The Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center (previously known as Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and Texas Cooperative Extension) at Stephenville houses the Texas AgriLife Research staff conducting research on peanuts, peaches, pecans, forage, water utilization, and dairy; and the Texas AgriLife Extension staff that direct the extension activities primarily in 21 counties of Extension District 8.
The Agricultural Experiment Station was originally authorized by a bill introduced into the 44th Texas Legislature which was supported by citizens of the West Cross Timbers Area of Central Texas who wanted research conducted for the “sandy land” farmers. The bill became law May 9, 1935.
A committee from the Board of Directors of A&M College accompanied by soil experts viewed a number of sites in Brown, Comanche, Callahan, and Eastland counties. During the preliminary work necessary to establish the Station, Mr. A.B. Conner, Director of the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, was given the responsibility of selecting allocation of suitable size and soil type.
A site was selected in Erath County and approved by the Board of Directors, Texas A&M College. A committee was organized in the county to solicit funds to buy land. The county deeded 281 acres previously used as the Erath County “Poor Farm” and $10,000 was raised to buy three adjacent tracts of land totaling an additional 338.
The 46th Texas Legislature appropriated $14,190 for the fiscal year 1939-40 and $8,940 for the fiscal year 1940-41 to be used to establish the station. Mr. B.C. Langley, an agronomist, and Mr. Tom E. Denman, a horticulturist, were hired in 1940 to initiate construction of facilities and to initiate research.
The new location was designated Sub-Station Number 20 by Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in 1940. The station was locally known as the West Cross Timbers Experiment Station located 2 miles north of Stephenville on U.S. Highway 281.
Research activities were conducted on the 619 acres with the two professional staff members and varying numbers of non-budgeted supporting staff until 1967 when Dr. Charles E. Simpson was hired as a peanut breeder and Dr. Jesse Tackett joined the staff as a cooperative teaching-research appointee between Tarleton State University and the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.
Mr. B. C. Langley retired in 1969 and Mr. James S. Newman, Assistant Professor in Agronomy, was transferred from the Teas A&M Research and Extension Center at Lubbock to the Stephenville Station to initiate irrigation research on peanuts and orchard crops and to expand research activities and staff.
Mr. Tom Denman, Research Horticulturist since 1940, retired in 1971. During 1972, Dr. Josiah W. Worthington was hired to continue and expand fruit and nut research; and Dr. Bill Jones was transferred from the Center at Weslaco to Stephenville to initiate research on diseases on peanuts.
During 1974 the Board of Reagents of Texas A&M University approved the designation of the Stephenville site as a Research and Extension center and the construction plan for the Center building. An additional 60 acres of land adjacent to the existing Station property and at the intersection of Texas Highway 8 and U.S. Highway 281 were purchased as the proposed site of the new Center building.
Construction of the present Research and Extension Building commenced in April of 1976 and was dedicated during September of 1977. Four greenhouses, a headhouse, a fruit and nut processing building were completed during 1978.
The old facilities located one-half mile north of the Center complex and designated Field Headquarters consisting of 3 greenhouses, 2 processing building, one shop, 2 storage buildings, one implement storage building and one residence continued to be an integral part of the research activities at the Center until 1987 when an expansion program was initiated. Selected old buildings were demolished and 4 new buildings and 2 greenhouses were constructed.
Activities at the TAMU Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Stephenville are directed toward basic and Applied agricultural research through the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station and informal education programs through the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.
The Texas Agricultural Extension Service established the District Office at Stephenville in 1948 and the staff was housed in the Agricultural Building on the Tarleton State College campus. Mr. R. G. Burwell and Ms. Bess Edwards were the first District Agents. The first Extension Specialist was Mr. Sidney Jenkins, a Farm Management Specialist.
Mrs. Annie Lucy Lane assume the District Home demonstration Agent position January 1, 1951. No additions were made until 1965 when John Burleson was appointed District Extension Director and James Denton was Area Farm Management Specialist. The staff remained static until Dr. Josiah W. Worthington was hired as an Area Horticulturist in 1967. Dr. John Chapin was hired as an Area Agronomist in 1968 and Dr. Cliff Hoelscher was hired as an Area Entomologist in 1970.
The District Office was moved from the Tarleton State University campus location to the refurbished Municipal Library building in 1971. In 1973 three additional specialist were hired – Dr. Chip Lee as Area Plant Pathologist, Dr. Bill Jackson as Area 4-H Club Specialist, and Dr. Steve Hammack as Area Livestock Specialist. Dr. Lynn Copeland was appointed Community Resource and Development Specialist in 1974.
The present Research and Extension Center building was completed in 1977 and the District Extension office was moved to its present location in the Center in April of 1977.
Mrs. Kathy Volanty accepted the District Extension Agent position in 1978 and the Staff remained intact with several replacements until May of 1982 when Dr. Al Lane accepted the position as Area Dairy Specialist.
The present Extension District Office consists of one District Extension Administrator, Mr. Ronald Woolley and two Regional Program Directors, Montza Williams, Regional Program Director – 4-H and Susan Ballabina, Regional Program Director – Family Consumer Science. Other present day staff can viewed on the Faculty and Staff Web Page.