NACOGDOCHES. The list from The Twenty Three Reasons Why , printed often in such publications as Bettye Craddock's The Golden Years, in The Sentinel , and even in the Pine Log, is only a part of the brochure. The purpose of the edited text below is to give a flavor of the explanations rather than just a list of the reasons themselves. In the list, for instance, one does not get the charming little fabrication that in the summer "the temperature never mounts to unpleasant heights for many days at a time" or that "the jail is the only vacant house in the city." The document, Twenty-Three Reasons Why, offers our present generation a rare glimpse at what citizens in the early part of this century thought about their city; their use of hyperbole is both charming and interesting. [For the full text in pdf format, see the link above. JLJ]


To the Members of the Locating Board:

In asking for your consideration of the City of Nacogdoches as the logical location for the proposed new Stephen F. Austin State Normal School, we base our arguments upon the outstanding qualifications of the city today. However, we are proud of the historic past of Nacogdoches, where Stephen F. Austin and his fellow patriots fanned the fires of liberty on Texas Soil.

We believe that your honorable board will find general approval in locating this new educational institution in a city whose past and present both merit consideration.

Besides its unequaled historical importance, the Nacogdoches of today has a rare spirit of progress, commercial and agricultural wealth, railroad facilities, delightful and healthful surroundings, high moral and cultural tone, modern schools and the general attributes of a city unequaled by any city in the section of Texas to be served by the new Normal. Therefore our people claim with pride that -- Nacogdoches Links Old Texas with the New.

We believe that facts set forth in this brief will assist you in arriving at a wise decision.


The Citizens Committee of Nacogdoches


The New Nacogdoches

Built on a solid foundation of agricultural wealth, Nacogdoches has had the steady growth which withstands temporary depressions and continues through the years with uninterrupted progress. . . .A loyal and enterprising people have brought the old historic city into a new era of growth and progress. . . .A new system of ornamental street lights adorns the business section and affords a "White Way" at night that is a delight to everyone. . . . In the center of the Main Plaza. The United States Government is erecting a new $50,000 Federal building. . . . Nacogdoches has a definite community spirit of progress and new propositions of merit are received with cordial co-operation on the part of the united citizenship. . . .

Nacogdoches-A City of Schools

Perhaps in no phase of its community and county life is Nacogdoches so far advanced, so admittedly strong, as in her educational systems, both city and rural. . . . The alumni of the Nacogdoches High School attend the great schools of Texas, the South and the East every year. Seventy-five per cent of the graduating class every year go away to seek higher education. . . . It is unquestionable that a State Normal in Nacogdoches would find a support that it would receive in few sections of the State. . . . There is a rare interest in educational affairs in Nacogdoches which has been apparent ever since the founding of the old Nacogdoches University in 1845 to the present day. . . . The people take a pride in school affairs and they look to the school buildings as social and civic centers. . . . The schools are in a high state of efficiency and the people take great pride in educational matters throughout the entire county. The whole rural section surrounding the city of Nacogdoches would give a State Normal school rare support.

Nacogdoches-A City of Good Health

Peculiar advantages combine to make Nacogdoches an unusually healthful locality. Built upon a high point between two flowing streams, La Nana on the east and the Banita on the west, Nacogdoches has a natural drainage. There are no stagnant pools of water to breed mosquitoes, no swamps or marshes to promote malaria, and the deadly Anopheles mosquito is given little encouragement to make his home in Nacogdoches. . . . Nacogdoches also is fortunate in her abundant supply of pure artesian water. The clear liquid bubbles from wells that seem to have tapped everlasting streams beneath the surface of the red-land soil of the section. From numerous tests it appears that bountiful Nature has blessed Nacogdoches with an ocean of pure water spread out under the county at a depth of 500 feet, for it is said that "you can stick a well down anywhere 500 feet and get flowing water in Nacogdoches. . . . Cities that have not a pure water supply know that a natural supply, such as Nacogdoches enjoys, is priceless. . . .In summer there is always a gentle breeze blowing from the pine-clad hills in the near distance and the temperature never mounts to unpleasant heights for many days at a time. . . . The pure water, the modern sanitary system, the care of health authorities and the pure atmosphere of pine-clad hills-all will be extended most graciously to the Stephen F. Austin State Normal.

Nacogdoches-A City of Churches

The community life of Nacogdoches is wholesome and highly moral. . . . On the other hand, Nacogdoches has rid herself of the great allies of immorality, including the immoral resort. Pool halls followed other undesirable institutions in their exit from the city. Nacogdoches, once known as the rendezvous of every type of frontier desperado and bad man, is now a model of civic righteousness, a clean and wholesome community in which young students may find a desirable homelike atmosphere, free from contaminations and interruptions. . . . The jail is the only vacant house in the city. . . . There is nothing stronger to drink than drug store refreshments to be had in the city. There are no "dives" or illegal "joints" for the selling of liquors. . . .

Nacogdoches-The Center of the Section to be Served

The map also shows that Nacogdoches is slightly east of the center of that section of East Texas east of the 96th meridian. However, State Normals already are located at Huntsville and Commerce, both of which towns are almost in a straight line with each other north and south and just a few miles east of the 96th meridian. Therefore, the new Stephen F. Austin State Normal should be far enough east to serve conveniently the eastern border counties as well as the other sections of this part of the State. . . . Nacogdoches is, therefore, in the very center of the section to be served by the new Normal. . . . Within the section of Texas east of the 96th meridian, shown on the map, there are forty-four counties with about 330,000 children of scholastic age and approximately 11,000 public school teachers.

Nacogdoches-The Most Accessible City in East Texas

The map . . . illustrates the ease with which Nacogdoches may be reached from all parts of East Texas. The city is in the exact center of the section to be served. . . . at the intersection of two main lines of the Southern Pacific System, the Houston East & West Texas and the Texas & New Orleans. It also is the terminus of the Nacogdoches & Southeastern. It is connected with San Augustine on the Santa Fe by an auto transfer line. . . . Nacogdoches is the hub of the best system of hard-surfaced roads in East Texas. The United States Government first experimented with the clay-and-sand roads in this county and they have proven a distinct success. . . . Nacogdoches also is located on the Old King's Highway which was the first important road built through Texas in the early days when the first visitors to Texas came into the Lone Star State through Nacogdoches.

. . . This road today is well-improved and hard-surfaced and is ideal for automobile travel. It comes into Texas from Nachitoches, La., passes through Nacogdoches and runs on to San Antonio. It is an important factor in the accessibility of Nacogdoches.

Electricity the Modern Fuel

In presenting the claims of Nacogdoches for the Stephen F. Austin State Normal, the committee would respectfully call the attention of the Locating Board to the modern system of cooking by electricity as the most improved and most satisfactory method for home economic department work. . . .

Nacogdoches Owns Fine Electric Plant

However in this case, the municipally-owned electric plant could supply electric current to the Stephen F. Austin State Normal at a rate which would make the cost element entirely satisfactory when compared with any sort of fuel known to the world today. The Nacogdoches light plant is one of the best in the State. Service is never interrupted night or day. Many industrial plants are supplied by it with power. Cooking by wire, without fire, is a new step in the age-old art of cooking. . . . Electric cooking is mathematically correct. It takes the luck out of cooking. The turn of a button for a certain number of minutes always produces the same effect upon food. . . . Electric fixtures for cooking are made at a reasonable price for each student in domestic science, for the student's individual use. . . .

Nacogdoches-A City of Homes

Nacogdoches is one of those fine old Southern cities where the home life has not been neglected for certain tendencies of the age that threaten the family life of many parts of the country. Nacogdoches is not merely a collection of houses. . . . Young men and women attending school in such a city of homes and home-loving people, cannot but be thrilled and inspired by the sense of finer things of life. The effect and influence of the contact of students with real homes of hospitality and good taste is incalculably beneficial.

Nacogdoches the Place for the Normal

[The section below forms part of the original Twenty-Three Reasons. JLJ]

The editor of the Texas School Journal is an authority on educational matters. After making a study of the section of the State to be served by the Stephen F. Austin State Normal, he wrote a special article for his magazine, unsolicited and unprompted by anyone, declaring that he believed Nacogdoches to be the place for the school. The article reads in part as follows:

"For the mere pleasure of the thing, I have been balancing pro and con the reasons of the various would-be havens of the new normal, and I have come to the deliberate conclusion that old historic Nacogdoches is the place par excellence for a state normal."

This brief excerpt from the able and complete discussion of the matter is quoted to show what a recognized student of educational affairs in Texas believes about Nacogdoches' qualifications for the school.

Nacogdoches Clubs and Social Life

. . . As the natural outgrowth of cultured homes, Nacogdoches has two literary clubs and one music club, around which centers much of the aesthetic life of the community. . . . The Symphony Club encourages music in its higher forms. The Cum Concilio Club, fully alive to the historic value of olden relics, was instrumental in having the Old Stone Fort removed from its former site and reconstructed on the High School Campus, as a permanent relic. . . . Nacogdoches has an annual winter lyceum course and annual summer Chautauqua which add much to the social enjoyment of the people. . . . A wholesome social life is apparent at all seasons in the city. . . . An opera house and two motion picture theaters also add their attractions to the amusement feature of the community. . . . From the standpoint of natural beauty of surroundings, perhaps no spot in East Texas could be found so delightfully appropriate for the location of a State Normal as is Nacogdoches. . . . Perhaps it was these beautiful environs of Nature that made the early Tejas Indians found at Nacogdoches the first or one of the very first settlements in Texas. . . . The beautiful little city nestles between two ever-green and pine-clad hills. Two rivers wind their meandering ways towards the Gulf among luxuriant forests of pines and native oaks. . . . Roads are festooned by the branches of softest green and distant vistas of the roadways seem roofed with bowers of leaves. . . . Gazing across the gently uneven landscape, lights and shadows play upon a rich mantle of ever-shifting shades of green, that delights and soothes the eyes.

It would be difficult to pick out a site for a school near Nacogdoches that is not beautiful. A committee bent upon the task of finding the best one for a State Normal has been able to choose from a great number of richly blessed spots near the city. . . . Beautiful scenery and pleasant natural surroundings play no small part in their influence upon the mind of the young man or woman who is engaged in study and in the development that comes with college days.

Nacogdoches-The Capital of the Red Land Empire

Nacogdoches is the heart of that rich and fertile section of the Lone Star State which is known as the red land belt. . . . Here we find sand loam and clay sub-soil that brings forth abundantly of vegetables and fruit, the chocolate loam for tobacco, the red black waxy, the deep sandy, the rich creek bottom and the red gravel. . . . The only objection to Nacogdoches County land is that it makes a living for a man so easily that it doesn't inspire as much effort as poorer land would do.

Nacogdoches--The Cradle of Texas Liberty

Historically, Nacogdoches is the most interesting city in Texas. Its past is inseparably linked with the beginnings of the early development of the Republic of Texas. As the early scene of the activities of such patriots as Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Hayden Edwards and others, this city may truly be called "the cradle of Texas Liberty." . . . The old city occupied a particular position on the ancient road known as "The King's Highway" and soon became the "gateway" to Texas. . . .Nacogdoches became known as the "Mother of Revolutions," for it was here that Magee, Dr. Long, Moses Austin, Stephen F. Austin, Edwards and Houston came with the spirit of rebellion against Mexican tyranny. Santa Anna was on his way to crush the patriots at Nacogdoches when Houston defeated him at San Jacinto. . . . In 1845 the university of Nacogdoches was founded under a Texas charter. Citizens of Nacogdoches, among whom were Austin and Houston, gave land and money toward the founding of this early institution of learning. The old building is now used as one of the High School buildings. . . .The Fredonia Republic was declared at Nacogdoches. Sam Houston was the "delegate from Nacogdoches" to the "consultation" of 1835. William B. Travis practiced law in Nacogdoches. Bowie and Milam were among its early citizens. . . . Nacogdoches stands as a reminder of the hallowed days of Texas' struggles from freedom and will always be a point of rare interest to every student of Texas History.

Nacogdoches is Asking for the Stephen F. Austin State Normal


NACOGDOCHES is in the exact center of the section to be served in which there are about 330,000 children of scholastic age and approximately 11,000 teachers.

NACOGDOCHES is the most accessible city in East Texas. At intersection of Houston East & West Texas, Texas & New Orleans and Nacogdoches & Southeastern. Has finest system of hard-surface roads in East Texas. It is on the famous "King's Highway."

NACOGDOCHES has 5,000 people in the city and 32,000 in the county who will be proud of the institution and will support it. The city has grown from 3,369 in 1910. (U. S. Census.)

NACOGDOCHES has a system of city and county schools that ranks among the best in the South. Nacogdoches High School sends 75% of its graduating class to college each year. Has scholas'tic population in city, 1,916; county, 11,000.

NACOGDOCHES guarantees 250 children for Normal training school at its opening.

NACOGDOCHES people have shown their interest in education since 1845 when they gave the land and money to found Nacogdoches University.

NACOGDOCHES has an unusually high moral tone and exceptional cultural environment. Her people are church-going. There are no immoral resorts. The jail is empty.

NACOGDOCHES is a city of refined and hospitable homes.

NACOGDOCHES has nine churches, including Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Christian and Catholic.

NACOGDOCHES has a delightfully mild climate with an average mean temperature for the last ten years of 65.2 degrees, winter mean; summer mean, 81.

NACOGDOCHES is a city of good health. Never had a bad epidemic. Escaped meningitis when State was swept. Local physicians estimate annual death rate less than 6 per 1000. Sanitation unusually good.

NACOGDOCHES has a well-equipped and municipally owned light and power plant which is efficient, dependable and uninterrupted service.

NACOGDOCHES will furnish electricity for home economics work and offers proof elsewhere in this book that electricity is cleaner, cheaper and better than other fuels.

NACOGDOCHES has a municipally owned sewage system which will be extended to main building without cost to school and service will be furnished permanently without cost.

NACOGDOCHES has pure artesian water which now supplies the city and will be available for the school use. Water is unexcelled in quality.

NACOGDOCHES has three well-built, two-story hotels with a daily rate of $2.00 and six comfortable frame hotels with a daily rate of $1.00.

NACOGDOCHES has 22 boarding houses which can care for students at the monthly rate of $20.00 for room and board. New boarding houses are to be built convenient to school at a reasonable monthly rate.

NACOGDOCHES is a city of rare natural beauty.

NACOGDOCHES has a progressive business spirit. Three banks with deposits of more than $1,000,000; nineteen factories, sixty-five retail stores of all lines; two surgical hospitals; public warehouse; agricultural experiment station; two wholesale houses; $80,000 court house and $50,000 Federal Building.

NACOGDOCHES has ample entertainment facilities. Summer Chautauqua, winter lyceum, two recreation parks, bathing, skating, two motion picture theatres, hunting and fishing club.

NACOGDOCHES offers superior sites for the Normal, filling every requirement.

NACOGDOCHES is "The Cradle of Texas Liberty." Its past is dear to every Texan. Its present typifies Texas progress.

NACOGDOCHES links Old Texas With The New.

Guarantees 250 For Training School

Nacogdoches feels so peculiarly far-advanced in educational matters that the City absolutely guarantees to have 250 children from the first to the eighth grades in the training school of the Stephen F. Austin State Normal at the opening of the institution. Nacogdoches is safe in making such a guarantee because of her large number of children within the school age and also because of the unsurpassed interest among the people of the city and county in school affairs.